The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm Read Online (FREE)
In this respect, in the infantile dependence on an anthropomorphic picture of God without the transformation of life according to the principles of God, we are closer to a primitive idolatric tribe than to the religious culture of the Middle Ages. In another respect our religious situation shows features 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 circumstances? It is transformed from its original religious meaning into one fitting the alienated culture of success. In the religious revival of recent times, the belief in God has been transformed into a psychological device to make one better fitted for the competitive struggle.
Religion allies itself with auto-suggestion and psychotherapy 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, remained 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 increase one’s ability to be successful. Just as modern psychiatrists 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.”
IV. 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 anything be learned about the practice of an art, except by practicing it?