Part 1– Vienna’s Intellectual Horizon
Ellis Sandoz introduces the recording. Occasionally one hears the stenographer ask for clarification and Voegelin then spells a word. Some of these have been omitted to maintain the flow of the presentation. Voegelin discusses his experiences at the University of Vienna in the 1920’s and the important scholars he was exposed to during this formative period in his life, among them being Ludwig von Mises, Joseph Schumpeter, Heinz Hartmann, Hans Kelsen and Othmar Spahn.
Part 2– Mises’ “Geistkreis,”
Preparatory School and Max Weber
Voegelin considers Ludwig von Mises and the (later-distinguished) group of students who met on a regular basis for a number of years. Then he describes his good fortune in having high caliber preparatory school teachers. Finally he offers some comments on Max Weber, whom he deeply admired.
Part 3– Voegelin’s Great Teachers
Voegelin describes his life work as restoring the rational order of existence to science. He sought to take up where Max Weber left off. The range of knowledge required in political science was established by Comte and exemplified by the great Eduard Meyer. Meyer also taught that history must be studied from the point of view of the participants in the historical action. (Click the image for a portrait of Meyer) Also considered are Alfred Weber on the sociology of culture, the Stefan George Kreis, Friedrich Gundolf; Paul Friedlander and Kurt Hildebrand on Plato; and Karl Kraus and his periodical, die Fackel.
Part 4– Karl Kraus and Hans Kelsen
Karl Kraus published a journal, “Die Fackel,” which described the corrupt language used in Germany, particularly by journalists. He wrote Die Letzte Tage der Menscheit about the lies told during World War I and Die Dritte Walpurgisnacht about the the Hitler régime. Voegelin believed one must study Kraus in order to be able to see the intellectual morass that made Hitler possible.
Hans Kelsen, together with Othmar Spann, supervised Voegelin’s doctoral thesis. Kelsen was a great lawyer and in addition to developing his still persuasive “Pure Theory of Law,” he taught Voegelin how to read a text. Voegelin describes Othmar Spann as having a broader ranger and as having led him to classic thought.
Part 5– Nazis and Paris
Voegelin describes the political environment that made possible the Nazi occupation of Austria (Anshluss) in 1938 and his subsequent escape from the Gestapo into Switzerland and the difficulties people
had in understanding his motives for leaving Austria. The topic then changes to the year he spent in Paris which enabled him to study French literature, poetry, memoires, law and philosophy. He has something to say about Gustav Flaubert, Mallarmé, Marcel Proust, Paul Valéry, le Duc de la Rochefoucault and
Henri Bergson. And along the way he learned Russian in Paris from White Russian émigrés.
Part 6– Oxford and Columbia
Voegelin discusses his shorter 1934 study in Paris where he became aware of the Mongol invasions and their influence on Machiavelli. He visits the Warburg Institue in London and there first learns about alchemy and astrology. Then he goes back a decade and discusses his time at Oxford in the early ‘20s when he improved his English and heard Gilbert Murray lecture. He then briefly discusses his dissertation. He reviews his study with Dewey and Giddings during his year at Columbia University in New York and recalls the latter’s attempt to reduce community to biology.
The recollections turn to the corrupt intellectual. “The fun consists of gaining a pseudo-identity through asserting one’s power, optimally by killing someone, a pseudo identity as a substitute for the human self that has been lost.” He calls himself “a man who likes to keep his language clean.”
Part 7– Marx the Swindler
Voegelin turns to G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx. One must have a thorough philosophical and historical background to criticize Hegel. Marx is easier to expose. He deliberately misunderstands Hegel’s Philosophy of Law. “I flatly state that Marx was consciously an intellectual swindler.” Marx refused to enter into the etiological question of Aristotle that man does not exist out of himself but out of the divine ground of all reality.
Voegelin then considers his Political Religions of 1938, in which he used the term “religion” more loosely than later on. While still at the printers the entire edition was confiscated by the Nazis . Then he considers The Authoritarian State of 1936, a study of Austria’s 1934 civil war and its aftermath. This came before his refined distinctions between topoi and concepts in The New Science of Politics.
Part 8– Take the Hitler, Please!
Voegelin offers further comment on his The Authoritarian State of 1936 and how he sensed the Averroist impulse in the transfer of the medieval intellectus unus to the idea of “nation” or “race.”
He notes how the book got him into trouble with Hans Kelsen who failed to recognize that a theory of law cannot be a substitute for a theory of politics.
Further recollection of his escape from Vienna in 1938 brings out some “humorous” details, including the actions of the Gestapo man who searched through his office for incriminating books.
[Part 9 –Audio problems make it impossible to post Part 9. We will post it if we can get it fixed.]
Part 10– Existential Representation
Voegelin discusses the period in his work, from 1945 to 1950, when he came to doubt the usefulness of a history of ideas and developed the concept of existential representation in his Walgreen Lectures at the University of Chicago, in 1951, which later became The New Science of Politics.
He then discusses his work on the problems of gnosticism and his introduction to them through Hans Urs von Balthasar’s 1937 book, Prometheus. He notes that studies of gnosticism date at least back to the work of Ferdinand Christian Baur’s Chistliche Gnosis of 1835. Voegelin’s noteworthy comment: “. . . gnosticism and it is history [is] a vastly developed science and [the idea] of interpreting contemporary phenomena as gnostic phenomena is not as original as it may look to the ignoramuses who have criticized me for it.” Finally he mentions other contributing factors that he later considered, including apocalyptic movements and neo platonism.
Part 11– Anamnesis
Voegelin now turns to the problem he encountered when trying to characterizie Isaiah in Israel and Revelation and the terminology of “metastatic faith.”
On this question he turned to Gerhard von Rad in Heidelberg. Next he considers the development of his philosophy of consciousness to refute the work of Husserl which depended on sense perception in the external world. He worked it out in the 1940s in the course of correspondence with his closest friend, Alfred Schütz.
The work is recounted in Anamnesis, which offered 20 brief childhood experiences, including the tale of the Monk of Heisterbach and the festival moments of watching passing steamers on the Rhine with their night parties, experiences which are not reducible to sense perception. He then considers the influence of Henry James and his radical empiricism.
Part 12– Alienation Explained
This is a short session but it covers a large question. Voegelin turns to the problem of alienation. He briefly mentions the disorder in Egypt in the 3rd Millenium B.C. and then moves to the Stoics who originated the term “alienation,” as well as the later work by Plotinus. They defined alienation as the withdrawal from one’s own self as constituted by the tension to the divine ground of existence–the source of order and reason. Alienated existence leads to the construction of systems and the falsification of reality. Systems are characteristic of modernity and Hegel was an alienated man who constructed the greatest system. Systems inevitably lead to the death of God, not because God is dead, but because the divine reason has been rejected in the egophantic revolt.
An inventory of the falsifications in a society resulting from systematizing is highly desirable. Voegelin suggests that expanding historical knowledge means that the days of the systemitizers and the falsification of reality are numbered.
Part 13– Order and History
Voegelin describes the breakdown of his projected History of Ideas. Among the problems were the fact that mythology and revelation were not “ideas.” He developed Order and History as the understaning of compact symbols and their differentiation through successive experiences, such as the “leap in being.” The doctrinal conversion of language symbols into concepts referring to no reality had become an empty game.
He would have needed another 7 or 8 volumes to complete Order and History along the original plan, but the concurrent excellent work by modern scientists made it possible for him to turn to specialized studies which referred to their work to provide the empirical data.
Prehistory and archaeology have now developed to the point where Egyptian symbolisms can now be traced back some 20,000 years.
Part 14– Teaching in Vienna and Munich
After a few remarks about unilinear history, the abstraction of “humanity,” and that Marx and Engles knew they were “talking impertinent nonesense,” he describes his early years tutoring and teaching to earn enough to continue in school. At one point he was asked by colleague and chief socialist ideologist Max Adler to help him get arrested because important socialists had been arrested during the 1934 Austrian crisis and he wished to join them in jail. Voegelin tried to help but failed.
Voegelin finally discusses his years in Munich from 1958 to 1969, in which he established his institute, stocked an excellent library and directed important monograph work by such then young scholars as Arabist Peter von Sievers.