The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm Read Online (FREE)
Paradoxical logic has a significant bearing on the concept of God. Inasmuch as God represents the ultimate reality, and inasmuch as the human mind perceives reality in contradictions, 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. (Cf. Zimmer, ibid., p. 424.) We see here the connection with the namelessness of the Tao, the nameless 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. “Meanwhile 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 important 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 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 religions. 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 religion. There was hardly ever a schism over belief in the Jewish tradition (the one great exception, the difference between 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 philosophy 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 different 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.