Question: If we’re all one, why do we feel drawn toward certain individuals in an expression of “personal love”?
Eckhart Tolle: True love is transcendental. Without recognition of the formless within yourself, there can be no true transcendental love. If you cannot recognize the formless in yourself, you cannot recognize yourself in the other. The recognition of the other as yourself in essence – not the form – is true love. As long as the conditioned mind operates and you are completely identified with it, there’s no true love. There may be substitutes, things that are called “love” but are not true love. For example, “falling in love”…perhaps most of us have experienced it. Maybe one or two at this moment are “in love”, and those who have experienced it have also experienced “falling out of love”.
We need to remember to understand [the difference between] true love and other forms of so-called love. We are in the relative as form, and in the absolute as formless consciousness. The two dimensions that the human being embodies are the ‘human’ and the ‘being’. The human is the form, the being is the formless, the timeless consciousness itself. It sometimes happens that the form has an affinity with other forms. It could happen for a number of reasons. One being that this form has come out of another form – called your mother – and so there is an affinity of this form with that other form. You have a love toward your mother that might be called ‘personal’. Another aspect of affinity with another form is male/female. You can be drawn to another body in a sexual way, and it’s sometimes called “love”. Especially if the sexual act is denied long enough, it’s more likely to develop into obsessive love…so much so, that in cultures where you could not have sex until you were married, falling in love could be a huge thing and could lead to suicide. Naturally, there is an affinity of the male/female, the incompleteness of this form. The primary incompleteness of this form is that you are either a man or a woman. The oneness has become the duality of male/female.
The pull towards the other is an attempt to find wholeness, completeness, fulfillment through the opposite polarity, in an attempt to find the Oneness. That lies at the basis of the attraction. It’s to do with form, because on the level of form you are not whole – you are one half of the whole. One half of humanity is male, one half is female, roughly.
You have the attraction for the other, then there may be finding certain qualities in another human being that resonate with certain qualities in yourself. Or, if they don’t resonate, it may be the opposite that you feel drawn to. If you are a very peaceful person, maybe you feel drawn toward a dramatic person, or vice-versa. And again, you are hoping for some completion there. You can have an affinity with another form, which can be called ‘personal love’. If personal love is all that there is, then what is missing is the transcendental dimension of the formless – which is where true love arises. Is that part of the personal love, or is the personal level all that there is? That determines whether that so-called “love” is going to turn into something painful eventually, and frustrating, or if there is a deepening.
There may be an attraction that is initially sexual between two humans. If they start living together, this cannot endure for that long and be the fulfillment of the relationship. At some point, sexual/emotional [attraction] needs to deepen and the transcendental dimension needs to come in, to some extent, for it to deepen. Then true love shines through the personal. The important thing is that true love emanates from the timeless, non-formal dimension of who you are. Is that shining through the personal love that is to do with affinity of forms? If it is not, there is complete identification with form, and complete identification with form is ego.
Many times you may think “that’s it!” and after living together for a little while you realize “that was a mistake”, or “I was completely deluded”. Even in parent-children relationships, which is a very close bond on the level of form, if the transcendental dimension does not shine through, eventually the love between children and parents turns into something else. This is why so many people have very problematic relationships with their parents.
Some relationships may start as purely form-based, and then the other dimension comes in after a while. Perhaps only after a lot of problems, and perhaps you get close to a breakup, when suddenly there is a deepening and then you are able to bring in space.
The key is to ask, “Is there space in this relationship?” Or are there only thoughts and emotions? It’s dreadful prison to inhabit if you live with a person and all you have are thoughts and emotions. Occasionally you are okay, but there is disagreement, friction.
We need to acknowledge that there are personal affinities. But in themselves, they are never ultimately fulfilling. More often than not, they are a source of suffering. Love becomes a source of suffering when the transcendental is missing. How does the transcendent come in? By being spacious with the other. Which essentially means that you access the Stillness in yourself while you look at the other.
Not mental noise, not emotional waves. That does not mean that there cannot be emotions or thoughts, but there is something else present in the relationship. That applies not only to close personal relationships, but also to more superficial relationships at work.
With any human relationship, the question is, “Is there space?” It’s a pointer. Space is when thought becomes unimportant – even an emotion becomes unimportant.
When people live together, sometimes the other is no longer acknowledged in daily life because there is so much to do. If you wake up in the morning, is there a moment when you acknowledge the presence of the other?
It’s the most wonderful thing if you can be there for the other as space, rather than as a person. At this very moment, you can either be here as a person, or you can be here as the space.