October 28

Evolutionary Love

“The movement of love is circular, at one and the same impulse projecting creations into independency and drawing them into harmony.” Charles Sanders Peirce

In 1893 a publication called The Monist printed an article by Charles Sanders Peirce called Evolutionary Love. It was the last in a series of five articles that outlined Peirce’s evolutionary philosophy. And the sentence above is a powerful summary of the essential spirit of his thought.

What he called Agapism or Evolutionary Love he saw as the nature of reality. This love is the fundamental energy that drives all of creation and it has two seemingly opposing aspects that work together. One aspect of this impulse projects new creations into independent existence and the other draws these creations into harmonious union. I think of it as a birthing and nurturing process.

The birthing process projects novel creations – new things – into existence. The nurturing draws these new elements into harmonious union. Metaphorically we can imagine children that are born and then nurtured until they assimilate into a family structure and ultimately a societal structure.

Imagine, if you will, a fireworks display. The rocket starts as a single dart of burning light that climbs into the night sky. Then it bursts and hundreds of smaller darts of light appear and radiate outward in all directions. This image can signify the first force – the projecting of creations – in Peirce’s cosmology.

Ordinarily the sparks of light that radiate outward continue unabated until they burn out. That is what would happen to the creations of love in the universe if there was not the opposing force that gathers them into harmonious union. To go back to our metaphor of the firework display, now imagine that the sparks that burst out into the blackness of the night sky actually start to get pulled together. They swirl into shapes – a flower, a tiger, a giraffe, a person. Think about what a magnificent firework display that would be.

If we go one step further in our musings we can draw a more complete image of Peirce’s evolutionary love. Imagine that the sparks that burst into the night sky don’t come from an initial rocket flying skyward, but rather appear out of thin air. Out of nothing at all sparks appear and shoot off only to organize into harmonious interconnection – sparks of light that burst into being and harmonize into higher collective forms.

Imagine what a miraculous energy would be needed to simultaneously generate independence and union. This will give you a glimpse of Peirce’s vision of Evolutionary Love – the force that sits at the creative heart of the universe constantly creating and organizing the development of the cosmos.