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Copyright © 1956 by Erich Fromm

Printed in the United States of America

All rights in this book are reserved.— _
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Library of Congress catalog card number: 56-8750




I . I s L O V E A N A R T ?
I I . T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 7

1. Love, the Answer to the Problem of
Human Existence

2. Love Between Parent and Child
3. The Objects of Love

a. Brotherly Love
b. Motherly Love
c. Erotic Love
d. Self-Love
e. Love of God




World Perspectives

WORLD PERSPECTIVES is dedicated to the concept of
man born out of a universe perceived through a fresh vision
of reality. Its aim is to present short books written by the
most conscious and responsible minds of today. Each volume
represents the thought and belief of each author and sets
forth the interrelation of the changing religious, scientific,
artistic, political, economic and social influences upon man’s
total experience.

This Series is committed to a re-examination of all those
sides of human endeavor which the specialist was taught to
believe he could safely leave aside. It interprets present and
past events impinging on human life in our growing World
Age and envisages what man may yet attain when sum-
moned by an unbending inner necessity to the quest of what
is most exalted in him. Its purpose is to offer new vistas in
terms of world and human development while refusing to
betray the intimate correlation between universality and in-
dividuality, dynamics and form, freedom and destiny. Each
author treats his subject from the broad perspective of the
world community, not from the Judaeo-Christian, Western
or Eastern viewpoint alone.

Certain fundamental questions which have received too
little consideration in the face of the spiritual, moral and
political world crisis of our day, and in the light of technology



which has released the creative energies of peoples, are
treated in these books. Our authors deal with the increas-
ing realization that spirit and nature are not separate and
apart; that intuition and reason must regain their
importance as the means of perceiving and fusing inner being
with outer reality.

World Perspectives endeavors to show that the conception
of wholeness, unity, organism is a higher and more concrete
conception than that of matter and energy. Thus it would
seem that science itself must ultiMately pursue the aim of in-
terpreting the physical world of matter and energy in terms
of the biological conception of organism. An enlarged mean-
ing of life, of biology, not as it is revealed in the test tube of
the laboratory but as it is experienced within the organism
of life itself is attempted in this Series. For the principle of
life consists in the tension which connects spirit with the
realm of matter. The element of life is dominant in the very
texture of nature, thus rendering life, biology, a transem-
pirical science. The laws of life have their origin beyond their
mere physical manifestations and compel us to consider their
spiritual source. In fact, the widening of the conceptual
framework has not only`-served to restore order within the
respective branches of knowledge, but has also disclosed
analogies in man’s position regarding the analysis and syn-
thesis of experience in apparently separated domains of
knowledge suggesting the possibility of an ever more embrac-
ing objective description of the meaning of life.

Knowledge, it is shown in these books, no longer consists
in a manipulation of man and nature as opposite forces, nor
in the reduction of data to mere statistical order, but is a


means of liberating mankind from the destructive power of
fear, pointing the way toward the goal of the rehabilitation
of the human will and the rebirth of faith and confidence in
the human person. The works published also endeavor to
reveal that the cry for patterns, systems and authorities is
growing less insistent as the desire grows stronger in both
East and West for the recovery of a dignity, integrity and
self-realization which are the inalienable rights of man who
may now guide change by means of conscious purpose in the
light of rational experience.

Other vital questions explored relate to problems of inter-
national understanding as well as to problems dealing with
prejudice and the resultant tensions and antagonisms. The
growing perception and responsibility of our World Age
point to the new reality that the individual person and the
collective person supplement and integrate each other; that
the thrall of totalitarianism of both right and left has been
shaken in the universal desire to recapture the authority of
truth and of human totality. Mankind can finally place its
trust not in a proletarian authoritarianism, not in a secular-
ized humanism, both of which have betrayed the spiritual
property right of history, but in a sacramental brotherhood
and in the unity of knowledge. This new consciousness has
created a widening of human horizons beyond every paro-
chialism, and a revolution in human thought comparable to
the basic assumption, among the ancient Greeks, of the
sovereignty of reason; corresponding to the great effulgence
of the moral conscience articulated by the Hebrew prophets;
analogous to the fundamental assertions of Christianity; or
to the beginning of a new scientific era, the era of the science


of dynamics, the experimental foundations of which were
laid by Galileo in the Renaissance.

An important effort of this. Series is to re-examine the
contradictory meanings and applications which are given
today to such terms as democracy, freedom, justice, love,
peace, brotherhood and God. The purpose of such inquiries
is to clear the way for the foundation of a genuine world
history not in terms of nation or race or culture but in terms
of man in relation to God, to himself, his fellow man and
the universe that reach beyond immediate self-interest. For
the meaning of the World Age consists in respecting man’s
hopes and dreams which lead to a deeper understanding of
the basic values of all peoples.

Today in the East and in the West men are discovering
that they are bound together, beyond any divisiveness, by a
more fundamental unity than any mere agreement in thought
and doctrine. They are beginning to know that all men
possess the same primordial desires and tendencies; that the
domination of man over man can no longer be justified by
any appeal to God or nature; and such consciousness is the
fruit of the spiritual and moral revolution, the great seismic
upheaval, through which humanity is now passing.

World Perspectives is planned to gain insight into the
meaning of man, who not only is determined by history but
who also determines history. History is to be understood as
concerned not only with the life of man on this planet but
as including also such cosmic influences as interpenetrate our
human world.

This generation is discovering that history does not con-
form to the social optimism of modern civilization and that


the organization of human communities and the establish-
ment of justice, freedom and peace are not only intellectual
achievements but spiritual and moral achievements as well,
demanding a cherishing of the wholeness of human person-
ality and constituting a never-ending challenge to man,
emerging from the abyss of meaninglessness and suffering, to
be renewed and replenished in the totality of his life. “For
as one’s thinking is, such one becomes, and it is because of
this that thinking should be purified and transformed, for
were it centered upon truth as it is now upon things per-
ceptible to the senses, who would not be liberated from his
bondage.” *

There is in mankind today a counterforce to the sterility
and danger of a quantitative, anonymous mass culture, a
new, if sometimes imperceptible, spiritual sense of conver-
gence toward world unity on the basis of the sacredness of
each human person and respect for the plurality of cultures.
There is a growing awareness that equality and justice are
not to be evaluated in mere numerical terms but that they
are proportionate and analogical in their reality.

We stand at the brink of the age of the world in which
human life presses forward to actualize new forms. The false
separation of man and nature, of time and space, of free-
dom and security, is acknowledged and we are faced with a
new vision of man in his organic unity and of history offer-
ing a richness and diversity of quality and majesty of scope
hitherto unprecedented. In relating the accumulated wisdom
of man’s spirit to the new reality of the World Age, in
articulating its thought and belief, World Perspectives seeks

* Maitri Upanishad 6.34.4. 6.


to encourage a renaissance of hope in society and of pride
in man’s decision as to what his destiny will be.

The vast extension of knowledge has led to a diminution
of consciousness as a result of the tendency, due to some
modern interpretations of science, to accept as the total truth
only limited descriptions of truth. The triumphant advance
of science, culminating in new realities concerning the sub-
atomic world and overthrowing traditional assumptions of
causality and uniformity, has almost succeeded in enfeebling
man’s faith in his spiritual and moral worth and in his own
significance in the cosmic scheme. The experience of dread,
into which contemporary man has been plunged through his
failure to transcend his existential limits, is the experience of
the problem of whether he shall attain to being through the
knowledge of himself or shall not, whether he shall annihilate
nothingness or whether nothingness shall annihilate him.
For he has been forced back to his origins as a result of the
atrophy of meaning, and his anabasis may begin once more
through his mysterious greatness to re-create his life.

The suffering and hope of this century have their origin
in the interior drama in which the spirit is thrust as a result
of the split within itself, and in the invisible forces which are
born in the heart and mind of man. This suffering and this
hope arise also from material problems, economic, political,
technological. History itself is not a mere mechanical unfold-
ing of events in the center of which man finds himself as a
stranger in a foreign land. The specific modern emphasis on
history as progressive, the specific prophetic emphasis on
God as acting through history, and the specific Christian
emphasis on the historical nature of revelation must now


surrender to the new history embracing the new
cosmology—a profound event which is in the process of
birth in the womb of that invisible universe which is the
mind and heart of man. For our World Age is indeed the
most dire and apocalyptic mankind has ever faced in all
history, and the endeavor of World Perspectives is to point
to that ultimate moral power at work in the universe, that
very power upon which all human effort must at last depend.

This is the crisis in consciousness made articulate through
the crisis in science. This is the new awakening after a long
history which had its genesis in. Descartes’ denial that theol-
ogy could exist as a science, on the one hand, and on the
other, in Kant’s denial that metaphysics could exist as a
science. Some fossilized forms of such positivistic thinking
still remain, manifesting themselves in a quasi-sociological
mythology which, in the guise of scientific concepts, has gen-
erated a new animism resulting in a more primitive religion
than the traditional faiths which it endeavors to replace.
However, it is now conceded, out of the influences of White-
head, Bergson and some phenomenologists that in addition
to natural science with its tendency to isolate quantitative
values there exists another category of knowledge wherein
philosophy, utilizing its own instruments, is able to grasp
the essence and innermost nature of the Absolute, of reality.
The mysterious universe is now revealing to philosophy and
to science as well an enlarged meaning of nature and of
man which extends beyond mathematical and experimental
analysis of sensory phenomena. This meaning rejects the


of mythology adequate only for the satisfaction of emotional
needs. In other words, the fundamental problems of philos-
ophy, those problems which are central to life, are again
confronting science and philosophy itself. Our problem is to
discover a principle of differentiation and yet relationship
lucid enough to justify and to purify both scientific and
philosophical knowledge by accepting their mutual inter-

Justice itself which has been “in a state of pilgrimage and
crucifixion” and now is slowly being liberated from the grip
of social and political demonologies in the East as well as in
the West, begins to question its own premises. Those modern
revolutionary movements which have challenged the sacred
institutions of society by protecting social injustice in the
name of social justice are also being examined and re-
evaluated in World Perspectives.

When we turn our gaze retrospectively to the early cosmic
condition of man in the third millennium, we observe that
the concept of justice as something to which man has an in-
alienable right began slowly to take form and, at the time of
Hammurabi in the second millennium, justice as inherently
a part of man’s nature and not as a beneficent gift to be
bestowed, became part of the consciousness of society. This
concept of human rights consisted in the demand for justice
in the universe, a demand which exists also in the twentieth
century through a curious analogy. In accordance with the
ancient view, man could himself become a god, could assume
the identity of the great cosmic forces in the universe which
surrounded him. He could influence this universe, not by
supplication, but by action. And now again this consciousness


of man’s harmonious relationship with the universe, with
society and with his fellow men, can be actualized, and again
not through supplication but through the deed.

Though never so powerful materially and technologically,
Western democracy, with its concern for the sacredness of
the human person gone astray, has never before been so
seriously threatened, morally and spiritually. National se-
curity and individual freedom are in ominous conflict. The
possibility of a universal community and the technique of
degradation exist side by side. There is no doubt that evil is
accumulated among men in their passionate desire for unity.
And yet, confronted with this evil which had split, isolated
and killed the living reality, confronted with death, man,
from the very depths of his soul, cries out for “the un-
mediated whole of feeling and thought” and for the possi-
bility to reassemble the fragments, to restore unity through
justice. Christianity in history could only reply to this protest
against evil by the Annunciation of the Kingdom, by the
promise of Eternal Life—which demanded faith. But the
spiritual and moral suffering of man had exhausted his faith
and his hope. He was left alone. His suffering remained un-

However, man has now reached the last extremity of
denigration. He yearns to consecrate himself. And so, among
the spiritual and moral ruins of the West and of the East a
renaissance is prepared beyond the limits of nihilism, dark-
ness and despair. In the depths of the Western and Eastern
spiritual night, civilization with its many faces turning to-
ward its source may rekindle its light in an imminent new
dawn—even as in the last book of Revelation which speaks


of a Second Coming with a new heaven, a new earth and a
new religious quality of life.

And I saw a new heaven and a new
earth: for the first heaven and the
first earth were passed away. . .

In spite of the infinite obligation of men and in spite of
their finite power, in spite of the intransigence of national-
isms, and in spite of spiritual bereavement and moral am-
nesia, beneath the apparent turmoil and upheaval of the
present, and out of the transformations of this dynamic
period with the unfolding of a world-consciousness, the pur-
pose of World Perspectives is to help quicken the “unshaken
heart of well-rounded truth” and interpret the significant
elements of the World Age now taking shape out of the core
of that undimmed continuity of the creative process which
restores man to mankind while deepening and enhancing his
communion with the universe.

New York, 1956 R U T H N A N D A A N S H E N

* Revelation, 21:1.


THE READING of this book would be a disappointing ex-
perience for anyone who expects easy instruction in the art
of loving. This book, on the contrary, wants to show that
love is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by
anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by him.
It wants to convince the reader that all his attempts for love
are bound to fail, unless he tries most actively to develop
his total personality, so as to achieve a productive orienta-
tion; that satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained
without the capacity to love one’s neighbor, without true
humility, courage, faith and discipline. In a culture in which
these qualities are rare, the attainment of the capacity to
love must remain a rare achievement. Or—anyone can ask
himself how many truly loving persons he has known.

Yet, the difficulty of the task must not be a reason to
abstain from trying to know the difficulties as well as the
conditions for its achievement. To avoid unnecessary com-
plications I have tried to deal with the problem in a language
which is non-technical as far as this is possible. For the same
reason I have also kept to a minimum references to the
literature on love.

For another problem I did not find a completely satisfac-
tory solution; that, namely, of avoiding repetition of ideas
expressed in previous books of mine. The reader familiar,



especially, with Escape from Freedom, Man for Himself,
and The Sane Society, will find in this book many ideas ex-
pressed in these previous works. However, The Art of
Loving is by no means mainly a recapitulation. It presents
many ideas beyond the previously expressed ones, and quite
naturally even older ones sometimes gain new perspectives
by the fact that they are all centered around one topic,
that of the art of loving.

E. F.

He who knows nothing, loves nothing. He who
can do nothing understands nothing. He who
understands nothing is worthless. But he who
understands also loves, notices, sees. . . . The
more knowledge is inherent in a thing, the
greater the love. . . . Anyone who imagines
that all fruits ripen at the same time as the
strawberries knows nothing about grapes.



Is Love an Art?

IS LOVE an art? Then it requires knowledge and effort. Or
is love a pleasant sensation, which to experience is a matter
of chance, something one “falls into” if one is lucky? This
little book is based on the former premise, while undoubtedly
the majority of people today believe in the latter.

Not that people think that love is not important. They are
starved for it; they watch endless numbers of films about
happy and unhappy love stories, they listen to hundreds of
trashy songs about love—yet hardly anyone thinks that there
is anything that needs to be learned about love.

This peculiar attitude is based on several premises which
either singly or combined tend to uphold it. Most people see
the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather
than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love. Hence the
problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable. In
pursuit of this aim they follow several paths. One, which is
especially used by men, is to be successful, to be as powerful
and rich as the social margin of one’s position permits. An-
other, used especially by women, is to make oneself attrac-
tive, by cultivating one’s body, dress, etc. Other ways of


making oneself attractive, used both by men and women, are
to develop pleasant manners, interesting conversation, to be
helpful, modest, inoffensive. Many of the ways to make
oneself lovable are the same as those used to make one-
self successful, “to win friends and influence people.” As
a matter of fact, what most people in our culture mean by
being lovable is essentially a mixture between being popular
and having sex appeal.

A second premise behind the attitude that there is nothing
to be learned about love is the assumption that the problem
of love is the problem of an object, not the problem of a
faculty. People think that to love is simple, but that to find
the right object to love—or to be loved by—is difficult. This
attitude has several reasons rooted in the development of
modern society. One reason is the great change which oc-
curred in the twentieth century with respect to the choice
of a “love object.” In the Victorian age, as in many tradi-
tional cultures, love was mostly not a spontaneous personal
experience which then might lead to marriage. On the con-
trary, marriage was contracted by convention—either by the
respective families, or by a marriage broker, or without the
help of such intermediaries; it was concluded on the basis of
social considerations, and love was supposed to develop once
the marriage had been concluded. In the last few generations
the concept of romantic love has become almost universal
in the Western world. In the United States, while considera-
tions of a conventional nature are not entirely absent, to a
vast extent people are in search of “romantic love,” of the
personal experience of love which then should lead to mar-
riage. This new concept of freedom in love must have greatly

I S L O V E A N A R T ? 3
enhanced the importance of the object as against the im-
portance of the function.

Closely related to this factor is another feature charac-
teristic of contemporary culture. Our whole culture is based
on the appetite for buying, on the idea of a mutually favor-
able exchange. Modern man’s happiness consists in the thrill
of looking at the shop windows, and in buying all that he
can afford to buy, either for cash or on installments. He (or
she) looks at people in a similar way. For the man an attrac-
tive girl—and for the woman an attractive man—are the
prizes they are after. “Attractive” usually means a nice pack-
age of qualities which are popular and sought after on the
personality market. What specifically makes a person attrac-
tive depends on the fashion of the time, physically as well as
mentally. During the twenties, a drinking and smoking girl,
tough and sexy, was attractive; today the fashion demands
more domesticity and coyness. At the end of the nineteenth
and the beginning of this century, a man had to be aggres-
sive and ambitious—today he has to be social and tolerant—
in order to be an attractive “package.” At any rate, the sense
of falling in love develops usually only with regard to such
human commodities as are within reach of one’s own possi-
bilities for exchange. I am out for a bargain; the object should
be desirable from the standpoint of its social value, and at the
same time should want me, considering my overt and hidden
assets and potentialities. Two persons thus fall in love when
they feel they have found the best object available on the
market, considering the limitations of their own exchange
values. Often, as in buying real estate, the hidden potentiali-
ties which can be developed play a considerable role in this

4 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
bargain. In a culture in which the marketing orientation
prevails, and in which material success is the outstanding
value, there is little reason to be surprised that human love
relations follow the same pattern of exchange which governs
the commodity and the labor market.

The third error leading to the assumption that there is
nothing to be learned about love lies in the confusion between
the initial experience of “falling” in love, and the permanent
state of being in love, or as we might better say, of “stand-
ing” in love. If two people who have been strangers, as all
of us are, suddenly let the wall between them break down,
and feel close, feel one, this moment of oneness is one of the
most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life. It is all
the more wonderful and miraculous for persons who have
been shut off, isolated, without love. This miracle of sudden
intimacy is often facilitated if it is combined with, or initiated
by, sexual attraction and consummation. However, this type
of love is by its very nature not lasting. The two persons
become well acquainted, their intimacy loses more and more
its miraculous character, until their antagonism, their disap-
pointments, their mutual boredom kill whatever is left of the
initial excitement. Yet, in the beginning they do not know
all this: in fact, they take the intensity of the infatuation,
this being “crazy” about each other, for proof of the in-
tensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of
their preceding loneliness.

This attitude—that nothing is easier than to love—has
continued to be the prevalent idea about love in spite of the
overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There is hardly any
activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremen-

I S L O V E A N A R T ? 5
dous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regu-
larly, as love. If this were the case with any other activity,
people would be eager to know the reasons for the failure,
and to learn how one could do better—or they would give
up the activity. Since the latter is impossible in the case of
love, there seems to be only one adequate way to overcome
the failure of love—to examine the reasons for this failure,
and to proceed to study the meaning of love.

The first step to take is to become aware that love is an
art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love
we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we
want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry,
or the art of medicine or engineering.

What are the necessary steps in learning any art?
The process of learning an art can be divided conveniently

into two parts: one, the mastery of the theory; the other,
the mastery of the practice. If I want to learn the art of
medicine, I must first know the facts about the human body,
and about various diseases. When I have all this theoretical
knowledge, I am by no means competent in the art of medi-
cine. I shall become a master in this art only after a great
deal of practice, until eventually the results of my theoretical
knowledge and the results of my practice are blended into
one—my intuition, the essence of the mastery of any art.
But, aside from learning the theory and practice, there is a
third factor necessary to becoming a master in any art—the
mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern;
there must be nothing else in the world more important than
the art. This holds true for music, for medicine, for car-
pentry—and for love. And, maybe, here lies the answer to

6 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to
learn this art, in spite of their obvious failures: in spite of
the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is
considered to be more important than love: success, prestige,
money, power—almost all our energy is used for the learn-
ing of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn
the art of loving.

Could it be that only those things are considered worthy
of being learned with which one can earn money or prestige,
and that love, which “only” profits the soul, but is profitless
in the modern sense, is a luxury we have no right to spend
much energy on? However this may be, the following discus-
sion will treat the art of loving in the sense of the foregoing
divisions: first I shall discuss the theory of love—and this
will comprise the greater part of the book; and secondly I
shall discuss the practice of love—little as can be said about
practice in this, as in any other field.


The Theory of Love

I . L O V E , T H E A N S W E R T O T H E P R O B L E M O F H U M A N

ANY THEORY of love must begin with a theory of man,
of human existence. While we find love, or rather, the
equivalent of love, in animals, their attachments are mainly
a part of their instinctual equipment; only remnants of this
instinctual equipment can be seen operating in man. What
is essential in the existence of man is the fact that he has
emerged from the animal kingdom, from instinctive adapta-
tion, that he has transcended nature—although he never
leaves it; he is a part of it—and yet once torn away from
nature, he cannot return to it; once thrown out of para-
dise—a state of original oneness with nature—cherubim with
flaming swords block his way, if he should try to return.
Man can only go forward by developing his reason, by find-
ing a new harmony, a human one, instead of the prehuman
harmony which is irretrievably lost.

When man is born, the human race as well as the indi-
vidual, he is thrown out of a situation which was definite, as


8 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
definite as the instincts, into a situation which is indefinite,
uncertain and open. There is certainty only about the past—
and about the future only as far as that it is death.

Man is gifted with reason; he is life being aware of itself;
he has awareness of himself, of his fellow man, of his past,
and of the possibilities of his future. This awareness of him-
self as a separate entity, the awareness of his own short life
span, of the fact that without his will he is born and against
his will he dies, that he will die before those whom he loves,
or they before him, the awareness of his aloneness and sepa-
rateness, of his helplessness before the forces of nature and
of society, all this makes his separate, disunited existence an
unbearable prison. He would become insane could he not
liberate himself from this prison and reach out, unite himself
in some form or other with men, with the world outside.

The experience of separateness arouses anxiety; it is, in-
deed, the source of all anxiety. Being separate means being
cut off, without any capacity to use my human powers.
Hence to be separate means to be helpless, unable to grasp
the world—things and people—actively; it means that the
world can invade me without my ability to react. Thus, sepa-
rateness is the source of intense anxiety. Beyond that, it
arouses shame and the feeling of guilt. This experience of
guilt and shame in separateness is expressed in the Biblical
story of Adam and Eve. After Adam and Eve have eaten of
the “tree of knowledge of good and evil,” after they have
disobeyed (there is no good and evil unless there is freedom
to disobey), after they have become human by having eman-
cipated themselves from the original animal harmony with
nature, i.e., after their birth as human beings—they saw

“that they were naked—and they were ashamed.” Should
we assume that a myth as old and elementary as this has
the prudish morals of the nineteenth-century outlook, and
that the important point the story wants to convey to us is
the embarrassment that their genitals were visible? This can
hardly be so, and by understanding the story in a Victorian
spirit, we miss the main point, which seems to be the follow-
ing: after man and woman have become aware of them-
selves and of each other, they are aware of their separateness,
and of their difference, inasmuch as they belong to different
sexes. But while recognizing their separateness they remain
strangers, because they have not yet learned to love each
other (as is also made very clear by the fact that Adam
defends himself by blaming Eve, rather than by trying to
defend her). The awareness of human separation, without
reunion by love—is the source of shame. It is at the same
time the source of guilt and anxiety.

The deepest need of man, then, is the need to overcome
his separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness. The
absolute failure to achieve this aim means insanity, because
the panic of complete isolation can be overcome only by such
a radical withdrawal from the world outside that the feeling
of separation disappears—because the world outside, from
which one is separated, has disappeared.

Man—of all ages and cultures—is confronted with the
solution of one and the same question: the question of how
to overcome separateness, how to achieve union, how to tran-
scend one’s own individual life and find at-onement. The
question is the same for primitive man living in caves, for
nomadic man taking care of his flocks, for the peasant in

I 0 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

Egypt, the Phoenician trader, the Roman soldier, the medie-
val monk, the Japanese samurai, the modern clerk and fac-
tory hand. The question is the same, for it springs from
the same ground: the human situation, the conditions of
human existence. The answer varies. The question can be
answered by animal worship, by human sacrifice or mili-
tary conquest, by indulgence in luxury, by ascetic renuncia-
tion, by obsessional work, by artistic creation, by the love of
God, and by the love of Man. While there are many answers
—the record of which is human history—they are neverthe-
less not innumerable. On the contrary, as soon as one ignores
smaller differences which belong more to the periphery than
to the center, one discovers that there is only a limited num-
ber of answers which have been given, and only could have
been given by man in the various cultures in which he has
lived. The history of religion and philosophy is the history of
these answers, of their diversity, as well as of their limitation
in number.

The answers depend, to some extent, on the degree of
individuation which an individual has reached. In the infant
I-ness has developed but little yet; he still feels one with
mother, has no feeling of separateness as long as mother is
present. Its sense of aloneness is cured by the physical pres-
ence of the mother, her breasts, her skin. Only to the degree
that the child develops his sense of separateness and individ-
uality is the physical presence of the mother not sufficient
any more, and does the need to overcome separateness in
other ways arise.

Similarly, the human race in its infancy still feels one with
nature. The soil, the animals, the plants are still man’s world.


He identifies himself with animals, and this is expressed by
the wearing of animal masks, by the worshiping of a totem
animal or animal gods. But the more the human race emerges
from these primary bonds, the more it separates itself from
the natural world, the more intense becomes the need to find
new ways of escaping separateness.

One way of achieving this aim lies in all kinds of orgiastic
states. These may have the form of an auto-induced trance,
sometimes with the help of drugs. Many rituals of primitive
tribes offer a vivid picture of this type of solution. In a transi-
tory state of exaltation the world outside disappears, and
with it the feeling of separateness from it. Inasmuch as these
rituals are practiced in common, an experience of fusion with
the group is added which makes this solution all the more
effective. Closely related to, and often blended with this
orgiastic solution, is the sexual experience. The sexual orgasm
can produce a state similar to the one produced by a trance,
or to the effects of certain drugs. Rites of communal sexual
orgies were a part of many primitive rituals. It seems that
after the orgiastic experience, man can go on for a time
without suffering too much from his separateness. Slowly the
tension of anxiety mounts, and then is reduced again by the
repeated performance of the ritual.

As long as these orgiastic states are a matter of common
practice in a tribe, they do not produce anxiety or guilt. To
act in this way is right, and even virtuous, because it is a
way shared by all, approved and demanded by the medicine
men or priests; hence there is no reason to feel guilty or
ashamed. It is quite different when the same solution is
chosen by an individual in a culture which has left behind

I 2 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

these common practices. Alcoholism and drug addiction are
the forms which the individual chooses in a non-orgiastic
culture. In contrast to those participating in the socially pat-
terned solution, such individuals suffer from guilt feelings
and remorse. While they try to escape from separateness by
taking refuge in alcohol or drugs, they feel all the more sepa-
rate after the orgiastic experience is over, and thus are driven
to take recourse to it with increasing frequency and intensity.
Slightly different from this is the recourse to a sexual orgiastic
solution. To some extent it is a natural and normal form of
overcoming separateness, and a partial answer to the problem
of isolation. But in many individuals in whom separateness is
not relieved in other ways, the search for the sexual orgasm
assumes a function which makes it not very different from
alcoholism and drug addiction. It becomes a desperate at-
tempt to escape the anxiety engendered by separateness, and
it results in an ever-increasing sense of separateness, since the
sexual act without love never bridges the gap between two
human beings, except momentarily.

All forms of orgiastic union have three characteristics:
they are intense, even violent; they occur in the total per-
sonality, mind and body; they are transitory and periodical.
Exactly the opposite holds true for that form of union which
is by far the most frequent solution chosen by man in the
past and in the present: the union based on conformity with
the group, its customs, practices and beliefs. Here again we
find a considerable development.

In a primitive society the group is small; it consists of
those with whom one shares blood and soil. With the grow-
ing development of culture, the group enlarges; it becomes

the citizenry of a polis, the citizenry of a large state, the
members of a church.. Even the poor . Roman felt pride
because he could say “civis romanus sum”; Rome and the
Empire were his family, his home, his world. Also in con-
temporary Western society the union with the group is the
prevalent way of overcoming separateness. It is a union in
which the individual self disappears to a large extent, and
where the aim is to belong to the herd. If I am like every-
body else, if I have no feelings or thoughts which make me
different, if I conform in custom, dress, ideas, to the pattern
of the group, I am saved; saved from the frightening experi-
ence of aloneness. The dictatorial systems use threats and
terror to induce this conformity; the democratic countries,
suggestion and propaganda. There is, indeed, one great dif-
ference between the two systems. In the democracies non-
conformity is possible and, in fact, by no means entirely
absent; in the totalitarian systems, only a few unusual heroes
and martyrs can be expected to refuse obedience. But in
spite of this difference the democratic societies show an
overwhelming degree of conformity. The reason lies in the
fact that there has to be an answer to the quest for union,
and if there is no other or better way, then the union of herd
conformity becomes the predominant one. One can only
understand the power of the fear to be different, the fear to
be only a few steps away from the herd, if one understands
the depths of the need not to be separated. Sometimes this fear
of nonconformity is rationalized as fear of practical dangers
which could threaten the non-conformist. But actually,
people want to conform to a much higher degree than they
are forced to conform, at least in the Western democracies.


Most people are not even aware of their need to conform.
They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas
and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have
arrived at their opinions as the result of their own thinking—
and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as those
of the majority. The consensus of all serves as a proof for the
correctness of “their” ideas. Since there is still a need to feel
some individuality, such need is satisfied with regard to minor
differences; the initials on the handbag or the sweater, the
name plate of the bank teller, the belonging to the Democratic
as against the Republican party, to the Elks instead of to the
Shriners become the expression of individual differences. The
advertising slogan of “it is different” shows up this pathetic
need for difference, when in reality there is hardly any left.

This increasing tendency for the elimination of differences
is closely related to the concept and the experience of equal-
ity, as it is developing in the most advanced industrial
societies. Equality had meant, in a religious context, that we
are all God’s children, that we all share in the same human-
divine substance, that we are all one. It meant also that the
very differences between individuals must be respected, that
while it is true that we are all one, it is also true that each
one of us is a unique entity, is a cosmos by itself. Such con-
viction of the uniqueness of the individual is expressed for
instance in the Talmudic statement: “Whosoever saves a
single life is as if he had saved the whole world; whosoever
destroys a single life is as if he had destroyed the whole
world.” Equality as a condition for the development of in-
dividuality was also the meaning of the concept in the
philosophy of the Western Enlightenment. It meant (most

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 15

clearly formulated by Kant) that no man must be the means
for the ends of another man. That all men are equal inas-
much as they are ends, and only ends, and never means to
each other. Following the ideas of the Enlightenment, Social-
ist thinkers of various schools defined equality as abolition of
exploitation, of the use of man by man, regardless of whether
this use were cruel or “human.”

In contemporary capitalistic society the meaning of equal-
ity has been transformed. By equality one refers to the
equality of automatons; of men who have lost their indi-
viduality. Equality today means “sameness,” rather than ”
oneness.” It is the sameness of abstractions, of the men who
work in the same jobs, who have the same amusements, who
read the same newspapers, who have the same feelings and
the same ideas. In this respect one must also look with some
skepticism at some achievements which are usually praised
as signs of our progress, such as the equality of women. Need-
less to say I am not speaking against the equality of women;
but the positive aspects of this tendency for equality must
not deceive one. It is part of the trend toward the elimina-
tion of differences. Equality is bought at this very price:
women are equal because they are not different any more.
The proposition of Enlightenment philosophy, l’ame n’a pas
de sexe, the soul has no sex, has become the general practice.
The polarity of the sexes is disappearing, and with it erotic
love, which is based on this polarity. Men and women be-
come the same, not equals as opposite poles. Contemporary
society preaches this ideal of unindividualized equality be-
cause it needs human atoms, each one the same, to make
them function in a mass aggregation, smoothly, without fric-

16 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

tion; all obeying the same commands, yet everybody being
convinced that he is following his own desires. Just as mod-
ern mass production requires the standardization of com-
modities, so the social process requires standardization of
man, and this standardization is called “equality.”

Union by conformity is not intense and violent; it is calm,
dictated by routine, and for this very reason often is insuf-
ficient to pacify the anxiety of separateness. The incidence of
alcoholism, drug addiction, compulsive sexualism, and sui-
cide in contemporary Western society are symptoms of this
relative failure of herd conformity. Furthermore, this solu-
tion concerns mainly the mind and not the body, and for
this reason too is lacking in comparison with the orgiastic
solutions. Herd conformity has only one advantage: it is
permanent, and not spasmodic. The individual is introduced
into the conformity pattern at the age of three or four, and
subsequently never loses his contact with the herd. Even his
funeral, which he anticipates as his last great social affair, is
in strict conformance with the pattern.

In addition to conformity as a way to relieve the anxiety
springing from separateness, another factor of contemporary
life must be considered: the role of the work routine and of
the pleasure routine. Man becomes a “nine to fiver” he is
part of the labor force, or the bureaucratic force of clerks
and managers. He has little initiative, his tasks are prescribed
by the organization of the work; there is even little differ-
ence between those high up on the ladder and those on the
bottom. They all perform tasks prescribed by the whole
structure of the organization, at a prescribed speed, and in a
prescribed manner. Even the feelings are prescribed: cheer-


Illness, tolerance, reliability, ambition, and an ability to get
long with everybody without friction. Fun is routinized in ‘
milar, although not quite as drastic ways. Books are selected
y the book clubs, movies by the film and theater owners
nd the advertising slogans paid for by them; the rest is also ‘
Uniform: the Sunday ride in the car, the television session, ,
the card game, the social parties. From birth to death, from
Monday to Monday, from morning to evening—all activities
are routinized, and prefabricated. How should a man
caught in this net of routine not forget that he is a man, a
unique individual, one who is given only this one chance of
living, with hopes and disappointments, with sorrow and
fear, with the longing for love and the dread of the nothing
and of separateness?

A third way of attaining union lies in creative activity,
be it that of the artist, or of the artisan. In any kind of
creative work the creating person unites himself with his
material, which represents the world outside of himself.
Whether a carpenter makes a table, or a goldsmith a piece of
jewelry, whether the peasant grows his corn or the painter
paints a picture, in all types of creative work the worker
and his object become one, man unites himself with the world
in the process of creation. This, however, holds true only for
productive work, for work in which I plan, produce, see
the result of my work. In the modern work process of a
clerk, the worker on the endless belt, little is left of this
uniting quality of work. The worker becomes an appendix
to the machine or to the bureaucratic organization. He has
ceased to be he—hence no union takes place beyond that of

8 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
The unity achieved in productive work is not interper-

sonal; the unity achieved in orgiastic fusion is transitory; the
unity achieved by conformity is only pseudo-unity. Hence,
they are only partial answers to the problem of existence. The
full answer lies in the achievement of interpersonal union, of
fusion with another person, in love.

This desire for interpersonal fusion is the most powerful
striving in man. It is the most fundamental passion, it is the
force which keeps the human race together, the clan, the
family, society. The failure to achieve it means insanity or
destruction—self-destruction or destruction of others. With-
out love, humanity could not exist for a day. Yet, if we call
the achievement of interpersonal union “love,” we find our-
selves in a serious difficulty. Fusion can be achieved in dif-
ferent ways—and the differences are not less significant than
what is common to the various forms of love. Should they all
be called love? Or should we reserve the word “love” only
for a specific kind of union, one which has been the ideal
virtue in all great humanistic religions and philosophical
systems of the last four thousand years of Western and
Eastern history?

As with all semantic difficulties, the answer can only be
arbitrary. What matters is that we know what kind of union
we are talking about when we speak of love. Do we refer to
love as the mature answer to the problem of existence, or do
we speak of those immature forms of love which may be
called symbiotic union? In the following pages I shall call
love only the former. I shall begin the discussion of “love”
with the latter.

Symbiotic union has its biological pattern in the relation-

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 19

ship between the pregnant mother and the foetus. They are
two, and yet one. They live “together,” (sym-biosis), they
need each other. The foetus is a part of the mother, it re-
ceives everything it needs from her; mother is its world, as
it were; she feeds it, she protects it, but also her own life is
enhanced by it. In the psychic symbiotic union, the two
bodies are independent, but the same kind of attachment
exists psychologically.

The passive form of the symbiotic union is that of sub-
mission, or if we use a clinical term, of masochism. The
masochistic person escapes from the unbearable feeling of
isolation and separateness by making himself part and parcel
of another person who directs him, guides him, protects him;
who is his life and his oxygen, as it were. The power of the
one to whom one submits is inflated, may he be a person or a
god; he is everything, I am nothing, except inasmuch as I
am part of him. As a part, I am part of greatness, of power,
of certainty. The masochistic person does not have to make
decisions, does not have to take any risks; he is never alone—
but he is not independent; he has no integrity; he is not yet
fully born. In a religious context the object of worship is
called an idol; in a secular context of a masochistic love re-
lationship the essential mechanism, that of idolatry, is the
same. The masochistic relationship can be blended with
physical, sexual desire; in this case it is not only a submission
in which one’s mind participates, but also one’s whole body.
There can be masochistic submission to fate, to sickness, to
rhythmic music, to the orgiastic state produced by drugs or
under hypnotic trance—in all these instances the person re-
nounces his integrity, makes himself the instrument of some-


body or something outside of himself; he need not solve the
problem of living by productive activity.

The active form of symbiotic fusion is dominatiOn or, to
use the psychological term corresponding to masochism,
sadism. The sadistic person wants to escape from his alone-
ness and his sense of imprisonment by making another person
part and parcel of himself. He inflates and enhances himself
by incorporating another person, who worships him.

The sadistic person is as dependent on the submissive per-
son as the latter is on the former; neither can live without
the other. The difference is only that the sadistic person
commands, exploits, hurts, humiliates, and that the maso-
chistic person is commanded, exploited, hurt, humiliated.
This is a considerable difference in a realistic sense; in a
deeper emotional sense, the difference is not so great as that
which they both have in common: fusion without integrity.
If one understands this, it is also not surprising to find that
usually a person reacts in both the sadistic and the maso-
chistic manner, usually toward different objects. Hitler re-
acted primarily in a sadistic fashion toward people, but
masochistically toward fate, history, the “higher power” of
nature. His end—suicide among general destruction—is as
characteristic as was his dream of success—total domina-

In contrast to symbiotic union, mature love is union under
the condition of preserving one’s integrity, one’s individual-
ity. Love is an active power in man; a power which breaks
through the walls which separate man from his fellow men,

1 Cf. a more detailed study of sadism and masochism in E. Fromm,
Escape from Freedom, Rinehart & Company, New York, 1941.


which unites him with others; love makes him overcome the
sense of isolation and separateness, yet it permits him to be
himself, to retain his integrity. In love the paradox occurs
that two beings become one and yet remain two.

If we say love is an activity, we face a difficulty which
lies in the ambiguous meaning of the word “activity.” By ”
activity,” in the modern usage of the word, is usually meant
t an action which brings about a change in an existing situa-
tion by means of an expenditure of energy. Thus a man is
considered active if he does business, studies medicine, works
on an endless belt, builds a table, or is engaged in sports. C
Common to all these activities is that they are directed
toward an outside goal to be achieved. What is not taken into
account is the motivation of activity. Take for instance a man

r driven to incessant work by a sense of deep insecurity and
loneliness; or another one driven by ambition, or greed for
money. In all these cases, the person is the slave of a passion,
and his activity is in reality a “passivity” because he is
driven; he is the sufferer, not the “actor.” On the other
hand, a man sitting quiet and contemplating, with no pur-
‘ pose or aim except that of experiencing himself and his

oneness with the world, is considered to be “passive,” because
he is not “doing” anything. In reality, this attitude of con-
centrated meditation is the highest activity there is, an ac-
tivity of the soul, which is possible only under the condition
of inner freedom and independence. One concept of activity,
the modern one, refers to the use of energy for the achieve-
ment of external aims; the other concept of activity refers
to the use of man’s inherent powers, regardless of whether
any external change is brought about. The latter concept of

22 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

activity has been formulated most clearly by Spinoza. He
differentiates among the affects between active and passive
affects, “actions” and “passions.” In the exercise of an active
affect, man is free, he is the master of his affect; in the
exercise of a passive affect, man is driven, the object of
motivations of which he himself is not aware, Thus Spinoza
arrives at the statement that virtue and power are one and
the same.’ Envy, jealousy, ambition, any kind of greed are
passions; love is an action, the practice of a human power,
which can be practiced only in freedom and never as the
result of a compulsion.

Love is an activity, not a passive affect; it is a “standing
in,” not a “falling for.” In the most general way, the active
character of love can be described by stating that love is
primarily giving, not receiving.

What is giving? Simple as the answer to this question
seems to be, it is actually full of ambiguities and complexi-
ties. The most widespread misunderstanding is that which
assumes that giving is “giving up” something, being deprived
of, sacrificing. The person whose character has not developed
beyond the stage of the receptive, exploitative, or hoarding
orientation, experiences the act of giving in this way. The
marketing character is willing to give, but only in exchange
for receiving; giving without receiving for him is being
cheated.’ People whose main orientation is a non-productive
one feel giving as an impoverishment. Most individuals of

2 Spinoza, Ethics IV, Def. 8.
3 Cf. a detailed discussion of these character orientations in E.

Fromm, Man for Himself, Rinehart & Company, New York, 1947,
Chap. III, pp. 54-117.

this type therefore refuse to give. Some make a virtue out of
giving in the sense of a sacrifice. They feel that just because
it is painful to give, one should give; the virtue of giving to
them lies in the very act of acceptance of the sacrifice. For
them, the norm that it is better to give than to receive means
that it is better to suffer deprivation than to experience joy.

For the productive character, giving has an entirely dif-
ferent meaning. Giving is the highest expression of potency.
In the very act of giving, I experience my strength, my
wealth, my power. This experience of heightened vitality
and potency fills me with joy. I experience myself as over-
flowing, spending, alive, hence as joyous.’ Giving is more
joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but
because in the act of giving lies the expression of my alive-

It is not difficult to recognize the validity of this principle
by applying it to various specific phenomena. The most ele-
tnentary example lies in the sphere of sex. The culmination
of the male sexual function lies in the act of giving; the man
gives himself, his sexual organ, to the woman. At the moment
of orgasm he gives his semen to her. He cannot help
giving it if he is potent. If he cannot give, he is impotent. For
the woman the process is not different, although somewhat
more complex. She gives herself too; she opens the gates to
her feminine center; in the act of receiving, she gives. If she
is incapable of this act of giving, if she can only receive, she is
frigid. With her the act of giving occurs again, not in her
function as a lover, but in that as a mother. She gives of
herself to the growing child within her, she gives her milk to

4 Compare the definition of joy given by Spinoza.

24 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

the infant, she gives her bodily warmth. Not to give would
be painful.

In the sphere of material things giving means being rich.
Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much. The
hoarder who is anxiously worried about losing something is,
psychologically speaking, the poor, impoverished man, re-
gardless of how much he has. Whoever is capable of giving
of himself is rich. He experiences himself as one who can
confer of himself to others. Only one who is deprived of all
that goes beyond the barest necessities for subsistence would
be incapable of enjoying the act of giving material things.
But daily experience shows that what a person considers the
minimal necessities depends as much on his character as it
depends on his actual possessions. It is well known that the
poor are more willing to give than the rich. Nevertheless,
poverty beyond a certain point may make it impossible to
give, and is so degrading, not only because of the suffering
it causes directly, but because of the fact that it deprives the
poor of the joy of giving.

The most important sphere of giving, however, is not that
of material things, but lies in the specifically human realm.
What does one person give to another? He gives of himself,
of the most precious he has, he gives of his life. This does not
necessarily mean that he sacrifices his life for the other—but
that he gives him of that which is alive in him; he gives him
of his joy, of his interest, of his understanding, of his knowl-
edge, of his humor, of his sadness—of all expressions and
manifestations of that which is alive in him. In thus giving
of his life, he enriches the other person, he enhances the
other’s sense of aliveness by enhancing his own sense of alive-

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 25
ness. He does not give in order to receive; giving is in itself
exquisite joy. But in giving he cannot help bringing some-
thing to life in the other person, and this which is brought to
life reflects back to him; in truly giving, he cannot help re-
ceiving that which is given back to him. Giving implies to
make the other person a giver also and they both share in
the joy of what they have brought to life. In the act of giving
something is born, and both persons involved are grateful
for the life that is born for both of them. Specifically with
regard to love this means: love is a power which produces
love; impotence is the inability to produce love. This thought
has been beautifully expressed by Marx: “Assume,” he says, ”
man as man, and his relation to the world as a human one,
and you can exchange love only for love, confidence for con-
fidence, etc. If you wish to enjoy art, you must be an artis-
tically trained person; if you wish to have influence on other
people, you must be a person who has a really stimulating
and furthering influence on other people. Every one of your
relationships to man and to nature must be a definite ex-
pression of your real, individual life corresponding to the
object of your will. If you love without calling forth love,
that is, if your love as such does not produce love, if by means
of an expression of life as a loving person you do not make
of yourself a loved person, then your love is impotent, a
misfortune.” s But not only in love does giving mean receiv-
ing. The teacher is taught by his students, the actor is stimu-
lated by his audience, the psychoanalyst is cured by his

5 “Nationalökonomie and Philosophic,” 1844, published in Karl
Marx’ Die Friihschriften, Alfred Kroner Verlag, Stuttgart, 1953, pp.
300, 301. (My translation, E. F.)

26 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

patient—provided they do not treat each other as objects,
but are related to each other genuinely and productively.

It is hardly necessary to stress the fact that the ability to
love as an act of giving depends on the character develop-
ment of the person. It presupposes the attainment of a pre-
dominantly productive orientation; in this orientation the
person has overcome dependency, narcissistic omnipotence,
the wish to exploit others, or to hoard, and has acquired
faith in his own human powers, courage to rely on his powers
in the attainment of his goals. To the degree that these
qualities are lacking, he is afraid of giving himself—hence
of loving.

Beyond the element of giving, the active character of love
becomes evident in the fact that it always implies certain
basic elements, common to all forms of love. These are care,
responsibility, respect and knowledge.

That love implies care is most evident in a mother’s love
for her child. No assurance of her love would strike us as
sincere if we saw her lacking in care for the infant, if she
neglected to feed it, to bathe it, to give it physical comfort;
and we are impressed by her love if we see her caring for
the child. It is not different even with the love for animals or
flowers. If a woman told us that she loved flowers, and we
saw that she forgot to water them, we would not believe in
her “love” for flowers. Love is the active concern for the life
and the growth of that which we love. Where this active con-
cern is lacking, there is no love. This element of love has been
beautifully described in the book of Jonah. God has told
Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn its inhabitants that they will
be punished unless they mend their evil ways. Jonah runs

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 27
away from his mission because he is afraid that the people of
Nineveh will repent and that God will forgive them. He is a
man with a strong sense of order and law, but without love.
However, in his attempt to escape, he finds himself in the
belly of a whale, symbolizing the state of isolation and im-
prisonment which his lack of love and solidarity has brought
upon him. God saves him, and Jonah goes to Nineveh. He
preaches to the inhabitants as God had told him, and the
very thing he was afraid of happens. The men of Nineveh
repent their sins, mend their ways, and God forgives them
and decides not to destroy the city. Jonah is intensely angry
and disappointed; he wanted “justice” to be done, not
mercy. At last he finds some comfort in the shade of a tree
which God had made to grow for him to protect him from
the sun. But when God makes the tree wilt, Jonah is de-
pressed and angrily complains to God. God answers: “Thou
hast had pity on the gourd for the which thou hast not
labored neither madest it grow; which came up in a night,
and perished in a night. And should I not spare Nineveh,
that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand
people that cannot discern between their right hand and
their left hand; and also much cattle?” God’s answer to
Jonah is to be understood symbolically. God explains to
Jonah that the essence of love is to “labor” for something
and “to make something grow,” that love and labor are in-
separable. One loves that for which one labors, and one
labors for that which one loves.

Care and concern imply another aspect of love; that of
responsibility. Today responsibility is often meant to denote
duty, something imposed upon one from the outside. But re-


sponsibility, in its true sense, is an entirely voluntary act; it
is my response to the needs, expressed or unexpressed, of
another human being. To be “responsible” means to be able
and ready to “respond.” Jonah did not feel responsible to
the inhabitants of Nineveh. He, like Cain, could ask: ”
Am I my brother’s keeper?” The loving person responds.
The life of his brother is not his brother’s business alone, but
his own. He feels responsible for his fellow men, as he feels
responsible for himself. This responsibility, in the case of the
mother and her infant, refers mainly to the care for
physical needs. In the love between adults it refers mainly
to the psychic needs of the other person.

Responsibility could easily deteriorate into domination
and possessiveness, were it not for a third component of love,
respect. Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accord-
ance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at),
the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique
individuality. Respect means the concern that the other per-
son should grow and unfold as he is. Respect, thus, implies
the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow
and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not
for the purpose of serving me. If I love the other person, I
feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need
him to be as an object for my use. It is clear that respect is
possible only if I have achieved independence; if I can stand
and walk without needing crutches, without having to domi-
nate and exploit anyone else. Respect exists only on the basis
of freedom: “l’amour est l’enfant de la liberte” as an old
French song says; love is the child of freedom, never that of

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 29

To respect a person is not possible without knowing him;
care and responsibility would be blind if they were not
guided by knowledge. Knowledge would be empty if it were
not motivated by concern. There are many layers of knowl-
edge; the knowledge which is an aspect of love is one which
does not stay at the periphery, but penetrates to the core.
It is possible only when I can transcend the concern for
myself and see the other person in his own terms. I may
know, for instance, that a person is angry, even if he does
not show it overtly; but I may know him more deeply than
that; then I know that he is anxious, and worried; that he
feels lonely, that he feels guilty. Then I know that his anger
is only the manifestation of something deeper, and I see him
as anxious and embarrassed, that is, as the suffering person,
rather than as the angry one.

Knowledge has one more, and a more fundamental, re-
lation to the problem of love. The basic need to fuse with
another person so as to transcend the prison of one’s separate-
ness is closely related to another specifically human desire,
that to know the “secret of man.” While life in its merely bio-
logical aspects is a miracle and a secret, man in his human
aspects is an unfathomable secret to himself—and to his fel-
low man. We know ourselves, and yet even with all the efforts
we may make, we do not know ourselves. We know our fel-
low man, and yet we do not know him, because we are not a
thing, and our fellow man is not a thing. The further we
reach into the depth of our being, or someone else’s being,
the more the goal of knowledge eludes us. Yet we cannot

I, help desiring to penetrate into the secret of man’s soul, into
the innermost nucleus which is “he.”

30 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

There is one way, a desperate one, to know the secret: it
is that of complete power over another person; the power
which makes him do what we want, feel what we want,
think what we want; which transforms him into a thing, our
thing, our possession. The ultimate degree of this attempt to
know lies in the extremes of sadism, the desire and ability to
make a human being suffer; to torture him, to force him to
betray his secret in his suffering. In this craving for penetrat-
ing man’s secret, his and hence our own, lies an essential
motivation for the depth and intensity of cruelty and destruc-
tiveness. In a very succinct way this idea has been expressed
by Isaac Babel. He quotes a fellow officer in the Russian civil
war, who has just stamped his former master to death, as
saying: “With shooting—I’ll put it this way—with shooting
you only get rid of a chap. . . . With shooting you’ll never
get at the soul, to where it is in a fellow and how it shows
itself. But I don’t spare myself, and I’ve more than once
trampled an enemy for over an hour. You see, I want to get
to know what life really is, what life’s like down our way.”

In children we often see this path to knowledge quite
overtly. The child takes something apart, breaks it up in
order to know it; or it takes an animal apart; cruelly tears
off the wings of a butterfly in order to know it, to force its
secret. The cruelty itself is motivated by something deeper:
the wish to know the secret of things and of life.

The other path to knowing “the secret” is love. Love is
active penetration of the other person, in which my desire to
know is stilled by union. In the act of fusion I know you, I
know myself, I know everybody—and I “know” nothing.

6I. Babel, The Collected Stories, Criterion Book, New York, 1955.


I know in the only way knowledge of that which is alive
is possible for man—by experience of union—not by any
knowledge our thought can give. Sadism is motivated by the
wish to know the secret, yet I remain as ignorant as I was
before. I have torn the other being apart limb from limb, yet
all I have done is to destroy him. Love is the only way of
knowledge, which in the act of union answers my quest. In
the act of loving, of giving myself, in the act of penetrating
the other person, I find myself, I discover myself, I discover
us both, I discover man.

The longing to know ourselves and to know our fellow
man has been expressed in the Delphic motto “Know thy-
self.” It is the mainspring of all psychology. But inasmuch as
the desire is to know all of man, his innermost secret, the de-
sire can never be fulfilled in knowledge of the ordinary kind,
in knowledge only by thought. Even if we knew a thousand
times more of ourselves, we would never reach bottom. We
would still remain an enigma to ourselves, as our fellow man
would remain an enigma to us. The only way of full knowl-
edge lies in the act of love : this act transcends thought, it
transcends words. It is the daring plunge into the experience
of union. However, knowledge in thought, that is psycho-
logical knowledge, is a necessary condition for full
knowledge in the act of love. I have to know the other person
and myself objectively, in order to be able to see his reality, or
rather, to overcome the illusions, the irrationally distorted
picture I have of him. Only if I know a human being
objectively, can I know him in his ultimate essence, in the
act of love.’

7 The above statement has an important implication for the role of
psychology in contemporary Western culture. While the great popu-

32 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

The problem of knowing man is parallel to the religious
problem of knowing God. In conventional Western theology
the attempt is made to know God by thought, to make state-
ments about God. It is assumed that I can know God in my
thought. In mysticism, which is the consequent outcome of
monotheism (as I shall try to show later on), the attempt is
given up to know God by thought, and it is replaced by the
experience of union with God in which there is no more
room—and no need—for knowledge about God.

The experience of union, with man, or religiously speak-
ing, with God, is by no means irrational. On the contrary, it
is as Albert Schweitzer has pointed out, the consequence of
rationalism, its most daring and radical consequence. It is
based on our knowledge of the fundamental, and not acci-
dental, limitations of our knowledge. It is the knowledge that
we shall never “grasp” the secret of man and of the universe,
but that we can know, nevertheless, in the act of love. Psy-
chology as a science has its limitations, and, as the logical
consequence of theology is mysticism, so the ultimate conse-
quence of psychology is love.

Care, responsibility, respect and knowledge are mutually
interdependent. They are a syndrome of attitudes which are
to be found in the mature person; that is, in the person who
develops his own powers productively, who only wants to
have that which he has worked for, who has given up nar-
cissistic dreams of omniscience and omnipotence, who has

larity of psychology certainly indicates an interest in the knowledge of
man, it also betrays the fundamental lack of love in human relations
today. Psychological knowledge thus becomes a substitute for full
knowledge in the act of love, instead of being a step toward it.

acquired humility based on the inner strength which only
genuine productive activity can give.

Thus far I have spoken of love as the overcoming of
human separateness, as the fulfillment of the longing for
union. But above the universal, existential need for union
rises a more specific, biological one: the desire for union
between the masculine and feminine poles. The idea of this
polarization is most strikingly expressed in the myth that
originally man and woman were one, that they were cut in
half, and from then on each male has been seeking for the
lost female part of himself in order to unite again with her. (
The same idea of the original unity of the sexes is also con-
tained in the Biblical story of Eve being made from Adam’s
rib, even though in this story, in the spirit of patriarchalism,
woman is considered secondary to man.) The meaning of
the myth is clear enough. Sexual polarization leads man to
seek union in a specific way, that of union with the other sex.
The polarity between the male and female principles exists
also within each man and each woman. Just as physiolog-
ically man and woman each have hormones of the opposite
sex, they are bisexual also in the psychological sense. They
carry in themselves the principle of receiving and of penetrat-
ing, of matter and of spirit. Man—and woman—finds union
within himself only in the union of his female and his male
polarity. This polarity is the basis for all creativity.

The male-female polarity is also the basis for interpersonal
creativity. This is obvious biologically in the fact that the
union of sperm and ovum is the basis for the birth of a child.
But in the purely psychic realm it is not different; in the
love between man and woman, each of them is reborn. (The

34 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
homosexual deviation is a failure to attain this polarized
union, and thus the homosexual suffers from the pain of
never-resolved separateness, a failure, however, which he
shares with the average heterosexual who cannot love.)

The same polarity of the male and female principle exists
in nature; not only, as is obvious in animals and plants, but
in the polarity of the two fundamental functions, that of re-
ceiving and that of penetrating. It is the polarity of the earth
and rain, of the river and the ocean, of night and day, of
darkness and light, of matter and spirit. This idea is beauti-
fully expressed by the great Muslim poet and mystic, Rümi:

Never, in sooth, does the lover seek without being
sought by his beloved.

When the lightning of love has shot into this heart,
know that there is love in that heart.

When love of God waxes in thy heart, beyond any
doubt God hath love for thee.

No sound of clapping comes from one hand without the
other hand.

Divine Wisdom is destiny and decree made us lovers of
one another.

Because of that fore-ordainment every part of the world
is paired with its mate.

In the view of the wise, Heaven is man and Earth
woman : Earth fosters what Heaven lets fall.

When Earth lacks heat, Heaven sends it; when she has
lost her freshness and moisture, Heaven restores it.

Heaven goes on his rounds, like a husband foraging for
the wife’s sake;

And Earth is busy with housewiferies: she attends to
births and suckling that which she bears.

Regard Earth and Heaven as endowed with intelli-

gence, since they do the work of intelligent beings.
Unless these twain taste pleasure from one another, why
are they creeping together like sweethearts?

Without the Earth, how should flower and tree blos-
som? What, then, would Heaven’s water and heat
As God put desire in man and woman to the end that
the world should be preserved by their union,

So hath He implanted in every part of existence the
desire for another part.

Day and Night are enemies outwardly; yet both serve
one purpose,

Each in love with the other for the sake of perfecting
their mutual work,

Without Night, the nature of Man would receive no
income, so there would be nothing for Day to spend.’

The problem of the male-female polarity leads to some further discussion on the subject matter of love and sex. I
have spoken before of Freud’s error in seeing in love exclu-
sively the expression—or a sublimation—of the sexual
in-, stinct, rather than recognizing that the sexual desire is one
manifestation of the need for love and union. But Freud’s
error goes deeper. In line with his physiological materialism,
he sees in the sexual instinct the result of a chemically pro-
duced tension in the body which is painful and seeks for re-
lief. The aim of the sexual desire is the removal of this pain-
ful tension; sexual satisfaction lies in the accomplishment of
this removal. This view has its validity to the extent that the

R. A. Nicholson, Rümi, George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London,
1950, pp. 122-3.

36 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

sexual desire operates in the same fashion as hunger or thirst
do when the organism is undernourished. Sexual desire, in
this concept, is an itch, sexual satisfaction the removal of the
itch. In fact, as far as this concept of sexuality is concerned,
masturbation would be the ideal sexual satisfaction. What
Freud, paradoxically enough, ignores, is the psycho-biological
aspect of sexuality, the masculine-feminine polarity, and the
desire to bridge this polarity by union. This curious error
was probably facilitated by Freud’s extreme patriarchalism,
which led him to the assumption that sexuality per se is
masculine, and thus made him ignore the specific female
sexuality. He expressed this idea in the Three Contributions
to the Theory of Sex, saying that the libido has regularly “a
masculine nature,” regardless of whether it is the libido in a
man or in a woman. The same idea is also expressed in a
rationalized form in Freud’s theory that the little boy experi-
ences the woman as a castrated man, and that she herself
seeks for various compensations for the loss of the male
genital. But woman is not a castrated man, and her sexuality
is specifically feminine and not of “a masculine nature.”

Sexual attraction between the sexes is only partly moti-
vated by the need for removal of tension; it is mainly the
need for union with the other sexual pole. In fact, erotic at-
traction is by no means only expressed in sexual attraction.
There is masculinity and femininity in character as well as
in sexual function. The masculine character can be defined
as having the qualities of penetration, guidance, activity, dis-
cipline and adventurousness; the feminine character by the
qualities of productive receptiveness, protection, realism, en-
durance, motherliness. (It must always be kept in mind that

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 37
in each individual both characteristics are blended, but with
the preponderance of those appertaining to “his” or “her”
sex.) Very often if the masculine character traits of a man
are weakened because emotionally he has remained a child,
he will try to compensate for this lack by the exclusive
emphasis on his male role in sex. The result is the Don Juan,
who needs to prove his male prowess in sex because he is un-
sure of his masculinity in a characterological sense. When the
paralysis of masculinity is more extreme, sadism (the use of
force) becomes the main—a perverted—substitute for mas-
culinity. If the feminine sexuality is weakened or perverted,
it is transformed into masochism, or possessiveness.

Freud has been criticized for his overevaluation of sex.
This criticism was often prompted by the wish to remove an
element from Freud’s system which aroused criticism and
hostility among conventionally minded people. Freud keenly
sensed this motivation and for this very reason fought every
attempt to change his theory of sex. Indeed, in his time,
Freud’s theory had a challenging and revolutionary charac-
ter. But what was true around ‘goo is not true any more
fifty years later. The sexual mores have changed so much
that Freud’s theories are not any longer shocking to the
Western middle classes, and it is a quixotic kind of radical-
ism when orthodox analysts today still think they are coura-
geous and radical in defending Freud’s sexual theory. In
fact, their brand of psychoanalysis is conformist, and does
not try to raise psychological questions which would lead to
a criticism of contemporary society.

My criticism of Freud’s theory is not that he overempha-
sized sex, but his failure to understand sex deeply enough.

38 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
He took the first step in discovering the significance of inter-
personal passions; in accordance with his philosophic
premises he explained them physiologically. In the further
development of psychoanalysis it is necessary to correct and
deepen Freud’s concept by translating Freud’s insights from
the physiological into the biological and existential dimen-

2 . L O V E B E T W E E N P A R E N T A N D C H I L D

The infant, at the moment of birth, would feel the fear
of dying, if a gracious fate did not preserve it from any
awareness of the anxiety involved in the separation from
mother, and from intra-uterine existence. Even after being
born, the infant is hardly different from what it was before
birth; it cannot recognize objects, it is not yet aware of
itself, and of the world as being outside of itself. It only
feels the positive stimulation of warmth and food, and it does
not yet differentiate warmth and food from its source:
mother. Mother is warmth, mother is food, mother is the
euphoric state of satisfaction and security. This state is one
of narcissism, to use Freud’s term. The outside reality, per-
sons and things, have meaning only in terms of their satisfy-
ing or frustrating the inner state of the body. Real is only
what is within; what is outside is real only in terms of my
needs—never in terms of its own qualities or needs.

9 Freud himself made a first step in this direction in his later con-
cept of the life and death instincts. His concept of the former (eros)
as a principle of synthesis and unification is on an entirely different
plane from that of his libido concept. But in spite of the fact that the
theory of life and death instincts was accepted by orthodox analysts,
this acceptance did not lead to a fundamental revision of the libido
concept, especially as far as clinical work is concerned.

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 39
When the child grows and develops, he becomes capable

of perceiving things as they are; the satisfaction in being fed
becomes differentiated from the nipple, the breast from the
mother. Eventually the child experiences his thirst, the satis-
fying milk, the breast and the mother, as different entities.
He learns to perceive many other things as being different, as
having an existence of their own. At this point he learns to
give them names. At the same time he learns to handle them;
learns that fire is hot and painful, that mother’s body is
warm and pleasureful, that wood is hard and heavy, that
paper is light and can be torn. He learns how to handle peo-
ple; that mother will smile when I eat; that she will take
me in her arms when I cry; that she will praise me when I
have a bowel movement. All these experiences become crys-
tallized and integrated in the experience: I am loved. I am
loved because I am mother’s child. I am loved because I
am helpless. I am loved because I am beautiful, admirable.
I am loved because mother needs me. To put it in a more
general formula: I am loved for what I am, or perhaps more
accurately, I am loved because I am. This experience of
being loved by mother is a passive one. There is nothing
I have to do in order to be loved—mother’s love is uncon-
ditional. All I have to do is to be—to be her child. Mother’s
love is bliss, is peace, it need not be acquired, it need not be
deserved. But there is a negative side, too, to the uncondi-
tional quality of mother’s love. Not only does it not need to
be deserved—it also cannot be acquired, produced, con-
trolled. If it is there, it is like a blessing; if it is not there, it
is as if all beauty had gone out of life—and there is nothing
I can do to create it.

40 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
For most children before the age from eight and a half to

ten,” the problem is almost exclusively that of being loved—
of being loved for what one is. The child up to this age does
not yet love; he responds gratefully, joyfully to being loved.
At this point of the child’s development a new factor enters
into the picture: that of a new feeling of producing love by
one’s own activity, For the first time, the child thinks of giv-
ing something to mother (or to father), of producing some-
thing—a poem, a drawing, or whatever it may be. For the
first time in the child’s life the idea of love is transformed
from being loved into loving; into creating love. It takes
many years from this first beginning to the maturing of love.
Eventually the child, who may now be an adolescent, has
overcome his egocentricity; the other person is not any more
primarily a means to the satisfaction of his own needs. The
needs of the other person are as important as his own—in
fact, they have become more important. To give has become
more satisfactory, more joyous, than to receive; to love, more
important even than being loved. By loving, he has left the
prison cell of aloneness and isolation which was constituted
by the state of narcissism and self-centeredness. He feels a
sense of new union, of sharing, of oneness. More than that,
he feels the potency of producing love by loving—rather than
the dependence of receiving by being loved—and for that
reason having to be small, helpless, sick—or “good.” In-
fantile love follows the principle: “I love because I am
loved.” Mature love follows the principle: “I am loved be-

10 Cf. Sullivan’s description of this development in The Interpersonal
Theory of Psychiatry, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1953.


cause I love.” Immature love says: “I love you because I need
you.” Mature love says: “I need you because I love you.”

Closely related to the development of the capacity of love
is the development of the object of love. The first months
and years of the child are those where his closest attachment
is to the mother. This attachment begins before the moment
of birth, when mother and child are still one, although they
are two. Birth changes the situation in some respects, but not
as much as it would appear. The child, while now living
outside of the womb, is still completely dependent on mother.
But daily he becomes more independent: he learns to walk,
to talk, to explore the world on his own; the relationship to
mother loses some of its vital significance, and instead the
relationship to father becomes more and more important.

In order to understand this shift from mother to father,
we must consider the essential differences in quality between
motherly and fatherly love. We have already spoken about
motherly love. Motherly love by its very nature is uncondi-
tional. Mother loves the newborn infant because it is her
child, not because the child has fulfilled any specific condi-
tion, or lived up to any specific expectation. (Of course,
when I speak here of mother’s and father’s love, I speak of
the “ideal types”—in Max Weber’s sense or of an archetype
in Jung’s sense—and do not imply that every mother and
father loves in that way. I refer to the fatherly and motherly
principle, which is represented in the motherly and fatherly
person.) Unconditional love corresponds to one of the
deepest longings, not only of the child, but of every human
being; on the other hand, to be loved because of one’s
merit, because one deserves it, always leaves doubt; maybe

42 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
I did not please the person whom I want to love me,
maybe this, or that—there is always a fear that love could
disappear. Furthermore, “deserved” love easily leaves a
bitter feeling that one is not loved for oneself, that one is
loved only because one pleases, that one is, in the last analy-
sis, not loved at all but used. No wonder that we all cling
to the longing for motherly love, as children and also as
adults. Most children are lucky enough to receive motherly
love (to what extent will be discussed later). As adults the
same longing is much more difficult to fulfill. In the most
satisfactory development it remains a component of normal
erotic love; often it finds expression in religious forms, more
often in neurotic forms.

The relationship to father is quite different. Mother is the
home we come from, she is nature, soil, the ocean; father
does not represent any such natural home. He has little con-
nection with the child in the first years of its life, and his
importance for the child in this early period cannot be com-
pared with that of mother. But while father does not repre-
sent the natural world, he represents the other pole of human
existence; the world of thought, of man-made things, of law
and order, of discipline, of travel and adventure. Father is
the one who teaches the child, who shows him the road into
the world.

Closely related to this function is one which is connected
with socio-economic development. When private property
came into existence, and when private property could be in-
herited by one of the sons, father began to look for that son
to whom he could leave his property. Naturally, that was the
one whom father thought best fitted to become his successor,

the son who was most like him, and consequently whom he
liked the most. Fatherly love is conditional love. Its principle
is “I love you because you fulfill my expectations, because
you do your duty, because you are like me.” In conditional
fatherly love we find, as with unconditional motherly love,
a negative and a positive aspect. The negative aspect is the
very fact that fatherly love has to be deserved, that it can be
lost if one does not do what is expected. In the nature of
fatherly love lies the fact that obedience becomes the main
virtue, that disobedience is the main sin—and its punishment
the withdrawal of fatherly love. The positive side is equally
important. Since his love is conditioned, I can do something
to acquire it, I can work for it; his love is not outside of my
control as motherly love is.

The mother’s and the father’s attitudes toward the child
correspond to the child’s own needs. The infant needs
mother’s unconditional love and care physiologically as well
as psychically. The child, after six, begins to need father’s
love, his authority and guidance. Mother has the function
of making him secure in life, father has the function of
teaching him, guiding him to cope with those problems with
which the particular society the child has been born into
confronts him. In the ideal case, mother’s love does not try
to prevent the child from growing up, does not try to put a
premium on helplessness. Mother should have faith in life,
hence not be overanxious, and thus not infect the child with
her anxiety. Part of her life should be the wish that the child
become independent and eventually separate from her.
Father’s love should be guided by principles and expecta-
tions; it should be patient and tolerant, rather than threaten-

44 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
ing and authoritarian. It should give the growing child an
increasing sense of competence and eventually permit him to
become his own authority and to dispense with that of father.

Eventually, the mature person has come to the point where
he is his own mother and his own father. He has, as it were,
a motherly and a fatherly conscience. Motherly conscience
says: “There is no misdeed, no crime which could deprive
you of my love, of my wish for your life and happiness.”
Fatherly conscience says: “You did wrong, you cannot avoid
accepting certain consequences of your wrongdoing, and
most of all you must change your ways if I am to like you.”
The mature person has become free from the outside mother
and father figures, and has built them up inside. In contrast
to Freud’s concept of the super-ego, however, he has built
them inside not by incorporating mother and father, but by
building a motherly conscience on his own capacity for love,
and a fatherly conscience on his reason and judgment. Fur-
thermore, the mature person loves with both the motherly
and the fatherly conscience, in spite of the fact that they seem
to contradict each other. If he would only retain his fatherly
conscience, he would become harsh and inhuman. If he
would only retain his motherly conscience, he would be apt
to lose judgment and to hinder himself and others in their

In this development from mother-centered to father-
centered attachment, and their eventual synthesis, lies the
basis for mental health and the achievement of maturity.
In the failure of this development lies the basic cause for
neurosis. While it is beyond the scope of this book to develop


this trend of thought more fully, some brief remarks may
)serve to clarify this statement.

One cause for neurotic development can lie in the fact
that a boy has a loving, but overindulgent or domineering
mother, and a weak and uninterested father. In this case he
may remain fixed at an early mother attachment, and de-
velop into a person who is dependent on mother, feels helpr)
ess, has the strivings characteristic of the receptive person,
that is, to receive, to be protected, to be taken care of, and
who has a lack of fatherly qualities—discipline, independ-

Lence, an ability to master life by himself. He may try to find ”
mothers” in everybody, sometimes in women and some-
tunes in men in a position of authority and power. If, on the
Other hand, the mother is cold, unresponsive and domineer-
frig, he may either transfer the need for motherly protection
o his father, and subsequent father figures—in which case

the end result is similar to the former case—or he will de-
velop into a onesidedly father-oriented person, completely
given to the principles of law, order and authority, and lack-
ing in the ability to expect or to receive unconditional love.
This development is further intensified if the father is
authoritarian and at the same time strongly attached to the
son. What is characteristic of all these neurotic developments
is the fact that one principle, the fatherly or the motherly,
fails to develop or—and this is the case in the more severe
neurotic development—that the roles of mother and father
become confused both with regard to persons outside and
with regard to these roles within the person. Further exami-
nation may show that certain types of neurosis, like obses-
sional neurosis, develop more on the basis of a one-sided

46 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

father attachment, while others, like hysteria, alcoholism, in-
ability to assert oneself and to cope with life realistically, and
depressions, result from mother-centeredness.

3 . T H E O B J E C T S O F L O V E
Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it

is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines
the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not
toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one other
person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his
love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged
egotism. Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by
the object, not by the faculty. In fact, they even believe that
it is a proof of the intensity of their love when they do not
love anybody except the “loved” person. This is the same
fallacy which we have already mentioned above. Because
one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul,
one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right
object—and that everything goes by itself afterward. This
attitude can be compared to that of a man who wants to
paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he
has just to wait for the right object, and that he will paint
beautifully when he finds it. If I truly love one person I love
all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to some-
body else, “I love you,” I must be able to say, “I love in
you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you
also myself.”

Saying that love is an orientation which refers to all and
not to one does not imply, however, the idea that there are

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 47
no differences between various types of love, which depend
on the kind of object which is loved.

a. Brotherly Love
The most fundamental kind of love, which underlies all

types of love, is brotherly love. By this I mean the sense of
responsibility, care, respect, knowledge of any other human
being, the wish to further his life. This is the kind of love the
Bible speaks of when it says: love thy neighbor as thyself.
Brotherly love is love for all human beings; it is characterized
by its very lack of exclusiveness. If I have developed the
capacity for love, then I cannot help loving my brothers. In
brotherly love there is the experience of union with all men,
of human solidarity, of human at-onement. Brotherly love is
based on the experience that we all are one. The differences
in talents, intelligence, knowledge are negligible in compari-
son with the identity of the human core common to all men.
In order to experience this identity it is necessary to pene-
trate from the periphery to the core. If I perceive in another
person mainly the surface, I perceive mainly the differences,
that which separates us. If I penetrate to the core, I perceive
our identity, the fact of our brotherhood. This relatedness
from center to center—instead of that from periphery to
periphery—is “central relatedness.” Or as Simone Weil ex-
pressed it so beautifully: “The same words [e.g., a man says
to his wife, “I love you”] can be commonplace or extra-
ordinary according to the manner in which they are spoken.
And this manner depends on the depth of the region in a
man’s being from which they proceed without the will being
able to do anything. And by a marvelous agreement they

48 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

reach the same region in him who hears them. Thus the
hearer can discern, if he has any power of discernment, what
is the value of the words.” ”

Brotherly love is love between equals: but, indeed, even as
equals we are not always “equal”; inasmuch as we are
human, we are all in need of help. Today I, tomorrow you.
But this need of help does not mean that the one is helpless,
the other powerful. Helplessness is a transitory condition;
the ability to stand and walk on one’s own feet is the per-
manent and common one.

Yet, love of the helpless one, love of the poor and the
stranger, are the beginning of brotherly love. To love one’s
flesh and blood is no achievement. The animal loves its
young and cares for them. The helpless one loves his master,
since his life depends on him; the child loves his parents,
since he needs them. Only in the love of those who do not
serve a purpose, love begins to unfold. Significantly, in the
Old Testament, the central object of man’s love is the poor,
the stranger, the widow and the orphan, and eventually the
national enemy, the Egyptian and the Edomite. By having
compassion for the helpless one, man begins to develop love
for his brother; and in his love for himself he also loves the
one who is in need of help, the frail, insecure human being.
Compassion implies the element of knowledge and of identi-
fication. “You know the heart of the stranger,” says the Old
Testament, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt;
. . . therefore love the stranger!””

11 Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York,
1952, p. 117.

12 The same idea has been expressed by Hermann Cohen in his Re-
ligion de r Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums, 2nd edition, J.
Kaufmann Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 1929, p. 168 ff.

b. Motherly Love

We have already dealt with the nature of motherly love in
a previous chapter which discussed the difference between
motherly and fatherly love. Motherly love, as I said there, is
unconditional affirmation of the child’s life and his needs.
But one important addition to this description must be made
here. Affirmation of the child’s life has two aspects; one is
the care and responsibility absolutely necessary for the preser-
vation of the child’s life and his growth. The other aspect
goes further than mere preservation. It is the attitude which
instills in the child a love for living, which gives him the
feeling: it is good to be alive, it is good to be a little boy or
girl, it is good to be on this earth! These two aspects of
motherly love are expressed very succinctly in the Biblical
story of creation. God creates the world, and man. This cor-
responds to the simple care and affirmation of existence. But
God goes beyond this minimum requirement. On each day
after nature and man—is created, God says: “It is good.”
Motherly love, in this second step, makes the child feel: it is
good to have been born; it instills in the child the love for
life, and not only the wish to remain alive. The same idea
may be taken to be expressed in another Biblical symbolism.
The promised land (land is always a mother symbol) is
described as “flowing with milk and honey.” Milk is the
symbol of the first aspect of love, that of care and affirma-
tion. Honey symbolizes the sweetness of life, the love for it
and the happiness in being alive. Most mothers are capable
of giving “milk,” but only a minority of giving “honey” too.
In order to be able to give honey, a mother must not only
be a “good mother,” but a happy person—and this aim is


not achieved by many. The effect on the child can hardly be
exaggerated. Mother’s love for life is as infectious as her
anxiety is. Both attitudes have a deep effect on the child’s
whole personality; one can distinguish indeed, among chil-
dren—and, adults—those who got only “milk” and those
who got “milk and honey.”

In contrast to brotherly love and erotic love which are
love between equals, the relationship of mother and child is
by its very nature one of inequality, where one needs all the
help, and the other gives it. It is for this altruistic, unselfish
character that motherly love has been considered the highest
kind of love, and the most sacred of all emotional bonds. It
seems, however, that the real achievement of motherly love
lies not in the mother’s love for the small infant, but in her
love for the growing child. Actually, the vast majority of
mothers are loving mothers as long as the infant is small and
still completely dependent on them. Most women want chil-
dren, are happy with the new-born child, and eager in their
care for it. This is so in spite of the fact that they do not ”
get” anything in return from the child, except a smile or the
expression of satisfaction in his face. It seems that this atti-
tude of love is partly rooted in an instinctive equipment to
be found in animals as well as in the human female. But,
whatever the weight of this instinctive factor may be, there
are also specifically human psychological factors which are
responsible for this type of motherly love. One may be found
in the narcissistic element in motherly love. Inasmuch as the
infant is still felt to be a part of herself, her love and in-
fatuation may be a satisfaction of her narcissism. Another
motivation may be found in a mother’s wish for power, or

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 51
possession. The child, being helpless and completely subject
to her will, is a natural object of satisfaction for a domineer-
ing and possessive woman.

Frequent as these motivations are, they are probably less
important and less universal than one which can be called
the need for transcendence. This need for transcendence is
one of the most basic needs of man, rooted in the fact of his
self-awareness, in the fact that he is not satisfied with the
role of the creature, that he cannot accept himself as dice
thrown out of the cup. He needs to feel as the creator, as
one transcending the passive role of being created. There are
many ways of achieving this satisfaction of creation; the
most natural and also the easiest one to achieve is the
mother’s care and love for her creation. She transcends her-
self in the infant, her love for it gives her life meaning and
significance. (In the very inability of the male to satisfy his
need for transcendence by bearing children lies his urge to
transcend himself by the creation of man-made things and
of ideas.)

But the child must grow. It must emerge from mother’s
womb, from mother’s breast; it must eventually become a
completely separate human being. The very essence of
motherly love is to care for the child’s growth, and that
means to want the child’s separation from herself. Here lies
the basic difference to erotic love. In erotic love, two people
who were separate become one. In motherly love, two people
who were one become separate. The mother must not only
tolerate, she must wish and support the child’s separation. It
is only at this stage that motherly love becomes such a dif-
ficult task, that it requires unselfishness, the ability to give

52 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
everything and to want nothing but the happiness of the
loved one. It is also at this stage that many mothers fail in
their task of motherly love. The narcissistic, the domineer-
ing, the possessive woman can succeed in being a “loving”
mother as long as the child is small. Only the really loving
woman, the woman who is happier in giving than in taking,
who is firmly rooted in her own existence, can be a loving
mother when the child is in the process of separation.

Motherly love for the growing child, love which wants
nothing for oneself, is perhaps the most difficult form of love
to be achieved, and all the more deceptive because of the
ease with which a mother can love her small infant. But just
because of this difficulty, a woman can be a truly loving
mother only if she can love; if she is able to love her hus-
band, other children, strangers, all human beings. The
woman who is not capable of love in this sense can be an
affectionate mother as long as the child is small, but she
cannot be a loving mother, the test of which is the willing-
ness to bear separation—and even after the separation to go
on loving.

c. Erotic Love

Brotherly love is love among equals; motherly love is love
for the helpless. Different as they are from each other, they
have in common that they are by their very nature not re-
stricted to one person. If I love my brother, I love all my
brothers; if I love my child, I love all my children; no,
beyond that, I love all children, all that are in need of my
help. In contrast to both types of love is erotic love; it is the
craving for complete fusion, for union with one other per-

. It is by its very nature exclusive and not universal; it is
o perhaps the most deceptive form of love there is.

First of all, it is often confused with the explosive experie
nce of lolling” in love, the sudden collapse of the barriers hich existed until that moment between two strangers. But,
was pointed out before, this experience of sudden intimacy
by its very nature short-lived. After the stranger has bec
ome an intimately known person there are no more
barriers to be overcome, there is no more sudden closeness to be
thieved. The “loved” person becomes as well known as
nesdf. Or, perhaps I should better say as little known. If
ere were more depth in the experience of the other person,
one could experience the infiniteness of his personality, the

other person would never be so familiar—and the miracle of
overcoming the barriers might occur every day anew. But for
most people their own person, as well as others, is soon ex-
plored and soon exhausted. For them intimacy is established
primarily through sexual contact. Since they experience the
separateness of the other person primarily as physical sepa-
rateness, physical union means overcoming separateness.

Beyond that, there are other factors which to many people
denote the overcoming of separateness. To speak of one’s
own personal life, one’s hopes and anxieties, to show oneself
with one’s childlike or childish aspects, to establish a com-
mon interest vis-a-vis the world—all this is taken as overc
oming separateness. Even to show one’s anger, one’s hate,
one’s complete lack of inhibition is taken for intimacy, and
this may explain the perverted attraction married couples
often have for each other, who seem intimate only when they
are in bed or when they give vent to their mutual hate and

54 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
rage. But all these types of closeness tend to become reduced
more and more as time goes on. The consequence is one
seeks love with a new person, with a new stranger. Again the
stranger is transformed into an “intimate” person, again the
experience of falling in love is exhilarating and intense, and
again it slowly becomes less and less intense, and ends in the
wish for a new conquest, a new love—always with the illu-
sion that the new love will be different from the earlier ones.
These illusions are greatly helped by the deceptive character
of sexual desire.

Sexual desire aims at fusion and is by no means only a

physical appetite, the relief of a painful tension. But sexual
desire can be stimulated by the anxiety of aloneness, by the
wish to conquer or be conquered, by vanity, by the wish to
hurt and even to destroy, as much as it can be stimulated
by love. It seems that sexual desire can easily blend with and
be stimulated by any strong emotion, of which love is only
one. Because sexual desire is in the minds of most people
coupled with the idea of love, they are easily misled to con-
clude that they love each other when they want each other
physically. Love can inspire the wish for sexual union; in
this case the physical relationship is lacking in greediness, in
a wish to conquer or to be conquered, but is blended with
tenderness. If the desire for physical union is not stimulated
by love, if erotic love is not also brotherly love, it never leads
to union in more than an orgiastic, transitory sense. Sexual
attraction creates, for the moment, the illusion of union, yet
without love this “union” leaves strangers as far apart as
they were before—sometimes it makes them ashamed of each
other, or even makes them hate each other, because when

the illusion has gone they feel their estrangement even more
markedly than before. Tenderness is by no means, as Freud
believed, a sublimation of the sexual instinct; it is the direct
outcome of brotherly love, and exists in physical as well as
in non-physical forms of love.

In erotic love there is an exclusiveness which is lacking in
brotherly love and motherly love. This exclusive character of
erotic love warrants some further discussion. Frequently the
exclusiveness of erotic love is misinterpreted as meaning pos-
sessive attachment. One can often find two people “in love”
with each other who feel no love for anybody else. Their
love is, in fact, an egotism a deux; they are two people who
identify themselves with each other, and who solve the prob-
lem of separateness by enlarging the single individual into
two. They have the experience of overcoming aloneness, yet,
since they are separated from the rest of mankind, they re-
main separated from each other and alienated from them-
selves; their experience of union is an illusion. Erotic love is
exclusive, but it loves in the other person all of mankind, all
that is alive. It is exclusive only in the sense that I can fuse
myself fully and intensely with one person only. Erotic love
excludes the love for others only in the sense of erotic fusion,
full commitment in all aspects of life—but not in the sense
of deep brotherly love.

Erotic love, if it is love, has one premise. That I love from
the essence of my being—and experience the other person
in the essence of his or her being. In essence, all human be-
ings are identical. We are all part of One; we are One. This
being so, it should not make any difference whom we love.
Love should be essentially an act of will, of decision to corn-

56 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

mit my ‘life completely to that of one other person. This is,
indeed, the rationale behind- the idea of the insolubility of
marriage, as it is behind the many forms of traditional mar-
riage in which the two partners never choose each other,
but are chosen for each other—and yet are expected to love
each other. In contemporary Western culture this idea ap-
pears altogether false. Love is supposed to be the outcome of
a spontaneous, emotional reaction, of suddenly being gripped
by an irresistible feeling. In this view, one sees only the
peculiarities of the two individuals involved—and not the
fact that all men are part of Adam, and all women part of
Eve. One neglects to see an important factor in erotic love,
that of will. To love somebody is not just a strong feeling—it
is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were
only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to
love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How
can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not
involve judgment and decision?

Taking these views into account one may arrive at the
position that love is exclusively an act of will and com-
mitment, and that therefore fundamentally it does not
matter who the two persons are. Whether the marriage was
arranged by others, or the result of individual choice, once
the marriage is concluded, the act of will should guarantee
the continuation of love. This view seems to neglect the para-
doxical character of human nature and of erotic love. We
are all One—yet every one of us is a unique, unduplicable
entity. In our relationships to others the same paradox is
repeated. Inasmuch as we are all one, we can love everybody
in the same way in the sense of brotherly love. But inasmuch


as we are all also different, erotic love requires certain specific,
highly individual elements which exist between some people
but not between all.

Both views then, that of erotic love as completely indi-
vidual attraction, unique between two specific persons, as
well as the other view that erotic love is nothing but an act
of will, are true—or, as it may be put more aptly, the truth
is neither this nor that. Hence the idea of a relationship
which can be easily dissolved if one is not successful with it
is as erroneous as the idea that under no circumstances must
the relationship be dissolved.

d. Self-Love 13

While it raises no objection to apply the concept of love
to various objects, it is a widespread belief that, while it is
virtuous to love others, it is sinful to loye oneself. It is as-
sumed that to the degree to which I love myself I do not
love others, that self-love is the same as selfishness. This view
goes far back in Western thought. Calvin speaks of self-love
as “a pest.” 14 Freud speaks of self-love in psychiatric terms

1 3 Paul Tillich, in a review of The Sane Society, in Pastoral Psy-
chology, September, 1955, has suggested that it would be better to
drop the ambiguous term “self-love” and to replace it with “natural
self-affirmation” or “paradoxical self-acceptance.” Much as I can see
the merits of this suggestion, I cannot agree with him in this point. In
the term “self-lovc” the paradoxical element in self-love is contained
more clearly. The fact is expressed that love is an attitude which is the
same toward all objects, including myself. It must also not be forgotten
that the term “self-love,” in the sense in which it is used here, has a
history. The Bible speaks of self-love when it commands to “love thy
neighbor as thyself,” and Meister Eckhart speaks of self-love in the
very same sense.

14 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by J.
Albau, Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, Philadelphia, 1928,
Chap. 7, par. 4, p. 622.

58 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

but, nevertheless, his value judgment is the same as that of
Calvin. For him self-love is the same as narcissism, the
turning of the libido toward oneself. Narcissism is the earliest
stage in human development, and the person who in later
life has returned to this narcissistic stage is incapable of love;
in the extreme case he is insane. Freud assumes that love is
the manifestation of libido, and that the libido is either
turned toward others—love; or toward oneself—self-love.
Love and self-love are thus mutually exclusive in the sense
that the more there is of one, the less there is of the other.
If self-love is bad, it follows that unselfishness is virtuous.

These questions arise: Does psychological observation
support the thesis that there is a basic contradiction between
love for oneself and love for others? Is love for oneself the
same phenomenon as selfishness, or are they opposites? Fur-
thermore, is the selfishness of modern man really a concern
for himself as an individual, with all his intellectual, emo-
tional and sensual potentialities? Has “he” not become an
appendage of his socio-economic role? Is his selfishness iden-
tical with self-love or is it not caused by the very lack of it?

Before we start the discussion of the psychological aspect
of selfishness and self-love, the logical fallacy in the notion
that love for others and love for oneself are mutually exclu-
sive should be stressed. If it is a virtue to love my neighbor
as a human being, it must be a virtue—and not a vice—to
love myself, since I am a human being too. There is no con-
cept of man in which I myself am not included. A doctrine
which proclaims such an exclusion proves itself to be in-
trinsically contradictory. The idea expressed in the Biblical ”
Love thy neighbor as thyself !” implies that respect for one’s

own integrity and uniqueness, love for and understanding of
one’s own self, cannot be separated from respect and love
and understanding for another individual. The love for my
own self is inseparably connected with the love for any other

We have come now to the basic psychological premises on
which the conclusions of our argument are built. Generally,
these premises are as follows: not only others, but we our-
selves are the “object” of our feelings and attitudes; the
attitudes toward others and toward ourselves, far from being
contradictory, are basically conjunctive. With regard to the
problem under discussion this means: love of others and love
of ourselves are not alternatives. On the contrary, an attitude
of love toward themselves will be found in all those who are
capable of loving others. Love, in principle, is indivisible as
far as the connection between “objects” and one’s own self
is concerned. Genuine love is an expression of productive-
ness and implies care, respect, responsibility and knowledge.
It is not an “affect” in the sense of being affected by some-
body, but an active striving for the growth and happiness
of the loved person, rooted in one’s own capacity to love.

To love somebody is the actualization and concentration
of the power to love. The basic affirmation contained in love
is directed toward the beloved person as an incarnation of
essentially human qualities. Love of one person implies love
of man as such. The kind of “division of labor,” as William
James calls it, by which one loves one’s family but is without
feeling for the “stranger,” is a sign of a basic inability to
love. Love of man is not, as is frequently supposed, an ab-
straction coming after the love for a specific person, but it


is its premise, although genetically it is acquired in loving
specific individuals.

From this it follows that my own self must be as much an
object of my love as another person. The affirmation of one’s
own life, happiness, growth, freedom is rooted in one’s
capacity to love, i.e., in care, respect, responsibility, and
knowledge. If an individual is able to love productively, he
loves himself too; if he can love only others, he cannot love
at all.

Granted that love for oneself and for others in principle
is conjunctive, how do we explain selfishness, which obviously
excludes any genuine concern for others? The selfish person
is interested only in himself, wants everything for himself,
feels no pleasure in giving, but only in taking. The world
outside is looked at only from the standpoint of what he can
get out of it; he lacks interest in the needs of others, and
respect for their dignity and integrity. He can see nothing
but himself ; he judges everyone and everything from its
usefulness to him; he is basically unable to love. Does not
this prove that concern for others and concern for oneself
are unavoidable alternatives? This would be so if selfishness
and self-love were identical. But that assumption is the very
fallacy which has led to so many mistaken conclusions con-
cerning our problem. Selfishness and self-love, far from be-
ing identical, are actually opposites. The selfish person does
not love himself too much but too little; in fact he hates
himself. This lack of fondness and care for himself, which
is only one expression of his lack of productiveness, leaves
him empty and frustrated. He is necessarily unhappy and
anxiously concerned to snatch from life the satisfactions

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 6

which he blocks himself from attaining. He seems to care too
much for himself, but actually he only makes an unsuccessful
attempt to cover up and compensate for his failure to care
for his real self. Freud holds that the selfish person is nar-
cissistic, as if he had withdrawn his love from others and
turned it toward his own person. It is true that selfish per-
sons are incapable of loving others, but they are not capable
of loving themselves either.

It is easier to understand selfishness by comparing it with
greedy concern for others, as we find it, for instance, in an
oversolicitous mother. While she consciously believes that she
is particularly fond of her child, she has actually a deeply
repressed hostility toward the object of her concern. She is
overconcerned not because she loves the child too much, but
because she has to compensate for her lack of capacity to
love him at all.

This theory of the nature of selfishness is borne out by
psychoanalytic experience with neurotic “unselfishness,” a
symptom of neurosis observed in not a few people who
usually are troubled not by this symptom but by others con-
nected with it, like depression, tiredness, inability to work,
failure in love relationships, and so on. Not only is unselfish-
ness not felt as a “symptom”; it is often the one redeeming
character trait on which such people pride themselves. The ”
unselfish” person “does not want anything for himself”; he ”
lives only for others,” is proud that he does not consider
himself important. He is puzzled to find that in spite of his
unselfishness he is unhappy, and that his relationships to
those closest to him are unsatisfactory. Analytic work shows
that his unselfishness is not something apart from his other

62 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

symptoms but one of them, in fact often the most important
one; that he is paralyzed in his capacity to love or to enjoy
anything; that he is pervaded by hostility toward life and
that behind the facade of unselfishness a subtle but not less
intense self-centeredness is hidden. This person can be cured
only if his unselfishness too is interpreted as a symptom along
with the others, so that his lack of productiveness, which is
at the root of both his unselfishness and his other troubles,
can be corrected.

The nature of unselfishness becomes particularly apparent
in its effect on others, and most frequently in our culture in
the effect the “unselfish” mother has on her children. She
believes that by her unselfishness her children will experience
what it means to be loved and to learn, in turn, what it
means to love. The effect of her unselfishness, however, does
not at all correspond to her expectations. The children do
not show the happiness of persons who are convinced that
they are loved; they are anxious, tense, afraid of the mother’s
disapproval and anxious to live up to her expectations.
Usually, they are affected by their mother’s hidden hostility
toward life, which they sense rather than recognize clearly,
and eventually they become imbued with it themselves. Alto-
gether, the effect of the “unselfish” mother is not too dif-
ferent from that of the selfish one; indeed, it is often worse,
because the mother’s unselfishness prevents the children from
criticizing her. They are put under the obligation not to dis-
appoint her; they are taught, under the mask of virtue, dis-
like for life. If one has a chance to study the effect of a
mother with genuine self-love, one can see that there is
nothing more conducive to giving a child the experience of


hat love, joy and happiness are than being loved by a
other who loves herself.
These ideas on self-love cannot be summarized better than

y quoting Meister Eckhart on this topic: “If you love yours
elf, you love everybody else as you do yourself. As
long s you love another person less than you love yourself, you
ill not really succeed in loving yourself, but if you love all

like, including yourself, you will love them as one person
rid that person is both God and man. Thus he is a great

d righteous person who, loving himself, loves all others
qually.” 15
Love of God
It has been stated above that the basis for our need to love

es in the experience of separateness and the resulting need
to overcome the anxiety of separateness by the experience of
Anion. The religious form of love, that which is called the
love of God, is, psychologically speaking, not different. It
springs from the need to overcome separateness and to
achieve union. In fact, the love of God has as many different
qualities and aspects as the love of man has—and to a large
extent we find the same differences.

In all theistic religions, whether they are polytheistic or
monotheistic, God stands for the highest value, the most de-
sirable good. Hence, the specific meaning of God depends on
what is the most desirable good for a person. The under-
standing of the concept of God must, therefore, start with an
analysis of the character structure of the person who wor-
ships God.

15 Meister Eckhart, translated by R. B. Blakney, Harper St Brothers,
New York, 1941, p. 204.

64 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

The development of the human race as far as we have
any knowledge of it can be characterized as the emergence
of man from nature, from mother, from the bonds of blood
and soil. In the beginning of human history man, though
thrown out of the original unity with nature, still clings to
these primary bonds. He finds his security by going back, or
holding on to these primary bonds. He still feels identified
with the world of animals and trees, and tries to find unity
by remaining one with the natural world. Many primitive
religions bear witness to this stage of development. An animal
is transformed into a totem; one wears animal masks in the
most solemn religious acts, or in war; one worships an animal
as God. At a later stage of development, when human skill
has developed to the point of artisan and artistic skill, when
man is not dependent any more exclusively on the gifts of
nature—the fruit he finds and the animal he kills—man
transforms the product of his own hand into a god. This is
the stage of the worship of idols made of clay, silver or gold.
Man projects his own powers and skills into the things he
makes, and thus in an alienated fashion worships his prowess,
his possessions. At a still later stage man gives his gods the
form of human beings. It seems that this can happen only
when he has become still more aware of himself, and when
he has discovered man as the highest and most dignified ”
thing” in the world. In this phase of anthropomorphic god
worship we find a development in two dimensions. The one
refers to the female or male nature of the gods, the other to
the degree of maturity which man has achieved, and which
determines the nature of his gods and the nature of his love
of them.

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 65

Let us first speak of the development from mother-
centered to father-centered religions. According to the great
and decisive discoveries of Bachofen and Morgan in the
middle of the nineteenth century, and in spite of the
rejection their findings have found in most academic circles,
there can be little doubt that there was a matriarchal phase
of religion preceding the patriarchal one, at least in many
cultures. In the matriarchal phase, the highest being is the
mother. She is the goddess, she is also the authority in
family and society. In order to understand the essence of
matriarchal religion, we have only to remember what has
been said about the essence of motherly love. Mother’s love
is unconditional, it is all-protective, all-enveloping; because
it is unconditional it can also not be controlled or acquired.
Its presence gives the loved person a sense of bliss; its
absence produces a sense of lostness and utter despair. Since
mother loves her children because they are her children, and
not because they are “good,” obedient, or fulfill her
wishes and commands, mother’s love is based on equality.
All men are equal, because they all are children of a mother,
because they all are children of Mother Earth.

The next stage of human evolution, the only one of which
we have thorough knowledge and do not need to rely on in-
ferences and reconstruction, is the patriarchal phase. In this
phase the mother is dethroned from her supreme position,
and the father becomes the Supreme Being, in religion as
well as in society. The nature of fatherly love is that he makes
demands, establishes principles and laws, and that his love
for the son depends on the obedience of the latter to these
demands. He likes best the son who is most like him, who is

66 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

most obedient and who is best fitted to become his successor,
as the inheritor of his possessions. (The development of
patriarchal society goes together with the development of
private property.) As a consequence, patriarchal society is
hierarchical; the equality of the brothers gives way to com-
petition and mutual strife. Whether we think of the Indian,
Egyptian or Greek cultures, or of the Jewish-Christian, or
Islamic religions, we are in the middle of a patriarchal world,
with its male gods, over whom one chief god reigns, or where
all gods have been eliminated with the exception of the One,
the God. However, since the wish for mother’s love cannot
be eradicated from the hearts of man, it is not surprising
that the figure of the loving mother could never be fully
driven out from the pantheon. In the Jewish religion, the
mother aspects of God are reintroduced especially in the
various currents of mysticism. In the Catholic religion,
Mother is symbolized by the Church, and by the Virgin.
Even in Protestantism, the figure of Mother has not been
entirely eradicated, although she remains hidden. Luther es-
tablished as his main principle that nothing that man does
can procure God’s love. God’s love is Grace, the religious
attitude is to have faith in this grace, and to make oneself
small and helpless; no good works can influence God—or
make God love us, as Catholic doctrines postulated. We can
recognize here that the Catholic doctrine of good works is
part of the patriarchal picture; I can procure father’s love by
obedience and by fulfilling his demands. The Lutheran doc-
trine, on the other hand, in spite of its manifest patriarchal
character carries within it a hidden matriarchal element.
Mother’s love cannot be acquired; it is there, or it is not

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 67
there; all I can do is to have faith (as the Psalmist says, ”
Thou hadst let me have faith into my mother’s breasts.” 16)
and to transform myself into the helpless, powerless child.
But it is the peculiarity of Luther’s faith that the figure of
the mother has been eliminated from the manifest picture,
and replaced by that of the father; instead of the certainty
of being loved by mother, intense doubt, hoping against
hope for unconditional love by father, has become the para-
mount feature.

I had to discuss this difference between the matriarchal
and the patriarchal elements in religion in order to show that
the character of the love of God depends on the respective
weight of the matriarchal and the patriarchal aspects of re-
ligion. The patriarchal aspect makes me love God like a
father; I assume he is just and strict, that he punishes and
rewards; and eventually that he will elect me as his favorite
son; as God elected Abraham-Israel, as Isaac elected Jacob,
as God elects his favorite nation. In the matriarchal aspect
of religion, I love God as an all-embracing mother. I have
faith in her love, that no matter whether I am poor and
powerless, no matter whether I have sinned, she will love
me, she will not prefer any other of her children to me;
whatever happens to me, she will rescue me, will save me,
will forgive me. Needless to say, my love for God and God’s
love for me cannot be separated. If God is a father, he loves
me like a son and I love him like a father. If God is mother,
her and my love are determined by this fact.

This difference between the motherly and the fatherly
aspects of the love of God is, however, only one factor in

16 Psalm 22 : 9.

68 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

determining the nature of this love; the other factor is the
degree of maturity reached by the individual, hence in his
concept of God and in his love for God.

Since the evolution of the human race shifted from a
mother-centered to a father-centered structure of society, as
well as of religion, we can trace the development of a matur-
ing love mainly in the development of patriarchal religion.”
In the beginning of this development we find a despotic,
jealous God, who considers man, whom he created, as his
property, and is entitled to do with him whatever he pleases.
This is the phase of religion in which God drives man out of
paradise, lest he eat from the tree of knowledge and thus
could become God himself; this is the phase in which God
decides to destroy the human race by the flood, because none
of them pleases him, with the exception of the favorite son,
Noah; this is the phase in which God demands from Abra-
ham that he kill his only, his beloved son, Isaac, to prove
his love for God by the act of ultimate obedience. But
simultaneously a new phase begins; God makes a covenant
with Noah, in which he promises never to destroy the human
race again, a covenant by which he is bound himself. Not
only is he bound by his promises, he is also bound by his
own principle, that of justice, and on this basis God must
yield to Abraham’s demand to spare Sodom if there are at
least ten just men. But the development goes further than
transforming God from the figure of a despotic tribal chief

1 7 This holds true especially for the monotheistic religions of the
West. In Indian religions the mother figures retained a good deal of
influence, for instance in the Goddess Kali; in Buddhism and Taoism
the concept of a God—or a Goddess—was without essential signif-
icance, if not altogether eliminated.


into a loving father, into a father who himself is bound by
the principles which he has postulated; it goes in the direc-
tion of transforming God from the figure of a father into a
symbol of his principles, those of justice, truth and love.
God is truth, God is justice. In this development God ceases
to be a person, a man, a father; he becomes the symbol of
the principle of unity behind the manifoldness of phenomena,
of the vision of the flower which will grow from the spir-
itual seed within man. God cannot have a name. A name
always denotes a thing, or a person, something finite. How
can God have a name, if he is not a person, not a thing?

The most striking incident of this change lies in the Bib-
lical story of God’s revelation to Moses. When Moses tells
him that the Hebrews will not believe that God has sent
him, unless he can tell them God’s name (how could idol
worshipers comprehend a nameless God, since the very
essence of an idol is to have a name?), God makes a con-
cession. He tells Moses that his name is “I am becoming
that which I am becoming.” “I-am-becoming is my name.”
The “I-am-becoming” means that God is not finite, not a
person, not a “being.” The most adequate translation of the
sentence would be : tell them that “my name is nameless.”
The prohibition to make any image of God, to pronounce
his name in vain, eventually to pronounce his name at all,
aims at the same goal, that of freeing man from the idea that
God is a father, that he is a person. In the subsequent theo-
logical development, the idea is carried further in the prin-
ciple that one must not even give God any positive attribute.
To say of God that he is wise, strong, good implies again
that he is a person; the most I can do is to say what God is

70 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

not, to state negative attributes, to postulate that he is not
limited, not unkind, not unjust. The more I know what God
is not, the more knowledge I have of God.”

Following the maturing idea of monotheism in its further
consequences can lead only to one conclusion: not to men-
tion God’s name at all, not to speak about God. Then God
becomes what he potentially is in monotheistic theology,
the nameless One, an inexpressible stammer, referring to the
unity underlying the phenomenal universe, the ground of all
existence; God becomes truth, love, justice. God is I, inas-
much as I am human.

Quite evidently this evolution from the anthropomorphic
to the pure monotheistic principle makes all the difference to
the nature of the love of God. The God of Abraham can be
loved, or feared, as a father, sometimes his forgiveness, some-
times his anger being the dominant aspect. Inasmuch as God
is the father, I am the child. I have not emerged fully from
the autistic wish for omniscience and omnipotence. I have
not yet acquired the objectivity to realize my limitations as
a human being, my ignorance, my helplessness. I still claim,
like a child, that there must be a father who rescues me,
who watches me, who punishes me, a father who likes me
when I am obedient, who is flattered by my praise and
angry because of my disobedience. Quite obviously, the
majority of people have, in their personal development, not
overcome this infantile stage, and hence the belief in God to
most people is the belief in a helping father—a childish illu-
sion. In spite of the fact that this concept of religion has
been overcome by some of the great teachers of the human

18 Cf. Maimonides’ concept of the negative attributes in The Guide
for the Perplexed.

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 71

race, and by a minority of men, it is still the dominant form
of religion.

Inasmuch as this is so, the criticism of the idea of God, as
it was expressed by Freud, is quite correct. The error, how-
ever, was in the fact that he ignored the other aspect of
monotheistic religion, and its true kernel, the logic of which
leads exactly to the negation of this concept of God. The
truly religious person, if he follows the essence of the mono-
theistic idea, does not pray for anything, does not expect
anything from God; he does not love God as a child loves
his father or his mother; he has acquired the humility of
sensing his limitations, to the degree of knowing that he
knows nothing about God. God becomes to him a symbol in
which man, at an earlier stage of his evolution, has expressed
the totality of that which man is striving for, the realm of
the spiritual world, of love, truth and justice. He has faith
in the principles which “God” represents; he thinks truth,
lives love and justice, and considers all of his life only valu-
able inasmuch as it gives him the chance to arrive at an ever
fuller unfolding of his human powers—as the only reality
that matters, as the only object of “ultimate concern”; and,
eventually, he does not speak about God—nor even mention
his name, To love God, if he were going to use this word,
would mean, then, to long for the attainment of the full
capacity to love, for the realization of that which “God”
stands for in oneself.

From this point of view, the logical consequence of
monotheistic thought is the negation of all “theo-logy,” of
all “knowledge about God.” Yet, there remains a difference
between such a radical non-theological view and a non-

72 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

theistic system, as we find it, for instance in early Buddhism
or in Taoism.

In all theistic systems, even a non-theological, mystical
one, there is the assumption of the reality of the spiritual
realm, as one transcending man, giving meaning and validity
to man’s spiritual powers and his striving for salvation and
inner birth. In a non-theistic system, there exists no spiritual
realm outside of man or transcending him. The realm of
love, reason and justice exists as a reality only because, and
inasmuch as, man has been able to develop these powers in
himself throughout the process of his evolution. In this view
there is no meaning to life, except the meaning man himself
gives to it; man is utterly alone except inasmuch as he helps

Having spoken of the love of God, I want to make it clear
that I myself do not think in terms of a theistic concept, and
that to me the concept of God is only a historically condi-
tioned one, in which man has expressed his experience of his
higher powers, his longing for truth and for unity at a given
historical period. But I believe also that the consequences of
strict monotheism and a non-theistic ultimate concern with
the spiritual reality are two views which, though different,
need not fight each other.

At this point, however, another dimension of the problem
of the love of God arises, which must be discussed in order
to fathom the complexity of the problem. I refer to a funda-
mental difference in the religious attitude between the East (
China and India) and the West; this difference can be ex-
pressed in terms of logical concepts. Since Aristotle, the
Western world has followed the logical principles of Aris-

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 73
totelian philosophy. This logic is based on the law of identity
which states that A is A, the law of contradiction (A is not
non-A) and the law of the excluded middle (A cannot be
A and non-A, neither A nor non-A). Aristotle explains
his position very clearly in the following sentence: “It is im-
possible for the same thing at the same time to belong and
not to belong to the same thing and in the same respect; and
whatever other distinctions we might add to meet dialectical
objections, let them be added. This, then, is the most certain
of all principles. . . .” 19

This axiom of Aristotelian logic has so deeply imbued our
habits of thought that it is felt to be “natural” and self-
evident, while on the other hand the statement that X is A
and not A seems to be nonsensical. (Of course, the statement
refers to the subject X at a given time, not to X now and X
later, or one aspect of X as against another aspect.)

In opposition to Aristotelian logic is what one might call
paradoxical logic, which assumes that A and non-A do not
exclude each other as predicates of X. Paradoxical logic was
predominant in Chinese and Indian thinking, in the phi-
losophy of Heraclitus, and then again, under the name of
dialectics, it became the philosophy of Hegel, and of Marx.
The general principle of paradoxical logic has been clearly
described by Lao-tse. “Words that are strictly true seem to be
paradoxical.” 20 And by Chuang-tzu: “That which is one is

19 Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book Gamma, 1005b. 20. Quoted from
Aristotle’s Metaphysics, newly translated by Richard Hope, Columbia
University Press, New York, 1952.

20 Lao-tse, T h e T i t o T e h K i n g , T h e S a c r e d B o o k s o f t h e E a s t , ed.
by F. Max Mueller, Vol. XXXIX, Oxford University Press, London,
1927, p. 120.

74 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
one. That

not-one, is also one.” These formulations
of paradoxical logic are positive: it is and it is not. Another
formulation is negative: it is neither this nor that. The
former expression of thought we find in Taoistic thought, in
Heraclitus and again in Hegelian dialectics; the latter formu-
lation is frequent in Indian philosophy.

Although it would transcend the scope of this book to
give a more detailed description of the difference between
Aristotelian and paradoxical logic, I shall mention a few
illustrations in order to make the principle more
understandable. Paradoxical logic in Western thought has its
earliest philosophical expression in Heraclitus’ philosophy.
He assumes the conflict between opposites is the basis of all
existence. “They do not understand,” he says, “that the all-
One, consflicting in itself, is identical with itself : conflicting
harmony as in the bow and in the lyre.” 21 Or still more
clearly: “We go into the same river, and yet not in the same;
it is we and it is not we.” 22 Or “One and the same
manifests itself in things as living and dead, waking and
sleeping, young and old.” 23

In Lao-tse’s philosophy the same idea is expressed in a
more poetic form. A characteristic example of Taoist para-
doxical thinking is the following statement : “Gravity is the
root of lightness; stillness the ruler of movement.” 24 Or “The
Tao in its regular course does nothing and so there is noth-

21 W. Capelle, Die Vorsokratiker, Alfred Kroener Verlag, Stuttgart,
1953, p. 134. (My translation. E. F.)

22 Ibid., p. 132.
23 Ibid., p. 133.
24 Mueller, op. cit., p. 69.

ing which he does not do.” 25 Or “My words are very easy
to know, and very easy to practice; but there is no one in
the world who is able to know and able to practice them.” 26
In Taoist thinking, just as in Indian and Socratic thinking,
the highest step to which thought can lead is to know that
we do not know. “To know and yet [think] we do not know
is the highest [attainment] ; not to know [and yet think] we
do know is a disease.” 27 It is only a consequence of this
philosophy that the highest God cannot be named. The ulti-
mate reality, the ultimate One cannot be caught in words
or in thoughts. As Lao-tse puts it, “The Tao that can be
trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name
that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging
name.” 28 Or, in a different formulation, “We look at it, and
we do not see it, and we name it the ‘Equable.’ We listen to
it, and we do not hear it, and we name it the ‘Inaudible.’
We try to grasp it, and do not get hold of it, and we name
it ‘the Subtle.’ With these three qualities, it can not be made
the subject of description; and hence we blend them together
and obtain The One.” 29 And still another formulation of
the same idea: “He who knows [the Tao] does not [care
to] speak [about it] ; he who is [however ready to] speak
about it does not know it.” 30

Brahmanic philosophy was concerned with the relation-
ship between manifoldness (of phenomena) and unity

25 Ibid., p. 79.
26 Ibid., p. 112.
27 Ibid., p. 113.
28 Ibid., p. 47.
29 Ibid., p. 57.
30 Ibid., p. 100.

76 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
(Brahman). But paradoxical philosophy is neither in India
nor in China to be confused with a dualistic standpoint. The
harmony (unity) consists in the conflicting position from
which it is made up. “Brahmanical thinking was centered
from the beginning around the paradox of the simultaneous
antagonisms—yet—identity of the manifest forces and forms
of the phenomenal world. .. .” 31 The ultimate power in
the Universe as well as in man transcends both the con-
ceptual and the sensual sphere. It is therefore “neither this
nor thus.” But, as Zimmer remarks, “there is no antagonism
between ‘real and unreal’ in this strictly non-dualistic realiza-
tion.” 32 In their search for unity behind manifoldness, the
Brahman thinkers came to the conclusion that the perceived
pair of opposites reflects the nature not of things but of the
perceiving mind. The perceiving thought must transcend
itself if it is to attain true reality. Opposition is a category
of man’s mind, not in itself an element of reality. In the
Rig-Veda the principle is expressed in this form: “I am the
two, the life force and the life material, the two at once.”
The ultimate consequence of the idea that thought can only
perceive in contradictions has found an even more drastic
sequence in Vedantic thinking, which postulates that thought
—with all its fine distinction—was “only a more subtle hori-
zon of ignorance, in fact the most subtle of all the deluding
devices of maya.” 88

Paradoxical logic has a significant bearing on the concept
31 H. R. Zimmer, Philosophies of India, Pantheon Books, New York,

3 2 Ibid.
3 3 Ibid., p. 424.

of God. Inasmuch as God represents the ultimate reality,
and inasmuch as the human mind perceives reality in con-
tradictions, no positive statement can be made of God. In
the Vedantas the idea of an omniscient and omnipotent God
is considered the ultimate form of ignorance.” We see here
the connection with the namelessness of the Tao, the name-
less name of the God who reveals himself to Moses, of the ”
absolute Nothing” of Meister Eckhart. Man can only know
the negation, never the position of ultimate reality. “Mean-
while man can not know what God is, even though he be
ever so well aware of what God is not. .. . Thus contented
with nothing, the mind clamors for the highest good of
all.” ” For Meister Eckhart, “The Divine One is a negation
of negations, and a denial of denials. . . . Every creature
contains a negation: one denies that it is the other.” ” It is
only a further consequence that God becomes for Meister
Eckhart “The absolute Nothing,” just as the ultimate reality
is the “En Sof,” the Endless One, for the Kabalah.

I have discussed the difference between Aristotelian and
paradoxical logic in order to prepare the ground for an im-
portant difference in the concept of the love of God. The
teachers of paradoxical logic say that man can perceive
reality only in contradictions, and can never perceive in
thought the ultimate reality-unity, the One itself. This led
to the consequence that one did not seek as the ultimate aim
to find the answer in thought. Thought can only lead us to

34 Cf. Zimmer, ibid., p. 424.
55 Meister Eckhart, translated by R. B. Blakney, Harper & Brothers,

New York, 1941, p. 114.
36 Ibid., p. 247. Cf. also the negative theology of Maimonides.

78 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
the knowledge that it cannot give us the ultimate answer.
The world of thought remains caught in the paradox. The
only way in which the world can be grasped ultimately lies,
not in thought, but in the act, in the experience of oneness.
Thus paradoxical logic leads to the conclusion that the love
of God is neither the knowledge of God in thought, nor the
thought of one’s love of God, but the act of experiencing the
oneness with God.

This leads to the emphasis on the right way of living. All
of life, every little and every important action, is devoted to
the knowledge of God, but a knowledge not in right thought,
but in right action. This can be clearly seen in Oriental re-
ligions. In Brahmanism as well as in Buddhism and Taoism,
the ultimate aim of religion is not the right belief, but the
right action. We find the same emphasis in the Jewish re-
ligion. There was hardly ever a schism over belief in the
Jewish tradition (the one great exception, the difference be-
tween Pharisees and Sadducees, was essentially one of two
opposite social classes). The emphasis of the Jewish religion
was (especially from the beginning of our era on) on the
right way of living, the Halacha (this word actually having
the same meaning as the Tao).

In modern history, the same principle is expressed in the
thought of Spinoza, Marx and Freud. In Spinoza’s philoso-
phy the emphasis is shifted from the right belief to the right
conduct of life. Marx stated the same principle when he
said, “The philosophers have interpreted the world in difse
ferent ways—the task is to transform it.” Freud’s paradoxical
logic leads him to the process of psychoanalytic therapy, the
ever deepening experience of oneself.

From the standpoint of paradoxical logic the emphasis is

not on thought, but on the act. This attitude had several
other consequences. First of all, it led to the tolerance which
we find in Indian and Chinese religious development. If the
right thought is not the ultimate truth, and not the way to
salvation, there is no reason to fight others, whose thinking
has arrived at different formulations. This tolerance is beau-
tifully expressed in the story of several men who were asked
to describe an elephant in the dark. One, touching his trunk,
said “this animal is like a water pipe”; another, touching
his ear, said “this animal is like a fan”; a third, touching
his legs, described the animal as a pillar.

Secondly, the paradoxical standpoint led to the emphasis
on transforming man, rather than to the development of
dogma on the one hand, and science on the other. From the
Indian, Chinese and mystical standpoints, the religious task
of man is not to think right, but to act right, and/or to
become one with the One in the act of concentrated medita-

The opposite is true for the main stream of Western
thought. Since one expected to find the ultimate truth in the
right thought, major emphasis was on thought, although
right action was held to be important too. In religious de-
velopment this led to the formulation of dogmas, endless
arguments about dogmatic formulations, and intolerance of
the “non-believer” or heretic. It furthermore led to the
emphasis on “believing in God” as the main aim of a re-
ligious attitude. This, of course, did not mean that there
was not also the concept that one ought to live right. But

8o T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

nevertheless, the person who believed in God—even if he
did not live God—felt himself to be superior to the one
who lived God, but did not “believe” in him.

The emphasis on thought has also another and historically
a very important consequence. The idea that one could find
the truth in thought led not only to dogma, but also to
science. In scientific thought, the correct thought is all that
matters, both from the aspect of intellectual honesty, as well
as from the aspect of the application of scientific thought to
practice that is, to technique.

In short, paradoxical thought led to tolerance and an
effort toward self-transformation. The Aristotelian stand-
point led to dogma and science, to the Catholic Church, and
to the discovery of atomic energy.

The consequences of this difference between the two stand-
points for the problem of the love of God have already been
explained implicitly, and need only to be summarized briefly.

In the dominant Western religious system, the love of God
is essentially the same as the belief in God, in God’s exist-
ence, God’s justice, God’s love. The love of God is
essentially a thought experience. In the Eastern religions and
in mysticism, the love of God is an intense feeling
experience of oneness, inseparably linked with the expression
of this love in every act of living. The most radical
formulation has been given to this goal by Meister Eckhart:
“If therefore I am changed into God and He makes me one
with Himself, then, by the living God, there is no
distinction between us. . . . Some people imagine that they
are going to see God, that they are going to see God as if he
were standing yonder, and they here, but it is not to be so.
God and I: we are one.

T H E T H E O R Y O F L O V E 81

By knowing God I take him to myself. By loving God, I
penetrate him.” ”

We can return now to an important parallel between the
love for one’s parents and the love for God. The child starts
out by being attached to his mother as “the ground of all
being.” He feels helpless and needs the all-enveloping love
of mother. He then turns to father as the new center of his
affections, father being a guiding principle for thought and
action; in this stage he is motivated by the need to acquire
father’s praise, and to avoid his displeasure. In the stage of
full maturity he has freed himself from the person of mother
and of father as protecting and commanding powers; he has
established the motherly and fatherly principles in himself.
He has become his own father and mother; he is father and
mother. In the history of the human race we see—and can
anticipate—the same development: from the beginning of
the love for God as the helpless attachment to a mother
Goddess, through the obedient attachment to a fatherly God,
to a mature stage where God ceases to be an outside power,
where man has incorporated the principles of love and jus-
tice into himself, where he has become one with God, and
eventually, to a point where he speaks of God only in a
poetic, symbolic sense.

From these considerations it follows that the love for God
cannot be separated from the love for one’s parents. If a per-
son does not emerge from incestuous attachment to mother,
clan, nation, if he retains the childish dependence on a
punishing and rewarding father, or any other authority, he
cannot develop a more mature love for God; then his re-

37 Meister Eckhart, op. cit., pp. 181-2.

82 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

ligion is that of the earlier phase of religion, in which
God was experienced as an all-protective mother or a
punishing-rewarding father.

In contemporary religion we find all the phases, from the
earliest and most primitive development to the highest, still
present. The word “God” denotes the tribal chief as well as
the “absolute Nothing.” In the same way, each individual
retains in himself, in his unconscious, as Freud has shown,
all the stages from the helpless infant on. The question is to
what point he has grown. One thing is certain : the nature
of his love for God corresponds to the nature of his love for
man, and furthermore, the real quality of his love for God
and man often is unconscious—covered up and rationalized
by a more mature thought of what his love is. Love for
man, furthermore, while directly embedded in his relations
to his family, is in the last analysis determined by the struc-
ture of the society in which he lives. If the social structure
is one of submission to authority—overt authority or the
anonymous authority of the market and public opinion, his
concept of God must be infantile and far from the mature
concept, the seeds of which are to be found in the history
of monotheistic religion.

Love and Its Disintegration in
Contemporary Western Society

IF LOVE is a capacity of the mature, productive character,
it follows that the capacity to love in an individual living in
any given culture depends on the influence this culture has
on the character of the average person. If we speak about
love in contemporary Western culture, we mean to ask
whether the social structure of Western civilization and the
spirit resulting from it are conducive to the development of
love. To raise the question is to answer it in the negative.
No objective observer of our Western life can doubt that
love—brotherly love, motherly love, and erotic love—is a
relatively rare phenomenon, and that its place is taken by a
number of forms of pseudo-love which are in reality so many
forms of the disintegration of love.

Capitalistic society is based on the principle of political
freedom on the one hand, and of the market as the regulator
of all economic, hence social relations, on the other. The
commodity market determines the conditions under which
commodities are exchanged, the labor market regulates the


84. T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

acquisition and sale of labor. Both useful things and useful
human energy and skill are transformed into commodities
which are exchanged without the use of force and without
fraud under the conditions of the market. Shoes, useful and
needed as they may be, have no economic value (exchange
value) if there is no demand for them on the market; human
energy and skill are without exchange value if there is no
demand for them under existing market conditions. The
owner of capital can buy labor and command it to work for
the profitable investment of his capital. The owner of labor
must sell it to capitalists under the existing market condi-
tions, unless he is to starve. This economic structure is re-
flected in a hierarchy of values. Capital commands labor;
amassed things, that which is dead, are of superior value to
labor, to human powers, to that which is alive.

This has been the basic structure of capitalism since its
beginning. But while it is still characteristic of modern capi-
talism, a number of factors have changed which give con-
temporary capitalism its specific qualities and which have
a profound influence on the character structure of modern
man. As the result of the development of capitalism we
witness an ever-increasing process of centralization and con-
centration of capital. The large enterprises grow in size
continuously, the smaller ones are squeezed out. The owner-
ship of capital invested in these enterprises is more and more
separated from the function of managing them. Hundreds of
thousands of stockholders “own” the enterprise; a managerial
bureaucracy which is well paid, but which does not own the
enterprise, manages it. This bureaucracy is less interested in
making maximum profits than in the expansion of the enter-


l prise, and in their own power. The increasing concentration
of capital and the emergence of a powerful managerial
bureaucracy are paralleled by the development of the labor
movement. Through the unionization of labor, the
vidual worker does not have to bargain on the labor market
by and for himself ; he is united in big labor unions, also led
by a powerful bureaucracy which represents him vis-a-vis the
industrial colossi. The initiative has been shifted, for better

or worse, in the fields of capital as well as in those of labor,
from the individual to the bureaucracy. An increasing
number of people cease to be independent, and become de;
pendent on the managers of the great economic empires.

Another decisive feature resulting from this concentration
of capital, and characteristic of modern capitalism, lies in
the specific way of the organization of work. Vastly cen-

tralized enterprises with a radical division of labor lead toan organization of work where the individual loses his in-

‘ dividuality, where he becomes an expendable cog in the
machine. The human problem of modern capitalism can be

formulated in this way:
Modern capitalism needs men who co-operate smoothly

and in large numbers; who want to consume more and
more; and whose tastes are standardized and can be easily
influenced and anticipated. It needs men who feel free and
independent, not subject to any authority or principle or
conscience—yet willing to be commanded, to do what is ex-

pected of them, to fit into the social machine without fric-
tion; who can be guided without force, led without leaders,
prompted without aim—except the one to make good, to be

on the move, to function, to go ahead.

86 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

What is the outcome? Modern man is alienated from
himself, from his fellow men, and from nature.’ He has been
transformed into a commodity, experiences his life forces as
an investment which must bring him the maximum profit
obtainable under existing market conditions. Human rela-
tions are essentially those of alienated automatons, each
basing his security on staying close to the herd, and not being
different in thought, feeling or action. While everybody tries
to be as close as possible to the rest, everybody remains
utterly alone, pervaded by the deep sense of insecurity,
anxiety and guilt which always results when human separate-
ness cannot be overcome. Our civilization offers many pal-
liatives which help people to be consciously unaware of this
aloneness : first of all the strict routine of bureaucratized,
mechanical work, which helps people to remain unaware of
their most fundamental human desires, of the longing for
transcendence and unity. Inasmuch as the routine alone does
not succeed in this, man overcomes his unconscious despair
by the routine of amusement, the passive consumption of
sounds and sights offered by the amusement industry; fur-
thermore by the satisfaction of buying ever new things,
and soon exchanging them for others. Modern man is ac-
tually close to the picture Huxley describes in his Brave New
World: well fed, well clad, satisfied sexually, yet without
self, without any except the most superficial contact with his
fellow men, guided by the slogans which Huxley formulated
so succinctly, such as: “When the individual feels, the corn-

1 Cf. a more detailed discussion of the problem of alienation and of
the influence of modern society on the character of man in The Sane
Society, E. Fromm, Rinehart and Company, New York, 1955.

L O V E – D I S I N T E G R A T I O N I N W E S T E R N S O C I E T Y 8 7

munity reels”; or “Never put off till tomorrow the fun you
can have today,” or, as the crowning statement : “Everybody
is happy nowadays.” Man’s happiness today consists in “hav-
ing fun.” Having fun lies in the satisfaction of consuming
and “taking in” commodities, sights, food, drinks, cigarettes,
people, lectures, books, movies—all are consumed, swalse
lowed. The world is one great object for our appetite, a big
apple, a big bottle, a big breast; we are the sucklers, the
eternally expectant ones, the hopeful ones—and the eternally
disappointed ones. Our character is geared to exchange and
to receive, to barter and to consume; everything, spiritual as
well as material objects, becomes an object of exchange and
of consumption.

The situation as far as love is concerned corresponds, as it
has to by necessity, to this social character of modern man.
Automatons cannot love; they can exchange their “person-
ality packages” and hope for a fair bargain. One of the
most significant expressions of love, and especially of mar-
riage with this alienated structure, is the idea of the “team.”
In any number of articles on happy marriage, the ideal
described is that of the smoothly functioning team. This
description is not too different from the idea of a smoothly
functioning employee; he should be “reasonably independ-
ent,” coseoperative, tolerant, and at the same time ambitious
and aggressive. Thus, the marriage counselor tells us, the
husband should “understand” his wife and be helpful. He
should comment favorably on her new dress, and on a tasty
dish. She, in turn, should understand when he comes home
tired and disgruntled, she should listen attentively when he
talks about his business troubles, should not be angry but

88 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
understanding when he forgets her birthday. All this kind of
relationship amounts to is the well-oiled relationship between
two persons who remain strangers all their lives, who never
arrive at a “central relationship,” but who treat each other
with courtesy and who attempt to make each other feel better.

In this concept of love and marriage the main emphasis
is on finding a refuge from an otherwise unbearable sense
of aloneness. In “love” one has found, at last, a haven from
aloneness. One forms an alliance of two against the world,
and this egoism a deux is mistaken for love and intimacy.

The emphasis on team spirit, mutual tolerance and so
forth is a relatively recent development. It was preceded, in
the years after the First World War, by a concept of love
in which mutual sexual satisfaction was supposed to be the
basis for satisfactory love relations, and especially for a happy
marriage. It was believed that the reasons for the frequent
unhappiness in marriage were to be found in that the mar-
riage partners had not made a correct “sexual adjust-
ment”; the reason for this fault was seen in the ignorance
regarding “correct” sexual behavior, hence in the faulty
sexual technique of one or both partners. In order to “cure”
this fault, and to help the unfortunate couples who could
not love each other, many books gave instructions and coun-
sel concerning the correct sexual behavior, and promised
implicitly or explicitly that happiness and love would follow.
The underlying idea was that love is the child of sexual
pleasure, and that if two people learn how to satisfy each
other sexually, they will love each other. It fitted the general
illusion of the time to assume that using the right techniques
is the solution not only to technical problems of industrial

L O V E – D I S I N T E G R A T I O N I N W E S T E R N S O C I E T Y 8 9

production, but of all human problems as well. One ignored
the fact that the contrary of the underlying assumption is

Love is not the result of adequate sexual satisfaction, but
sexual happiness—even the knowledge of the so-called sexual
technique—is the result of love. If aside from everyday ob-
servation this thesis needed to be proved, such proof can be
found in ample material of psychoanalytic data. The study
of the most frequent sexual problems—frigidity in women,
and the more or less severe forms of psychic impotence in
men—shows that the cause does not lie in a lack of knowl-
edge of the right technique, but in the inhibitions which
make it impossible to love. Fear of or hatred for the other
sex are at the bottom of those difficulties which prevent a
person from giving himself completely, from acting spon-
taneously, from trusting the sexual partner in the immediacy
and directness of physical closeness. If a sexually inhibited
person can emerge from fear or hate, and hence become
capable of loving, his or her sexual problems are solved. If
not, no amount of knowledge about sexual techniques will

But while the data of psychoanalytic therapy point to the
fallacy of the idea that knowledge of the correct sexual
technique leads to sexual happiness and love, the underlying
assumption that love is the concomitant of mutual sexual
satisfaction was largely influenced by the theories of Freud.
For Freud, love was basically a sexual phenomenon. “Man
having found by experience that sexual (genital) love af-
forded him his greatest gratification, so that it became in
fact a prototype of all happiness to him, must have been

90 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

thereby impelled to seek his happiness further along the path
of sexual relations, to make genital eroticism the central
point of his life.” 2 The experience of brotherly love is, for
Freud, an outcome of sexual desire, but with the sexual in-
stinct being transformed into an impulse with “inhibited
aim.” “Love with an inhibited aim was indeed originally full
of sensual love, and in man’s unconscious mind is so still.” 3
As far as the feeling of fusion, of oneness (“oceanic feel-
ing” ), which is the essence of mystical experience and the
root of the most intense sense of union with one other person
or with one’s fellow men, is concerned, it was interpreted by
Freud as a pathological phenomenon, as a regression to a
state of an early “limitless narcissism.” 4

It is only one step further that for Freud love is in itself
an irrational phenomenon. The difference between irrational
love, and love as an expression of the mature personality
does not exist for him. He pointed out in a paper on transse
ference love,’ that transference love is essentially not different
from the “normal” phenomenon of love. Falling in love
always verges on the abnormal, is always accompanied by
blindness to reality, compulsiveness, and is a transference
from love objects of childhood. Love as a rational phenome-
non, as the crowning achievement of maturity, was, to Freud,
no subject matter for investigation, since it had no real exist-

However, it would be a mistake to overestimate the influ-
2 S. Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, translated by J. Riviere,

The Hogarth Press, Ltd., London, 1953, p. 69.
3 Ibid., p. 69.
4 Ibid., p. 21.
5 Freud, Gesamte Werke, London, 1940-52, Vol. X.

L O V E — D I S I N T E G R A T I O N I N W E S T E R N S O C I E T Y 9 1

ence of Freud’s ideas on the concept that love is the result
of sexual attraction, or rather that it is the same as sexual
satisfaction, reflected in conscious feeling. Essentially the
causal nexus proceeds the other way around. Freud’s ideas
were partly influenced by the spirit of the nineteenth cen-
tury; partly they became popular through the prevailing
spirit of the years after the First World War. Some of the
factors which influenced both the popular and the Freudian
concepts were, first, the reaction against the strict mores of
the Victorian age. The second factor determining Freud’s
theories lies in the prevailing concept of man, which is based
on the structure of capitalism. In order to prove that capi-
talism corresponded to the natural needs of man, one had to
show that man was by nature competitive and full of mutual
hostility. While economists “proved” this in terms of the
insatiable desire for economic gain, and the Darwinists in
terms of the biological law of the survival of the fittest, Freud
came to the same result by the assumption that man is
driven by a limitless desire for the sexual conquest of all
women, and that only the pressure of society prevented man
from acting on his desires. As a result men are necessarily
jealous of each other, and this mutual jealousy and competi-
tion would continue even if all social and economic reasons
for it would disappear.’

Eventually, Freud was largely influenced in his thinking
by the type of materialism prevalent in the nineteenth

6 The only pupil of Freud who never separated from the master, and
yet who in the last years of his life changed his views on love, was
Sandor Ferenczi. For an excellent discussion on this subject see The
Leaven of Love by Izette de Forest, Harper & Brothers, New York,


century. One believed that the substratum of all mental
phenomena was to be found in physiological phenomena;
hence love, hate, ambition, jealousy were explained by Freud
as so many outcomes of various forms of the sexual instinct.
He did not see that the basic reality lies in the totality of
human existence, first of all in the human situation common
to all men, and secondly in the practice of life determined
by the specific structure of society. (The decisive step beyond
this type of materialism was taken by Marx in his “historical
materialism,” in which not the body, nor an instinct like the
need for food or possession, serves as the key to the under-
standing of man, but the total life process of man, his “prac-
tice of life”). According to Freud, the full and uninhibited
satisfaction of all instinctual desires would create mental
health and happiness. But the obvious clinical facts demon-
strate that men—and women—who devote their lives to un-
restricted sexual satisfaction do not attain happiness, and
very often suffer from severe neurotic conflicts or symptoms.
The complete satisfaction of all instinctual needs is not only
not a basis for happiness, it does not even guarantee sanity.
Yet Freud’s idea could only have become so popular in the
period after the First World War because of the changes
which had occurred in the spirit of capitalism, from the
emphasis on saving to that on spending, from self-frustration
as a means for economic success to consumption as the basis
for an ever-widening market, and as the main satisfaction
for the anxious, automatized individual. Not to postpone the
satisfaction of any desire became the main tendency in the
sphere of sex as well as in that of all material consumption.

It is interesting to compare the concepts of Freud, which

L O V E — D I S I N T E G R A T I O N I N W E S T E R N S O C I E T Y 93

correspond to the spirit of capitalism as it existed, yet un-

broken, around the beginning of this century, with the theor
etical concepts of one of the most brilliant contemporary psychoanalysts, the late H. S. Sullivan. In Sullivan’s psycho’

nalytic system we find, in contrast to Freud’s, a strict
division between sexuality and love.

What is the meaning of love and intimacy in Sullivan’s
oncept? “Intimacy is that type of situation involving two

people which permits validation of all components of per-
sonal worth. Validation of personal worth requires a type of
relationship which I call collaboration, by which I mean
,,elearly formulated adjustments of one’s behavior to the ex-
pressed needs of the other person in pursuit of increasingly
identical—that is, more and more nearly mutual satisfac-
tions, and in the maintenance of increasingly similar security
operations.” If we free Sullivan’s statement from its some-

hat involved language, the essence of love is seen in a situa-
tion of collaboration, in which two people feel: “We play
according to the rules of the game to preserve our prestige
and feeling of superiority and merit.” 8

Just as Freud’s concept of love is a description of the ex-
7 H. S. Sullivan, The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry, W. W.

Norton Co., New York, 1953, p. 246. It must be noted that although
Sullivan gives this definition in connection with the strivings of pre-
adolescence, he speaks of them as integrating tendencies, coming out
during pre-adolescence, “which when they are completely developed,
we call love,” and says that this love in pre-adolescence “represents the
beginning Of something very like full-blown, psychiatrically defined

8 Ibid., p. 246. Another definition of love by Sullivan, that love
begins when a person feels another person’s needs to be as important
as his own, is less colored by the marketing aspect than the above

94 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
perience of the patriarchal male in terms of nineteenth-cen-
tury capitalism, Sullivan’s description refers to the experience
of the alienated, marketing personality of the twentieth cen-
tury. It is a description of an “egotism a deux,” of two
people pooling their common interests, and standing together
against a hostile and alienated world. Actually his definition
of intimacy is in principle valid for the feeling of any co-
operating team, in which everybody “adjusts his behavior to
the expressed needs of the other person in the pursuit of
common aims” (it is remarkable that Sullivan speaks here
of expressed needs, when the least one could say about love
is that it implies a reaction to unexpressed needs between
two people).

Love as mutual sexual satisfaction, and love as “team-
work” and as a haven from aloneness, are the two “normal”
forms of the disintegration of love in modern Western so-
ciety, the socially patterned pathology of love. There are
many individualized forms of the pathology of love, which
result in conscious suffering and which are considered neu-
rotic by psychiatrists and an increasing number of laymen
alike. Some of the more frequent ones are briefly described
in the following examples.

The basic condition for neurotic love lies in the fact that
one or both of the “lovers” have remained attached to the
figure of a parent, and transfer the feelings, expectations
and fears one once had toward father or mother to the loved
person in adult life; the persons involved have never emerged
from a pattern of infantile relatedness, and seek for this pat-
tern in their affective demands in adult life. In these cases,
the person has remained, affectively, a child of two, or of

L O V E – D I S I N T E G R A T I O N I N W E S T E R N S O C I E T Y 95
five, or of twelve, while intellectually and socially he is on
the level of his chronological age. In the more severe cases,
this emotional immaturity leads to disturbances in his social
effectiveness; in the less severe ones, the conflict is limited
to the sphere of intimate personal relationships.

Referring to our previous discussion of the mother- or
father-centered personality, the following example for this
type of neurotic love relation to be found frequently today
deals with men who in their emotional development have
remained stuck in an infantile attachment to mother. These
are men who have never been weaned as it were from
mother. These men still feel like children; they want mother’s
protection, love, warmth, care, and admiration; they want
mother’s unconditional love, a love which is given for no
other reason than that they need it, that they are mother’s
child, that they are helpless. Such men frequently are quite
affectionate and charming if they try to induce a woman to
love them, and even after they have succeeded in this. But
their relationship to the woman (as, in fact, to all other
people) remains superficial and irresponsible. Their aim is
to be loved, not to love. There is usually a good deal of
vanity in this type of man, more or less hidden grandiose
ideas. If they have found the right woman, they feel secure,
on top of the world, and can display a great deal of affection
and charm, and this is the reason why these men are often
so deceptive. But when, after a while, the woman does not
continue to live up to their phantastic expectations, conflicts
and resentment start to develop. If the woman is not always
admiring them, if she makes claims for a life of her own, if
she wants to be loved and protected herself, and in extreme

96 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
cases, if she is not willing to condone his love affairs with
other women (or even have an admiring interest in them),
the man feels deeply hurt and disappointed, and usually
rationalizes this feeling with the idea that the woman “does
not love him, is selfish, or is domineering.” Anything short
of the attitude of a loving mother toward a charming child
is taken as proof of a lack of love. These men usually confuse
their affectionate behavior, their wish to please, with genuine
love and thus arrive at the conclusion that they are being
treated quite unfairly; they imagine themselves to be the
great lovers and complain bitterly about the ingratitude of
their love partner.

In rare cases such a mother-centered person can function
without any severe disturbances. If his mother, in fact, ”
loved” him in an overprotective manner (perhaps being
domineering, but without being destructive), if he finds a
wife of the same motherly type, if his special gifts and talents
permit him to use his charm and be admired (as is the case
sometimes with successful politicians), he is “well adjusted”
in a social sense, without ever reaching a higher level of
maturity. But under less favorable conditions—and these are
naturally more frequent—his love life, if not his social life,
will be a serious disappointment; conflicts, and frequently inse
tense anxiety and depression arise when this type of person-
ality is left alone.

In a still more severe form of pathology the fixation to
mother is deeper and more irrational. On this level, the wish
is not, symbolically speaking, to return to mother’s protect-
ing arms, nor to her nourishing breast, but to her all-receiv-
ing—and all-destroying—womb. If the nature of sanity is


grow out of the womb into the world, the nature of severe
mental disease is to be attracted by the womb, to be sucked
back into it—and that is to be taken away from life. This
kind of fixation usually occurs in relation to mothers who
relate themselves to their children in this swallowing-destroy-
ing way. Sometimes in the name of love, sometimes of duty,
they want to keep the child, the adolescent, the man, within
them; he should not be able to breathe but through them;
not be able to love, except on a superficial sexual level—der
grading all other women; he should not be able to be free
and independent but an eternal cripple or a criminal.

This aspect of mother, the destructive, engulfing one, is
the negative aspect of the mother figure. Mother can give
life, and she can take life. She is the one to revive, and the
one to destroy; she can do miracles of love—and nobody can
hurt more than she. In religious images (such as the Hindu
goddess Kali) and in dream symbolism the two opposite
aspects of mother can often be found.

A different form of neurotic pathology is to be found in
such cases where the main attachment is that to father.

A case in point is a man whose mother is cold and aloof,
while his father (partly as a result of his wife’s coldness)
concentrates all his affection and interest on the son. He is a ”
good father,” but at the same time authoritarian. When-
ever he is pleased with the son’s conduct he praises him,
gives him presents, is affectionate; whenever the son dis-
pleases him, he withdraws, or scolds. The son, for whom
father’s affection is the only one he has, becomes attached to
father in a slavish way. His main aim in life is to please
father—and when he succeeds he feels happy, secure and

98 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
satisfied. But when he makes a mistake, fails, or does not
succeed in pleasing father, he feels deflated, unloved,. cast
out. In later life such a man will try to find a father figure
to whom he attaches himself in a similar fashion. His whole
life becomes a sequence of ups and downs, depending on
whether he has succeeded in winning father’s praise. Such
men are often very successful in their social careers. They are
conscientious, reliable, eager—provided their chosen father
image understands how to handle them. But in their relation-
ships to women they remain aloof and distant. The woman
is of no central significance to them; they usually have a
slight contempt for her, often masked as the fatherly concern
for a little girl. They may have impressed a woman initially
by their masculine quality, but they become increasingly dis-
appointing, when the woman they marry discovers that she
is destined to play a secondary role to the primary affection
for the father figure who is prominent in the husband’s life
at any given time; that is, unless the wife happens to have
remained attached to her father—and thus is happy with a
husband who relates to her as to a capricious child.

More complicated is the kind of neurotic disturbance in
love which is based on a different kind of parental situation,
occurring when parents do not love each other, but are too
restrained to quarrel or to indicate any signs of dissatisfac-
tion outwardly. At the same time, remoteness makes them
also unspontaneous in their relationship to their children.
What a little girl experiences is an atmosphere of “correct-
ness,” but one which never permits a close contact with
either father or mother, and hence leaves the girl puzzled
and afraid. She is never sure of what the parents feel or

L O V E – D I S I N T E G R A T I O N I N W E S T E R N S O C I E T Y 99
think; there is always an element of the unknown, the mys-
terious, in the atmosphere. As a result the girl withdraws
into a world of her own, day-dreams, remains remote, and
retains the same attitude in her love relationships later on.

Furthermore the withdrawal results in the development of
intense anxiety, a feeling of not being firmly grounded in the
world, and often leads to masochistic tendencies as the only
way to experience intense excitement. Often such women
would prefer having the husband make a scene and shout, to
his maintaining a more normal and sensible behavior, be-
cause at least it would take away the burden of tension and
fear from them; not so rarely they unconsciously provoke
such behavior, in order to end the tormenting suspense of
affective neutrality.

Other frequent forms of irrational love are described in
the following paragraphs, without going into an analysis of
the specific factors in childhood development which are at
their roots:

A form of pseudo-love which is not infrequent and is often
experienced (and more often described in moving pictures
and novels) as the “great love” is idolatrous love. If a person
has not reached the level where he has a sense of identity, of
I-ness, rooted in the productive unfolding of his own powers,
he tends to “idolize” the loved person. He is alienated from
his own powers and projects them into the loved person,
who is worshiped as the summum bonum, the bearer of all
love, all light, all bliss. In this process he deprives himself of
all sense of strength, loses himself in the loved one instead
of finding himself. Since usually no person can, in the long
run, live up to the expectations of her (or his) idolatrous


worshiper, disappointment is bound to occur, and as a
remedy a new idol is sought for, sometimes in an unending
circle. What is characteristic for this type of idolatrous love
is, at the beginning, the intensity and suddenness of the love
experience. This idolatrous love is often described as the
true, great love; but while it is meant to portray the intensity
and depth of love, it only demonstrates the hunger and
despair of the idolator. Needless to say it is not rare that two
persons find each other in a mutual idolatry which, some-
times, in extreme cases, represents the picture of a folie

Another form of pseudo-love is what may be called “senti-
mental love.” Its essence lies in the fact that love is ex-
perienced only in phantasy and not in the here-and-now
relationship to another person who is real. The most wide-
spread form of this type of love is that to be found in the
vicarious love satisfaction experienced by the consumer of
screen pictures, magazine love stories and love songs. All the
unfulfilled desires for love, union, and closeness find their
satisfaction in the consumption of these products. A man
and a woman who in relation to their spouses are incapable
of ever penetrating the wall of separateness are moved to
tears when they participate in the happy or unhappy love
story of the couple on the screen. For many couples, seeing
these stories on the screen is the only occasion on which they
experience love—not for each other, but together, as spec-
tators of other people’s “love.” As long as love is a day
dream, they can participate; as soon as it comes down to the
reality of the relationship between two real people—they are


Another aspect of sentimental love is the abstractification
of love in terms of time. A couple may be deeply moved
by memories of their past love, although when this past
was present no love was experienced—or the phantasies of
their future love. How many engaged or newly married
couples dream of their bliss of love to take place in the
future, while at the very moment at which they live they are
already beginning to be bored with each other? This tendr
ency coincides with a general attitude characteristic of
modern man. He lives in the past or in the future, but not
in the present. He remembers sentimentally his childhood
and his mother—or he makes happy plans for the future.
Whether love is experienced vicariously by participating in
the fictitious experiences of others, or whether it is shifted
away from the present to the past or the future, this ab-
stractified and alienated form of love serves as an opiate
which alleviates the pain of reality, the aloneness and separ
rateness of the individual.

Still another form of neurotic love lies in the use of pro-
jective mechanisms for the purpose of avoiding one’s own
problems, and being concerned with the defects and frail-
ties of the “loved” person instead. Individuals behave in
this respect very much as groups, nations or religions do.
They have a fine appreciation for even the minor shortcom-
ings of the other person, and go blissfully ahead ignoring
their own—always busy trying to accuse or to reform the
other person. If two people both do it—as is so often the
case—the relationship of love becomes transformed into one
of mutual projection. If I am domineering or indecisive,
or greedy, I accuse my partner of it, and depending on my

I 0 2 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

character, I either want to cure him or to punish him. The
other person does the same and both thus succeed in ignor-
ing their own problems and hence fail to undertake any
steps which would help them in their own development.

Another form of projection is the projection of one’s
own problems on the children. First of all such projection
takes place not infrequently in the wish for children. In such
cases the wish for children is primarily determined by project-
ing one’s own problem of existence on that of the children.
When a person feels that he has not been able to make sense
of his own life, he tries to make sense of it in terms of the
life of his children. But one is bound to fail within oneself
and for the children. The former because the problem of
existence can be solved by each one only for himself, and
not by proxy; the latter because one lacks in the very qualities
which one needs to guide the children in their own search
for an answer. Children serve for projective purposes also
when the question arises of dissolving an unhappy marriage.
The stock argument of parents in such a situation is that
they cannot separate in order not to deprive the children of
the blessings of a unified home. Any detailed study would
show, however, that the atmosphere of tension and unhap-
piness within the “unified family” is more harmful to the
children than an open break would be—which teaches them
at least that man is able to end an intolerable situation by
a courageous decision.

One other frequent error must be mentioned here. The
illusion, namely, that love means necessarily the absence of
conflict. Just as it is customary for people to believe that
pain and sadness should be avoided under all circumstances,

L O V E – D I S I N T E G R A T I O N I N W E S T E R N S O C I E T Y 1 0 3

they believe that love means the absence of any conflict. And
they find good reasons for this idea in the fact that the strugr
gles around them seem only to be destructive interchanges
which bring no good to either one of those concerned. But
the reason for this lies in the fact that the “conflicts” of most
people are actually attempts to avoid the real conflicts. They
are disagreements on minor or superficial matters which by
their very nature do not lend themselves to clarification or
solution. Real conflicts between two people, those which do
not serve to cover up or to project, but which are experi-
enced on the deep level of inner reality to which they belong,
are not destructive. They lead to clarification, they produce
a catharsis from which both persons emerge with more
knowledge and more strength. This leads us to emphasize
again something said above.

Love is possible only if two persons communicate with
each other from the center of their existence, hence if each
one of them experiences himself from the center of his exist-
ence. Only in this “central experience” is human reality,
only here is aliveness, only here is the basis for love. Love,
experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting
place, but a moving, growing, working together; even
whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secr
ondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience
themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are
one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than
by fleeing from themselves. There is only one proof for the
presence of love: the depth of the relationship, and the alive-
ness and strength in each person concerned; this is the fruit
by which love is recognized.

104 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

Just as automatons cannot love each other they cannot
love God. The disintegration, of the love of God has reached
the same proportions as the disintegration of the love of man.
This fact is in blatant contradiction to the idea that we are
witnessing a religious renaissance in this epoch. Nothing
could be further from the truth. What we witness (even
though there are exceptions) is a regression to an idolatric
concept of God, and a transformation of the love of God
into a relationship fitting an alienated character structure.
The regression to an idolatric concept of God is easy to see.
People are anxious, without principles or faith, they find
themselves without an aim except the one to move ahead;
hence they continue to remain children, to hope for father
or mother to come to their help when help is needed.

True, in religious cultures, like that of the Middle Ages,
the average man also looked at God as to a helping father
and mother. But at the same time he took God seriously also,
in the sense that the paramount goal of his life was to live acr
cording to God’s principles, to make “salvation” the supreme
concern to which all other activities were subordinated. To-
day, nothing of such effort is present. Daily life is strictly
separated from any religious values. It is devoted to the striv-
ing for material comforts, and for success on the personality
market. The principles on which our secular efforts are built
are those of indifference and egotism (the latter often labeled
as “individualism,” or “individual initiative”). Man of truly
religious cultures may be compared with children at the age
of eight, who need father as a helper, but who begin to
adopt his teachings and principles in their lives. Contempo-
rary man is rather like a child of three, who cries for father

L O V E – D I S I N T E G R A T I O N I N W E S T E R N S O C I E T Y 105
when he needs him, and otherwise is quite self-sufficient
when he can play.

In this respect, in the infantile dependence on an anthro-
pomorphic picture of God without the transformation of life
according to the principles of God, we are closer to a primi-
tive idolatric tribe than to the religious culture of the Middle
Ages. In another respect our religious situation shows fear
tures which are new, and characteristic only of contemporary
Western capitalistic society. I can refer to statements made
in a previous part of this book. Modern man has transformed
himself into a commodity; he experiences his life energy as
an investment with which he should make the highest profit,
considering his position and the situation on the personality
market. He is alienated from himself, from his fellow men
and from nature. His main aim is profitable exchange of his
skills, knowledge, and of himself, his “personality package”
with others who are equally intent on a fair and profitable
exchange. Life has no goal except the one to move, no
principle except the one of fair exchange, no satisfaction
except the one to consume.

What can the concept of God mean under these circum-
stances? It is transformed from its original religious meaning
into one fitting the alienated culture of success. In the reli-
gious revival of recent times, the belief in God has been trans-
formed into a psychological device to make one better fitted
for the competitive struggle.

Religion allies itself with auto-suggestion and psychother-
apy to help man in his business activities. In the twenties
one had not yet called upon God for purposes of “improving
one’s personality.” The best-seller in the year 1938, Dale


Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, re-
mained on a strictly secular level. What was the function of
Carnegie’s book at that time is the function of our greatest
best-seller today, The Power of Positive Thinking by the
Reverend N. V. Peale. In this religious book it is not even
questioned whether our dominant concern with success is in
itself in accordance with the spirit of monotheistic religion.
On the contrary, this supreme aim is never doubted, but
belief in God and prayer is recommended as a means to in-
crease one’s ability to be successful. Just as modern psychi-
atrists recommend happiness of the employee, in order to be
more appealing to the customers, some ministers recommend
love of God in order to be more successful. “Make God your
partner” means to make God a partner in business, rather
than to become one with Him in love, justice and truth. Just
as brotherly love has been replaced by impersonal fairness,
God has been transformed into a remote General Director
of Universe, Inc.; you know that he is there, he runs the
show (although it would probably run without him too),
you never see him, but you acknowledge his leadership while
you are “doing your part.”


The Practice of Love

HAVING dealt with the theoretical aspect of the art of
loving, we now are confronted with a much more difficult
problem, that of the practice of the art of loving. Can any-
thing be learned about the practice of an art, except by
practicing it?

The difficulty of the problem is enhanced by the fact that
most people today, hence many readers of this book, expect
to be given prescriptions of “how to do it yourself,” and that
means in our case to be taught how to love. I am afraid
that anyone who approaches this last chapter in this spirit
will be gravely disappointed. To love is a personal experi-
ence which everyone can only have by and for himself; in
fact, there is hardly anybody who has not had this experi-
ence in a rudimentary way, at least, as a child, an adolescent,
an adult. What the discussion of the practice of love can do
is to discuss the premises of the art of loving, the approaches
to it as it were, and the practice of these premises and ap-
proaches. The steps toward the goal can be practiced only
by oneself, and discussion ends before the decisive step is
taken. Yet, I believe that the discussion of the approaches


108 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

may be helpful for the mastery of the art—for those at least
who have freed themselves from expecting “prescriptions.”

The practice of any art has certain general requirements,
quite regardless of whether we deal with the art of carpentry,
medicine, or the art of love. First of all, the practice of an art
requires discipline. I shall never be good at anything if I do
not do it in a disciplined way; anything I do only if “I am
in the mood” may be a nice or amusing hobby, but I shall
never become a master in that art. But the problem is not
only that of discipline in the practice of the particular art (
say practicing every day a certain amount of hours) but it
is that of discipline in one’s whole life. One might think that-
nothing is easier to learn for modern man than discipline.
Does he not spend eight hours a day in a most disciplined
way at a job which is strictly routinized? The fact, however,
is that modern man has exceedingly little self-discipline out-
side of the sphere of work. When he does not work, he wants
to be lazy, to slouch or, to use a nicer word, to “relax.” This
very wish for laziness is largely a reaction against the routini-
zation of life. Just because man is forced for eight hours a
day to spend his energy for purposes not his own, in ways
not his own, but prescribed for him by the rhythm of the
work, he rebels and his rebelliousness takes the form of an
infantile self-indulgence. In addition, in the battle against
authoritarianism he has become distrustful of all discipline,
of that enforced by irrational authority, as well as of rational
discipline imposed by himself. Without such discipline, how-
ever, life becomes shattered, chaotic, and lacks in concentrase

That concentration is a necessary condition for the mash


tery of an art is hardly necessary to prove. Anyone who ever
tried to learn an art knows this. Yet, even more than self-
discipline, concentration is rare in our culture. On the con-
trary, our culture leads to an unconcentrated and diffused
mode of life, hardly paralleled anywhere else. You do many
things at once; you read, listen to the radio, talk, smoke,
eat, drink. You are the consumer with the open mouth, eager
and ready to swallow everything—pictures, liquor, knowl-
edge. This lack of concentration is clearly shown in our
difficulty in being alone with ourselves. To sit still, without
talking, smoking, reading, drinking, is impossible for most
people. They become nervous and fidgety, and must do
something with their mouth or their hands. (Smoking is one
of the symptoms of this lack of concentration; it occupies
hand, mouth, eye and nose.)

A third factor is patience. Again, anyone who ever tried
to master an art knows that patience is necessary if you want
to achieve anything. If one is after quick results, one never
learns an art. Yet, for modern man, patience is as difficult to
practice as discipline and concentration. Our whole indus-
trial system fosters exactly the opposite: quickness. All our
machines are designed for quickness: the car and airplane
bring us quickly to our destination—and the quicker the
better. The machine which can produce the same quantity
in half the time is twice as good as the older and slower one.
Of course, there are important economic reasons for this.
But, as in so many other aspects, human values have become
determined by economic values. What is good for machines
must be good for man—so goes the logic. Modern man
thinks he loses something—time—when he does not do

I I 0 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the
time he gains—except kill it.

Eventually, a condition of learning any art is a supreme
concern with the mastery of the art. If the art is not some-
thing of supreme importance, the apprentice will never learn
it. He will remain, at best, a good dilettante, but will never
become a master. This condition is as necessary for the art
of loving as for any other art. It seems, though, as if the
proportion between masters and dilettantes is more heavily
weighted in favor of the dilettantes in the art of loving than
is the case with other arts.

One more point must be made with regard to the general
conditions of learning an art. One does not begin to learn
an art directly, but indirectly, as it were. One must learn a
great number of other—and often seemingly disconnected
things—before one starts with the art itself. An apprentice
in carpentry begins by learning how to plane wood; an ap-
prentice in the art of piano playing begins by practicing
scales; an apprentice in the Zen art of archery begins by
doing breathing exercises.’ If one wants to become a master
in any art, one’s whole life must be devoted to it, or at
least related to it. One’s own person becomes an instrument
in the practice of the art, and must be kept fit, according to
the specific functions it has to fulfill. With regard to the art
of .loving, this means that anyone who aspires to become a
master in this art must begin by practicing discipline, conr
centration and patience throughout every phase of his life.

1 For a picture of the concentration, discipline, patience and concern
necessary for the learning of an art, I want to refer the reader to Zen
in the Art of Archery, by E. Herrigel, Pantheon Books, Inc., New York,


How does one practice discipline? Our grandfathers would
have been much better equipped to answer this question.
Their recommendation was to get up early in the morning,
not to indulge in unnecessary luxuries, to work hard. This
type of discipline had obvious shortcomings. It was rigid and
authoritarian, was centered around the virtues of frugality
and saving, and in many ways was hostile to life. But in a re-
action to this kind of discipline, there has been an increasing
tendency to be suspicious of any discipline, and to make un-
disciplined, lazy indulgence in the rest of one’s life the coun-
terpart and balance for the routinized way of life imposed
on us during the eight hours of work. To get up at a regular
hour, to devote a regular amount of time during the day to
activities such as meditating, reading, listening to music,
walking; not to indulge, at least not beyond a certain mini-
mum, in escapist activities like mystery stories and movies,
not to overeat or overdrink are some obvious and rudimen-
tary rules. It is essential, however, that discipline should not
be practiced like a rule imposed on oneself from the outside,
but that it becomes an expression of one’s own will; that it
is felt as pleasant, and that one slowly accustoms oneself to
a kind of behavior which one would eventually miss, if one
stopped practicing it. It is one of the unfortunate aspects of
our Western concept of discipline (as of every virtue) that
its practice is supposed to be somewhat painful and only if
it is painful can it be “good.” The East has recognized long
ago that that which is good for man—for his body and for
his soul—must also be agreeable, even though at the be-
ginning some resistances must be overcome.

Concentration is by far more difficult to practice in our

I I 2 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

culture, in which everything seems to act against the ability
to concentrate. The most important step in learning concen-
tration is to learn to be alone with oneself without reading,
listening to the radio, smoking or drinking. Indeed, to be
able to concentrate means to be able to be alone with one-
self—and this ability is precisely a condition for the ability to
love. If I am attached to another person because I cannot
stand on my own feet, he or she may be a lifesaver, but the
relationship is not one of love. Paradoxically, the ability to
be alone is the condition for the ability to love. Anyone who
tries to be alone with himself will discover how difficult it is.
He will begin to feel restless, fidgety, or even to sense conse
siderable anxiety. He will be prone to rationalize his unwill-
ingness to go on with this practice by thinking that it has no
value, is just silly, that it takes too much time, and so on,
and so on. He will also observe that all sorts of thoughts
come to his mind which take possession of him. He will find
himself thinking about his plans for later in the day, or
about some difficulty in a job he has to do, or where to go
in the evening, or about any number of things that will fill
his mind—rather than permitting it to empty itself. It would
be helpful to practice a few very simple exercises, as, for in-
stance, to sit in a relaxed position (neither slouching, nor
rigid), to close one’s eyes, and to try to see a white screen in
front of one’s eyes, and to try to remove all interfering pic-
tures and thoughts, then to try to follow one’s breathing;
not to think about it, nor force it, but to follow it—and in
doing so to sense it; furthermore to try to have a sense of ”
I”; I = myself, as the center of my powers, as the creator
of my world. One should, at least, do such a concentration


exercise every morning for twenty minutes (and if possible
longer) and every evening before going to bed.2

Besides such exercises, one must learn to be concentrated
in everything one does, in listening to music, in reading a
book, in talking to a person, in seeing a view. The activity at
this very moment must be the only thing that matters, to
which one is fully given. If one is concentrated, it matters
little what one is doing; the important, as well as the un-
important things assume a new dimension of reality, because
they have one’s full attention. To learn concentration re-
quires avoiding, as far as possible, trivial conversation, that
is, conversation which is not genuine. If two people talk
about the growth of a tree they both know, or about the
taste of the bread they have just eaten together, or about a
common experience in their job, such conversation can be
relevant, provided they experience what they are talking
about, /and do not deal with it in an abstractified way; on
the other hand, a conversation can deal with matters of
politics or religion and yet be trivial; this happens when the
two people talk in cliches, when their hearts are not in what
they are saying. I should add here that just as it is important
to avoid trivial conversation, it is important to avoid bad
company. By bad company I do not refer only to people
who are vicious and destructive; one should avoid their corn-

2 While there is a considerable amount of theory and practice on this
point in the Eastern, especially the Indian cultures, similar aims have
been followed in recent years also in the West. The most significant, in
my opinion, is the school of Gindler, the aim of which is the sensing of
one’s body. For the understanding of the Gindler method, cf. also Char-
lotte Selver’s work, in her lectures and courses at the New School, in
New York.

I I 4 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

pany because their orbit is poisonous and depressing. I mean
also the company of zombies, of people whose soul is dead,
although their body is alive; of people whose thoughts and
conversation are trivial; who chatter instead of talk, and
who assert cliche opinions instead of thinking. However, it
is not always possible to avoid the company of such people,
nor even necessary. If one does not react in the expected
way—that is, in clichés and trivialities—but directly and
humanly, one will often find that such people change their
behavior, often helped by the surprise effected by the shock
of the unexpected.

To be concentrated in relation to others means primarily
to be able to listen. Most people listen to others, or even give
advice, without really listening. They do not take the other
person’s talk seriously, they do not take their own answers
seriously either. As a result, the talk makes them tired. They
are under the illusion that they would be even more tired
if they listened with concentration. But the opposite is true.
Any activity, if done in a concentrated fashion, makes one
more awake (although afterward natural and beneficial
tiredness sets in), while every unconcentrated activity makes
one sleepy—while at the same time it makes it difficult to
fall asleep at the end of the day.

To be concentrated means to live fully in the present, in
the here and now, and not to think of the next thing to be
done, while I am doing something right now. Needless to
say that concentration must be practiced most of all by
people who love each other. They must learn to be close to
each other without running away in the many ways in which
this is customarily done. The beginning of the practice of

T H E P R A C T I C E O F L O V E 115

concentration will be difficult; it will appear as if one could
never achieve the aim. That this implies the necessity to have
patience need hardly be said. If one does not know that
everything has its time, and wants to force things, then in-
deed one will never succeed in becoming concentrated—nor
in the art of loving. To have an idea of what patience is one
need only watch a child learning to walk. It falls, falls again,
and falls again, and yet it goes on trying, improving, until
one day it walks without falling. What could the grown-up
person achieve if he had the child’s patience and its con-
centration in the pursuits which are important to him!

One cannot learn to concentrate without becoming sensi-
tive to oneself. What does this mean? Should one think about
oneself all the time, “analyze” oneself, or what? If we were
to talk about being sensitive to a machine, there would be
little difficulty in explaining what is meant. Anybody, for
instance, who drives a car is sensitive to it. Even a small,
unaccustomed noise is noticed, and so is a small change in
the pickup of the motor. In the same way, the driver is sensi-
tive to changes in the road surface, to movements of the cars
before and behind him. Yet, he is not thinking about all
these factors; his mind is in a state of relaxed alertness, open
to all relevant changes in the situation on which he is con-
centrated—that of driving his car safely.

If we look at the situation of being sensitive to another
human being, we find the most obvious example in the sen-
sitiveness and responsiveness of a mother to her baby. She
notices certain bodily changes, demands, anxieties, before
they are overtly expressed. She wakes up because of her
child’s crying, where another and much louder sound would


not waken her. All this means that she is sensitive to the
manifestations of the child’s life; she is not anxious or
worried, but in a state of alert equilibrium, receptive to any
significant communication coming from the child. In the
same way one can be sensitive toward oneself. One is aware,
for instance, of a sense of tiredness or depression, and
instead of giving in to it and supporting it by depressive
thoughts which are always at hand, one asks oneself ”
what happened?” Why am I depressed? The same is done by
noticing when one is irritated or angry, or tending to
daydreaming, or other escape activities. In each of these
instances the important thing is to be aware of them, and
not to rationalize them in the thousand and one ways in
which this can be done; furthermore, to be open to our own
inner voice, which will tell us—often rather immediately—
why we are anxious, depressed, irritated.

The average person has a sensitivity toward his bodily
processes; he notices changes, or even small amounts of pain;
this kind of bodily sensitivity is relatively easy to experience
because most persons have an image of how it feels to be
well. The same sensitivity toward one’s mental processes is
much more difficult, because many people have never known
a person who functions optimally. They take the psychic
functioning of their parents and relatives, or of the social
group they have been born into, as the norm, and as long
as they do not differ from these they feel normal and without
interest in observing anything. There are many people, for
instance, who have never seen a loving person, or a person
with integrity, or courage, or concentration. It is quite
obvious that in order to be sensitive to oneself, one has to

have an image of complete, healthy human functioning—
and how is one to acquire such an experience if one has not
had it in one’s own childhood, or later in life? There is cer-
tainly no simple answer to this question; but the question
points to one very critical factor in our educational system.

While we teach knowledge, we are losing that teaching
which is the most important one for human development:
the teaching which can only be given by the simple presence
of a mature, loving person. In previous epochs of our own
culture, or in China and India, the man most highly valued
was the person with outstanding spiritual qualities. Even
the teacher was not only, or even primarily, a source of in-
formation, but his function was to convey certain human
attitudes. In contemporary capitalistic society—and the same
holds true for Russian Communism—the men suggested for
admiration and emulation are everything but bearers of
significant spiritual qualities. Those are essentially in the
public eye who give the average man a sense of vicarious
satisfaction. Movie stars, radio entertainers, columnists, im-
portant business or government figures—these are the models
for emulation. Their main qualification for this function is
often that they have succeeded in making the news. Yet, the
situation does not seem to be altogether hopeless. If one con-
siders the fact that a man like Albert Schweitzer could ber
come famous in the United States, if one visualizes the many
possibilities to make our youth familiar with living and his-
torical personalities who show what human beings can
achieve as human beings, and not as entertainers (in the
broad sense of the word), if one thinks of the great works
of literature and art of all ages, there seems to be a chance

I 18 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

of creating a vision of good human functioning, and hence
of sensitivity to malfunctioning. If we should not succeed in
keeping alive a vision of mature life, then indeed we are
confronted with the probability that our whole cultural tradi-
tion will break down. This tradition is not primarily based
on the transmission of certain kinds of knowledge, but of
certain kinds of human traits. If the coming generations
will not see these traits any more, a fivesethousand-year-old
culture will break down, even if its knowledge is transmitted
and further developed.

Thus far I have discussed what is needed for the practice
of any art. Now I shall discuss those qualities which are of
specific significance for the ability to love. According to what
I said about the nature of love, the main condition for the
achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism.
The narcissistic orientation is one in which one experiences
as real only that which exists within oneself, while the
phenomena in the outside world have no reality in them-
selves, but are experienced only from the viewpoint of their
being useful or dangerous to one. The opposite pole to nar-
cissism is objectivity; it is the faculty to see people and things
as they are, objectively, and to be able to separate this objecse
tive picture from a picture which is formed by one’s desires
and fears. All forms of psychosis show the inability to be
objective, to an extreme degree. For the insane person the
only reality that exists is that within him, that of his fears
and desires. He sees the world outside as symbols of his inner
world, as his creation. All of us do the same when we dream.
In the dream we produce events, we stage dramas, which
are the expression of our wishes and fears (although some-


times also of our insights and judgment), and while we are
asleep we are convinced that the product of our dreams is
as real as the reality which we perceive in our waking state.

The insane person or the dreamer fails completely in havr
ing an objective view of the world outside; but all of us are
more or less insane, or more or less asleep; all of us have
an unobjective view of the world, one which is distorted by
our narcissistic orientation. Do I need to give examples?
Anyone can find them easily by watching himself, his neigh-
bors, and by reading the newspapers. They vary in the
degree of the narcissistic distortion of reality. A woman, for
instance, calls up the doctor, saying she wants to come to his
office that same afternoon. The doctor answers that he is not
free this same afternoon, but that he can see her the next
day. Her answer is: But, doctor, I live only five minutes from
your office. She cannot understand his explanation that it
does not save him time that for her the distance is so short.
She experiences the situation narcissistically: since she saves
time, he saves times; the only reality to her is she herself.

Less extreme—or perhaps only less obvious—are the disr
tortions which are commonplace in interpersonal relations.
How many parents experience the child’s reactions in terms
of his being obedient, of giving them pleasure, of being a
credit to them, and so forth, instead of perceiving or even
being interested in what the child feels for and by himself?
How many husbands have a picture of their wives as being
domineering, because their own attachment to mother makes
them interpret any demand as a restriction of their freedom?
How many wives think their husbands are ineffective or

I 2 0 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

stupid, because they do not live up to a phantasy picture of
a shining knight which they might have built up as children?
The lack of objectivity, as far as foreign nations are con-

cerned, is notorious. From one day to another, another
nation is made out to be utterly depraved and fiendish, while
one’s own nation stands for everything that is good and
noble. Every action of the enemy is judged by one standard
—every action of oneself by another. Even good deeds by
the enemy are considered a sign of particular devilishness,
meant to deceive us and the world, while our bad deeds are
necessary and justified by our noble goals which they serve.
Indeed, if one examines the relationship between nations, as
well as between individuals, one comes to the conclusion that
objectivity is the exception, and a greater or lesser degree of
narcissistic distortion is the rule.

The faculty to think objectively is reason; the emotional
attitude behind reason is that of humility. To be objective,
to use one’s reason, is possible only if one has achieved an
attitude of humility, if one has emerged from the dreams of –
omniscience and omnipotence which one has as a child.

In terms of this discussion of the practice of the art of
loving, this means: love being dependent on the relative
absence of narcissism, it requires the development of humil-
ity, objectivity and reason. One’s whole life must be devoted
to this aim. Humility and objectivity are indivisible, just, as
love is. I cannot be truly objective about my family if I
cannot be objective about the stranger, and vice versa. If I
want to learn the art of loving, I must strive for objectivity
in every situation, and become sensitive to the situations
where I am not objective. I must try to see the difference


between my picture of a person and his behavior, as it is
narcissistically distorted, and the person’s reality as it exists
regardless of my interests, needs and fears. To have acquired
the capacity for objectivity and reason is half the road to
achieving the art of loving, but it must be acquired with
regard to everybody with whom one comes in contact. If
someone would want to reserve his objectivity for the loved
person, and think he can dispense with it in his
relationship to the rest of the world, he will soon discover
that he fails both here and there.

The ability to love depends on one’s capacity to emerge
from narcissism, and from the incestuous fixation to mother
and clan; it depends on our capacity to grow, to develop a
productive orientation in our relationship toward the world
and ourselves. This process of emergence, of birth, of wak-
ing up, requires one quality as a necessary condition: faith.
The practice of the art of loving requires the practice of faith.

What is faith? Is faith necessarily a matter of belief in
God, or in religious doctrines? Is faith by necessity in con-
trast to, or divorced from, reason and rational thinking?
Even to begin to understand the problem of faith one must
differentiate between rational and irrational faith. By irrar
tional faith I understand the belief (in a person or an idea)
which is based on one’s submission to irrational authority.
In contrast, rational faith is a conviction which is rooted in
one’s own experience of thought or feeling. Rational faith is
not primarily belief in something, but the quality of cer-
tainty and firmness which our convictions have. Faith is a
character trait pervading the whole personality, rather than
a specific belief.

I 2 2 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

Rational faith is rooted in productive intellectual and
emotional activity. In rational thinking, in which faith is
supposed to (have no place, rational faith is an important
component. How does the scientist, for instance, arrive at a
new discovery? Does he start with making experiment after
experiment, gathering fact after fact, without having a
vision of what he expects to find? Rarely has a truly im-
portant discovery in any field been made in this way. Nor
have people arrived at important conclusions when they –
were merely chasing a phantasy. The process of creative
thinking in any field of human endeavor often starts with
what may be called a “rational vision,” itself a result of con-
siderable previous study, reflective thinking, and observation.
When the scientist succeeds in gathering enough data, or in
working out a mathematical formulation to make his original
vision highly plausible, he may be said to have arrived at a
tentative hypothesis. A careful analysis of the hypothesis in
order to discern its implications, and the amassing of data
which support it, lead to a more adequate hypothesis and
eventually perhaps to its inclusion in a wide-ranging theOry.

The history of science is replete with instances of faith in
reason and visions of truth. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and
Newton were all imbued with an unshakable faith in reason.
For this Bruno was burned at the stake and Spinoza suffered
excommunication. At every step from the conception of a
rational vision to the formulation of a theory, faith is neces-
sary: faith in the vision as a rationally valid aim to pursue,
faith in the hypothesis as a likely and plausible proposition,
and faith in the final theory, at least until a general conr
sensus about its validity has been reached. This faith is


rooted in one’s own experience, in the confidence in one’s
power of thought, observation, and judgment. While irra-
tional faith is the acceptance of something as true only
because an authority or the majority say so, rational faith
is rooted in an independent conviction based upon one’s own
productive observing and thinking, in spite of the majority’s

Thought and judgment are not the only realm of experi-
ence in which rational faith is manifested. In the sphere of
human relations, faith is an indispensable quality of any
significant friendship or love. “Having faith” in another
person means to be certain of the reliability and unchange-
ability of his fundamental attitudes, of the core of his per-
sonality, of his love. By this I do not mean that a person
may not change his opinions, but that his basic motivations
remain the same; that, for instance, his respect for life and
human dignity is part of himself, not subject to change.

In the same sense we have faith in ourselves. We are
aware of the existence of a self, of a core in our personality
which is unchangeable and which persists throughout our
life in spite of varying circumstances, and regardless of
certain changes in opinions and feelings. It is this core which
is the reality behind the word “I,” and on which our con-
viction of our own identity is based. Unless we have faith in
the persistence of our self, our feeling of identity is threatened
and we become dependent on other people whose approval
then becomes the basis for our feeling of identity. Only the
person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to
others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same
at a future time as he is today and, therefore, that he will

124 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G
feel and act as he now expects to. Faith in oneself is a con-
dition of our ability to promise, and since, as Nietzsche
said, man can be defined by his capacity to promise, faith is
one of the conditions of human existence. What matters in
relation to love is the faith in one’s own love; in its ability to
produce love in others, and in its reliability.

Another meaning of having faith in a person refers to the
faith we have in the potentialities of others. The most rudi-
mentary form in which this faith exists is the faith which
the mother has toward her newborn baby: that it will live,
grow, walk, and talk. However, the development of the child
in this respect occurs with such regularity that the expecta-
tion of it does not seem to require faith. It is different with
those potentialities which can fail to develop: the child’s
potentialities to love, to be happy, to use his reason, and
more specific potentialities like artistic gifts. They are the
seeds which grow and become manifest if the proper condi-
tions for their development are given, and they can be stifled
if these are absent.

One of the most important of these conditions is that the
significant person in a child’s life have faith in these poten-
tialities. The presence of this faith makes the difference
between education and manipulation. Education is identical
with helping the child realize his potentialities.’ The opposite
of education is manipulation, which is based on the absence
of faith in the growth of potentialities, and on the convic-
tion that a child will be right only if the adults put into him
what is desirable and suppress what seems to be undesirable.

The root of the word education is e-ducere, literally, to lead forth,
or to bring out something which is potentially present.

There is no need of faith in the robot, since there is no life
in it either.

The faith in others has its culmination in faith in man-
kind. In the Western world this faith was expressed in re-
ligious terms in the Judaeo-Christian religion, and in secular
language it has found its strongest expression in the humanis-
tic political and social ideas of the last hundred and fifty
years. Like the faith in the child, it is based on the idea that
the potentialities of man are such that given the proper con-
ditions he will be capable of building a social order governed
by the principles of equality, justice and love. Man has not
yet achieved the building of such an order, and therefore the
conviction that he can do so requires faith. But like all ra-
tional faith this too is not wishful thinking, but based upon
the evidence of the past achievements of the human race
and on the inner experience of each individual, on his own
experience of reason and love.

While irrational faith is rooted in submission to a power
which is felt to be overwhelmingly strong, omniscient and
omnipotent, and in the abdication of one’s own power and
strength, rational faith is based upon the opposite experise
ence. We have this faith in a thought because it is the result
of our own observation and thinking. We have faith in the
potentialities of others, of ourselves, and of mankind because,
and only to the degree to which, we have experienced the
growth of our own potentialities, the reality of growth in
ourselves, the strength of our own power of reason and of
love. The basis of rational faith is productiveness; to live by
our faith means to live productively. It follows that the
belief in power (in the sense of domination) and the use of

126 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

are the reverse of faith. To believe in power that exists is
identical with disbelief in the growth of potentialities which
are as yet unrealized. It is a prediction of the future based
solely on the manifest present; but it turns out to be a grave
miscalculation, profoundly irrational in its oversight of the
human potentialities and human growth. There is no rational
faith in power. There is submission to it or, on the part of
those who have it, the wish to keep it. While to many power
seems to be the most real of all things, the history of man
has proved it to be the most unstable of all human achieve-
ments. Because of the fact that faith and power are mutually
exclusive, all religions and political systems which originally
are built on rational faith become corrupt and eventually
lose what strength they have, if they rely on power or ally
themselves with it.

To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk,
the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Who-
ever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of
life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system
of defense, where distance and possession are his means of
security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love,
need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of
ultimate concern—and to take the jump and stake every-
thing on these values.

This courage is very different from the courage of which
that famous braggart Mussolini spoke when he used the
slogan “to live dangerously.” His kind of courage is the
courage of nihilism. It is rooted in a destructive attitude
toward life, in the willingness to throw away life because one
is incapable of loving it. The courage of despair is the op-


posite of the courage of love, just as the faith in power is
the opposite of the faith in life.

Is there anything to be practiced about faith and courage?
Indeed, faith can be practiced at every moment. It takes
faith to bring up a child; it takes faith to fall asleep; it takes
faith to begin any work. But we all are accustomed to havr
ing this kind of faith. Whoever does not have it suffers from
overanxiety about his child, or from insomnia, or from the
inability to do any kind of productive work; or he is sus-
picious, restrained from being close to anybody, or hypo-
chondriacal, or unable to make any long-range plans. To
stick to one’s judgment about a person even if public opinion
or some unforeseen facts seem to invalidate it, to stick to
one’s convictions even though they are unpopular—all this
requires faith and courage. To take the difficulties, setbacks
and sorrows of life as a challenge which to overcome makes
us stronger, rather than as unjust punishment which should
not happen to us, requires faith and courage.

The practice of faith and courage begins with the small
details of daily life. The first step is to notice where and when
one loses faith, to look through the rationalizations which
are used to cover up this loss of faith, to recognize where
one acts in a cowardly way, and again how one rationalizes
it. To recognize how every betrayal of faith weakens one,
and how increased weakness leads to new betrayal, and so
on, in a vicious circle. Then one will also recognize that
while one is consciously afraid of not being loved, the real,
though usually unconscious fear is that of loving. To love
means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself
completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the

128 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little
faith is also of little love. Can one say more about the pracr
tice of faith? Someone else might; if I were a poet or a
preacher, I might try. But since I am not either of these, I
cannot even try to say more about the practice of faith, but
am sure that anyone who is really concerned can learn to
have faith as a child learns to walk.

One attitude, indispensable for the practice of the art of
loving, which thus far has been mentioned only implicitly
should be discussed explicitly since it is basic for the practice
of love: activity. I have said before that by activity is not
meant “doing something,” but an inner activity, the produc-
tive use of one’s powers. Love is an activity; if I love, I am in
a constant state of active concern with the loved person, but
not only with him or her. For I shall become incapable of re-
lating myself actively to the loved person if I am lazy, if I am
not in a constant state of awareness, alertness, activity. Sleep
is the only proper situation for inactivity; the state of awaker
ness is one in which laziness should have no place. The para-
doxical situation with a vast number of people today is that
they are half asleep when awake, and half awake when asleep,
or when they want to sleep. To be fully awake is the condi-
tion for not being bored, or being boring—and indeed, not to
be bored or boring is one of the main conditions for loving.
To be active in thought, feeling, with one’s eyes and ears,
throughout the day, to avoid inner laziness, be it in the form
of being receptive, hoarding, or plain wasting one’s time,
is an indispensable condition for the practice of the art of
loving. It is an illusion to believe that one can separate life
in such a way that one is productive in the sphere of love


and unproductive in all other spheres. Productiveness does
not permit of such a division of labor. The capacity to love
demands a state of intensity, awakeness, enhanced vitality,
which can only be the result of a productive and active
orientation in many other spheres of life. If one is not pro-
ductive in other spheres, one is not productive in love either.

The discussion of the art of loving cannot be restricted to
the personal realm of acquiring and developing those char-
acteristics and attitudes which have been described in this
chapter. It is inseparably connected with the social realm.
If to love means to have a loving attitude toward everybody,
if love is a character trait, it must necessarily exist in one’s
relationship not only with one’s family and friends, but
toward those with whom one is in contact through one’s
work, business, profession. There is no “division of labor”
between love for one’s own and love for strangers. On the
contrary, the condition for the existence of the former is the
existence of the latter. To take this insight seriously means
indeed a rather drastic change in one’s social relations from
the customary ones. While a great deal of lip service is paid
to the religious ideal of love of one’s neighbor, our relations
are actually determined, at their best, by the principle of fair-
ness. Fairness meaning not to use fraud and trickery in the
exchange of commodities- and services, and in the exchange
of feelings. “I give you as much as you give me,” in material
goods as well as in love, is the prevalent ethical maxim in
capitalist society. It may even be said that the development
of fairness ethics is the particular ethical contribution of
capitalist society.

The reasons for this fact lie in the very nature of capitalist

130 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

society. In pre-capitalist societies, the exchange of goods was
determined either by direct force, by tradition, or by perr
sonal bonds of love or friendship. In capitalism, the all-deter-
mining factor is the exchange on the market. Whether we
deal with the commodity market, the labor market, or the
market of services, each person exchanges whatever he has
to sell for that which he wants to acquire under the condi-
tions of the market, without the use of force or fraud.

Fairness ethics lend themselves to confusion with the ethics
of the Golden Rule. The maxim “to do unto others as you
would like them to do unto you” can be interpreted as
meaning “be fair in your exchange with others.” But actu-
ally, it was formulated originally as a more popular version
of the Biblical “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Indeed,
the Jewish-Christian norm of brotherly love is entirely dif-
ferent from fairness ethics. It means to love your neighbor,
that is, to feel responsible for and one with him, while fair-
ness ethics means not to feel responsible, and one, but distant
and separate; it means to respect the rights of your neighbor,
but not to love him. It is no accident that the Golden Rule
has become the most popular religious maxim today;
because it can be interpreted in terms of fairness ethics it is
the one religious maxim which everybody understands and
is willing to practice. But the practice of love must begin with
recognizing the difference between fairness and love.

Here, however, an important question arises. If our whole
social and economic organization is based on each one seek-
ing his own advantage, if it is governed by the principle of
egotism tempered only by the ethical principle of fairness,
how can one do business, how can one act within the frame-


work of existing society and at the same time practice love?
Does the latter not imply giving up all one’s secular concerns
and sharing the life of the poorest? This question has been
raised and answered in a radical way by the Christian monks,
and by persons like Tolstoi, Albert Schweitzer, and Simone
Weil. There are others 4who share the opinion of the basic
incompatibility between love and normal secular life within
our society. They arrive at the result that to speak of love
today means only to participate in the general fraud; they
claim that only a martyr or a mad person can love in the
world of today, hence that all discussion of love is nothing
but preaching. This very respectable viewpoint lends itself
readily to a rationalization of cynicism. Actually it is shared
implicitly by the average person who feels “I would like to
be a good Christian—but I would have to starve if I meant
it seriously.” This “radicalism” results in moral nihilism.
Both the “radical thinkers” and the average person are un-
loving automatons and the only difference between them is
that the latter is not aware of it, while the former knows it
and recognizes the “historical necessity” of this fact.

I am of the conviction that the answer of the absolute in-
compatibility of love and “normal” life is correct only in an
abstract sense. The principle underlying capitalistic society
and the principle of love are incompatible. But modern so-
ciety seen concretely is a complex phenomenon. A salesman
of a useless commodity, for instance, cannot function eco-
nomically without lying; a skilled worker, a chemist, or a
physician can. Similarly, a farmer, a worker, a teacher,

4 Cf. Herbert Marcuse’s article “The Social Implications of Psycho-
analytic Revisionism,” Dissent, New York, summer, 1955.

132 T H E A R T O F L O V I N G

and many a type of businessman can try to practice love
without ceasing to function economically. Even if one recog-
nizes the principle of capitalism as being incompatible with
the principle of love, one must admit that “capitalism” is in
itself a complex and constantly changing structure which
still permits of a good deal of non-conformity and of per-
sonal latitude.

In saying this, however, I do not wish to imply that we
can expect the present social system to continue indefinitely,
and at the same time to hope for the realization of the ideal
of love for one’s brother, People capable of love, under the
present system, are necessarily the exceptions; love is by
necessity a marginal phenomenon in present-day Western
society. Not so much because many occupations would not
permit of a loving attitude, but because the spirit of a pro-
duction-centered, commodity-greedy society is such that only
the non-conformist can defend himself successfully against
it. Those who are seriously concerned with love as the only
rational answer to the problem of human existence must,
then, arrive at the conclusion that important and radical
changes in our social structure are necessary, if love is to
become a social and not a highly individualistic, marginal
phenomenon. The direction of such changes can, within the
scope of this book, only be hinted at.’ Our society is run by
a managerial bureaucracy, by professional politicians; people
are motivated by mass suggestion, their aim is producing
more and consuming more, as purposes in themselves. All
activities are subordinated to economic goals, means have

5 In The Sane Society, Rinehart & Company, New York, 1955, I
have tried to deal with this problem in detail.

become ends; man is an automaton—well fed, well clad, but
without any ultimate concern for that which is his peculiarly
human quality and function. If man is to be able to love, he
must be put in his supreme place. The economic machine
must serve him, rather than he serve it. He must be enabled
to share experience, to share work, rather than, at best,
share in profits. Society must be organized in such a way
that man’s social, loving nature is not separated from his
social existence, but becomes one with it. If it is true, as I
have tried to show, that love is the only sane and
satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence, then
any society which excludes, relatively, the development of
love, must in the long run perish of its own contradiction
with the basic necessities of human nature. Indeed, to speak
of love is not “preaching,” for the simple reason that it
means to speak of the ultimate and real need in every
human being. That this need has been obscured does not
mean that it does not exist. To analyze the nature of love is
to discover its general absence today and to criticize the
social conditions which are responsible for this absence. To
have faith in the possibility of love as a social and not only
exceptional-individual phenomenon, is a rational faith based
on the insight into the very nature of man.

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