Can you have compassion without love


In her new book “Love comes out of nowhere”, the Austrian therapist Christl Lieben describes her experiences with a love that she describes as “love free from compassion”. What is meant by this? Is it just a spiritual excuse for heartlessness or is it actually a love that is at home on a different, emotional level? We talked to her.

Love and compassion

Love and compassion seem inseparable to many people. Both Christian and Buddhist beliefs see compassion as the central expression of love. Why do you plead for love beyond compassion? How was your story that led you to this love? You work as a therapist - isn't compassion often the central motivation?

That came to me from an emergency situation. I had heart disease and through research I found that many of my colleagues have exactly the same symptoms, or get different organ damage. It became clear to me: If you face a certain vibration situation over and over again over the years, then the body will at some point become 'grumpy'. And then came this dream, which I describe in more detail in my book. In this dream I was told that it is about new ways of healing, about a new approach to healing or to accompaniment. And that this healing happens through a force that knows no compassion. And that confused me a lot. I couldn't understand: no compassion?

But slowly I realized that through compassion we get entangled with the other. And that the other one doesn't benefit from it!

Little by little I realized that each of us is equally divine - and we say that a lot, but you don't really know what you mean by that. But if you take it really seriously, take it really seriously, that we are all of divine origin and connected in some way to the divine original source, then that means that we are sovereign on the path we are going. And even in our failure, we remain sovereign. The moment I understood that, my heart became very light and clear and since then I have been able to work very differently with heavily burdened people because I accompany them differently. I accompany you with deep respect for your divine aspect and for the path that this soul has chosen for itself.

I understood: This person, this soul has everything in it, my job is only to bring the other person back to their resources.

So, as you describe it, is it so that compassion leads to the therapist tuning in to the client instead of the client tuning in to the therapist's healing offer? As a result, how can illnesses develop in the therapist, as with you?

Exactly, and neither the therapist nor the client benefits from it.

Another aspect, if I understand you correctly, is which aspect of the client the therapist is relating to. Do I understand you correctly: If we always look at the Buddha in the other, then the Buddha awakens through this being looked at. But when you enter into a relationship with the victim, look at the victim, then that becomes stronger and more real in the other. So is it about being related to the healing in the other so that they can feel this resource more strongly?

That is exactly love free from compassion! When you - as you put it - look at the Buddha in the other, the latter finds access to its own depth again and has much faster access to its own possible solutions.

When I first discovered this, we set it up systematically at a specialist congress. We have posed a problem, love free from compassion and compassion. And then I let the love of compassion say: 'First you were there and now I'm coming.' But it was immediately clear: that's not true. So we rephrased it and love said: 'First I was there, then you came and now I'm there again.' And everyone got goose bumps because that was true. So love free from compassion is the original form and compassion is a cultural phenomenon.

So compassion is the power of love, only caught up in the personal story, the drama?

Yes Yes of course. But that's the exciting thing that came out of these constellations: Compassion is above all entangled in one's own story. Outward compassion is actually compassion with an own, inner aspect that is triggered by the other. You want the other to be fine so that you are fine.

A distinction is often made between compassion and compassion. A possible picture would be: When someone is trapped in a pit, pity rises to them and mourns together over the darkness below. Compassion, on the other hand, lowers a ladder, reaches out a hand, helps out, but does not descend itself. How is “love free from compassion” different from compassion understood in this way?

Yes, but that's it! Take your word for it: help out. I don't mean pity, I really mean compassion, because this 'helping out' is exactly the point. Compassion creates a hierarchy: the other is in want and I am in abundance and now I am helping. Love free from compassion never sees the other in want, but always in the fullness of his connection to the divine. We don't need to help him out. But we can accompany him so that he finds the way out himself. This is supposedly the principle of every therapy today, but the attitude is completely different. It is about this trust in the Buddha nature of the other. You don't have to help this Buddha-nature.

So if the therapist is in connection with the level of pure love, can the client resonate with it, while if the therapist is operating on the vibrational level of compassion, both remain entangled in the story?

Yes, and the therapist is also entangled in himself because the compassion is always carried by something that has been triggered within himself. Both the client and the therapist can heal by looking into the divine. Compassion, on the other hand, creates lack.

All human beings are divine

The central approach is that all people are equally divinely connected and have the same divine resources - we are all connected to the light in the same way.

That's the way it is. And that is the greatest adventure in this attitude. That it is not only theoretically-philosophically but also practically considered possible that all people are always connected. These words are worn out until it is no longer possible, it's just blah-blah. You can say it like that, then you feel better for a moment, but really accepting it as a reality is a daily reminder. And that only works in parts, because, above all, it is so difficult at first to really accept your own divinity. “It is our light that we fear most, not our shadow.” That's the point: we fear our light. Because that's where the story ends: who are we then? What are the consequences if we accept our light, really accept it deeply? And as reality, not as a spoken, melodious sentence!

And if we accept our own light, we have to accept it in everyone else too, equally ...

Exactly. In all of them.

Is this then a trap in which modern spiritual work is stuck with all of its gurus and helpers? That it still seems like some are connected and others are not?

Exactly, terrible! That is what all religions have done, now we are doing it on a small scale by judging: They don't have it, they are not ready yet. All of these sentences. It is not true. If you look at people who apparently ’don't belong’ - and in my practice there are really drastic biographies of people who are really down, have no spiritual development behind them, and are deeply in failure. If you listen to these life paths and see it with different eyes, then this soul has chosen an incredible path. To experience the humiliation, to experience the exclusion, to experience loneliness. All of this is the spiritual path of this soul. When I see that, I can only accompany these people with great awe, great respect and deep love. And don't look down on them compassionately. Do you understand the difference

One could object: It is all well and good when all people are theoretically connected to light. But in fact it is the case that some people are more familiar with their light than others.

Naturally! Nobody denies that either. But everyone has it in them, and we have to relate to that. Especially people who are more familiar with light have the function of being memories of other people.

But I can tell you, as a therapist I have always been interested in border areas, I've worked with murderers, with very serious drug addicts, I've always gone to the border areas of human consciousness, where consciousness breaks in life. And right there, with these people, I found confirmation of how close they really are to their light. It's so close, even to people, where you think they're miles away. Our arrogance is all wrong, even a life imprisoned murderer often only takes a word, a tiny step, to be right there.

With regard to your therapeutic work, a central sentence from your book is: "Compassion creates addictions, love does not."

Yes, love is a wide space that accepts and lets go of the other and all possibilities. Compassion goes to great lengths to make sure that the other is okay - but only so that we are okay.

Touchable but not compassionate?

Couldn't your message be misused as a philosophical justification for heartlessness?

First of all: there is a lot of love. Since I've been able to implement this in my life, I walk out of love as if in a bath and I feel it in everything I encounter. For the first time I understand the Zen culture, which only accepts people who are also respectful of everyday objects. Anyone who slams doors is not allowed. Buddha nature or love is in everything. If you live this love, it will spread by itself.

But how would you explain the difference to people who perceive your approach as “cold” and “distant”?

These people read 'love free from compassion' and don't read the word 'love'! It's a form of love and what form of love is cold? Which one does not turn to suffering? It is a belief we have that love and compassion go together.

Can you also describe the difference between “having compassion” and “being touchable”?

That is a very nice distinction! Of course you stay open in this love, you can be touched, the fate of the other touches you and of course there is compassion first. But being touched leads to a great love, joy and trust in the divinity of the other. You are touched, but not in the sense of fear or concern for the other. This makes space to accompany the other on his way to his own trust - or even in his failure! Love free from compassion is open, it doesn't have to prevent anyone from failing, because maybe that is exactly the path that this soul has been looking for. It happens again and again that I accompany clients in their failure - in all areas. When I accompany this and keep in touch with the divine in the other, something very interesting often happens. When life has shattered itself, when there is nothing left, these people very often become aware of their Buddha-nature in a certain way and there is a conversion and an ascent. If I had accompanied this person out of my compassion in such a way that he had not failed, had not dismantled his life and had controlled his process in some way from the outside, then he would never have reached this low point of understanding.

A higher form of love?

It seems to me that the love you are talking about is a vertical, spiritual, transcendent and apersonal love that in a certain sense “comes from above”, a love between two souls. Most people think love is more horizontal, i.e. as something personal, interpersonal, a love between two people. Taking compassion out of love, but keeping love, is in a sense the step out of personal history onto a spiritual level. Do you see it similarly?

Yes, you can say that. I would like to add something else here. In the course of my work it became increasingly clear to me that we all have a blueprint of our healed condition within us. Each person remembers the original design of his soul. It is not that the loving universe created us as hardened existences. We are all created and thought whole, but with the possibility of failing and hurting ourselves. Already at the moment of birth we lose this intact being, but we can remember it. When I work with people today, I try to have this ideal idea of ​​the soul in my head, you understand? Somewhere within us we are all deeply whole. We are all made out of the love of creation. I call this “the love that wanted me”: No matter how my worldly parents react, whether they want and accept me or not: There is a love that wanted me. And love free from compassion is quite close to this 'love that wanted us'. It is an aspect of universal love.

If I understand you correctly, you believe that the time has come for us as humanity to blossom out of interpersonal relationships with all its dramas into higher love. Would you say that

Yes, I would wish that. It makes life so easy, so free. Even for yourself! If you yourself are in the shit, you can affirm that in this love instead of lamenting yourself. If you switch to love free from compassion, then this opens up a completely new approach to your own life drama - you swim through it more easily.

It's also an interesting aspect that the inner and outer work merge. You work with constellations - I see all of life as a constellation. Everything I am confronted with on the outside are internal aspects of myself. So if I can hold this love on the outside without compassion, can I also hold these aspects inside of me?

Absolutely correct! But look: you have now said, 'love without compassion'. I insist on love free from compassion. 'Without' is only a lack, 'free of' opens a space. This can be easily understood from other examples: someone who is without money is poor. Someone who is free of money lives in a different space of possibility.

Healing through love

How do you understand healing today? What is the principle of healing for you?

Healing happens when you can give this love to yourself. When you walk into your pain, trauma or fear with this love, it is at the deepest point like a tunnel that leads you directly to the light, to your initial form. And through this initial shape shines the love that wanted you. If you can accept what is in love free from compassion, when you look at it like that, then it transforms. The pain goes and the experience remains, you go into your life gifted with this experience. And the interesting thing is that external reality also changes. Possibilities arise, a treatment, a person, it all happens automatically because you change your field within yourself.

So love free from compassion is the real medicine in both inner and outer work?

Yes. If only because it changes your experience so radically. With compassion there is always a little in love with your own story, a little 'Ogottogott, what has happened to me'. The love free from compassion is completely present in the moment and helps you to go through the concrete feelings - the 'ojeoje' disappears. And that's so liberating! So liberating. Because the actual pain is much smaller than you think when you are in drama and compassion. Much smaller!

What comes out of this love is factual, pragmatic and unsentimental, but at the same time full of love. And this love is much closer to reality than our drama.

Is it possible to live love free from compassion without first really feeling and fully developing compassion?

No! Absolutely not. And that is very important to me: Love free from compassion should not replace compassion, the two stand side by side. Love free from compassion is the next step.Compassion is the first, compassion is the developed form of compassion and next to it love is placed free from compassion. When I work with people, there is almost always compassion first - and then I take the next step from there.

So it's a kind of evolutionary step process, a maturation process?

Yeah that's what i wanted to say You must have given and received compassion before you can take the next step. Compassion is very important. I've just seen it with a man, a real brutal, who hit his mother bloody, beaten his sister bloody. And then he had a child with Down syndrome and that child became his teacher. He started to love this child. This man has changed in ways that you cannot imagine. He learned compassion. If I had come to him with my love free of compassion, he would have remained a brutal because he could not have understood it at all.

So compassion is the preparatory ground on which higher love can grow?


The interview was conducted by David Rotter


More articles on the topic

Sociologists Prove 'Survival of the Most Amiable'

Mirror Neurons: The Hardware of Compassion



Article image: vinod velayudhan / cc-by

Author picture: © Josef Polleross


Christl love, Gerald Schmickl

Love comes from nowhere

When it touches us, we take shape

160 pages,
ISBN 978-3-943416-79-4



About the author

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31 responses

  1. BlackforestBaba
    Interesting point of view

    Dear readers
    every reader can choose what kind of topics he is dealing with and is of age. Diversity of opinion and openness lead to understanding and broadening of the horizon of consciousness!
    Unfortunately you can see a lot of bigots, pious, hypocritical Buddhists, Christians, light workers, etc ...... ..
    These people are only concerned when they show compassion towards others or are even helpers. The Münchhausen proxy syndrome would be the sick version of EXTREME!
    But life is development, we learn from mistakes but don't do the same too often!
    Greetings Blackforestbaba (Facebook)

  2. shumil
    with-suffer ... with-feel-with-love

    Once again it is the words that illustrate the inadequacy of our language.

    Cristl Lieben apparently means the love of Christ.

    The biblical passages 'he had great compassion for the crowd' are written in Portuguese with 'compaixão', which according to the dictionary means 'compassion', but 'paixão' means love, so compaixão could also be compaixão, if that is the word with us would give.

    Pity (lying next to it and also suffering) doesn't work, but compassion does not necessarily have to mean that I'm lying next to it and feeling just as bad as the other, but could also mean that I am in love.

    All the best.

  3. Maik

    For the time being, these thoughts and feelings are conclusive for me. A different point of view is taken here. In my opinion, it is worth admitting this view of things. Everyone can find out for themselves. Another aspect is the thought when we are all one, come from one source, how do I relate to other people. How much respect can I or the others show for one another.
    Compassion is fundamentally required here in order to take action. Only then did a separation be considered in order not to be energetically isolated.

  4. Maria

    I am grateful for this article and it encourages me to collect what Ms. Lieben means by “love free from compassion” here. The comments on this cause a lot of controversy, which also stimulates me as to how the interview should be understood. For me personally, the love depicted here is FREE. Free, i.e. without attachments, unconditional, absolutely powerful and therefore divine. I think we humans often live very limited and caught up in suffering, e.g. when we look at the suffering in the world and feel for it. And there I come to the point where I understand Frau Lieben very well: When we go through feeling and have passed, then comes love - love that sees the divine and perfect in the other and not the lack. And this love connects us - there we are all one, without injustices and hierarchies. This love makes us able to act, not numb! This love makes us do what is really important right now. And that can be a donation, or the sincere word and closeness to someone who is important to me. This love helps out of the felt powerlessness that I know when I have the attitude that everything is missing in life - me AND the other (e.g. starving people). Above all, this love gives hope, it feels like a strong inner light. That doesn't mean that it blinds us and lets us no longer see the suffering in the world. She just deals with suffering differently. She has already "sympathized" and then transformed into a kind of perfect love in which anything is possible. We cannot necessarily change the world around us directly - we can change ourselves and our posture - and that in turn can change the world around us and expand like the rings of a flat stone that you throw into the water. Somt I see Frau Lieben's book not as commercial, or as a guide for a callous or egotistical life where it only revolves around you - but as a suggestion to increase your own love for life and thus your love for people to share. Ms. Lieben also describes the fact that compassion is not out of place, but the prerequisite for this love. And that's the point for me. For me personally, “love free from compassion” is the highest form of expression of compassion - where we only feel love for the other, no matter where he / she is. We are no longer stuck in the feelings, but go through them and come back to our natural origin. And that is love to me. When we look at young children or babies, we can see it. They go through their pain or feeling naturally by crying or laughing, and then they go back to their naturalness, in which they are open to the world. This openness - for everything that is possible - that is love for me. When we look at ourselves, we may see that we are often preoccupied and caught up in judgments of good and bad. How well can we go through our feelings without being stuck in them - or our thoughts behind them? Can we set out as a basic mood for an attitude towards life in which we feel love? How often do we feel love? I believe that this love gives us strength to act and to see consciously where we are, where the other person is and at the same time to see my and his / her light - and then we are no longer trapped in our feelings, but dock into our highest power, which is called: LOVE

  5. Mira

    Just as the author uses the word compassion, it corresponds to what I mean by pity and which for me has nothing to do with love. I make a clear distinction between compassion and compassion, and yet compassion and love include compassion.

  6. Anne

    Dear Christl love and dear David Rotter,
    This interview appeals to me very much, because you deal with terms that are constantly present in my everyday life and with which I work very consciously. Here I am talking about compassion and love. Most of what you describe to Fr. Lieben as pure love applies to me for true compassion. When doing healing work, I consciously go into love and compassion into my heart. To hold a person's heart space in compassion, by being able to express all the things that can mean being human, are for me an expression of compassion. In my experience, when I get a rating, I'm already involved and still have work to do myself. I don't experience compassion hierarchically at all. But I pick up a fellow human being with my heart at the point where he or she is. In the course of my own healing work, after I nurtured my self-love for a long time and the all-love became increasingly tangible, compassion was added. As I perceive the divine, they have led me there.
    Thank you very much for publishing the interview.

  7. Susanne

    Ms. Lieben and Mr. Rotter delight in their statements about 'love free from compassion' without apparently being aware of the comfort zone from which they are looking at this topic. Anyone reading this interview should then remember a few pictures beyond this comfort zone, e.g. For example, pictures from war zones, pictures of starving children in the 3rd world or pictures of torture methods that are still practiced today in unjust states. You should come to all of these suffering, tormented people with these phrases like: “Someone who is without money is poor. Someone who is free of money lives in a different space of possibility. ”Such ideas show how aloof some people are who wallow in their alleged spirituality without realizing that it is most important to them to feed their own ego. They pat each other on the thighs that they got an ingenious inspiration 'in a dream' that can be marketed as a book. This will be of very little use to the truly suffering and disadvantaged in this world! I am also a spiritual person. Nevertheless, I can only appeal to all readers: do not always concern yourself with yourself. Look around you and simply do good, without much fuss, whether with compassion or 'free of compassion'. By the time you were wondering about the profound difference between love with and without compassion, you might have done a good deed 😉

    • Maria

      … For this good news….
      I too find it frightening how many counselors and teachers are today
      are on the way to market themselves and their ideas or "products",
      without being aware of which paradise we actually live in.
      Real wisdom teachers neither write nor sell books
      something; they just do.

      • BlackforestBaba

        In a nutshell, but of course there are many "benefactors" on the way to whom it applies to apply compassion to improve their karma, get to heaven or just feel good.
        But being is a development and on the way to “higher spheres” one reaches “levels” that can be described as successes.