Paul Tillich on Love, Self-Surrender and Justice

“Love is the drive for union of the separated; it presupposes that there is something relatively independent to be reunited, something that stands upon itself” (it also presupposes that the natural state of nature is that of estrangement). Sometimes self-surrender has been called the fulfillment of love – but….

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What is justice towards oneself? “To be just towards oneself is to actualize as many potentialities as possible without losing oneself in disruption and chaos.” Disruption and chaos as the result of following every impulse or desire. It requires a balance of spontanaity and self-control. “Love reunites; justice preserves what is to be reunited.” The highest form of justice, he notes, is creative justice.

But what is justice?  Tillich spends the better early part of his book “Love, Power and Justice” discussing just this – and comes to this definition: “The form in which power of being actualizes itself in the encounter of power with power.” Justice is violated when another’s power of being is not recognized or respected.

Love, he says elsewhere, is the use of power against the forces of non-being, is united with power against that which is against love. Power is the potentiality which exists in all of us, revealed in our encounter with the other. The self is a power structure used against forces internal and external.

That’s a basic outline of his thought, for a more comprehensive summary, with a criticism in the last 2 paragraphs, check out this site: 

Finally, here are some quotes from Tillich that I particularly like:

The first duty of love is to listen.

The courage to be is the courage to accept oneself, in spite of being unacceptable.

Neurosis is the way of avoiding nonbeing by avoiding being.

We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.

[A] process was going on in which people were transformed into things, into pieces of reality which pure science can calculate and technical science can control. … [T]he safety which is guaranteed by well-functioning mechanisms for the technical control of nature, by the refined psychological control of the person, by the rapidly increasing organizational control of society – this safety is bought at a high price: man, for whom all this was invented as a means, becomes a means himself in the service of means.

The awareness of the ambiguity of one’s highest achievements – as well as one’s deepest failures – is a definite symptom of maturity.

In this respect fundamentalism has demonic traits. It destroys the humble honesty of the search for truth, it splits the conscience of its thoughtful adherents, and it makes them fanatical because they are forced to suppress elements of truth of which they are dimly aware

Joy is the emotional expression of the courageous YES to one’s own true being.

A self which has become a matter of calculation and management has ceased to be a self. It has become a thing. You must participate in a self in order to know what it is. But by participating you change it. In all existential knowledge both subject and object are transformed by the very act of knowing.

And so we use them for a kind of pleasure which can be called “fun.” But it is not the creative kind of fun often connected with play; it is, rather, a shallow, distracting, greedy way of “having fun.” And it is not by chance that it is that type of fun which can easily be commercialized, for it is dependent on calculable reactions, without passion, without risk, without love. Of all the dangers that threaten our civilization, this is one of the most dangerous ones: the escape from one’s emptiness through a “fun” which makes joy impossible.

Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted.”

The basic error of fundamentalism is that it overlooks the contribution of the receptive side in the revelatory situation and consequently identifies one individual and conditioned form of receiving the divine with the divine itself.

The courage to die is the test of the courage to be.

The neurotic is aware of the danger of a situation in which his unrealistic self-affirmation is broken down and no realistic self-affirmation takes its place.

No self-acceptance is possible if one is not accepted in a person-to-person relation.

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