What is, and what do you think about, the role of Agape in Integral Theory? Wilber has talked fairly frequently about the interplay of Eros and Agape -- understood primarily as ascending and descending movements -- in a number of his works, but arguably more emphasis has been placed on Eros in Integral thought. I was prompted to reconsider Wilber's framing and use of these concepts by something I was reading by William Desmond (and I'll talk about this in more detail later). For now, I'd just like to ask: What are your thoughts on Agape, and how do you see it showing up -- both explicitly and implicitly -- in Integral Theory?

(This thread was originally posted on the Facebook version of this site.  For those with access, there is a good, lengthy conversation taking place there).

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And my last response, in part to David:

I prefer Mark Edwards' notions on eros/agape and agency/communion. See his "Through AQAL Eyes" series at integral world for his distinctions. For him eros/agape is the ascending/descending currents in each line in each quadrant. But the individual and social have their own holons, each with 4 quadrants and 8 zones, each with both agency and communion aspects on the interior and exterior. So he too makes the same distinctions you mention David, but expands it in the above way.

In terms of ascending and descending currents though (eros/agape), he sees them as occurring simultaneously, where when any particular line in any quadrant ascends or evolves it also descends or involves by the integrations of the junior levels. Granted Wilber says this too, but he also has the 'universal' involution/evolution holon of everything theme,* where one happens first, then the other. It is the latter metaphysical frame which tends to infect the more practical frame of transcend and include, or eros/agape dynamic, for each level. Hence that infection expresses in what several others are noticing, the Hegelian dialectical notion of subsumption of the lower in the higher.

Wilber addresses this in his differentiation for ground value and relative value, the former showing we are all equal in the eyes of Spirit, but the latter showing the difference in level value. But again, his metaphysical Spiritual dimension (highest levels) tends toward the subsumption of All in Spirit, which in various places he defines in the traditional modes of his favored shentong Buddhist tradition. In practice this doesn't always or even usually lead to practical expressions of agape-loving the ground value of each holonic level. Or at least it is tainted by a superiority complex with hints of disdain or even disgust, e.g., the green meme.

* Also see Edwards' criticism on the holon of everything (aka assholon), how it reifies involution/evolution in this metaphysical way. This is a common criticism of the popo postmetaphysicists. Or as I now call it, paraphysics, a metaphysics of the between (or LP's adjacency).

Here is a paper discussing Desmond: 


This guy brings up some of the gambits that I've tried to use through the years when trying to discuss god. He also touches on the gambits used on the other side of fence i.e. various types of dismissal. 

Happy thanksgiving all!

Balder, Desmond's agape as excess and withdrawal reminds me of OOO. Even though a holon might be included in a larger aggregate it can never be reduced or subsumed to the latter. It always has that reserve which can express differently in a different context. Hence we get the likes of Bryant's democracy of objects, akin to Wiber's ground value. In that sense, like OOO, the holon also retains its autonomy and individuality, akin to Wilber's intrinsic value. And yet there is the eros drive to connect and commune with the aggregate of which it is a part, to participate in something larger than itself, akin to Wilber's extrinsic value. Just some random thoughts bubbling up this morning.

Yes, there is a bit of a hole there!  But I'll brave the Scylla & Charybdis of provocation and try to flesh out that def.

andrew said:

There once was a certain slacker in Christmas doowiki land who failed to define two certain words…...

Hmmm, Integral Caliphate…………...

The sea is being whipped up by a gale force wind mate' ; batten down the hatches, and all hands on deck through this perilous portal! 

Here is a link with Desmond discussing his work: 

journal.radicalorthodoxy.org/index.php/ROTPP/article/download/62/10 -

It may be worth noting that humans have always been in-between heaven and hell. That might be a part of the appeal to this line of inquiry.

Okay -- I've included EROS and AGAPE in the Christmas Wiki.  I would suggest starting with the "eros & agape" subsection of the W2P entry.  That will provide an overview of a somewhat unconventional revision of the "opposite energies" which seemed necessary in order to make sense of this tangle.

Thank-you sir! I very much appreciate the 'power' part in w2p, as it's obvious that that part of the idea has been misunderstood, or co-opted, by some of the more lowly developed memes within cultures. i do like your placement of agape notwithstanding a seeming 'flattening' of its historical usage and meaning. Whether your hermeneutic turns out to be more in line with reality or not is something that I am very much interested in. As of the moment, I am keeping an open chalice on these ideas:)

Layman, I appreciate your attempt to disambiguate these terms, since it is clear there are multiple usages of the key nouns in this discussion and so some clarification is needed.  However, yes, your situation and definition of eros and agape in relation to each other, and to these other terms, is definitely unconventional (diverging from Greek sources, Wilber's usage, and Desmond's as well [whose work, for me, was the prompt for this inquiry]).  I'll reflect on your distinctions more to see how they work, but at first brush your resituation of agape isn't convincing to me.  I'll think about it more, though, before giving a response.  Also, in your definition of agape, 'brotherly love' to my knowledge is typically a third kind of love, philia, rather than one of the meanings of agape.

Yes, I've dropped "brotherly love" which (although sometimes synonymous with agape -- due to the fraternal conviviality operating in social embrace of people sharing a common social holon) can be misleading to those with a more nuanced sense of Christian mystical theology.

There are different ways to use the opposites, obviously -- but it continues to strike me that a lot of the entanglement is because of the presumptions (with utility of course) about which terms are on a common plane with each other.

In defence of Layman's placement I shall offer up the example of the human, jewish, Jesus. A man--who it is said, to have reconciled and embodied both immanence and transcendence; to have been a king, but befriended the destitute; who was said to emanate the love of god, but equated the kingdom of heaven with soil and seeds! In light of this, I don't know that lp's placement is misplaced; but I'm not completely convinced that there is not more to the story. On this topic I would very much appreciate Chris Dierkes' perspective. 

Well, I agree!  

And possibly William Desmond does as well?

(That means the rest of this message is "for" Balder...)

The Christmas Wiki connects Eros & Involution (causal) because the "over-determination of being" applies to the irreducible differential potentials which must be available at all points within any manifest (subtle/gross) system. Basic structure IS also excessive and open-ended/emergent.  This is equally true of individuals and communities.  Eros is implied in their causal nature.

Agape is implied in their manifest nature.  It does not apply to causal beings who are already self-causal (i.e. their excess is implicit).  The sense of spill-over or general embrace from out of excess pertains to manifested beings.  And it does so precisely in terms of their support and mutual persistence as what they presently are.  Agape is a coordinating and preservative influence whose embeddedness in the excessive drive of w2p takes the form of sharing more completely, more deeply, and with extending communion (insofoar as it supports a given shared/participatory holonic field of coherence). 

Each of the beings in a community has an open-ended (eros) and adequately temporarily meditated/determined (agape) aspect to their activity.  Likewise each depends upon some fundamental differentials (involutionary) and contingent processes of change and readaptation (evolution).  And any of them, at any point, can move on the spectrum of ascending/descending densities of energy.  

And opening to the indeterminate fullness of others can be communion OR agape.  It is agape only when the communion exhibits the influence of a shared higher coherence which is being sustained appropriately by the gestures made between the "others".

Here is Wilber on Agape and Eros:

"Here is a myth that is sometimes useful in suggesting notions that cannot be grasped dualistically or conceptually in any event: As Spirit throws itself outward (that’s called involution) to create this particular universe with this particular Big Bang, it leaves traces or echoes of its Kosmic exhalation.  These traces constitute little in the way of actual contents or forms or entities or levels, but rather a vast morphogenetic field that exerts a gentle pull (or Agape) toward higher, wider, deeper occasions, a pull that shows up in manifest or actual occasions as the Eros in the agency of all holons.  (We can think of this “pull” as the pull of all things back to Spirit; Whitehead called it “love” as “the gentle persuasion of God” toward unity; this love reaching down from the higher to the lower is called Agape, and when reaching up from the lower to the higher is called Eros: two sides of the same pull).  This vast morphogenetic pull connects the potentials of the lowest holons (materially asleep) with the potentials of the highest (spiritually awakened).  The involutionary given of this morphogenetic field is a gradient of potentials, not actuals, so that Agape works throughout the universe as a love of gentle persuasion, pulling the lower manifest forms of spirit toward higher manifest forms of spirit—a potential gradient that humans, once they emerged, would often conceptualize as matter to body to mind to soul to spirit.  “Spirit” (capital “S”), of course, was (and is) the ever-present ground of all of those manifest waves, equally and fully present in each, but “spirit” (small “s”) is also a general stage or wave of evolution: spirit is the transpersonal stage(s) at which Spirit as ground can be permanently realized.

The residue of this involutionary outpouring are various involutionary givens (or items that are given or deposited by involution, items that therefore pre-existed the big Bang and thus are already operating from the moment of the Big Bang forward), the most general of which is the great morphic field of evolutionary potential, a gentle gradient of persuasion pulling all manifest holons back to their ever-present Ground as Spirit—a Kosmic field of Agape, gently pulling evolution into greater and greater consciousness, embrace, inclusion.  The universe, it appears, is tilted, and its entire contents are slowly sliding into the Source and Suchness of the entire display.  This tilt, this grain to the Kosmos, this Agape, this vast morphogenetic potential, exerts a tender pull on evolution to unfold in waves of greater complexity, greater inclusiveness, greater depth, until the entire Kosmos is included in a prehensive unification that can swallow the Pacific Ocean in a single gulp, hold Mount Everest in the palm of its hand, blink and bring nightfall to the entire universe, smile and bring forth the sun to shine on all creatures great and small.

Are there involutionary givens other than the great Kosmic morphic field of Agape (appearing in all holons as Eros)?  In other words, are there any a priori forms, not just in the evolutionary sequence, but in the involutionary sequence?  We already saw that evolution inherits its previous moment as an a priori given.  But those are not archetypal or timelessly pregiven forms, merely the past creative forms of evolutionary unfolding.  We are now asking: are there any forms that were laid down as “memory” in the involutionary sequence and which therefore show up as timelessly given forms that are present at the very start of evolution itself and operative at every point of evolution’s unfolding?  As involutionary givens, we have already postulated Eros/Agape and the morphogenetic tilt of manifestation.  Are there any others?  (That is, are there any a priori forms that are a priori to evolution’s a priori forms?)..."

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