Eckhart on Personal Love

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. 


k 22nd April 2011 2:28 pm

Understanding that relationsips are timeless and spaceless. Even though not recognized, the connection has been there always, in a dimension not remembered. In this dimension we grab and try to grasp what is timeless and spaceless as the physical is the only thing we can understand in this delusion. Raising our sights above the illusionary dimension letting go of our attachments to physical form and our desires we can expand and know that we are so much more than what we see in the mirror and true love exists beyond the physical.

jgrrl 23rd April 2011 3:28 pm

I experienced the opposite. I met someone on the etheric level of timelessness. We met in dreams and what I assume are higher self dimensions and it was transcendent and has altered my life irrevocability. I've struggled to figure out what and why this was happening to me. Then this person manifested into my physical life and the struggles were multiplied because we had lives in progress. What advice do you have for people are experiencing this sort of love?

happyme 23rd April 2011 4:07 pm

i remember around 11 years ago having what i thought was a dream... but i can still remember it vividly. All i can remember is a bright light, beautiful warmth and a feeling of love that never felt before. I'm not from Canada, and somebody mentioned the possibility of moving here and that resonated in y mind... eventually met my husband and we ended up living in Canada. Had a terrible time adapting to this new life and I recall telling him "why do i have to cry every year". After my second child i decided to take care of myself and a series of synchronicities took me to a place where a met a person, and suddenly everything made sense. I deeply care about this person without knowing much about his life. I immediately forgave all of his mistakes, I never care about them. For some reason I could see his "core". Of course he is the opposite of everything i look for in a partner... and I wasn't even looking for one. I think he's my twin flame, but sometimes i think i'm just obsessed. I do not "understand" this feeling, I only know I feel... what would you call that?

k 24th April 2011 12:50 pm

In on the OHSO website there are tarot cards. One of them is about the wheel of fortune that always goes around and around. It tells us to enjoy the time when we are on top, but to know that as long as we spend our time on the outer rim, we can expect to also see the down times as well. The only place where we are not subject to the ups and downs is in the center at the hub. This is also the way of in and out of love. Going in can be so thrilling, but the going out can be so painful. People experienceing the ups and downs of love do not want to hear this sort of thing, but as time goes on you will know that it is the truth. But, our ups and downs do teach us lessons about ourselves and others and forces our souls to mature. The love we really crave in inside and not in this third dimension of ego and illusion. All love comes from the Divine not from the forms we see around us. Even as I pet and hug my dogs, I know the love they give me is from the Divine that is connecting to me through them.

extracrispy 29th May 2011 2:56 am

Hey Mr. Tolle.
You claim that the the duality of male/female is responsible for sexual attraction. How do homosexuals/bisexuals fit into the story? Why do they experience attraction?

dragonflydreams 7th April 2012 3:57 pm


You say "True love is transcendental". That confuses the issue of love by leaving the door open to use the word 'love' to define a plethora of feelings, affections, bonds, relationships and connections which in reality are simply varying degrees of attachment. You continue to use the word 'love' for these various types of attachments, while using "true love" when referring to love. It's time to start calling a spade a spade - stop referring to attachment as 'love'.

In 1984 George Orwell showed us the delusional doublespeak: WAR IS PEACE. I might add one of the most deeply conditioned delusions is ATTACHMENT IS LOVE. Stop using "true love" in the place of love, and start using attachment instead of 'love'.

You say "...if the transcendental dimension does not shine through, eventually the love between children and parents turns into something else." It is not "love" that "turns...", it is ATTACHMENT that turns into something else. Love NEVER "turns into something else" - love is ETERNAL ONENESS.

jgrrl 7th April 2012 5:16 pm

Why so angry dragon?

jgrrl 7th April 2012 5:22 pm

Dragon, I'm sensing the love you thought you had isn't and the love (attachment) you have been fighting might actually be the one. Don't deny yourself. Don't let the would of-could haves fuck you up and follow the path of your heart. The heart does not give a flip about the words we assign to love :)

dragonflydreams 8th April 2012 12:53 am

angry? why do you choose denial and perpetuate the doublethink - ATTACHMENT IS LOVE...

dragonflydreams 8th April 2012 1:57 am

and i sense you're immersed, like most of humanity, in delusional denial, confusing the attachment you FEEL for a few people for 'true love'... the heart may not care if we substitute 'hate' for love, but try having a meaningful conversation with someone who turns the meanings of words up-side down (and in doing so perpetuates the delusional insanity of humanity)...

love is a state of being (oneness) - NOT a feeling... the key is GOD (ONENESS) IS LOVE - although Eckhart would perhaps say GOD IS TRUE LOVE, and then use 'love' to describe simple attachment, or as he says "very close bond ... between children and parents"...

upon using the word 'love' (oneness) it is obviously implied one is talking about 'true' love (oneness) - hence 'true' is redundant... similarly with 'unconditional' love: attaching any condition to love - e.g. "I love you" (because you're my mother) immediately nullifies the state of love, hence 'conditional' love is a contradiction - and 'unconditional love is also redundant... love is ALWAYS true and unconditional...

dragonflydreams 8th April 2012 1:59 am

if there is any sense of DISTINCTION or SEPARATION - it is, quite simply, NOT love...

jgrrl 8th April 2012 9:23 am


dragonflydreams 8th April 2012 9:48 am

ahhh, like throwing pearls before swine - you are proof just how deeply conditioned the belief is in humanity that 'love' is a verb (something you DO to a select few) rather than a noun (a state of being - oneness - you ARE)...

try saying "love ALL" - or even better "I AM love"...



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Author Information

Eckhart Tolle

Spiritual Teacher and author was born in Germany and educated at the Universities of London and Cambridge. At the age of twenty-nine a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey.

Books from Eckhart Tolle

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A New Earth Cover image
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The Power of Now Cover image
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