Mystical Philosopher and Scientist
by Frederick Lawrence
Frederick Lawrence is Associate Profesor of Theology at Boston College and is an authority on the thought of Bernard Lonergan, Eric Voegelin, and Hans-Georg Gadamer, among others. He is founder and director of the Lonergan Workshop and editor of the Lonergan Workshop Journal. The following essay is taken from International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Eric Voegelin (University of Missouri Press) and appears here in three parts with permission. Part 1 may be read HERE.
The Necessity for Meditation
Voegelin tells us that in the cultural grotesque of our time, he learned the importance of intellectual honesty (intellektuelle Rechtschaffen
heit) from Max Weber.51
However, Voegelin realized this noble ideal by the practice of anamnetic meditation. Meditation is also the basis of what he has called substantive communication as distinct from pragmatic and intoxicant communication.52
It follows that we are not really reading Voegelin unless we are performing “spiritual exercises.”
Such communication is not about garnering information, but about heightening our awareness and appropriating ourselves as social and historical in relation to the divine reality.
As he once expressed it:
This field of experiences and symbols is neither an object to be observed from the outside, nor does it present the same appearance to everybody. It rather is the time dimension of existence, accessible only through participation in its reality; and what the philosopher moving in the field will see or not see, understand or not understand, or whether he will find his bearings in it at all, depends on the manner in which his own existence has been formed through intellectual discipline in openness toward reality or deformed through his uncritical acceptance of beliefs which obscure the reality of immediate experience.53
The heightened awareness that the mediation of truth and order in history is conditioned by the formation or deformation of the existence of the human beings in search of meaning leads to the centrality of meditative exegesis and anamnetic experiment in the performance of the scholar, the scientist, the philosopher, or the theologian.
Hence the growing realization on Voegelin’s part that his labors on the historical phenomena of order proceeded by reducing those phenomena to the logos of consciousness; and, in turn, that “. . . consciousness is not a given to be deduced from outside but an experience of participation in the ground of being whose logos has to be brought to clarity through the meditative exegesis itself.”54
“The reality of the meditative process” cannot be short-circuited; we cannot get out of undergoing “phases of increasing experience and insight,”55 if we are to “get anywhere” in philosophy/theology.
As Tracy tells us, what Hadot and before him Ignatius Loyola called “spiritual exercises” “were understood by all the ancient schools as analogous to the exercises employed by an athlete for the body as well as analogous to the application of a medical cure.”56 Intellectual and spiritual exercises are integral to what Voegelin calls “the process through which we find the order of our existence as human beings in the order of consciousness.”57 Voegelin’s masters for spiritual exercises are Augustine and Plato.