October 06, 2009

Agape and Eros: the two fundamental motive forces of all human action and structures of thought

More than ever before, Germany today needs its Schiller, despite the Zeitgeist which is apparently aimed in the other direction. Just now, we need the beneficent effect which ensues from occupying ourselves with his image of man, and never before was it so urgent, that we rise up to his high ideals. The German classics, but especially Schiller's poetry and philosophy, are the soul of the German nation, and if we awaken them to new life today, then all of the laws of the universe speak in favor of a new, magnificent Renaissance issuing from them.

It is only at such extraordinary moments that a person realizes, that it is not the things of the mind which move history, but rather the emotions underlying thinking, which determine both the method of thinking, as well as the objects thought about. In this respect, the two emotions of Agape and Eros may be considered to be the two fundamental motive forces of all human action and structures of thought. It is either the love of humanity, Agape, which inspires an epoch as its general orientation, or it is self-deification, Eros, with all of the emotions which issue from it, which dominates the spirit of an era. And if one looks back, it may easily be established, that all progress in the history of humanity always depended upon the action, often of a single person, moved by Agape, regardless of whether this "action" was a cultural, political, or religious work. As soon as the work of this individual has begun to take effect upon his contemporaries, or even upon many successive generations, we see that the moral character of the people was improved. And, vice- versa, it was often the influence of a single person, whose self- love was displayed as a model by those wielding power, who cast the human species back into barbaric conditions once more.

Of all thinkers who ever expressed themselves in the German language, Friedrich Schiller is the one, out of whose work there speaks the most grand and most beautiful love of humanity, indeed, in whose work and life there is nothing to be found, which were not determined by the passionate desire to ennoble the character of people. Schiller is the poet of Agape, in the most primordial sense of the word. Schiller was uniquely capable of combining the interests of virtue stylistically, and in the most playful way, with poetry, so that, although establishing the highest of ideals in the process, naturalness was never violated in the representation. No other poet has been capable of portraying man in greater beauty, nor has any other been in more perfect agreement with the most existential truths of Christian- humanist philosophy. Schiller was able to portray the things most sacred to man, at once with the same inner necessity and freedom, as Raphael with his Madonnas. He was the genius who knew how to draw other persons aloft to his own heights. [...]

Goethe, Poet of Eros: Goethe is the perfect example of an extraordinarily gifted person, who had the talent to become a genius, but who lacked the moral strength to realize this potential. What stood in his way was, quite simply, his vanity. The beauty of many of his lyric poems is incontestable, but what source does this beauty draw on? It was love, but not in the sense of Agape, but of Eros. According to Goethe's view, informed by his study of antiquity, Eros was the heavenly, productive power of life, the drive for pleasure and pain, to whose impulses one must at once surrender, as if to a higher authority. [...]

Goethe himself commented on Eros as the driving force of all action in an explication of the poem First and Last Words. Orphic, and wrote to explain the strophe titled Eros:
"By this notion everything one might possibly conceive of is comprehended, from the most quiet inclination to the most passionate frenzy; here, there join together the individual Daimon and the seducing Tyche; the person seems to be obeying only himself, allowing sway to his own desires, pandering to his own instincts, and yet there are fortuitous elements which intercede, extraneous things which divert him from his way; he believes he has grabbed hold of something, yet he is the one captured; he believes he was won, yet he is already lost."

For Goethe, the demonic in a person was his inborn character, which is his fate, and which he must necessarily obey. If one investigates the deeper layers of Goethe's character, one discovers that Eros, "pandering to his instincts," "up to passionate frenzy," and the demonic, are closely connected — Eros is the emotion corresponding to the satanic.
Schiller perceived this character trait of Goethe's very precisely, and often spoke about it... SCHILLER INSTITUTE Poetry and Agape: Reflections onSchiller and Goethe By Helga Zepp-LaRouche, Chairman, Schiller Institute(1988) Related Articles


Following Goethe, Spengler made a contrast between history (becoming) and nature (what has become). The counterpart of longing, of the desire to move forward that is becoming, is the dread of having become, of finality or death; and this pair together drive cultural creativity.

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