0321 | The Art of Loving | Erich Fromm

0321 | The Art of Loving | Erich Fromm

Context: I moved desks at work while reading this and now have a corner all to myself.

REVIEW

This is the second in a set of three books that I bought about love. I was interested to hear what the world of psychology and philosophy had to say on the subject and this book did not disappoint despite it not being as good, I thought, as Conditions of Love by John Armstrong which I read in June.

Fromm was a German Jew who left Germany on the rise to power of the Nazi Party in the early 1930s. Ending up in New York, he continued his rise as one of the leading scholars in psychoanalysis. The Art of Loving was his most popular book and was first published in 1954.

Again, like Conditions of Love, Fromm states that love is not a feeling. He went further than I felt Armstrong did though in stating that love is a skill that should be developed through disciplines such as meditation, reflection and self-control. He draws a great deal from his reading of Eastern religions such as Christianity and Hinduism.

I think the most important aspect of his book which is often misunderstood, particularly in modern day Christianity, is the concept of self-love. He goes to some pains to argue that unless we make taking care of ourselves a priority, then we are unlikely to ever be able to love another as we are intended to. Along with his premise that love is a skill, he argues convincingly that unless we become mature and developed in our own characters, our ability to love will remain handicapped. I know this to be true in my own life and experience.

Like Armstrong, he soundly castigates the modern Austenesque misconception of love as a romantic ideal. I feel we really can’t hear this message enough these days and our literature has an appalling lack of the true reality of love as a willful commitment to the undeserving.

While Conditions of Love spoke more to the marital side of love in my life, Fromm spoke more to my love of God. The quotes below resonated so strongly with me especially with my experiences of knowing God and being with him so very intimately that questions of theology pale and become unimportant. I wish more of us could experience this, particular within my Christian circles.

OPENING LINE

Is love an art?

QUOTES

In conventional Western theology the attempt is made to know God by thought, to make statements about God. It is assumed that I can know God in my thought. In mysticism, which is the consequent outcome of monotheism… 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.

Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you.’

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 towards one ‘object’ of love.

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 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.

Since [in the main stream of Western thought]… 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… It furthermore led to the emphasis on ‘believing in God’ as the main aim of a religious attitude. This, of course, did not mean that there was not also the concept that one ought to live right. But nevertheless, the person who believed in God – even if he did not live in God – felt himself to be superior to the one who lived God, but did not ‘believe’ in him.

The practice of the art of loving , requires one quality as a necessary condition: faith… To love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also little of love.

CLOSING LINE

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.

RATING

0321 | The Art of Loving | Fromm | 72% | Very Good

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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