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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Subtle differences between Wilber's phrasing and my own:

So the mythological component exists in the metaphysics of "spirit throwing itself".  For the involutionary patterns cannot move in that fashion -- although they are constituted by an excessive dynamism.  A gentle pull exerted at any level by any coherent, already-existing, morphogenetic simplexity is agape-like w2p -- expanding, widening and stabilizing.  It is a slant or tilt toward re-establishment.  

While concentrated w2p appearing at the leading edge of constructive work on new structures is eros-like.  It is a tilt or slant toward new establishment.

Two sides of the same pull -- but not reciprocal sides.  There are several other sides and some of them make batter polarities under certain conditions.  

Involution should be reserved for its "a priori" minimalism and not freely conflated with the gentle gravitational influence flowing from any holon to its supportive elements.  The assholon, to speak Theurjically, is imagined as a supra-holon exerting agapeic influence over the whole system.  This is mythological, metaphysical.  

Agape does not operate at the level of the total system... except when we are speaking evocatively.

I don't think you have just a subtle difference in phrasing from Wilber; I think you have quite a different account.

There is a structural distinction which we might point at in the phrasing or in the conceptualization.  It is subtle because it affirms most of the same elements and several of the same dynamic patterns.  As well it is best to be cautious since no one (e.g. Wilber) is presenting their whole impression in any given instance. Additionally there is a certain pragmatism (although admittedly it is the opposite of the usual academic desire to prove a distinction) to affirming the basic concordance of closely related metatheoretical models on any topic.  

Perhaps I'm even the MOST conventional and patriotic Integralite!

It is indeed instructive to note how the greek new testament used these terms, and the Christian community in general. Eros does not show up at all in the new testament, though it's equivalent does appear in the greek translation of the old testament. Eros basically shows up as sexual love, romantic love, and "passion" in general.

Agape is the sacrificial, unconditional love of God, and the love of Christians toward others independent of conditions and feelings.

Philia is friendly emotional warmth toward those we care most about.

More detail here: http://www.biblestudymanuals.net/love.htm

And here: http://www.asiteforthelord.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/...

Perhaps I'm even the MOST conventional and patriotic Integralite!

Yes, I think maybe so!

Interestingly, Biblical eros is one of the lower drives, i.e., sex. Whereas agape is one of the higher, i.e., God. This is turning Wilber's use on its head, since his eros goes up and his agape goes down.

Here are several posts by Cameron Freeman from the Facebook discussion:

Hey Bruce Alderman, this post is only indirectly about the work of William Desmond, which I will return to at the end.... But we can shed some light on your question about the relation between Eros and Agape in the context of Integral theory by turning to an emerging motif within the theological turn in continental philosophy in recent decades - where reality is what’s called a “Non-All’ (not-whole) – i.e. an abyssal structure of irreducible antagonism in the heart of what's given to us.

The Non-All not only exposes the contingency and structural inconsistency of all our established scientific and philosophical meta-narratives, but also – and more significantly – it is precisely the non-totalizability (i.e. the structural incompleteness or open-ended provisionality) of all our meta-paradigms (e.g. Integral) that makes things revisable and transformable.

Very briefly, the Non-All stems from the psychoanalytic theories of Jacques Lacan, who makes a distinction between what he calls masculine sexuation (Eros in the Integral context) and feminine sexuation (Agape), where these two logic's differentiate two ways to treat any formal system (e.g. the Integral AQAL framework).

In the first approach (masculine sexuation), predominant throughout the history of philosophy in the West, every contingent being belongs to a given order of being except the necessary Being or principle that constitutes or orders the whole (Plato’s Ideas, Cartesian Cogito, Hegel’s Geist, etc). In other words, not everything can be a finite, relative or partial – there must be something outside the totality of things, an exception to the order that is also beyond all the elements within it, that is able to ground and stabilize any given totality, e.g. the God of classical theology... and in the same way - Integral (AQAL) as an over-arching meta-paradigm also stands over and above everything that it contains and grounds, i.e. it orders all other paradigms and perspectives within the borders of the integral (aqal) framework.

In feminine sexuation of the Non-All, on the other hand, the structuring principle of a totality (or formal system) is not powerful enough to order it. What there is, in other words, is the totality of finite, contingent beings (i.e. the Kosmos), but the totality is itself “non-totalizable” – i.e. it cannot ever reach closure without remainder. Instead of a first being outside a totality (a constitutive exception that orders it), in the feminine logic of the Non-All, there is always something elusive, undecidable and endlessly reconfigurable "within" the totality itself that means the totality itself cannot ever be totalized or reach closure. That is, there is always something left outside any given totality in each and every attempt to totalize it, what is called the Non-All, where the non-totalizability of the Real denotes an aporia, an irreducible paradox within any formal system that prevents its closure while rendering the totality of things inherently incomplete.

The Non-All, then, rejects the masculine logic of an Integral embrace (Eros) by affirming an irresolvable incompleteness within the very structure of things that cannot ever be either fully mastered or extinguished (Agape). According to the logic of feminine sexuation, then, the Real as non-all is a kind of confession that we are ‘not at one’ with ourselves... and where the engine room of the Kosmos is ‘always already’ inconsistent, off-center or out-of-joint. However, the important point here is that it is precisely this structural incompleteness (or trembling in things) that makes possible creativity and unexpected novelty...

From the perspective of post-structuralism and recent continental philosophy, where nothing is ever identical with itself, the Integral model (AQAL) is a provisional, historically constituted “unity of meaning” that provides the illusion of the Big Other - a fantasmic order of Being that stabilizes the flux and protects us from the promise/threat of the fundamental incompleteness of the Non-All. And as such, Integral philosophy has a tendency to foreclose or prevent the transformative event that it harbors in its very name – i.e. the critically important question of precisely “how” consciousness develops or evolves, or how it is that new forms and structures emerge in the overall trajectory of cosmic, biological and human evolution...

There is potential here for a post-metaphysical short-circuit between the masculine logic that informs Integral philosophy (Eros) and the feminine logic of the Non-All (Agape, the death of the transcendence of God and the non-existence of the Big Other). For as Gödel reminds us, if any formal system (e.g. Integral AQAL) is made to be a self-consistent whole, then there remain fundamental truths which cannot be derived from the system itself (for instance, the irresolvable antagonism or not-all at the heart of the Absolute - see Schelling’s Ages of the World drafts). And while this comprehensive self-consistency of Integral makes the (AQAL) system incomplete, when the same system is made to include these other truths (the Non-All as the always already rupture/excess of the Real) and thus attempts to become complete, then it inevitably contradicts itself at certain crucial points, and thus breaks apart and becomes open to the emergence of new configurations and creative reinventions.

Perhaps, then, this is the future for Integral, where the ontological inconsistency/incompleteness (partiality) of things is not a debt that needs to be redeemed in the all-encompassing embrace of the Integral vision, but an ontological cut in the Real itself that depicts the contingency, revise-ability, and transformability of all formal systems, including our over-arching Integral meta-narratives. From this perspective, the incomplete/unfulfilled Integral vision (i.e. the still unpublished second and third volumes of the Kosmos trilogy) is not so much the loss of an transcendent ideal that sustains us but a never finished production of what is always, already ‘to come’…

This feminine logic of the Non-All is also crucial to a wide range of other thinkers on the verge of contemporary continental philosophy... It is central to Žižek’s neo-Hegelian/Lacanian account of the Real as a parallax gap, which itself stems from Schelling’s UnGrund and the inner antagonism in the primordial depths of the divine. The Non-All is also pervasive in Catherine Malabou’s deconstructive reading of Hegel, which pushes contingency and temporality into the heart of the dialectical self-development of the Absolute... particularly in regards to her signature notion of “plasticity” as the self-transforming, self-shaping, self-reforming structure and function of the human brain, as an open system that cannot be formalized or totalized (i.e. Non-All), where things become what they are by refusing to submit to a model, i.e. by being un-programmable and by being exposed to the future as an unforeseeable, unpredictable ‘to come’ ('l'avenir).

And in The Future Christ: a Lesson in Heresy (2001), Francois Laurelle makes use of the Non-All by making a distinction between the out-dated tradition of Western philosophy which totalizes and only pretends to universality (the masculine logic of Western metaphysics), and what he calls “non-philosophy” which is caught up in the non-totalizable or uncontainable multiplicity of life within the sphere of radical immanence. For Laurelle, the central figure of non-philosophy is the heretic, which represents the pure inconsistency of the human that is “always, already” en-fleshed in the place of radical resistance to those regional hegemonic powers that pretend to be universals. The heretic is engaged in a profound ontological struggle of the human against everything that tries to capture, dominate, control, regulate, subjugate, normalize, subordinate or rule the human... and in breaking the grip of the totalizing gesture of metaphysics that can only foreclose the sphere of radical immanence (e.g. with two-worlds theories of transcendence, etc.), the heretic reveals the human as such in its non-consistency, irregularity and irreducibility, what Caputo calls “the Real with a human face”...

Using Desmond’s terminology (and I'm also pretty new to this): Integral has forgotten that 'erotic perplexity' – the desire to overcome our sense of lack in the search for transcendence (i.e. integral wholeness and completeness), is born from the Non-All of 'agapeic astonishment', i.e. non-totalizable excess, irreducible otherness and withdrawal of givenness ... And as Desmond argues, we need to return to this original agapeic astonishment again in the recognition that the dialectical sublation of the other is never final, never exhaustive.

Also, in regards to this return to "agapeic astonishment" I can recommend checking out this collection of responses to an essay by Jack Caputo to be published by Shelter 50, titled “It Spooks: Living in Response to an Unheard Call”, coming out at the end of the year...

A lower thing goes up; a higher thing comes down.  That is to say... if a healthy circulation is enabled (rather than demonized).

theurj said:

Interestingly, Biblical eros is one of the lower drives, i.e., sex. Whereas agape is one of the higher, i.e., God. This is turning Wilber's use on its head, since his eros goes up and his agape goes down.

Re: cameron's post.  

I believe he is incorrect about the relationship of Lacanian formulae of sexuation to the operation of Integral Theory. MOA-2 & MOA-3 readily unite these alternatives.  However he picks upon the open-ended nature of reality in regards to the definition of Agape.  My recent work requires this very thing.  

It is precisely because of the Not-All (No Assholon) that Agape cannot be thought as the descending influence of the Whole... and must thereby be regarded as the self-consolidating influence of particular holons.  

Using MOA levels of reality, all beings are constitutionally indeterminate.  This is not necessary for Agape which functions at all levels (i.e. whether we detect open-endedness or not).  But it obviously pertains to agape as soon as we are seeing at these levels.  

Communion between beings may be erotic (creating new shared realities) or agapeic (submitting to the guiding influence of already existing shared realities).  This is true whether beings are understood as open or closed.  

Desmond's framing of agape also does not follow Wilber's model (the inclusion of the lower by the higher, the descending influence of the higher whole), but self-consolidating influence of existing holons also seems to miss what he is saying ... if just by a bit.  Certainly he is pointing to other-mediation, beyond the self-mediation of dialectic (for any particular holon), which seems at least in the neighborhood of your suggestion, but I'll need to dig a little deeper to figure out where the divergence is.  (I sense it is with the 'conservative'/'preservative' cast you are giving to agapeic influence, but I'll get back to you on that.  :-)  )

Hey Bruce, I saw my error in review and hoped I made a little more sense of what I was saying in my reply to your question. 

Here are a few problems I am having with this line of inquiry. The first is that Darwin doesn't need eros and agape to explain how things work. That has always been a transcendental projection into science; and Darwin was able to succeed in his intuitions because he was one of the few who could suspend those judgements. So, on that side of the fence, IT's theorizing about eros and agape are somewhat erroneous ( at least it seems to me). On the other side of the fence: if IT rejects outright any type of Theo., especially as it has been traditionally known in religion, then it really has no claim to the word agape there either . It would seem to me that IT is left on the religious side of the fence with bodhisattva compassion ( this is IT's agape). 

I'm not trying to be an OLEG here, and I very much have no problem with re-defining things; but it leaves honest people who've experienced an agape ___ force ( use any word you like here) , left scratching their heads in mystified perplexity:) 

I should probably mention that mystified perplexity is not an unkind friend. Also, I do like the surplus coherence theme and i do seem to see a relation to that idea and Desmond's open metaxu. 

I'll throw this into the cocktail, too: it seems off to talk about eros and agape and not bring in their brother and sister thanatos , death, hatred, etc. I've found IT somewhat euphemistic along these lines; especially in light of what some call the planet wasting disease. 

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