From Bergson to Voegelin The “Chosen People” and the Universal Commonwealth

HomeArticlesFrom Bergson to Voegelin The “Chosen People” and the Universal Commonwealth

Popper? A Troublesome Pebble . . .

Acknowledging the importance of Henri Bergson’s thought for him, Eric Voegelin wrote: “history of mankind . . . is an open society–Bergson’s, not Popper’s–comprehending both truth and untruth in tension.” Two years later, explaining the In-Between structure of existence, the platonic metaxy, Voegelin alludes again to Bergson:

“if anything is constant in [history] it is the language of tension between . . . amor Dei and amor sui, l’âme ouverte et l’âme close; between the virtues of openness toward the ground . . . of being such as faith, love, and hope, and the vices of unfolding closure such as hybris and revolt . . .”

No wonder then that, answering Leo Strauss who asked him to confirm the bad opinion he already had concerning Popper’s book, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945),3 Eric Voegelin complained that reading this book has stolen from him many hours of his own work and replied: “This Popper has been for years . . . a troublesome pebble that I must continually . . . nudge from the path . . . this book is impudent, dilettantish trash. Every single sentence is a scandal.”4

Voegelin criticizes Popper for having borrowed the expressions “closed” [society] and “open society,” as well as those of “static” and “dynamic religion,” from Henri Bergson’s Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932)5 and to have made an “ideological rubbish” out of it.6 Reviewing John Wild’s Plato’s Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law,7 he alluded to ” . . . the bush war, if the metaphor be allowed, conducted during the last 25 years by ideologists in the English-speaking word against Plato [which] caricature Plato as a sort of fascist or generally totalitarian thinker.” And he regretted that both Wild and Ronald B. Levinson8 didn’t point in their books to Popper’s misinterpretation who “perverted Bergson’s concepts practically into the opposite of the meaning which they have in the Deux sources de la morale et de la religion.”9

Popper himself, though acknowledging his debt to Bergson in a note of his Introduction, pointed to “the main difference” between them:

“My term [open society] indicates a rationalist distinction; the closed society is characterized by the belief in magical taboos, while the open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos, and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence (after discussion). Bergson, on the other hand, has a kind of religious distinction in mind.”10

As the late Dante Germino put it in The Open Society in Theory and Practice, a book dedicated to Eric Voegelin “who laid the foundation of an authentic philosophy of the open society”: “(‘Protagoras is the measure’) is a hero to Popper, while Plato (‘God is the measure’) is a model for Bergson.” In other words,  Popper expresses his idea of the open society primarily within the framework of secular liberalism, whereas Bergson emphasizes the opening of the psyche toward the ground of Being.11

Bergson’s Actual Concepts

Let’s now turn to Bergson’s definitions. The hive and the anthill testify that social life is immanent to both animals and men. Like in the animal societies, human societies are “closed,” which means that men, moved by instinct, are indifferent to each other, always ready to attack or defend themselves (The Two Sources,266).

An open society is then a society “which is deemed in principle to embrace all humanity” (267): we love spontaneously and directly our parents and fellow citizens, but love for humanity is indirect and acquired, and requires a detour since it is”only through God, in God, that religion bids man love mankind.”(33) Therefore the difference between the city and humanity is a difference of nature, of essence, and not only of degree. By analogy, Bergson distinguishes between the “closed morality,” that is to say the social morality which does not extend to all but only to the group, and the “open morality” he calls for, which embraces the whole humanity.

This second morality is human, and here too the difference between the two is one of nature and not only of degree: the social morality is unchanging, whereas the human morality consists in a movement, a detachment from well-being, wealth, riches, that is asceticism. Since time immemorial this morality has been incarnated in exceptional men who became examples: “Before the saints of Christianity, mankind had known the sages of Greece, the prophets of Israel, the Arhats of Buddhism, and others besides.” (34)

Concerning religion, Bergson writes there has never been a society without religion” (102), and the opposition between “closed” and “open” moralities, is paralleled by the difference between “static” and “dynamic religion.” Bergson distinguishes two functions of religion: in contrast to animals who do not know that they will die, the natural religion, or static religion, appears as a “defensive reaction of nature against the representation, by intelligence, of the inevitability of death” (131) through the promise of the continuation of life after death. Far from being a mere consolation binding man to life, and the individual to society “by telling him tales with which we lull children to sleep” (211), the dynamic religion is the real mysticism which, in some rare occasions is linked to the élan vital. It is:

“the establishment of a contact, consequently on a partial coincidence, with the creative effort which life itself manifests. The great mystic is to be conceived as an individual being capable of transcending the limitations imposed on the species by its material nature, thus continuing and extending the divine action.” ( 221-222)

Fulfillment in Mysticism

In his essay “In Search of the Ground,” Voegelin parallels Saint Augustine’s amor Dei with Bergson’s openness toward the ground of existence “because we all experience our own existence as not existing out of itself but as coming from somewhere even if we do not know from where,” and in the discussion which followed, he quotes as evidence of openness toward transcendence “the dialogues of Plato, the meditations of Saint Augustine on time and space, and the thorn-bush episode in Exodus.”12

Bergson distinguishes then within mysticism itself, between an incomplete mysticism and a complete mysticism. Neither in Greece nor in ancient India, however, Bergson suggests, is it possible to discover a complete mysticism: if, like Moses, Plotinus saw the promised land, writes Bergson, nevertheless he could not enter it, since he thought action might weaken contemplation: “The same holds true for Buddhism which is also an incomplete mysticism due to its lack of warmth and to its unbelief in the efficacy of human action: for, only this trust in action “can grow to power and move mountains” (225).

As a matter of fact, the examples of great mystics chosen by Bergson are all Catholic: Saint Paul, Saint Theresa, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Francis, and Saint Joan of Arc, who, through their love for God loved the whole humanity with a divine love and set an example for “a radical transformation of humanity”(239). In brief, as Bergson puts it, “religion is to mysticism what popularization is to science” (253): mysticism is the inner religion of mankind, opposed to the social bond conceived as the solidarity of the closed group.

In a letter to his Viennese friend Gregor Sebba, Eric Voegelin admitted he could not deny being himself a mystic insofar as the tension toward the transcendent ground of being had been the motor of his life-long struggle against all sorts of modern ideologies.14 We may however wonder here:

1) if what Voegelin calls a compact, as distinguished from a differentiated, experience of the divine corresponds to Bergson’s categories?

2) whether this radical transformation of humanity through action which Bergson calls for does not correspond to what Voegelin usually condemns under the name of metastasis, in other words, if there is not a tendency to “immanentize the eschaton” in Bergson?

But, as Dante Germino has noted, this is not the case since the worldwide open society, which Voegelin espouses, is not to be achieved through violence and revolution but will be a gradual process taking centuries.14

From Static to Dynamic Mysticism

How does humanity achieve the transition between static and dynamic religion–that is to say, from natural religion to complete mysticism–may we ask? This transition occurs all of a sudden, unexpectedly in the soul–be it the soul of a mystic philosopher or a prophet–by his coming into contact with the élan vital, the “principle of life.”

This suddenness may be compared, as late Professor Dante Germino again wisely suggested,15 to what Voegelin called the leap in being, that is the discovery of the being that is transcendent to the world as the source of the order in man and society:

“The leap in being, the epochal event that breaks the compactness of the early cosmological myth and establishes the order of man in his immediacy under God . . . occurs twice in the history of mankind, at roughly the same time, in the Near Eastern and the neighboring Aegean civilizations.The two occurrences, while they run parallel in time and have in common their opposition to the Myth, are independent of each other; and the two experiences differ so profoundly in content that they become articulate in the two different symbolisms of Revelation and Philosophy.”

Moreover, comparable breaks with the myth, again of widely different complexions, occur contemporaneously in the India of Buddha and the China of Confucius and Lao Tse.16

According to Voegelin’s terminology, the transition achieved by the leap in Being is the transition from a compact to a differentiated experience of the divine. What Bergson describes as “progress,” corresponds to what Voegelin prefers to call “differentiation,” that is to say to a difference in degree and not in essence, toward a more “advanced” level of understanding.

The Concept of Compact and Differentiated Experience

This is why, whereas Bergson dismisses mythology, Voegelin takes it into account. The cosmological societies, Voegelin argues, are no less “rational” than the more differentiated ones, only their symbols have become “opaque” to us, and thus we must restore their “luminosity” by getting back to the root experiences behind the symbols.

Supplanting the Egyptian cosmic-divine order, Israel offered indeed a new conception of history, introducing a “before” and an”after” into time, and thus inaugurating History proper: “Without Israel there would be no history, but only the eternal recurrence of societies in cosmological form.”17 This does not mean of course that Egypt and Babylon have no history, but only that this history cannot articulate itself in their compact symbolism: historical for Voegelin means to be bound to the differentiation of transcendent Being.

The differentiation achieved by Israel consists in that, for the first time, the order of the soul and the order of society orientated themselves according to obedience to, or defection from, God’s will as revealed to Moses at the thorn-bush, and to the people gathered at Mount Sinai. Accepting the Decalogue, and contracting the Alliance with a God transcendent to the world, Israel consented thus to constitute itself as goy kadosh (Ex. 19, 6), a holy nation, under God, that is to say as the “chosen people”: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth . . . ,”18 God declares, thereby setting off a new community from the rest of mankind.20

But here it seems that Bergson as well as Voegelin neglect to mention the second verse of Amos: ‘therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities’ whereby God underlines the responsibility of the chosen people regarding the rest of the world.

Judaism and Christianity: National Religion Versus Universal Religion?

Although coming from a Jewish family, Henri Bergson desired to convert to Christianity. Nonetheless, sensing what was going to happen to the Jews, he explained in his will that he finally didn’t take the decisive step of baptism, because he was not willing to separate himself from those who were to be persecuted by the Nazi regime.20

In The Two Sources, Bergson, interpreting the Sermon on the Mount–“Ye have heard that . . . But I say onto you”–in terms of the opposition between “closed” and “open” religion, claims the superiority of Christianity: “The morality of the Gospels is essentially that of the open soul” (59). If Bergson hesitates to “class the Jewish prophets among the mystics of antiquity,” it is because, as he observes, “Yaweh is too stern a judge, [and] Israel and its God were not close enough together for Judaism to be the mysticism which we are defining” (240). The sole exception which Bergson allows among the prophets, is in favor of Isaiah:

“If any of them, like Isaiah, may have thought of universal justice, it was because Israel, the chosen of God among the other peoples, bound to God by a covenant, was so high above the rest of mankind that sooner or later it was destined to be taken as a model.”(76)21

If he does not deny that the prophets achieved the first progress against mythology, Christ is for him the “second name” of the second progress, that is to say that Christianity achieved the transition from the “closed” to the “open:” “There seems to be no doubt that this second advance, the passage from the closed to the open, is due to Christianity, as the first was due to the Prophets of Judaism” (77).

Christianity’s Superiority

No argument can be found in Bergson’s quotation: the superiority of Christianity is simply self-evident to him. What does Bergson regard as so problematic about Judaism and the prophets? If he concedes that they fought against injustice, he nonetheless adds: “The justice they preached applied above all to Israel, their indignation against injustice was the very wrath of Jehovah against His disobedient people, or against the enemies of this chosen people.”(76) Although just and powerful, the God of Israel appears to him too “stern a judge,” lacking “intimacy” with his people, but above all the reproach consists, as he indicates in a footnote, in the “national character of the God of Israel,” whereas Christianity brought the idea of a “universal brotherhood.”

The progress represented by Christianity, then, consisted in the substitution of a universal for a national religion:

“a religion which was still essentially national was replaced by a religion that could be made universal. A God who was doubtless different from all other gods by His justice as well by His power, but Whose power was used for His people, and Whose justice was applied, above all, to His own subjects, was succeeded by a God of love, a God Who loved all mankind.” (240)

“History is Christ Written Large”

In the anti-Semitic University of Vienna a rumor spread that Voegelin was Jewish because he studied with Hans Kelsen or because of the hostility he expressed against National-Socialism since 1933 in his books. In spite of his assertion that he was neither Jewish, nor communist, nor Christian, and, in spite of the fact that though born a Lutheran he didn’t care too much about going to Church, Voegelin fled Austria “as if he was Jewish,”22  which Ernst Bloch’s wife could not understand.23

He objected as well to being regarded as a “fellow traveler” of Catholicism, under the pretext that he knew “such awful things as Aristotle and Saint Thomas”24 or because the last word in Israel and Revelation is Jesus. And as he made clear to Alfred Schütz:

“Essentially my concern with Christianity has no religious grounds at all. It is simply that the traditional treatment of the history of philosophy and particularly of political ideas recognizes antiquity and modernity, while the 1500 years of Christian thought and Christian politics are treated as a kind of hole in the evolution of mankind . . . .”

“Whatever one may think of Christianity, it cannot be treated as negligible. A general history of ideas must be capable of treating the phenomenon of Christianity with no less theoretical care than that devoted to Plato or Hegel . . . . There are degrees in the differentiation of experiences . . . . Now with Christianity a decisive differentiation has occurred, one which can perhaps be elucidated in the Platonic parable of the cave.”25

If Voegelin really thinks that all symbolizations of the divine reality are “equivalent,” or rather differ only in the degree of differentiation, how comes it then that for him too “History is Christ written large” even if he makes clear that this formulation is not in conflict with the Platonic “man written large?”26 He seems to take literally the words of Jesus: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”27

Now, it is precisely this fulfillment, this perfecting, which Bergson considers as the “superiority” of Jesus, the first mystic according to him. Let us listen to a Jewish voice, Emmanuel Levinas, mocking what he calls the “workers of the eleventh hour:”

“Christian theologians have presented themselves as the men who perfected, carried out and rounded off Judaism, like those Kantians who, in their studies, perfect Kant and those Platonists who improve Plato . . . . Our feeling for Christianity is wholehearted, but it remains one of friendship and fraternity. It cannot become paternal. We cannot recognize a child that is not ours. We protest against its claim on the inheritance and its impatience to take over, since we are still alive and kicking.”28

Not a Leap Out of Existence

Voegelin rejected the convention according to which the history of ideas began only with classic Greek philosophy, and that is the reason why he wrote the first volume of Order and History, Israel and Revelation. While accepting its status as God’s chosen people, Israel did not renounce worldly existence, which is to say, that it sought to remain a nation “like all the other nations” under a king: “the leap upward in being . . . not [being] a leap out of existence”29

From this moment onwards, conflicts arose between temporal order and divine order, which Voegelin interprets as derailments that brought Israel back into the Sheol of the cosmological civilizations, which effectively constituted “ a fall from Being.” Confronted with disorder–injustices, foreign policy, and social evils, the prophets called for a spiritual renewal of the people by reminding it that Israel’s order had its origin in Moses and the Sinai Alliance. But the people seemed deaf, and “the prophets were torn by the conflict between spiritual universalism and patriotic parochialism that had been from the beginning in the conception of a chosen people.”30

No Such Thing as a Chosen People

Among all the Jewish prophets, the one which seems to have been Voegelin’s favorite is not Isaiah but Jeremiah who blames Israel for failing to “separate the Kingdom of God from Canaan,”31 and in whom “the holy omphalos of history had contracted from the chosen People into his personal existence.”32 Voegelin credits him for having a glimpse “of the terrible truth: that the existence of a concrete society in a definite form will not resolve the problem of order in history, that no chosen People in any form will be the ultimate omphalos of the true order of mankind.”33

In Race and State Voegelin demonstrates how the Jewish idea of election–which is such that there cannot be two chosen peoples–an idea which the Nazis took over from the Jews and made central to their self-understanding–has been at the root of the Jewish-hatred that has long pervaded German history:

“the proclamation of the experience of one’s chosenness seems to me the deepest reason for the hatred of the Jewish [people] throughout history . . . . In the German history of anti-Semitism the greater or lesser emphasis of Jewish chosenness and superiority served as constant ferment for an atmosphere of hate . . . .”34

Transposed from the religions into the political sphere, the idea of a chosen people might lead to the first misconstrual of the purpose of political institutions which he denounces: the “tension toward God gets transformed into the idea of a human society in which the chosen are assigned a function of leadership.”35

Christianity and Judaism

Despite the destruction of this political organization the Israelite kingdom by the ecumenical empires, the idea of being chosen still dominates the political scene “in which more than one people feels itself chosen to enter into leadership of world society.”36 Does this critique of Israel’s understanding of its being chosen mean that Voegelin, like Bergson, regards Christianity as superior to Judaism?

As though he were addressing this very question, Voegelin speaks to the limitations of Israelite self-understanding, observing that:

“Under Israelite historical conditions, no institutional solution could be found that would have been comparable to the Christian development of the spiritual and temporal orders. For within the history of Israel proper the idea of the theopolity did not bring forth its fruit, the idea of mankind as a universal church . . . . The compact symbol of the chosen People could never be completely broken by the idea of a universal God and a universal mankind.”37

Christianity as an Open Society

Moreover, in apparent agreement with Bergson, Voegelin articulates an understanding of the Christian idea of community in terms that seem to imply a critical view of the limits of the Israelite self-understanding of the theo-political community:

“In the Christian idea of the community the bond between the members is created . . . through the participation of every person in the pneuma of Christ. The unifying force is the transcendental divine personality of Christ, and the community might be called ‘open’ because it is not a closed mundane entity but an aggregate of persons finding its common center in a substance beyond the field of earthly experience. By ‘closing’ of a substance I mean the process in the course of which the transcendental point of union is abolished and the community substance as an intramundane entity becomes self-centered.”38

Emmanuel Levinas Embracing the Chosen

In sharp contrast to Bergson and Voegelin, however, who cannot help but regard Judaism comparatively, with one eye trained upon Christianity, a comparison in which Israel is found wanting, Levinas insists that “Israel is not defined by opposition to Christianity,” or by opposition to any other religion, and that, viewed on its own terms, its essence “consists in promoting understanding between all men who are tied to morality.

Moreover, it seeks their understanding, in the first instance, with Christians and Muslims who are its neighbors or companions in civilization. But the base of this civilization that is, of the mutual understanding for which Israel strives, is, Levinas insists, the Reason that the Greek philosophers revealed to the world.”39

Further, Levinas recalls that far from contradicting the idea of universality, the idea of chosen people:

“is in reality the founding of tolerance . . . [and that] the sense of being chosen expresses less the pride of someone who has been called than the humility of someone who serves. Being chosen is no more appalling as a condition than being the place for all moral consciousness. Better than doctrinal unanimity, it guarantees peace. It is the arrogance of a gratuitous duty that scorns reciprocity.”40

A Mystical Hero to Save Industrial Democracy?

How, asks Bergson, might we overcome the tendency to form closed societies, the tendency which leads to war, which seems inextinguishable? Bergson’s answer is to espouse a complete mysticism, by which he means a mysticism centered around action and not only contemplative–as in Plato–that would aim to transform humanity within time and the world. And yet, as he observes, true mysticism is very rare: “How [he asks] could it spread in a humanity obsessed by the fear of hunger?”

As to the type of government which would be most suitable for an open society, he favors democracy, which appeared rather late in history, while regarding the democracies of the ancient world, which were based on slavery, as but false democracies. In contrast to monarchy and oligarchy, democracy is indeed the regime which is furthest from the state of nature and the only one whose intentions transcend the “closed society.”

Granting man’s inviolable rights, it proclaims equality, freedom and brotherhood. In brief, “democracy is evangelical in essence,”(282) proclaims Bergson, citing Rousseau and Kant as his forerunners. Modernity is characterized by its craving for progress and, as a consequence, men developed industrialization and mechanization which increase consumerism. Nowadays this modernity has revealed without restrain–well being and luxury for the few, instead of liberation for everybody. Even if it is true that mysticism entails asceticism, how can it spread “in a humanity obsessed by the fear of hunger?”

Therefore, “man must use matter as a support if he wants to get away from matter, which amounts to say that mystical summons up the mechanical. (309) But vice versa in this “body distended out of all proportion, the soul remains what it was, too small to fill it, too weak to guide it,” so that “mechanism should mean mysticism.”(310) What we are then looking for, is the call of the “hero:” even if only a few of us will follow him, he will show us the way not only merely to live, but to “make just the extra effort required for fulfilling, even on our refractory planet, the essential function of the universe, which is a machine for the making of gods.”(317)

The Christian Inspiration for Modern Democracy

Although less lyrical than Bergson, Voegelin also reminds us of the evangelical sources of democracy. In the Gettysburg Address, which Lincoln delivered in November, 1863 during the American Civil War, democracy is defined as “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

In the Prologue to the translation of the Bible by Wycliffe in 1834, we read:

“‘This Bible is for the government of the people, by the people, for the people’. . . . The people that can govern by itself and for itself is not any people in an ethnic sense, not any people regardless of its cultural maturity (Kulturstand). It is the people that experienced its birth under God, that can also lose its life in this status, and that . . . necessitates a rebirth to be able to govern.”41

Voegelin then observes that although the English reformers of the fourteenth to the eighteenth century were Christians, “their political dream as inspired by their study of the Bible, was the theopolity of Israel: the idea of God’s chosen people and its rulers under God and His Law.”

Due to their project to make the legislation of Moses the civil law of England, instead of the common law, and to the emigration of Puritan communities to America where they organized themselves as God’s people in the new Canaan, the Anglo-Saxon tradition called this enterprise that of “the dreamers in Israel.”42

We close with this question: is Bergson’s Christianity-inspired democracy still valid in our time of secularization and pluralistic culture?



1. Eric Voegelin, Ingersoll Lecture, Harvard University School, “Immortality: Experience and Symbol” (1965): Harvard Theological Review, XL, July 1967: 239.

2. Voegelin, “Equivalences of Experience and Symbolization in History” (1967), CW 12, Published Essays 1966-1985, ed. with an Introduction by Ellis Sandoz: Louisiana State University Press, 1990, 119-120.

3. Karl Popper, The Open Societyand Its Enemies, 2 vol. , London, Routledge, 1945.

4. Voegelin to Leo Strauss, April 18th 1950, Faith and Political Philosophy, The Correspondence betweeen E. Voegelin and Leo Strauss, 1934-1964: University of Missouri Press, 2004, 67-68. Notwithstanding Voegelin’s warning concerning the privacy of his letter, Strauss showed it to his friend Kurz Riezler and used his influence so that Popper should not be elected “here,” that is to say in Chicago.

5. Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, tr. By R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton, with the assistance of W. Horstfall Carter, University of Notre Dame Press, Indiana, 1935/1963.

6. Voegelin to L. Strauss, April 18th 1950, in Faith and Political Philosophy, The Correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin 1934-1964: University of Missouri Press, 2004: 67-68. Reviewing Grundlinien der Antiken Rechts-und Staatsphilosophie by Alfred Verdross-Drossberg (Alfred Verdross-Drossberg, Grundlinien der Antiken Rechts-und Staatsphilosophie. Zweite erweiterte Auflage, Vienne, Springer Verlag, 1948, in Western Political Quarterly 2 (1949), p. 437-38/ CW 13, Selected books Reviews, p. 179) Voegelin wrote: “Karl Popper’s (The Open Society and Its Enemies, 1945) and John Wild’s (Plato’s Theory of Man, Chicago: Chicago University Press: 1953.1946) which by the way L. Strauss also reviewed in 1946, “On a New Interpretation of Plato’s Political Philosophy” in Social Research, XIII, 3, pp. 326-367], have received careful criticism. Moreover, the author now uses the categories of static and dynamic religion, developed by Bergson in his Deux Sources de la morale et de la religion, in order to arrive at a more precise characterization of Platonic ideas.”

7. John Wild, Plato’s Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law, Chicago: Chicago University Press: 1953,

8. Ronald B. Levinson, In defense of Plato, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953.

9. Voegelin, CW 13, Selected Books Reviews, ed. and translated by Jodi Cockerill and Barry Cooper with an Introduction by Barry Cooper, University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2001: 189.

10. K. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies: London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1945: Preface, IX.

11. Dante Germino, The Open Society in Theory and Practice, edited by Dante Germino and Klaus von Beyme: The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974: 14.

12. Voegelin, CW 11, Published Essays 1953-1965, edited with an introduction of Ellis Sandoz “In Search of the Ground.” University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London: 241-242.

13. Voegelin to Gregor Sebba, February 3rd, 1973, in CW 30, Selected Correspondence 1950-1984, trans. Sandy Adler, Thomas A. Hollweck, & William Petropulos, ed. and intro. Thomas A. Hollweck: University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2007: 751.

14. D. Germino Political Philosophy and the Open Society: Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge and London, 1982: 166: “Bergson is saved by his gentleness and spiritual sensitivity from embracing any revolutionary creed promising a magical metastasis of existence through some epoch-making act of revolution. The achievement of the worldwide open society within the stream of becoming would, he thought, be the result of a gradual process possibly taking centuries and completely forswearing violence as a means of its realization.”

15. D. Germino, The Open Society in Theory and Practice, edited by Dante Germino and Klaus von Beyme: The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974: 147.

16. Voegelin, CW 15, OH II, The World of the Polis, ed. with an Introduction by Athanasios Moulakis: University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2000: 67 and 69.

17. Voegelin, CW 14, OH 1, Israel and Revelation, ed. with an Introduction by Maurice P. Hogan: University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2001:168.

18. Amos, 3, 2. King James version.

19. Voegelin, CW 14, OH 1: 207.

20. Contrary to what Raïssa Maritain pretends,, see His daughter, Jeanne, will take the step.

21. Isaiah, 11, 10: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.”

22. This is how Reinhold Knoll characterizes Voegelin’s flight when the Germans entered Vienna. Barry Cooper and Jodi Bruhn, Voegelin Recollected, Conversations on a Life, University of Missouri Press, 2008, 232.

23. Eric Voegelin, CW 34,Autobiographical Reflections, Revised edition with a Voegelinian Glossary and Cumulative Index, ed. with Introductions by Ellis Sandoz, University of Missouri Press, 2006, 72.

24. Voegelin, to Eduard Baumgarten July 10th 1951, CW 30, Selected Correspondence 1950-1984. Translations from the German by Sandy Adler, Thomas A. Hollweck, and William Petropoulos. Edited with an Introduction by Thomas A. Hollweck: University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2007, 98. See also his letter to John East, July 18th 1977, ibid., 825: “When somebody wants me to be a Catholic or a Protestant, I tell him that I am a pre-Reformation Christian.’ If he wants to nail me down as a Thomist or Augustinian, I tell him that even Mary the Virgin was not a member of the Catholic Church.”

25. Voegelin, Letter to Alfred Schütz, January 1, 1953, CW 30, Selected Correspondence, 122-123.

26. Voegelin, “Immortality: Experience and Symbol”, CW 12, Published Essays 1966-1985, ed. with an Introduction by Ellis Sandoz, Louisiana State University Press, 1990: “To be sure, the two symbolisms differ, because the first one is engendered by a pneumatic experience in the context of Judaic-Christian revelation, while the second one is engendered by a noetic experience in the context of Hellenic philosophy; but they do not differ with regard to the structure of reality symbolized,” 78-79.

27. King James Version, Matthew, Chapter 5, 17. Which Voegelin prefers to render as: “Do not imagine that I have come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. I have come not to destroy them, but to bring them to their full meaning” (OHI,Israel and Revelation, 390, see footnote 17).

28.  Emmanuel Levinas, “The Case Spinoza,” Difficult Freedom, tr. By Sean Hand, The John Hopkins Press: Baltimore, 109.

29. Voegelin, CW 14, OH I, 49.

30. Ibid., 407.

31. Ibid., 208.

32. Ibid., 520.

33. Ibid., 545.

34. Voegelin, CW 2, Race and State, ed. by Klaus Vondung, transl. by Ruth Hein: Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1997, 185.

35.Voegelin, CW 33, The Drama of Humanity and Other Miscellaneous Papers, 1939-1985, ed. with an Introduction by William Petropoulos and Gilbert Weiss, University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2004, 150.

36. Voegelin, ” Man in Society and History.” CW 11, Published Essays, 1953-1965, ed. with an Introduction by Ellis Sandoz: University of Missouri Press, Columbia et Londres, 2000, 204.

37. Voegelin, OH I, 294-295.

38. Voegelin, “The growth of race idea,” CW 10, Published Essays 1940-1952, ed. with an Introduction by Ellis Sandoz, University of Missouri Press, 2000, 46.

39. Levinas, “The Spinoza Case”, Difficult Freedom. Essays on Judaism, tr. By Sean Hand: The John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore,109.

40. Levinas, “Religion and Tolerance”, Difficult Freedom. Essays on Judaism, tr. By Sean Hand: The John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore 174.

41. Voegelin, “Democracy and the New Europe,” CW 11, Published Essays 1953-1965, ed. with an Introduction by Ellis Sandoz: University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2000, 61. See also Voegelin’s important letter to Carl Joachim Friedrich date April 12, 1959, CW 30, Selected Correspondence, 388.

42. Voegelin, CW 11, “Democracy and the New Europe,” Published Essays 1953-1965, ed. with an Introduction by Ellis Sandoz: University of Missouri Press, Columbia and London, 2000, 62.

Sylvie Courtine-Denamy

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Sylvie Courtine-Denamy (1947-2014) was a research associate at the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po in France. She was author of books on Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil, among them being Three Women in Dark Times: Edith Stein, Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil (2000) and Simone Weil: La Quête de racines célestes (2009). She is also a translator of philosophical works into French, including Voegelin's Ordre et Histoire (2012).