TO HAVE OR TO BE? – ERICH FROMM

1. Unrestricted satisfaction of all desires is not conducive to well-being, nor is it the way to happiness or even to maximum pleasure. (p.12)

2. Obsessional work alone would drive people just as crazy as would complete laziness. With the combination, they can live. (p.15)

3. We are a society of notoriously unhappy people: lonely, anxious, depressed, destructive, dependent – people who are glad when we have killed the time we are trying so hard to save. (p.15)

4. For the first time in history the physical survival of the human race depends on a radical change of the human heart. However, a change of the human heart is possible only to the extent that drastic economic and social changes occur that give the human heart the chance for change and the courage and the vision to achieve it. (p.19)

5. Yet nothing of real importance happens; but both the leaders and the led anaesthetise their consciences and their wish for survival by giving the appearance of knowing the road and marching in the right direction. (p.19)

6. Another explanation is that the selfishness the system generates makes leaders value personal success more highly than social responsibility. It is no longer shocking when political leaders and business executives make decisions that seem to be to their personal advantage, but at the same time are harmful and dangerous to the community. (p.19)

7. By being I refer to the mode of existence in which one neither has anything nor craves to have something, but is joyous, employs one’s faculties productively, is oned to the world. (p.28)

8. The more recent speech style indicates the prevailing high degree of alienation. By saying ‘I have a problem’ instead of ‘I am troubled’, subjective experience is eliminated: the I of experience is replaced by the it of possession. I have transformed my feeling into something I possess: the problem. But ‘problem’ is an abstract expression for all kinds of difficulties. I cannot have a problem, because it is not a thing that can be owned; it, however, can have me. That is to say, I have transformed myself into ‘a problem’ and am now owned by my creation. This way of speaking betrays a hidden, unconscious alienation. (p.31)

9. For another example: To say, ‘I have a great love for you’, is meaningless. Love is not a thing that one can have, but a process, an inner activity that one is the subject of. I can love, I can be in love, but in loving, I have…nothing. In fact, the less I have, the more I can love. (p.31)

10. Change and growth are inherent qualities of the life process. (p.34)

11. Nothing is real but processes. (p.34)

12. The consumer is the eternal suckling crying for the bottle. (p.36)

13. Consuming has ambiguous qualities: It relieves anxiety, because what one has cannot be taken away; but it also requires one to consume ever more, because previous consumption soon loses its satisfactory character. Modern consumers may identify themselves by the formula: I am = what I have and what I consume. (p.36)

14. Students in the having mode must have but one aim: to hold on to what they ‘learned,’ either by entrusting it firmly to their memories or by carefully guarding their notes. They do not have to produce or create something new. In fact, the having-type individuals feel rather disturbed by new thoughts or ideas about a subject, because the new puts into question the fixed sum of information they have. Indeed, to one for whom having is the main form of relatedness to the world, ideas that cannot easily be pinned down (or penned down) are frightening – like everything else that grows and changes, and thus is not controllable. (p.38)

15. The photograph becomes, for more people, an alienated memory. (p.40)

16. Each is afraid of changing his own opinion, precisely because it is one of his possessions, and hence its loss would mean an impoverishment. (p.41)

17. Their egos do not stand in their own way, and it is precisely for this reason that they can fully respond to the other person and that person’s ideas. They give birth to new ideas, because they are not holding on to anything. While the having persons rely on what they have, the being persons rely on the fact that they are, that they are alive and that something new will be born if only they have the courage to let go and to respond. They come fully alive in the conversation, because they do not stifle themselves by anxious concern with what they have. Their own aliveness is infectious and often helps the other person to transcend his or her egocentricity. Thus the conversation ceases to be an exchange of commodities (information, knowledge, status) and becomes a dialogue in which it does not matter any more who is right. (p.42)

18. The so-called excellent students are the ones who can most accurately repeat what each of the various philosophers had to say. They are like a well-informed guide at a museum. What they do not learn is that which goes beyond this kind of property knowledge. They do not learn to question the philosophers, to talk to them; they do not learn to be aware of the philosophers’ own contradictions, of their leaving out certain problems or evading issues; they do not learn to distinguish between what was new and what the authors could not help thinking because it was the ‘common sense’ of their time; they do not learn to hear so that they are able to distinguish when the author’s speak only from their brain and when their brain and heart speak together; they do not learn to discover whether the authors are authentic or fake; and many more things. (p.44)

19. Rational authority is based on competence, and it helps the person who leans on it to grow. Irrational authority is based on power and serves to exploit the person subjected to it. (p.45)

20. If parents were more developed themselves and rested in their own centre, the opposition between authoritarian and laissez-faire education would hardly exist. (p.45)

21. With the formation of societies based on a hierarchical  order and much larger and more complex that those of the hunters and food gatherers, authority by competence yields to authority by social status. This does not mean that the existing authority is necessarily incompetent; it does mean that competence is not an essential element of authority. (p.46)

22. Anybody who will think about it knows the machinations of propaganda, the methods by which critical judgment is destroyed, how the mind is lulled into submission by clichés, how people are made dumb because they become dependent and lose their capacity to trust their eyes and judgment.

They are blinded to reality by the fiction they believe. (p.47)

23. Knowing means to penetrate through the surface, in order to arrive at the roots, and hence the causes; knowing means to ‘see’ reality in its nakedness. Knowing does not mean to be in possession of the truth; it means to penetrate the surface and to strive critically and actively in order to approach truth ever more closely. (p.47)

24. To them the aim of knowing is not the certainty of ‘absolute truth’, something one can feel secure with, but the self-affirming process of human reason. Ignorance, for the one who knows, is as good as knowledge, since both are part of the process of knowing, even though ignorance of this kind is different from the ignorance of the unthinking. Optimum knowledge in the being mode is to know more deeply. In the having mode it is to have more knowledge. (p.48)

25. Faith, in the having mode, is the possession of an answer for which one has no rational proof. It consists of formulations created by others, which one accepts because one submits to those others – usually a bureaucracy. It carried the feeling of certainty because of the real (or only imagined) power of the bureaucracy. It is the entry ticket to join a large group of people. It relieves one of the hard task of thinking for oneself and making decisions. One becomes one of the beati possidentes, the happy owners of the right faith. Faith, in the having mode, gives certainty; it claims to pronounce ultimate, unshakable knowledge, which is believable because the power of those who promulgate and protect the faith seems unshakable. Indeed, who would not choose certainty, if all it requires is to surrender one’s independence? (p.49)

26. God, originally a symbol for the highest value that we can experience within us, becomes, in the having mode, an idol. In the prophetic concept, an idol is a thing that we ourselves make and project our own powers into, thus impoverishing ourselves. We then submit to our creation and by our submission are in touch with ourselves in an alienated form. While I can have the idol because it is a thing, by my submission to it, it, simultaneously, has me. Once He has become an idol, God’s alleged qualities have as little to do with my personal experience as alienated political doctrines do. (p.50)

27. Faith, in the having mode, is a crutch for those who want to be certain, those who want an answer to life without daring to search for it themselves. (p.50)

28. Indeed, without faith we become sterile, hopeless, afraid to the very core of our being. (p.50)

29. Faith, in the being mode, is not, in the first place, a belief in certain ideas (although it may be that, too) but an inner orientation, an attitude. It would be better to say that one is in faith than that one has faith. (p.50)

30. My faith in myself, in another, in humankind, in our capacity to become fully human also implies certainty, but certainty based on my own experience and not on my submission to an authority that dictates a certain belief. It is certainty of a truth that cannot be proven by rationally compelling evidence, yet truth I am certain of because of my experiential, subjective evidence. (p.51)

31. Can one have love? If we could, love would need to be a thing, a substance that one can have, own, possess. The truth is, there is no such thing as ‘love’. ‘Love’ is an abstraction, perhaps a goddess or an alien being, although nobody has ever seen this goddess. In reality, there exists only the act of loving. To love is a productive activity. It implies caring for, knowing, responding, affirming, enjoying: the person, the tree, the painting, the idea. It means bringing to life, increasing his/her/its aliveness. It is a process, self-renewing and self-increasing. (p.52)

32. What people call love is mostly a misuse of the word, in order to hide the reality of their not loving. (p.52)

33. Today one can note some progress in this respect: people have become more realistic and sober, and many no longer feel that being sexually attracted means to love, or that a friendly, though distant, team relationship is a manifestation of loving. This new out-look has made for greater honesty – as well as more frequent change of partners. It had not necessarily led to a greater frequency of loving, and the new partners may love as little as did the old. (p.52)

34. During courtship neither person is yet sure of the other, but each tries to win the other. Bot are alive, attractive, interesting, even beautiful – inasmuch as aliveness always makes a face beautiful. Neither yet has the other; hence each one’s energy is directed to being, i.e. to giving to and stimulating the other. With the act of marriage the situation frequently changes fundamentally. The marriage contract gives each partner the exclusive possession of the other’s body, feelings, and care. Nobody has to be won over any more, because love has become something one has, a property. The two cease to make the effort to be lovable and to produce love, hence they become boring, and hence their beauty disappears. They are disappointed and puzzled. Are they not the same persons any more? Did they make a mistake in the first place? Each usually seeks the cause of the change in the other and feels defrauded. What they do not see is that they no longer are the same people they were when they were in love with each other; that the error that one can have love has led them to cease loving. Now, instead of loving each other, they settle for owning together what they have: money, social standing, a home, children. Thus, in some cases, the marriage initiated on the basis of love becomes transformed into a friendly ownership, a corporation in which the two egotisms are pooled into one: that of the ‘family.’ (p.53)

35. When a couple cannot get over the yearning for the renewal of the previous feeling of loving, one or other of the pair may have the illusion that a new partner (or partners) will satisfy their longing. They feel that all they want to have is love. But love to them is not an expression of their being; it is a goddess to whom they want to submit. (p.53)

36. The desert is no home: it has no cities; it has no riches; it is the place of the nomads who own what they need, and what they need are the necessities of life, not possessions. (p.55)

37. ‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where you treasure is, there will be your heart also’ (Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:33f.). (p.61)

38. ‘The one who takes away a garment from another is called a thief; but the one who does not clothe the poor, although he could – does he deserve another name?’ [Basilius.] (p.64)

39. ‘He is a poor man who wants nothing, knows nothing and has nothing.’ [Master Eckhart.] (p.66)

40. Eckhart goes as far as to postulate that one should not even want to do God’s will – since this, too, is a form of craving. (p.66)

41. The person who wants nothing is the person who is not greedy for anything: this is the essence of Eckhart’s concept of non-attachment. (p.66)

42. Stressing that it is better to know God that to love God, he [Master Eckhart] writes: ‘Love has to do with desire and purpose, whereas knowledge is no particular thought, but rather it peels off all [coverings] and is disinterested and runs naked to God, until it touches him and grasps him.’ (p.67)

43. To understand Eckhart’s position, it is necessary to grasp the true meaning of these words. When he says that ‘a man ought to be empty of his own knowledge’, he does not mean that one should forget what one knows, but rather one should forget that one knows. This is to say that we should not look at our knowledge as a possession, in which we find security and which gives us a sense of identity; we should not be ‘filled’ with our knowledge, or hang on to it, or crave it. Knowledge should not assume the quality of a dogma, which enslaves us. All this belongs to the mode of having. In the mode of being, knowledge is nothing but the penetrating activity of thought – without ever becoming an invitation to stand still in order to find certainty. (p.68)

44. In the having mode of existence what matters is not the various objects of having, but our whole attitude. Everything and anything can become an object of craving: things we use in daily life, property, rituals, good deeds, knowledge, and thoughts. While they are not in themselves ‘bad’, they become bad; that is, when we hold on to them, when they become chains that interfere with our freedom, they block our self-realisation. (p.69)

45. ‘People should not consider so much what they are to do as what they are….Thus take care that your emphasis is laid on being good and not on the number or kind of things to be done. Emphasise rather the fundamentals on which your work rests.’ [Master Eckhart.] (p.70)

46. Our being is the reality, the spirit that moves us, the character that impels our behaviour; in contrast, the deeds of opinions that are separated from our dynamic core have no reality. (p.70)

47. Being, to Eckhart, means to be active in the classic sense of the productive expression of one’s human powers, not in the modern sense of being busy. (p.70)

48. ‘Run into peace! The man who is in the state of running, of continuous running into peace is a heavenly man. He continually runs and moves and seeks peace in running.’ [Master Eckhart.] (p.70)

49. Another definition of activity is: The active, alive man is like a ‘vessel that grows as it is filled and will never be full.’ [Master Eckhart.] (p.70)

50. (…) the greatest enjoyment is perhaps not so much in owning material things but in owning living beings. In a patriarchal society even the most miserable of men in the poorest of classes can be an owner of property – in his relationship to his wife, his children, his animals, over whom he can feel he is absolute master. (p.76)

51. Considering that the whole burden of childbearing is the woman’s, it can hardly be denied that the production of children in a patriarchal society is a matter of crude exploitation of women. (p.76)

52. The circle is endless and vicious: the husband exploits the wife, she exploits the small children, and the adolescent males soon join the elder men in exploiting the women, and so on. (p.76)

53. ‘Individualism,’ which in its positive sense means liberation from social chains, means, in the negative sense, ‘self-ownership,’ the right – and the duty – to invest one’s energy in the success of one’s own person. (p.77)

54. Our ego is the most important object of our property feeling, for it comprises many things: our body, our name, our social status, our possessions (including our knowledge), the image we have of ourselves and the image we want others to have of us. Our ego is a mixture of real qualities such as knowledge and skills, and of certain fictitious qualities that we build around a core of reality. But the essential point is not so much what the ego’s content is, but that the ego is felt as a thing we each possess, and that this ‘thing’ is the basis of our sense of identity. (p.77)

55. From shopping around to purchase, the whole transaction seems to be a game in which even trickery is sometimes a prime element, and the ‘good deal’ is enjoyed as much as, if not more than, the ultimate prize: that brand-new model in the driveway. (p.78)

56. First, there is the element of depersonalization in the owner’s relationship to the car; the car is not a concrete object that its owner is fond of, but a status symbol, an extension of power – an ego builder; having acquired a car, the owner has actually acquired a new piece of ego. A second factor is that buying a new car every two years instead of, say, every six increases the buyer’s thrill of acquisition; the act of making the new car one’s own is a kind of defloration – it enhances one’s sense of control, and the more often it happens, the more thrilled one is. (p.78)

57. The more ‘passivating’ a stimulus is, the more frequently it must be changed in intensity and/or in kind; the more ‘activating’ it is, the longer it retains its stimulating quality and the less necessary is change in intensity and content. (p.79)

58. Ideas and beliefs can also become property, as can even habits. For instance, anyone who eats an identical breakfast at the same time each morning can be disturbed by even a slight change in that routine, because his habit has become a property whose loss endangers his security. (p.79)

59. These young people travel long distances, often with hardships, to hear music they like, to see a place they want to see, to meet people they want to meet. Whether their aims are as valuable as they think they are is not the question here; even if they are without sufficient seriousness, preparation, or concentration, these young people dare to be, and they are not interested in what they get in return or what they can keep. They also seem much more sincere than the older generation, although often philosophically and politically naive. They do not polish all the time in order to be a desirable ‘object’ on the market. They do not protect their image by constantly lying, with or without knowing it; they do not expend their energy in repressing truth, as the majority does. And frequently, they impress their elders by their honesty – for their elders secretly admire people who can see and tell the truth. Among them are politically and religiously oriented groups of all shadings, but also many without any particular ideology or doctrine who may say of themselves that they are just ‘searching.’ While they may not have found themselves, or a goal that gives guidance to the practice of life, they are searching to be themselves instead of having and consuming. (p.80)

60. If I seem to have everything, I have – in reality – nothing, since my having, possessing, controlling an object is only a transitory moment in the process of living. (p.82)

61. In the last analysis, the statement ‘I [subject] have O [object]’ expresses a definition of I through my possession of O. The subject is not myself but I am what I have. My property constitutes myself and my identity. The underlying thought in the statement ‘I am I’ is ‘I am I because I have X‘ – X equalling all natural objects and persons to whom I relate myself through my power to control them, to make them permanently mine. (p.82)

62. The having mode of existence is not established by an alive, productive process between subject and object; it makes things of both object and subject. The relationship is one of deadness, not aliveness. (p.83)

63. A great number of so-called primitive societies have no sex taboo whatever. Since they function without exploitation and domination, they do not have to break the individual’s will. They can afford not to stigmatise sex and to enjoy the pleasure of sexual relations without guilt feelings. Most remarkable in these societies is that this sexual freedom does not lead to sexual greed; that after a period of relatively transient sexual relations couples find each other; that they then have no desire to swap partners, but are also free to separate when love has gone. For these not-property-oriented groups sexual enjoyment is an expression of being, not the result of sexual possessiveness. In saying this I do not imply that we should return to living as these primitive societies do – not that we could, even if we wanted to, for the simple reasons that the process of individuation and individual differentation and distance that civilisation has brought about gives individual love a different quality from that in primitive society. We cannot regress; we can only move forward. What matters is that new forms of propertylessness will do away with the sexual greed that is characteristic of all having societies. (p.84)

64. The same holds true for all other behaviour that aims at doing the forbidden as an attempt to restore one’s freedom. Indeed, taboos create sexual obsessiveness and perversions, but sexual obsessiveness and perversions do not create freedom. (p.85)

 

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