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The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm Read Online (FREE)

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 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 receiving 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 beautifully expressed by the great Muslim poet and mystic, Rumi:

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. {035}

Regard Earth and Heaven as endowed with intelligence, 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 blossom? What, then, would Heaven’s water and heat produce?

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.[7]

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 exclusively the expression—or a sublimation—of the sexual instinct, 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 produced tension in the body which is painful and seeks for relief. The aim of the sexual desire is the removal of this painful tension; sexual satisfaction lies in the accomplishment of this removal. This view has its validity to the extent that the 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 psychobiological 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 experiences 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.”