are not part of the basic structure of our social relations."
-- Erich Fromm, The Sane Society, 1955, p.127
In the popular and powerful Star Wars series of films, the fictional "Jedi Order" is supposed to represent truth and goodness.
Scrutiny, however, shows that the Jedi are not always loving. For example, in what is arguably the most egregious Jedi misdeed, in Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith Obi Wan Kenobi chooses to leave his former pupil Anakin Skywalker to die near a river of lava, suffering profound physical injury and tremendous emotional distress. In fact, in what begins as an oral confrontation between the two warriors, it is Obi Wan who drops his cape and draws his weapon first, arguably initiating the epic battle between them that culminates in the horrible disfigurement and near-death of Anakin. And earlier in this same film, Obi Wan Kenobi speaks with approbation of the brutal and unprincipled slaying of Count Dooku by Anakin Skywalker. Indeed, the Jedi present themselves on many occasions as ready killers.
Moreover, the apparent intention of Jedi Master Mace Windu to murder Palpatine, admittedly an evil Sith Lord, may hold moral ambiguity for some, but doesn't necessarily help the case of the Jedi, either. Ironically, it is Anakin Skywalker, his own fall from grace an apparent fait accompli, who articulates the moral unacceptability of Windu's intention, and that it comprises a violation of the Jedi code.
Less odiously, yet still tellingly, it cannot even be said of the Jedi that they are routinely sensitive and courteous. For example, Qui-Gon Jinn acerbically and insultingly asks Jar-Jar Binks if he is "brainless." And a young Obi-Wan Kenobi inquires of his Master Qui-Gon Jinn about "another pathetic life form." Not exactly a loving demeanor on their part.
The Agape Order
Imagine, however, in contradistinction to the above, a similar "order," existing in the real world, that actually does actively represent and work for truth and goodness--a group of individuals similarly clad in brown robes, actually doing good for themselves and for everyone else, actively and concretely, across all situations and circumstances. This is part of the predicate behind establishment of The Agape Order, created in November 2003, the fictional Jedi Order a loose template.
I created The Agape Order because I could find no organization solely and exclusively focused on the single and singular principle of Agape, or "brotherly love"; no organization asserting, and acting upon, the primacy of Agape as the sole organizing principle, on and around which we could base our personal behavior, and the structure and operation of the political, and especially economic, mechanisms, at the core of our societies, as well.
Those groups which do focus on Agape, usually religious organizations of which Christianity and Buddhism may be argued to present the most explicit emphasis on love of other human beings, may have a general code of conduct, but not specific guidelines and examples to follow, spelled out in clear pedagogical fashion, to learn to live the principles of Agape. Insofar as they do, such schema, while considered important, are not, in practice, presented as of ultimate importance; are not codified in a detailed pedagogical fashion, constantly and consistently presented and promulgated as essential.
Moreover, bodies of belief such as Christianity and Buddhism do not focus exclusively on Agape, but combine this principle with other beliefs and principles both metaphysical and material, that often do not bear directly on love and its practice. In other words, while the great teachers, religions, and ideologies through history have taught the wisdom and necessity of Agape, they have generally done so with with varying emphasis and consistency, and co-mingled this key principal with other principles and ideas. Hence, the birth of the Agape Order, a body founded on, and exclusively committed to, the singular principal and practice of Agape, a principal we see as sufficiently powerful, if undervalued, to stand alone in its import and implication for our personal, social, and economic behavior.
Ultimately, the Agape Order seeks to fill a tragic vacuum that has developed in the moral life of the human race: in years past the great exponents of Agape such as Erich Fromm, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi lived, worked, and kept this transcendent idea alive. However, for quite some time now these great voices have been gone, or few. Where, today, are the great voices advocating for brotherly love? And how different might our world look today had there been no interruption in the teaching of love? The Agape Order seeks to take up, and continue, the Agape tradition as these great individuals have in past years.
Having written this, I also want to officially note that as of July 2008 there now exists a short list of organizations of apparent significance to the Agape movement. These include the Corsense Institute, the Fetzer Institute, the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, the Blue Cliff Monastery, the World Kindness Movement, and the Center for Nonviolent Communication, as well as our own sister organization BROTHERHOOD OF MAN. All links are contained on our Resources page, at left.
Ultimately, The Agape Order is neither a "religious" nor a "secular" organization. It is a brotherhood and sisterhood of persons who can originate in any social quarter, religious, spiritual, or secular, to come together in belief in Agape, the principle of love. It has no metaphysics, and so neither espouses nor denies any metaphysical system; it has an ethics, rooted in a wholehearted belief in Agape, the love ethic. The Agape Order focuses exclusively on the principle of love--in theory, and especially in practice. Foremost influences at present include the work and teaching of social philosopher Erich Fromm, as well as selected portions of same of other figures including Joseph Fletcher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Buscaglia, Confucius, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Jesus.
("Thich Nhat Hanh" pronounced tik not hon; last syllable rhymes with "non")
Appeal to Individuals & Groups
The Agape Order seeks affiliation from persons from any point on the spectrum of religious and spiritual belief, including persons who genuinely believe in the power and principle of love, yet have no relationship to religion or theology. Persons in this latter group may find special solace in the organization, since, uniquely, it provides an organizational and social framework for those interested in learning and living brotherly love, without requiring or rooting such an orientation in religious belief or principle, as is almost always the case elsewhere. Note, however, that individuals and institutions of every kind, including those with an existing religious orientation, are encouraged to affiliate, join, or make use of our resources.
The Agape Order seeks to educate about the historic notion of Agape, the principle of "brotherly love," in hope of contributing to, or facilitating the development of a critical mass of interest and activity around this idea and its practice. All are invited to participate.
Agape, the principle of love, commonly referred to as "brotherly love," the "love ethic," or sometimes "universal love," as defined by the Agape Order, is the active consideration of, and acting upon, the interests of other people, in more-or-less the same proportion as you consider (and usually act upon) your own interests.
Indeed, K'ung Fu-tzu (Confucius) essentially stated as much:
"Work for the good of others as you would work for your own good."
Agape is thus not a romantic or otherwise emotional form of love that we "fall into," but a generalized, unconditional love we practice toward everyone, a form that actually requires a commitment of will. Strictly speaking, in fact, the practice of Agape need not require any emotion or sentiment, at all. As a practical matter, however, in our present society it is unlikely that we would distribute our time, energy, and money to others in approximate proportion to that which we expend it on ourselves if we did not feel care and concern.
(It is possible that in a future society where Agape is formally and officially taught and reinforced from birth to death, its practice could become rote and devoid of care and concern. However, the new society will preclude this possibility if it teaches Agape in its fullness, including teaching the desirability of care and concern, at once rooted in and reflecting our status as brothers and sisters in one human family.)
Our Agape praxis (i.e. practice) is to be active, meaning we must remain continuously alert to the needs of those around us and volunteer to act on those needs to the best of our ability, approaching the "needer" without waiting for them to approach us. In large measure because of this active, or in the parlance of the day "pro-active" form of love we espouse, the love paradigm we're working under in The Agape Order can be said to constitute the theory and practice of "radical love."
Revered and desirable values and behaviors rooted in the love ethic include compassion, empathy, patience, tolerance, understanding, courtesy, sensitivity, a general open-mindedness, cooperation, solicitude, respect, honesty, the impulse to help people and alleviate suffering, and all basic conceptions of "human rights." All good springs from love, all bad from its opposites. Underappreciated and underutilized, it is arguably the most powerful social force available to humankind.
We do see acts of love occurring in our society, but as philosopher and social psychologist Erich Fromm points out above, and elsewhere, these acts usually occur randomly and sporadically, by single individuals, not by large numbers of people in any systematic way. This is because love of our neighbor (and ourselves) is only weakly and inconsistently encouraged, and more importantly, is not a formal part of the actual written rules of our social and economic system.
Agape & Health
The most progressive and informed theories of, and perspectives on, human health and disease recognize the critical role of emotional health in both overall health, and specific disease states, of human beings. Central to this emotional well-being are satisfactory relationships with other people across all spheres of our lives: family, friends, co-workers, managers and "bosses" and others, as well, of course, as a satisfactory "relationship" with ourselves. Yet, what is the principal around and correlated to which exists such satisfaction? Obviously, love, whether in the form of kindness, courtesy, patience, forgiveness, economic consideration of one kind or another, or any of the manifold concrete manifestations love takes. Physical contact between people plays a significant role, as well, whether formally in healing techniques such as massage and accupressure, or in the simple human acts of embracing, placing a hand on a shoulder, or shaking hands.
Indeed, love is the most potent healer and health preventive, exercised personally, and implemented on a larger social scale as the underpinning for social and economic systems. Personally, if your fellow humans loved you they wouldn't lie to you, insult you, or engage so readily in the manifold other common transgressions that erode our happiness, equanimity, and mental health. Nor we, them. On a larger economic scale, if the people running corporations loved you, they wouldn't be so quick to develop and market products that harm you. Of course, under capitalism if they stopped doing this the economy would grind to a halt; hence The Agape Order call for a transition to a love-centered Cooperative economy, not dependent on continual selling.
From any scale or perspective of human health, Agape heals, unifies, and perfects our species, while its opposites injure, fragment, and traumatize us.
Agape & Anger
Might life in a love-assisted Cooperative Society begin to effect a shift in the evolutionary path of humankind? For example, in such a society, what would become of anger? Would it remain part of the human condition? If so, in what measure?
Anger is usually a response to nonloving behavior committed against us by a person or group of persons. Sometimes such a group of persons is formally or informally gathered into a self-contained entity such as a clique, family, corporation, police force, or government. Since nonloving behavior would comprise the exception rather than the rule under a cooperative system, incidences of anger would likely decrease dramatically. Those that occurred would be of lesser impact and effect; of diminished scope and intensity.
As anger as a phenomenon and an emotion faded over time from human experience, it is likely that our genome, or genetic composition, would change, as well. Since anger remains one of the great unresolved problems of humanity, this evolutionary change would be of cataclysmic benefit; indeed, humankind would rise one full order of magnitude toward our potential zenith as a genuinely, fully, and plausibly loving, peace-loving, and cooperative species.
The belief system of The Agape Order, as described in summary on this web page, is called Agapology (ah gah poh' la gee; "ah" rhymes with blah, as in "she has the blahs").
A virtue of this term is its encapsulation of the word apology, a principal mechanism for conflict resolution in the formulation of the theory of brotherly love of The Agape Order.
Agapology corresponds closely to the existing notion of agapism (ah' guh pizm; "ah" rhymes with blah, as in "she has the blahs"), defined by Wikipedia thusly: "Agapism professes that love (or "agape") should be the sole ultimate value and that all other values are derived from it, or that the sole moral imperative is to love. ... As the ethics of love, agapism indicates that we should do the most loving thing in each situation, letting love determine our obligation rather than rules. Alternatively, given a set of rules, agapism indicates to follow those rules which produce the most love."
This definition is generally consistent with Agapology, with the proviso that the AO has its own unique and specific perspective regarding what the "most loving" thing is, and what it means "to love."
Because of the unwieldy character of the term Agapology, and its related form Agapologist, describing a practitioner of Agapology, respective substitution of the terms Agapism and Agapist is permitted. Presently, then, the belief system of The Agape Order can be called Agapism, and adherents to same can be called Agapists.
This allowance may change as The Agape Order and its conceptual ground and corresponding terminology evolve and finalize.
While the exercise of the love ethic is generally difficult in a society based on money, marketing, selling, and profit, not people, community, and connectedness, its full exercise is impossible. As a matter of fact, have many, or any, of us ever really tried to imagine what a society completely characterized by brotherly love would be like? Do any of us have a personal, social, or economic frame of reference such that we could even imagine such a world?
The prohibitive difficulty in the full exercise of love in our present-day society is why the second core principle of The Agape Order is that a transition to a cooperative society, incorporating the best aspects of our modern-day society, but ultimately and essentially based on love and cooperation, not money and profit, is required. This second core principle and the perspective, argumentation, and emphasis behind it, is probably one of the key distinctions between the AO and the several other Love-centered organizations and their corresponding bodies of thought.
The reasons for the impossibility of the full exercise of Agape under our present money-centric society are manifold; here are a few to begin:
Thus do we assert that some form of cooperative society, incorporating the best aspects of our modern-day society, but ultimately and essentially based on love and cooperation, not money and profit, is required if we wish a full-flowering of love between people. We must organize ourselves in all spheres--personal, social, and economic--as brothers and sisters in one human family.
Accordingly, The Agape Order strongly encourages exploration of, and belief in, both our core principles: that of the desirability and necessity of the practice of love 1.) on a personal scale, and 2.) as a sound basis for the construction of larger social structures such as an entire economy or economic system. We hold that the second principle, like the first, is essential for a full-flowering and complete implementation of the principle of love in society, and that, as Erich Fromm held, the love ethic cannot be completely and comprehensively embodied in a society which is based on money, profit, selling, marketing, and advertising, or anything other than the innate needs and wants of human beings.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., too, recognizing the inefficacy of personal structures of love that attempt to exist unsupported within a larger social and economic framework that was designed neither to permit nor facilitate the full integrity of their practice, a larger social and economic environment devoted to the fundamentally disparate goals and principles of commerce, wrote:
"...power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic."
And Christians and others might consider the words of Luke in the New Testament:
"All whose faith had drawn them together held everything in common: they would sell their property and possessions and make a general distribution as the need of each required" (Acts 2:44-45)
To be clear: life in a Cooperative Society would not require us to relinquish our possessions. In fact, only under a cooperative system would we finally gain access, readily and naturally, to the material goods we need, want--and are entitled to. The value of the above quote rests in its assertion of the ideals, generally, of common ownership and distribution by need (and in our modern era of titanic abundance, we specify "want," also, not just "need"). The quotation also illustrates that the idea of a cooperative system is very old, and is, in fact, contained right in the New Testament, itself, the most modern portion of the Bible, the part believed to express the principles and teaching of Jesus.
Please see our parent organization BROTHERHOOD OF MAN for a full exploration of this thesis. And note that belief in this second AO principle, that of the necessity of a transition from a money-centric system, is not required for membership in The Agape Order.
The founding and fundamental principle of The Agape Order is the primacy of the Principle of Love; specifically, the assertion that this principle can form the basis for interpersonal and social relations, and larger structures such as political and economic systems. The first belief is already relatively common amongst people; the second is not.
Though The Agape Order strongly encourages exploration of, and belief in, both principles, membership centers only around the first. The Order officially holds that the second principle, like the first, is essential for a full-flowering, and complete implementation of, the principle of love in society, and that, in fact, as Erich Fromm held, the love ethic cannot be completely and comprehensively embodied in a society which is based on money, profit, selling, marketing, and advertising, or anything other than the innate needs and wants of people.
For purposes of membership in The Agape Order, however, persons who do not hold, or have yet to hold, the second principle may still, and are encouraged to, join. They are, and will be, full members and will be treated as such, placing their focus and spending their time in their individual, and our collective, efforts, to live love as robustly as possible in the here-and-now.
Membership is free of monetary cost. It is not free, however, of belief and action. Membership in The Agape Order requires a held, or at least preliminary, belief in the principle of love, and the willingness to continually try, in an ongoing way, to implement the principle in your life (as prescribed according to our Agape Principles & Techniques), in every situation and circumstance! If you are willing to do this, you will be joyously welcomed into The Agape Order! You will have taken the most meaningful step you have, or will, ever take in your life!
You can join here.
Agape Principles & Techniques
THE AGAPOLOGY BASIC TEXT
Specific knowledge of the Agape Principles and Techniques of Vincent Frank De Benedetto are required to learn about, and live, the love ethic, as prescribed by the Agape Order. As of today, September 10, 2016, I'm extremely pleased to report that this body of material, until now under development and not yet available in any form at this website or elsewhere, is available. The book is entitled LOVE ETHIC: the Ancient Principle of Brotherly Love, the Most Powerful Force Available to Humankind.
Whether you elect to join The Agape Order or not, for your study of the principle and practice of Agape, please purchase LOVE ETHIC. If you are genuinely unable to afford it, please contact me. Additionally, I encourage your adoption of the information provided, and perspective presented, here at this website, in concert with a deceptively small but important book entitled The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm. This book contains a section entitled Brotherly Love, but in fact almost the entire work bears on your study and practice of Agape. You may also utilize all or some of the resources listed on my Resources page, link at left, as well as any other texts that you have found helpful in teaching the nuts-and-bolts of loving others day-to-day. There aren't that many. The combination of all these resources, starting with LOVE ETHIC, will serve both as your Agapology curriculum, and day-to-day reference and how-to.
Call to Conference
The work in Agape of this writer, contained thus far in the content of this website, seeks to develop the notion and principle of brotherly love, its manifold import for our species, and an effective paradigm for praxis. This work, in concert with the same or similar efforts of other writers and thinkers, whether such work is scholarly or popular, comprises what I term "the New Science of Agape." Indeed, the work of each Agape theorist and writer can be understood as a dynamic tributary merging into, expanding, and strengthening the wide, powerful, and furious river of Agape.
Nor does this mighty river exclude such fantastic and bleeding-edge paradigms, models, and attendant research as that conducted by the Global Coherence Initiative (link on Resources page); indeed, all such efforts are fair game for consideration and examination if they bear, directly or indirectly, on the new and emerging science of Agape, the Agape Project.
As of July 2012 I learned of the symposium entitled Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives on Love, an interdisciplinary conference hosted by the philosophy department of Franklin & Marshall College. However, since this symposium appears to have been a singular event, occurring only in 2007, I hereby call for a second Franklin & Marshall symposium, to accommodate the current generation of work on Agape, and provide an academic spearhead and foundation for a global Agape movement. Alternatively, I also continue my original call for interested individuals and institutions worldwide to organize the First Annual Conference on the New Science of Agape.
THE AGAPE ORDER