"For fate which has ordained that there shall be no friendship among the evil has also ordained that there shall ever be friendship among the good."

Plato, Phaedrus

    In this essay we'll examine the meaning of a "genuine relationship,"explore how almost all relationships in our current culture have become totally counterfeit, and study how authentic involvement is developed by "genuine persons."

  • Possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, or origin
  • Not counterfeit
  • Authentic; real
  • Descended from the original stock; pure in breed
  • Free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere: genuine
  • Containing all essential elements

  • The condition or fact of being related; connection or association
  • Connection by blood or marriage; kinship
  • A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other
  • A romantic or sexual involvement
  • The state of affairs between the differentiated parts of the whole

"Only in the process of mutual alive relatedness can the other and I overcome the barrier of separateness, inasmuch as we both participate in the dance of life."

Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?

    Genuine relationships can only be created and maintained by "genuine people." These capabilities distinguish genuine persons from counterfeit humans.

  1. Understanding:

    • The situation: all the elements (persons, events, objects, difficulties) we're facing

    • The requirements of the situation: what we need to master the situation

    • Ourselves: our strengths and weaknesses

    • How we can overcome our weaknesses and enhance our strengths

  2. Wise aims: what we want to and should accomplish by mastering our situation

  3. Self-mastery:

    • Calm acceptance of the replacement of one's old situation with a new one

    • Stability of self-confidence

    • Critical thinking: forming one's personal beliefs by basing them on experience

    • Critical consciousness: acting in accordance with knowledge of self and the world

    • Altruism and fellow-feeling: going beyond merely personal development to a genuine concern for other beings

    • Courage

    • Eager desire to understand new situations and gain comprehension of what they are and what they require of us

    • Not expecting someone to give us the answers or the solutions; eagerness to develop these for ourselves

    • Mastery of our capabilities and qualities to meet the demands of any situation

Complete Relationships

   A genuine relationship involves all essential elements of interpersonal involvement: intellectual, social, sexual, and moral. A relationship that does not contain one or more of these elements is a stunted relationship. It is possible to have an incomplete relationship which involves only one or two of these elements, and to feel that the alliance is genuine--when it isn't.

   In today's world it is seldom that a relationship involves genuine intellectual interchange, since so few persons--male and female--are intellectually developed to the point of making this possible. Persons can only understand genuine intellectual interchange when they have experienced it. If you are genuinely involved with a person intellectually, you find that person's understanding, ideas and actions exciting, extraordinarily meaningful, and challenging. Being intellectually involved with another person is an essential part of your love for that person and allows you to have a life of the mind together.

   Sexual energy and activity is an essential factor in a genuine relationship between a woman and a man. This appraisal stands in sharp contrast to the orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions which view sex as essentially negative or evil, to be tolerated merely for the purposes of procreation. Sexual involvement between male and female acts as one of the basic evolutionary impulses, along with Higher Intellectual forces. The elemental capability and need for positive orgasmic fulfillment is biologically and psychically rooted. Sexual experience within the context of genuine love involves experience of spiritual transcendence, foreshadowing ecstatic union with the One. The "little death" or petite morte of the sexual orgasm, is a forerunner of the "big death" as we let go and experience divine oblivion.

   A genuine relationship between male and female involves each partner authentically desiring to assist their partner in achieving orgasmic fulfillment. Genuine sexual interchange involves a person loving another and wanting to give the other complete physical and emotional satisfaction. A female-male relationship may involve intellectual and social satisfaction, but it is not a complete, genuine relationship unless it contains sexual fulfillment as well.

Counterfeit Persons and Phony Relationships

      Social media outlets are creating "relationship cripples," persons totally incapable of initiating or sustaining even a single reciprocally satisfying and fulfilling relationship. The two persons in the image to the left are texting one another when they could be having a genuine encounter through intelligent face-to-face conversation.

     Social media encourage people to believe that having hundreds of "friends" on their Facebook page means they are popular and have numerous genuine relationships. "Getting friended" is the exact opposite of having genuine friends or knowing how to be a true friend. Social media are creating mental and moral imbeciles, sub-humans incapable of understanding what's happening in the world and unable to have any genuine concern for others. We couldn't hope to create a genuine commonwealth until we've created persons who are capable of genuine reciprocity, cooperation, and consensus.

Static Concepts Can't Explain Genuine Relationships

Socrates and his wife Xanthippe       One of the fake theories claiming to describe all human relationships is titled "social exchange theory." Such inert concepts cannot explain what a genuine relationship truly is.

     Social exchange theory is a social psychological and sociological perspective that explains social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties. Social exchange theory posits that all human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit analysis and the comparison of alternatives. For example, when a person perceives the costs of a relationship as outweighing the perceived benefits, then the theory predicts that the person will choose to leave the relationship. The theory has roots in economics, psychology and sociology and is a key ingredient of the capitalist ideology.

      For social exchange theorists, when the costs and benefits are equal in a relationship, then that relationship is defined as equitable. The notion of equity is a core part of social exchange theory. It's impossible to use "social exchange theory" in exploring or describing authentic involvement.

The Lethality of Deranged Relationships

      We must overcome the evil of capitalistic egomania not only because it brings about the perversion of humans into deadly antagonists in a battle for life or death but because it leads to two other lethal outcomes:

  1. It makes humans progressively stupid and incapable of effective functioning.

    "Private property has made us so stupid and partial that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital or when it is directly eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc., in short, utilized in some way . . . Thus all the physical and intellectual senses have been replaced by the simple alienation of all these senses; the sense of having." 1

  2. It leads to class warfare and the ultimate breakdown of society.

"That the having mode and the resulting greed necessarily lead to interpersonal antagonism and strife holds true for nations as it does for individuals. For as long as nations are composed of people whose main motivation is having and greed, they cannot help waging war. They necessarily covet what another nation has, and attempt to get what they want by war, economic pressure, or threats." 2

      In the last analysis, it's absolutely essential that we reconstitute our interpersonal and economic-political relationship patterns, because our very lives depend on it.

"The need for profound human change emerges not only as an ethical or religious demand, not only as a psychological demand arising from the pathogenic nature of our present social character, but also as a condition for the sheer survival of the human race. Right living is no longer only the fulfillment of an ethical or religious demand. 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 vision to achieve it." 3
    As with all the essentials of civilization, the understanding of what constitutes a genuine relationship has been lost because of capitalist mind programming. Counterfeit elements--mere sexual attraction, infatuation, brashness--have been substituted for real.

  Fake gurus such as Echhart Tolle not only have no understanding of genuine relationships, but guide unwary people into completely counterfeit relationships.

  In a capitalist society, relationships become sheer cruelty.

    People do not know that their relationships are less than optimal because they have no understanding of what a genuine relationship is.

  Contemporary culture extols fake relationships--based on nothing but lust and power--as the epitome of interpersonal connectedness. Genuine relationships can occur only in a community in which people are mentally and emotionally mature and know from their own experience what authentic interchange is.

    Inauthentic relationships may be based on a number of elements: sexual, political, or interpersonal. Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, depicts a bogus marriage relationship based on the infantalizing of the wife and the phantasies of the husband. The woman had been treated as a "doll" by her father as she was growing up--encouraged to be a pretty object of affection without any adult emotional or intellectual maturity. She was then turned over to a man who became her husband who treated her as a doll: an infantile sexual object.

   In the play, the husband discovers that the doll-wife had forged her father's signature on a promissory note when he, the husband had been deathly ill and the wife was in dire financial straits. The husband completely goes off on the wife, treating her as a dangerous enemy. A letter rescinding the promisory note arrives in the midst of this scene, and the husband immediately changes his stance toward his wife. Too late. [Click on the image to view the scene.]

    The outstanding element of this scene is that the wife, in reaction to her husband's brutal behavior, suddenly comes awake and gains full realization of her situation. She could have reacted to her husband's barbarity in a number of incomplete or inappropriate ways, but she is fortunate enough to have come to a many-faceted understanding of her plight.

Genuine Communication

     Interaction and communication within genuine relationships evince an uncommon, supernormal openness, considerateness, and honesty which can be experienced in no other atmosphere. Once a person has experienced this kind of interaction, the "small talk" and inanity of ordinary interchange seems unrewarding and repugnant. Persons in a genuine relationship are better able to "see" and "listen to" others--in the interchange environment and otherwise. Ego distractions no longer blind and deafen us, and we suddenly discern deeper meanings within persons, events and objects, enabling new, more potent responses.

     Genuine persons are capable of understanding themselves and their world, including other persons. They discern the essence of these elements. In this excerpt from the novel Jane Eyre, we see that Jane has developed this all-important ability of discernment.

      People who create and maintain genuine relationships are more capable of disclosing feelings and ideas, both those which they are aware of when their relationship begins and those newly realized elements which appear as their involvement proceeds.

      Persons in inauthentic relationships are incapable of participating in dialectical interchange because they lack the requisite autonomy, intelligence, and honesty. Until very recently, women were not considered "equal" to men, and relationships were male dominated. Misquoting the Bible's "a woman shall cleave to her husband," English law enshrined this inequality. English jurist William Blackstone, arbiter of English law pontificated: "in law a husband and wife are one person, and the husband is that person."

      For two or more persons to be involved in a genuine relationship, it's necessary that they possess mental and spiritual autonomy. Their station in life does not necessarily need to be equal. All participants in authentic involvement must be able to think for themselves and must possess the personal force to maintain their own ideas and sentiments. An interesting example of personal autonomy was that between Jane and Mr. Rochester in the novel Jane Eyre. Though Jane was Mr. Rochester's hired governess and he her "master," she possessed a completely autonomous mind which Mr. Rochester not just tolerated but admired and loved, as we see in the excerpt below:

      You know you're experiencing a genuine relationship when you regularly discover in yourself both negative and positive personal traits and behaviors of which you were previously unaware.

      Genuine relationships inevitably results in participants discovering character traits that they want to change--and the incentive for that personal transformation. One of the outstanding illustrations of such personal transformation on the part of two persons in a genuine relationship occurs in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice.

      The vast difference between persons who have experienced genuine relationships and those who have not is no more apparent than when descriptions of the dynamics of dialectical interaction are presented. Persons external to the Perennial Tradition find it impossible to credit the portrayal of genuine relationships--they appear beyond attainment. Living in a culture beset by egomania, having totally acceded to the idea that one must maintain personal defenses and maintain one's "ground," having excelled in the pervasive "assertiveness training" of American society, they're only able to "see" genuine relationships in terms of compromise, concession, and capitulation.

      Yet, genuine relationships between advanced persons move beyond the ordinary limitations of commonplace relations and enter the realm of the transcendent. The interchange becomes a shared mystical experience in which each realizes his or her essence and the truth of the element which they are mutually investigating.

"In contrast are those who approach a situation by preparing nothing in advance, not bolstering themselves up in any way. Instead, they respond spontaneously and productively; they forget about themselves, about the knowledge, the positions they have. 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 onto 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."

Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?

    In genuine relationships there develops a closeness that is at times a complete meshing of mind and spirit, as described in the novel Jane Eyre.

Genuine Relationships Must Constantly Change, Develop, and Expand

  A genuine relationship cannot be static, remaining the same through the passage of time. The relationship must be continually transforming and improving, just as each person within the relationship must also. Persons in the relationship provide feed-back to each other, suggesting areas for improvement and, equally important, expressing gratitude for the areas in which the other is transforming and improving. The suggestions each person shares with the other--how and in what areas they would suggest the other make improvements and changes--are treasured by the other, not seen as criticism.

"The ability to love as an act of giving depends on the character development of the person. It presupposes the attainment of a predominantly productive orientation; in this orientation the person has overcome dependency, narcissistic omnipotence, the wish to exploit others, or to hoard, and has acquired faith in his own human powers, courage to rely on his powers in the attainment of his goals."

Erich Fromm. The Art of Loving


1 Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts

2 Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?, p. 100

3 Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?, p. xxxi