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

These ideas on self-love cannot be summarized better than by quoting Meister Eckhart on this topic: “If you love yourself, you love everybody else as you do yourself. As long as you love another person less than you love yourself, you will not really succeed in loving yourself, but if you love all alike, including yourself, you will love them as one person and that person is both God and man. Thus he is a great and righteous person who, loving himself, loves all others equally.”[14]

Love of God
It has been stated above that the basis for our need to love lies in the experience of separateness and the resulting need to overcome the anxiety of separateness by the experience of union. 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 desirable good. Hence, the specific meaning of God depends on what is the most desirable good for a person. The understanding of the concept of God must, therefore, start with an analysis of the character structure of the person who worships God.

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.