I would say Love in the Western World is not just a book about love, it’s one of the main books to understand a great part of our European culture and a nice beginning for this blog. Rougemont really attempts to find an explanation about romantic love during 2 000 years of Christianity, an attempt which I think he achieves and he doesn’t at the same time.
He bases romantic love on all kind of pagan religions already existing thousands of years ago. Tristan is the model he chooses to identify such a passion, a passion, according to him, contrary to the Christian Agapé. Passion and romanticism, a couple of terms which grew underground during the expansion or imposition of Christianity. Together with passion and love, comes death. Rougemont doesn’t conceive a passion whose final goal isn’t death. Passionate love looks for death as far as it’s feed by the obstacle and the impossibility of completely reaching the beloved. Moreover, suffering is indissoluble of such a love, for which reason Rougemont also sees death as a kind of revenge of the lovers against their own suffering. All this is what Rougemont says is the opposite of Christianity and, to the question of how then romantic love grows in Europe he just affirms it’s due to the pagan world. However, I felt not satisfied which all his account about the causes of romantic love, or love-passion-death. I wonder if Christianity had really nothing to do about that.
If we think on Christianity, we find love, passion and death. Even if such passion is one of suffering injury, it’s there anyway. Christian love understands suffering, moreover, it’s linked to it; which makes me reconsider the bases Rougemont gives to the romantic love. Could another culture accept and empathises which romantic love in such a way as ours? Rougemont himself negates this possibility; and what has been the history of Europe if not centuries of Christianity?