(Greek > Latin: love feast of the early Christians; love, love feast; to love)
Agape is spiritual love, as opposed to sexual love.
2. The love feast accompanied by the Eucharistic celebration in the early Christian church: The agape was a meal that was partaken with others as a symbol of shared love and companionship.
This religious sect was founded (c.1850) at the village of Spaxton, Somerset, by Henry James Prince (1811–1899), Samuel Starky, and others. Prince and Starky were clergymen who had left (c.1843) the Church of England after Prince claimed that the Holy Ghost had taken up residence in his body. The Agapemonites proclaimed the imminent second coming of Jesus.
Despite the purely spiritual ideas which underlay the Agapemonite view of marriage, a son was born to one of the couples, and when the father endeavoured to carry it away, an action was brought which resulted in the affirmation of the mother's right to its custody. The circumstance in which a fourth sister joined the community and was abducted by her brothers led to an inquiry in lunacy and to her final settlement at Spaxton.
A few years after the establishment of the "Abode of Love", a peculiarly gross scandal, in which Prince and one of his female followers were involved, led to the secession of some of his most faithful friends, who were unable any longer to endure what they regarded as the amazing mixture of blasphemy and immorality offered for their acceptance. The most prominent of those who remained received such titles as the "Anointed Ones", the "Angel of the Last Trumpet", the "Seven Witnesses", and so forth.
Such riotous conditions at the community caused scandal, and after Prince lost a lawsuit brought by two disenchanted followers in 1860, the community slipped from public notice. There was a period (c.1890) of renewed activity when J. H. Smyth-Pigott, who believed himself to be Jesus reincarnated, conducted meetings at an Agapemonite branch establishment in Clapton, London. He succeeded Prince as leader of the sect, which vanished soon afterward.
An iconoclastic view: " 'Love Feast,' first of Aphrodite's holy whores (Horae), was canonized as a Christian saint when icons of the Horae were re-lableled 'virgin martyrs': Sts. Agape, Chione, and Irene. Agape originally personified the rite of sexual communion, as practiced in Aphrodite's temples and adopted by some early Christian sects as a Tantric type of 'spiritual marriage'. By the 7th century C.E. (Common Era), the agape ceremony was declared heretical, but it continued secretly throughout the Middle Ages."