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).

Views: 1322

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Bonnitta Roy:  A gaping hole in integral theory, methinks.  sorry - couldn't resist. it's actually a great question, and deserves attention.

Balder:  Bonnie, it's interesting that you're first to respond here, because the insight I got from Desmond is that, 1) IT's emphasis on Eros coincides with its emphasis on dialectic, and 2) IT's definition of Agape (as the loving embrace of the lower) similarly seems reflect a bias towards Eros (and dialectic).

To continue: 

Agape appears to be problematically under-represented and -theorized in IT (although there are elements of IT that could 'hold' a turn towards a more agapeic framing).  In an earlier post, I mentioned the relationship of IT's dialectical emphasis with its emphasis on eros.  The logic of dialectic, in what we might call the erotics of selving, is the sublation of the other in transcendent process of self-mediation and self-determination.  In other words, a view which privileges dialectic (transcend and include) is a view which, at least implicitly, privileges self-mediation and self-determination.  I think this is why we also find in IT a tendency to privilege the UL above other quadrants.  But the question is, esp. from the POV of agape, whether this process of self-mediation and self-determination is adequate to what is given in/as being.  AQAL suggests, of course, that there is always an "excess" to self-determination -- that holonic 'selving' (individuation and erotic self-transcendence) is always-already communal, that any integral whole is not only self-determining but irreducibly open to other and to other-mediation.  William Desmond speaks of this as the over-determination of being: there is excess in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end: there is an excess that always transcends any process of self-determination and self-mediation, meaning no account of dialectical convergence is ever complete, and that in fact it is only the agapeic excess of being as over-determined that makes possible the play of being in its univocal, equivocal, and dialectical modes or expressions.

From a metaxological (post-dialectical) perspective, being can be understood as univocal (emphasizing sameness), but never just; as equivocal (emphasizing difference), but never just; and as dialectical (emphasizing the sublation of difference in/as self-mediation), but never just.  There is a fourth, metaxological sense of being which understands that the dialectical moment never yields being as wholly self-mediated or -determined -- that being exceeds any such final determination.  As Desmond (whom I've been reading lately, and who inspired this post), neither beings in their singular development can be exhausted (in terms of reaching a final determinate state, a final condition of self-determination), nor can beings communally (in their "We/Its") be captured within singular dialectical determination.  "The community of beings in interplay is not a dialectical self-mediating whole; it reveals a metaxological intermediation between beings who are open wholes unto themselves, without being completely determined in themselves.  Their relativity to others and of others to them shows multiple mediations that cannot be finalized, for the ontological freshness still flares there too."

Hi Bruce - I am glad to be exposed to this finer philosophical commentary and 'dialectic'. Though there is plenty of language and concept that I would have to study carefully in this post for me to understand many of the particulars, I do have a thought.

I wonder if perhaps part of why we as people, and Ken reflecting that in IT, are so tenaciously oriented towards self-agency and self-determination, is more than just the momentum of its survival value, though maybe related. Hasn't it been said that we as a species distinguish ourselves from other animal species, presumably demonstrated (through science and almost common-sense) as evolutionarily driven? Could it be that we have a deep unconscious, barely conscious species momentum and attachment, from below or above, to express that and exercise that? Is questioning this mainly a product of expanding perspectives, and these expanding perspectives are also what bring us to consider, maybe in pluralistic fashion, to question and maybe then correct our thinking on this. Yet, the tendency persists tenaciously, without an intentional abstract cognitive override?

Saying this I also begin to wonder if this circumstance has mainly been structured by the growth-tropisms that have helped the species so much, to the point of run-away domination of downward-oriented processing and philosophizing. Is it so that before mature rationality and science became so dominant people did consider, in musing and philosophizing about life, the descending creations more than the ascending creations? Was there a much greater attunement; or was the 'magical' thinking-imagining about most major causation coming from that which is greater really only/mostly a magical-capricious attempt at understanding?

I feel that I may be asking the obvious and going over old ground. Yet I wanted to get a foothold into this, partly because I am so heavily weighted towards evolution and maybe the erotic dynamism that is within and behind that. The descending has been a mental-structural challenge for me. Maybe Ken is mirroring that bias; or perhaps it is a safer play that is hard to manage in oneself. Or not. :)

I do hope this is sufficiently coherent. ambo

We could approach this question from other angles, or parabolas if you prefer curves. In Wilber's involutionary myth (see excerpt A, footnote 26), the process is indeed a linear trajectory in both directions but in alternating space-time frames: Spirit involves 'downward' in space-time and then evolves back 'upward' in space-time. Granted Wilber notes the reverse trip back up also follows the laid down morphogenetic gradient on the return so as to allow for creative and novel evolutionary forms. But that is a red herring because the template is still one of only one of those things happening at at time in the holon of everything space-time. And this dynamic is exactly of the nature of what above comments have noticed, one of a linear dialectic that presupposes a holon of everything Spirit at both ends of the dialectic, or a deus ex machina pulling the strings. Also see Frank Visser's Integral World essays on evolution.

Now if we take Desmond's post-dialectical metaxological notion of the mutual interpenetration of involution and evolution (or any typical complementary pair), they are always occurring simultaneously in space-time. He argues against a Hegelian dialectic, which inevitably subsumes difference in a never-ending series of higher integrations and unitary sameness. This is what Bruce and others are pointing out in AQAL/IT theory. Whereas for Desmond the 'between' in/of in/evolution is the glue that both binds and separates them is a different relationship that that of the sort of Hegelian dialectic Wilber and other developmentalists use.

This notion is not unique to Desmond, for we see it playing out in many different varieties, the polydox theologians (like Keller and Faber) as but one other example. And no, they are not 'green' or merely pluralists averse to eros, but rather see how this eros/agape dynamic plays out in the 'between.' If we use Desmonds metaxological frame, the univocal is modernism's obsession with monism, the equivocal is postmodernism's (pomo) obsession with pluralism, the dialectical is AQAL/IT's obsession with the sublation of difference into the same. But there is a post AQAL/IT/integral frame emerging, a post-postmodern (popo) of a different kind expressed by the above that is often confused with pluralism and pomo by the dialectical integralites. It is a development of a same/different kind, one where we get off the dialectical-developmental wheel and truly enter a so-called 2nd tier. There are plenty of harbingers of this nascent emergence, and they ain't AQAL/IT's kind of integral. It is a space-time where eros and agape hold hands as equal partners (gay or otherwise), and both are changed in the process.

I don't know whether this will work or not: think of an ocean comprised of trillions of bubbles; and then imagine this salty fluid( or whatever fluid) that resides in-between all these trillions of bubbles, with the result being said ocean (universe).

If this isn't a crude metaphor, then one might begin to understand why I don't like the term post-metaphysics ( as a synonym for supernatural) as this 'whatever' is ontologically 'always' i.e. perfectly, a natural part of existence.

Hi, t, - this and Bruces's comments are helping me engage with this topic.

My early impressions of these theorizings, here and elsewhere, are that they are highly abstract with little in the way of right quadrant signs, support, and certainly proofs. That is probably partly why I can't easily follow, reality check, and feel the truth. It may be that this is one of those phenomena that require enough direct experience to make it 'real'. Otherwise it might sound like self-reinforcing mental constructs that get stronger and more believable just by exposure to the thoughts, repetition, increased familiarity, and a sub-culture that circles in the same territory - intrapsychic and cultural reinforcement.

This story is quite amazing: "Spirit involves 'downward' in space-time and then evolves back 'upward' in space-time. Granted Wilber notes the reverse trip back up also follows the laid down morphogenetic gradient on the return so as to allow for creative and novel evolutionary forms. But that is a red herring because the template is still one of only one of those things happening at at time in the holon of everything space-time. And this dynamic is exactly of the nature of what above comments have noticed, one of a linear dialectic that presupposes a holon of everything Spirit at both ends of the dialectic, or a deus ex machina pulling the strings."

I want to remain open to these various explanatory ideas and to come somewhat up to speed with what is currently being speculated and believed.

I hope I haven't misrepresented this too much as I try to process it.

Thanks, t, ambo

PS - I hear you on your saying that this thinking/experiencing this territory is an integral sort of processing. I think that my sense of plurality is coming from that moment when one thinks that an idea or the state in oneself of an idea is not sufficient, ie eros is not an adequate account of all that is, so we entertain initially a second possibility to fill out the map, then perhaps a third. Something like that.



theurj said:

We could approach this question from other angles, or parabolas if you prefer curves. In Wilber's involutionary myth (see excerpt A, footnote 26), the process is indeed a linear trajectory in both directions but in alternating space-time frames: Spirit involves 'downward' in space-time and then evolves back 'upward' in space-time. Granted Wilber notes the reverse trip back up also follows the laid down morphogenetic gradient on the return so as to allow for creative and novel evolutionary forms. But that is a red herring because the template is still one of only one of those things happening at at time in the holon of everything space-time. And this dynamic is exactly of the nature of what above comments have noticed, one of a linear dialectic that presupposes a holon of everything Spirit at both ends of the dialectic, or a deus ex machina pulling the strings. Also see Frank Visser's Integral World essays on evolution.

Now if we take Desmond's post-dialectical metaxological notion of the mutual interpenetration of involution and evolution (or any typical complementary pair), they are always occurring simultaneously in space-time. He argues against a Hegelian dialectic, which inevitably subsumes difference in a never-ending series of higher integrations and unitary sameness. This is what Bruce and others are pointing out in AQAL/IT theory. Whereas for Desmond the 'between' in/of in/evolution is the glue that both binds and separates them is a different relationship that that of the sort of Hegelian dialectic Wilber and other developmentalists use.

This notion is not unique to Desmond, for we see it playing out in many different varieties, the polydox theologians (like Keller and Faber) as but one other example. And no, they are not 'green' or merely pluralists averse to eros, but rather see how this eros/agape dynamic plays out in the 'between.' If we use Desmonds metaxological frame, the univocal is modernism's obsession with monism, the equivocal is postmodernism's (pomo) obsession with pluralism, the dialectical is AQAL/IT's obsession with the sublation of difference into the same. But there is a post AQAL/IT/integral frame emerging, a post-postmodern (popo) of a different kind expressed by the above that is often confused with pluralism and pomo by the dialectical integralites. It is a development of a same/different kind, one where we get off the dialectical-developmental wheel and truly enter a so-called 2nd tier. There are plenty of harbingers of this nascent emergence, and they ain't AQAL/IT's kind of integral. It is a space-time where eros and agape hold hands as equal partners (gay or otherwise), and both are changed in the process.

Excellent topic, and great discussion so far.

To answer the question about the role of agape in integral theory, I'll quote T. Collins Logan, an integral thinker outside of the Ken Wilber AQAL school (see his website Integral Lifework) who refreshingly places a great deal of emphasis on agape. In his 2013 book "Political Economy and the Unitive Principle," after extensive quotes from many influential thinkers in Western history (from Aristotle to Kant, Hegel, Mill, James, and numerous others), he concludes:

"Well, it turns out that nearly all of these thinkers agree , either explicitly or implicitly, on a common root: one's capacity for love. This love is not an unfocused or shallow warmth, nor is it a reflexive duty, but rather a deeply felt commitment to the happiness and well-being of others. In this lineage, that orientation is frequently  referred to as agape - what Kohlberg aptly describes as "responsible love." In a utilitarian sense, agape contributes to social cohesion; it helps bind society into functional structures, facilitating collective agreement on standards of behavior, which in turn establish a baseline of mutual trust and benefit. But within agape's utility are impulses that transcend self-interest." (p. 34)

I also want to point to a very good article on Beams and Struts by Chris Dierkes, "Agapros: On Valuing Both Agape and Eros."  The comments too are very worthwhile reading.  One of the commentators again is T. Collins Logan:

"I think the error of some integral thinkers is projecting their framework onto other traditions or philosophies, rather than allowing them to inform an ever-expanding thought field. This failure has been the warning of thinkers as diverse as Thomas Merton and Hegel, and in my view an integral process must therefore be fluid and in some ways unstructured rather than rigid and pigeonholing. Then again, there is the opposite extreme of the "true but partial" fallacy, for some memes and patterns require extensive editing or even excision rather than reflexive integration. But what is the filter for this process? What is the organizing principle through which such integration can effectively occur? For me, that principle has always been agape. Because of this starting point, agape is for me a much larger field or frame, and includes and transcends all other forms of love. It is the impulse that manifests the unmanifest, it is the ideal, divine spark within us and for which we most desperately yearn, and it is the love-in-action that embodies authentic and effective compassion. It is Aurobindo's reification of the supramental, the neopolatonist's One (and our gnosis of and returning to the One), and it is Christ's example of self-sacrificing service. For me, agape is both the reason for taleios, and it is the perfect, fully realized outcome, and it is every phase of the journey along the way, however incomplete."

I'm also reminded of Will Varey's ITC 2013 paper, and his presentation to ITC Downunder, where he also notices that the problems with the phrase "transcend and include" and offers a more agape friendly substitute:

I really value bringing more attention back to agape - which does seem to be "a gaping hole in integral theory," as Bonnitta said, but I think it's starting to get more attention, especially with the focus the last couple of years on "the birth of a new 'We.'" It is largely about bringing more attention to relationships and relationality in general.

I also like theurj's comment, especially the last sentence: "It is a space-time where eros and agape hold hands as equal partners...and both are changed in the process."  This is the emphasis of Bernard Loomer's "process-relational" philosophy. In his 1975 lecture on Two Conceptions of Power, he contrasts unilateral power with Relational Power.  In the former there is emphasis on the individual having power over another (I will transcend and include you), whereas in Relational Power there is acknowledgement that when we embrace and befriend we participate equally in changing and being changed. Loomer calls this "the ability to produce and undergo an effect. It is the capacity both to influence others and to be influenced by others. Relational power involves both a giving and a receiving."

As I noted recently in the FB thread, it is important to distinguish between two meanings of Eros before addressing Agape. 

The first (which I will call w2p -- will-to-power) is universal and in all energetics.  It includes certain attributes like self-overcoming, flow, more-ness, etc.  The second is the specifically ascending current which is involved the in the production of "vertical" quality, depth and novelty in the amplification of individual beingness.

Once this distinction is made we can look at Agape as possessing the qualities of W2P in a manner reciprocal to that of Eros -- but we must not over hastily think Agape is being under-emphasized or "missed" by mistaking common w2p attributes for specifically eros attributes.

Agape, consolidating, working with quantity (more embrace of beings) and generic beingness, establishing already given structures through the effort and surrender and goals moving horizontally and downward from emerged holons, can then be understood through levels of its own and as a relative phenomenon.

This relativity is key.  We must note that collective dimensions appear agape-like when viewed over and against individual structures... but when we frame the collective on its own terms it then has its own eros and agape forms.

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

Hmmm, Integral Caliphate…………...

I will write more tomorrow.  For now, a quick question for Andrew:  Why are you equating "post-metaphysics" and "supernatural"?  Postmetaphysics has a lot of definitions, but that's not usually one of them.

Hi Bruce, not quite what i was saying. But first I am hoping for some expanded definitions of eros and agape on the Christmas doowiki:) Now, again, metaphysics and post metaphysics as studied in academics from Heidegger to Habermas is not my criticism here. My concern is more the generic usage of metaphysics as supernatural, and post-metaphysics as the discarding of supernatural claims. There is something about that usage that doesn't feel right to me. Maybe this grievance is lessoned if these meanings are more about traditional interior/exterior philosophical divides; but sometimes this is not how I see these words being described. 

Anyway, could you maybe come up with what you think is a good metaphorical image for the metaxological betweens? i was also thinking of glue? A clear very hard to detect superglue! A perfectly natural one at that!lol

The following is my latest post on the FB discussion, in response to several posts discussing agape as the "include" part of Integral Theory's "transcend-and-include" concept:

In Desmond's approach (in my understanding of it thus far), agape can be related to the 'include' pole of transcend-include, but can't be equated with it. Desmond's metaphysics of the between might be seen as a metaphysics of fullness (purnyata), in that he sees transcendence (excess, withdrawal) operative at the beginning, middle, and end of, say, any dialectical movement. He speaks of being, here, as overdetermined -- as a fullness which exceeds any determination of it, and which can't be reduced either to the 'indefinite' pole of univocal (monist) metaphysics or the 'indeterminate' pole of equivocal (relativist/pluralist) metaphysics.

Agape is related to this fullness -- our apprehension of (and astonishment/wonder in the face of) being's excess, whereas eros is related to a perception of lack or emptiness (and a reaching out, and up, to overcome that lack). The experience of agape precedes the drive of eros, in this sense: the perception of excess, otherness, withdrawal ('agapeic astonishment'), may then lead to 'erotic perplexity' where we perceive a lack in ourselves, and work towards transcendence-and-inclusion -- inclusion and clear determination -- of that which we perceived as beyond or outside us.

Agape, as love, is love for the other as other (as a good): in other words, it involves recognition of our mutual excess (and even our self-excess). The freedom of being is such that there will never be a final determination (i.e., inclusion) of any being or form, and this excessiveness of being is a good. This is why, for Desmond, Agape cannot be simply equated with the 'include' part of transcend-and-include, since ultimately it recognizes that no inclusion exhausts the included (the included remains 'full,' i.e., may yet yield new surprises/astonishment). The other may be embraced in love, as part of the erotic movement of becoming and overcoming, thus becoming part of a 'we,' and yet the other does not cease being a you or thou in that inclusion. This is part of his metaxological movement beyond dialectic: the dialectical sublation of the other is never final, never exhaustive. Dialectical approaches 'redeem' the truth of the univocal, of the apprehension of oneness, through a process of integrative inclusion (via the self-determination and self-mediation of a higher holon). Equivocal metaphysics, for a dialectical approach, is simply something to be overcome. But a metaxological approach attempts to redeem the truth of equivocity, too, beyond dialectic -- for a fourfold metaphysics of being.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2019   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service