Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry. Bradbury and Torbert, 2016

Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry. Transforming how women and men relate. By Hilary Bradbury & Bill Torbert. 2016. Arizona: Integral Publishers.

To purchase and/or review a copy of Eros/Power: http://www.amazon.com/Eros-Power-Love-Spirit-Inquiry/dp/1495159140/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1447031855&sr=8-1

Interviews

  • Video Interview with authors by Irena Pranskeviciute, Amara Collaboration: https://youtu.be/TxUftMDwIIE
  • Radio interview with Hilary Bradbury by Amiel Handelsman on the Amiel Handelsman show: http://amielhandelsman.com/31
  • Eros/Power Budapest Workshop reviewed by Enlivening Edge: http://www.enliveningedge.org/tools-practices/whats-eros-got-reinventing-organizations/
  • Authors in dialogue: Integral Leadership Review: http://integralleadershipreview.com/14590-14590/
  • Video dialogue: Reflection on Eros/Power http://www.integratingcatalysts.com/video-dialogue-reflection-on-erospower/
  • Integral Leadership Review: Reviewing Eros/Power by Joseph Friedman: http://integralleadershipreview.com/14626-14626/
  • Webinar-interview with Hilary Bradbury by Steve Waddell of NetworkingAction on the implications of relational inquiry for large scale change. https://youtu.be/idKAUFfWhg0

Praise for Eros/Power From Around The Globe :

“Eros/Power is a wonderfully brave and highly readable book. Brave because, although both co-authors are acclaimed academics, they have stepped from behind the safety of footnotes and quantitative research to write a deeply personal memoir of their own lives viewed through the twin lenses of eros (love, life energy, sensuality and sexuality) and power (both unilateral and mutually exercised).

Highly readable because Torbert and Bradbury are both accomplished writers who share their rich, personal narratives from childhood to the present each in their own voice. They gift us the intimate details of their lives as object lessons for the evolution of consciousness (theirs and potentially ours) through the transforming fires of relationship.

The book’s subtitle is “Love in the Spirit of Inquiry. The authors give us just enough of a framework of a cognitive, psycho-spiritual framework of adult development so that we can join in the inquiry with them. At the conclusion of each section Bill and Hilary engage in a dialogue on it, and the reader too is gently invited to include her/himself in the exploration with suggested exercises to inquire how Eros and power weave in their own lives and in their own relationships.

The book is a heartfelt manifesto calling each of us to the great task of moving beyond the centuries’ old paradigm of unilateral power exercised mostly by and for men without succumbing to the cheap pleasures of bashing the male beneficiaries of that power imbalance. Unlike many manifestos, Eros/Power entertains as it informs. It compels the reader to turn the next page to see what pickle Bill and/or Hilary have gotten themselves into and how they grew from that while continually encouraging us to lend our hearts and minds to the effort of mindfully and mutually unleashing the power of Eros in the full spectrum of our relationships.”
– Joseph Friedman, co-founder and former Director of Training and Development, JMJ Associates, LLP

“Unlike any action inquiry book I have previously read, Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry is at once exciting, disturbing and encouraging. That seeming life/relationship failure can be so openly and vulnerably shared by Bradbury and Torbert illustrates the success of the approach and indeed, the lives of these giants of action inquiry. I am changing for having had the privilege of reading this book.”
– Dr Michelle Redman-MacLaren, James Cook University, Australia

“This book is a marvelous invitation to love and be loved. It’s not for the timid. Hilary and Bill take us from a place of innocence to a place of eros where all taboos are broken, while leading us into a soulful inquiry about what love is and why it matters. This book charts the sexual revolution, and yet takes us much further. It’s all about sexual evolution and the next phase of human consciousness, in which friendship, love, work, and altruism weave together into an ecstatic, thoughtful, and deeply caring vision of life well lived.”
– Chuck Palus, Ph.D., Senior Fellow Center for Creative Leadership.

“In sharing such intimate, personal narratives, Hilary and Bill undertake a conscious de-robing of themselves that is as risky and uncomfortable as it is inquiring and compassionate. At times, this makes for some difficult reading. But we would be doing them, and ourselves, a huge disservice if we were to engage with this book at a purely voyeuristic level. The book is nothing if not personal and political.”
– Patricia Gaya, Ph.D., Center for Action Research, U. Bristol UK

“To explore beyond the obvious means we need new pathways and a new vocabulary. Hilary and Bill offer us new pathways … They are not showing us the right way to be in relationships…they are offering us a new vocabulary for making sense of some of the relationships we may well have had… The erotic friendship—which they define as compassionate (in your mutual spiritual interest in the other’s life and growth), dispassionate (in your mutual intellectual engagement of some sort), and passionate (in the spark or charge between you—which may or may not be consummated in any way).”
– Jennifer Garvey Berger, Cultivating Leadership, Author Changing on the Job and Simple Habits for Complex Times.

To buy this book was an easy decision. I’ve been following—and admiring—Bill Torbert’s work for decades. (Disclaimer: this eventually led to a close friendship.) He seems to have an instinctive urge to test boundaries. “Eros and Power” is his boldest (and riskiest) venture, all the more interesting for having emerged from a partnership with Hilary Bradbury, who is among his most visibly successful former students. (Disclaimer #2: I have a chapter in her most recent edited volume on “action research.”) Bill is known for “action inquiry,” a body of work in which he stands on the shoulders of Chris Argyris and Donald Schön, and extends their work to include adult constructive developmental theory. In this book the authors highlight “relational action inquiry,” homing in on the volatile zone where eros and power intersect. We’re all too familiar with superficial and commercial treatments of this zone. But as the authors ask in their introduction, “Is the sadomasochism of Fifty Shades of Gray” the best we can do?” They think not, aspiring instead to contribute to understanding “developmental transformation in how women and men relate, whereby power is subordinated to love and love to inquiry.”
– Grady McGonagill, McGonagill Consulting, US

“I was pleased to get my hands on an early copy of this book, knowing both Hilary and Bill’s work in the fields of action research/inquiry and adult learning and development. Was I surprised and challenged by what I read? Sure. But most importantly, I was encouraged and inspired. Encouraged that among the many brave souls working on the myriad facets of the socio-economic, political, and ecological crises facing our world today, there are those who are willing to turn to the most intimate and allegedly private dimensions of our human experience, and there find a well of possibilities; a source of hope and potential development and transformation. In this book, personal, inter-gendered relationships are framed as sites for working and playing away at the deep transformative shifts required of us, individually, relationally, and culturally, if we are ever to heal the deep wounds of patriarchy and neo-liberal capitalism. The two authors’ voices shine through, inquiring, evocative and honest, taking a ‘no-holds barred’ approach to exploring aspects of the human condition (e.g., sexism, abuses of power, interpersonal dysfunctions), we generally don’t want to tackle. This book is inspirational: as a reader, it helps me to understand that the intimate details of our lives are as deserving and worthy of sustained attention, inquiry and development as our outward-facing activism. And that the two are necessarily and inherently linked. Definitely worth reading, and pondering deeply.”
– Paul Noone, Entrepreneur, Ireland and UK

“I felt like a welcome ‘fly on the wall’ and privy to a most delicate conversation between two people who care for each other. They declare intimate details of their lives, and their relationship, to bring into the sunlight that wonderful mysterious dance of the sexes. I just loved the book and found myself remembering the folly of some early romances:) I so enjoyed the insights from adult development theory and action inquiry. Coming from a leadership development background it was really great to have the action logics explored in this new territory. This is a book to savour, it is not a read it one go type of book. Read a bit, walk the hills and ponder on your own loving journey.”
– Anne Roberts, Scotland

“Provocative and inspiring, this book captures the personal and interpersonal stories of two wise souls who also happen to be successful consultants and academic leaders. I enjoyed how the authors interweaved their own tales with an understanding of the developmental stage-approach to leadership development. Highly recommended.”
– Amiel Handelsman, Executive Coach Consulting, USA

“The authors each recount their personal histories regarding eros and power. They also explore their relationship with one another. This is tricky terrain. As the author of the first foreword says, they engage in a “conscious de-robing of themselves,” attending to both the carnal and the spiritual dimensions of a relationship in which power is balanced. I won’t give away where this leads them (curiosity about which made it a page turner for me!). The book is not written in a way that always makes for easy reading. However, it amply rewards the effort, glad to see this book out. It is a much needed antidote to the superficial treatment of gender in the workplace or any place. Hilary and Bill lead us into unexplored territory that if approached with compassion and discernment, can liberate and re-direct misused energies toward creativity and innovation.”

“So glad to see this book out. It is a much needed antidote to the superficial treatment of gender in the workplace or any place. Hilary and Bill lead us into unexplored territory that if approached with compassion and discernment, can liberate and re-direct misused energies toward creativity and innovation.”
– Dana Carman, Principal, Meta Integral Academy

“A book on love…I see love as an immense open sea that allows “lovers” to express their unique personal spirit in a fine quality, purity and intensity of relating that (truly) does love justice, in the sense that Adorno understands “the secret of justice in love is the annulment of all rights, to which love mutely points”.

Admittedly this is an unusual book. It is neither (fully, barely) autobiographical nor relational biographical narrative.  Nor this is fully, clearly a personal development book, as at times the power of each one’s story breaks apart from the universal human development sequence, that some of Bill’s interpretative notes and inquiry “impose” upon the two personal and two unique beings and their story. And yet, of course the two are not unrelated as the stories “belong” to each of these eponymous authors whose work is well known and recognised. In a relational mutuality often the inquiry addresses an anonymous “public readership”. Is this in the hope to be a gift to readers, or in the hope to help transform each one who reads it in a direction aiming to goodness? For this to become truly a gift shared between the two authors and all of you, and to perform the community-peace-creative social practices of gift sharing each reader should resist the passive internalisation and mimicking of their lived story. Instead, each reader may inquire back themselves, and how they relate to their special ones, and each one’s personal purpose in this world, for as long as it lasts. According to later Confucian thinkers human creativity ‘tao’ must be understood with sincerity ‘ch’eng’. When acting without ‘ch’eng’ harmony is lost and destruction appears. I hope you (each one) enjoy(s) it as they do and respond back to the inquiry in sincerity and fullness and without fear, but with courage and devotion to the discovery of the unique being each person is. In a way authors in their different yet emancipated voices ask of you to inquire, and respond to the fullness of life and relating.

A book on love…I see love as an immense open sea that allows “lovers” to express their unique personal spirit in a fine quality, purity and intensity of relating that (truly) does love justice, in the sense that Adorno understands “the secret of justice in love is the annulment of all rights, to which love mutely points”.

The book is superbly role modeling brave emancipated expression within a particular “historic moment” in the world and human affairs that promotes commercialisation of human affairs and mechanical hyper-rationality in relations, while it fears genuine and full expression of human beings and relatedness. This is exactly what Carl Rogers hoped to have us all do: express and accept who we are without fear and discover within ourselves who we are as transcendental beings without being afraid this will mean derailment, but that instead that it is a process of re-discovery of a universal organismic process of valuing. This is how I define the “project” of (inter)processual self. To me the book is radical in this sense but at the same time I “see” behind the particular expression of the two strong voices of two special persons a cognitivist struggle to fit this all within a (special, indeed) theory framework. I was struck by the materiality of all expressions of relatedness and this is perhaps a plethoric kind of experiencing of the entire generation of boomers. While the “project” of the entire modern era since the dawn of the Enlightenment is bewitched by the pursuit of self-authorship and ways for its subsequent apokathelosis. A western journey occupying adults throughout most of their waking working lives till about when they are close to retire. Is there another way to self expression and self experiencing? Possibly yes and we all are still in the search how to find it… Here, I find myself thinking Frankl’s words: “a man who surrenders completely to the community would be lost himself, lose their own value, its specificity” and this unexpectedly becomes a starting point for me.

– Dr. Kleio Akrivou, UK

Review

Patricia Gayà, Ph.D., of the Centre for Action Research and Critical Inquiry in Organizations reviews Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry. Transforming how Women and Men Relate. By Hilary Bradbury and Bill Torbert. Integral Publishers, 2016.

The phrase “no (wo)man is an island,” though much-lyricized, still sums up the central challenge and opportunity of modern-day civilizations: to understand that without relationship, connection, and communion the human species cannot survive, let alone thrive. What is at stake here is not relationship for relationship’s sake, for as we all know, relationships are as likely sources of pain and disappointment as they are of pleasure and support. The shadow side of power, in its all too many horrific guises, breaks through even the most supposedly sacrosanct of human relationships. Nowhere, perhaps, is this more insidious and seemingly intractable than in relationships between women and men in patriarchal—and yes, even in would-be post-patriarchal—societies. Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry, the latest in Hilary Bradbury and Bill Torbert’s important contributions to action inquiry in service of human and planetary flourishing, takes this most persistent and momentous of challenges as its starting ground.

Like the true action researchers they are, Hilary and Bill are not content to accept at face value the idealist refrain that all you need is love—tempting and catchy as it might be. Or at least not without first committing—as their deepest ongoing question, as the work of a lifetime (or two!)—to seeking out a practical understanding of what it is that love really is, and what it might mean to act lovingly in each instance, in each relationship and each encounter… even in each metaphorical grazing of elbows, and especially where subtle and not so subtle power imbalances and dynamics are at play.

With astonishing incisiveness and frankness, Hilary and Bill reflect on their own experiences of seeking and being in relationship through their own life trajectories, opening up for interrogation their own fumbling, stumbling, eventually inquiring, and ever evolving approaches to grappling with both Eros and Power in relationships with significant human others. In sharing such intimate, personal narratives, Hilary and Bill undertake a conscious de-robing of themselves that is as risky and uncomfortable as it is inquiring and compassionate. At times, this makes for some difficult reading. But we would be doing them, and ourselves, a huge disservice if we were to engage with this book at a purely voyeuristic level. The book is nothing if not personal and political. The overarching questions and provocations raised belong to us all, speaking to the heart(/mind/body)ache and to the relational discomforts and betrayals that are seemingly inescapable elements of the human condition. It brings home to us at the deepest of levels that our worthiest aspirations for social transformation and planetary flourishing begin with the most intimate of details: with our lived inter-subjective experiences and moment to moment relating with others.

Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry propounds a courageous and inspiring vision of inter-gendered friendships as sites for mutually supportive, ongoing exploratory quest(ioning), with the potential to heal, transcend, and transform tired patterns of relating between women and men. The book invites us, the readers, to reflect on those relationships which matter most to us: those in which mutuality and loving respect are, have been, or could be aspirations (more) explicitly shared and worked with ‘in the spirit of inquiry’—including those relationships, both intimate and professional, in which structural and gendered power dynamics are salient, and all too often bruising and constraining, if generally unacknowledged. But this book does more than inspire—it also equips us. Those intrepid readers who choose to go on to inquire into how their own friendships and relationships could be awakened, (re)visited, (re)invigorated, and enlivened through Eros/Power can garner support from the action inquiry approaches that the authors have spent decades crafting, refining, and seeking to put into practice, and which they model and share in this work.

This book is a powerful manifesto, offering us a way to a radically different future. A future of infinite possibilities, enabled by a soulful, full-bodied dance with the erotic life force that pulses, all too often unbidden and unheeded, within each of us, and in the places and moments where subjectivities meet. Possibilities to craft intimate relationships nourished and uplifted by Eros/Power. To co-create meaningful work and collective endeavors empowered by Eros/Power. To speak truth to power, from an understanding of power that embraces Eros. To breathe new life into our search for alternative forms of relational, social, and organizational practice more supportive of planetary flourishing. Hilary’s and Bill’s autobiographical writing is itself a gesture of love: a gift on their part to all out there who could/would transform in relationships, friendships, communities, and more-than-human contexts, and thus make both healing and flourishing at every systemic level possible… starting from the ground, heart, and loins up.

More about Eros/Power: Love in the Spirit of Inquiry here (along with a free download)
http://www.integratingcatalysts.com/erospower/

Patricia Gayà, Ph.D.,
Centre for Action Research and Critical Inquiry in Organizations.
University of Bristol, UK.

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