Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy. Ellis Sandoz. South Bend, IN: St. Augustine Press, 2013.
“And I too am a painter.” Montesquieu invokes these apocryphal words of Correggio to remind the reader that though many have written on the topic of the “spirit of the laws,” his own contribution is not without “genius.” Maybe, just maybe, it might make a contribution to the “majesty” of the subject. Maybe the same will hold true of Ellis Sandoz’s work in defense of ordered liberty. Maybe it might remind a careful reader that in “witheringly secularist times” like our own, a human being cannot merely be a person dedicated to contemplation but must also be a person of action. He must evince a spirit of “resistance” informed by a rightly ordered “conviction” and raise “the banner of human nobility through participation in the infinite Good as the foundation of all we hold dear and worthy of devotion.” Ellis Sandoz—as a metaphysician of the soul, mystic of the Christian faith, and scientist of politics—is such a person. As a careful student of the history of order and disorder with a particular eye on the American republic and its constitutional tradition, he has written extensively over a lifetime on these subjects. His most recent collection of essays, a few reworked particularly for this volume and some drawing on portions of his previously published works, is entitled, Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy.
The collection is divided into two sections, beginning with four essays thematically unfolding the meaning of freedom with respect to political philosophy, the importance of religion to maintaining freedom, the relationship of both freedom and religion to the American founding and—with a somewhat unexpected but not thematically unconnected leap—to the post-9/11 era and the Bush doctrine as embodying the spirit of resistance to disorder. The second section is comprised of four essays, beginning with two chapters on Eric Voegelin as a “master teacher” and “mystic philosopher,” which culminate in two chapters highlighting the interplay of “mysticism and politics in Voegelin’s philosophy” and how and why this “Voegelinian paradigm” is the essence of the “philosopher’s vocation.” Although the individual chapters as well as the two sections are only loosely connected, the central themes Sandoz would have his readers remember, retain, and live are unmistakable. The final chapter, entitled “The Politics of Liberty,” integrates many of the themes and reminds the reader of the collection’s purpose:
“Give me Liberty or give me death is the famous cry of Patrick Henry. . . . The Liberty he proclaimed he and his contemporaries understood to be a gift of the Almighty to human beings in their individual existences as unique personalities, each one created in the image and likeness of God and, thus, imago Dei. . . . Its meaning and consequences have formed the substance of the little book you hold.”
And what precisely is this meaning and the consequences that follow from it? It is nothing else than to read carefully, think deeply, converse wisely, and live prudently. In what follows, I would like to consider each of these rubrics in turn in hopes of illuminating a bit of the spirit and substance of Sandoz’s collection of essays, which, though they rarely address topics he has not dealt with in greater length in other publications, remind us of what is required of both the vita contemplativa and the vita activa with respect to maintaining Liberty. Maybe, just maybe, we too will become more conscientious individuals, citizens, and philosophers of order resisting the disorder of our time.
A careful reader who has also read extensively learns in time that there is little if anything new under the sun, and that if one is seeking after truth, and not novelty or even originality, it is often best to say less in one’s own voice and instead remind the reader of truths longstanding but often forgotten or encrusted with the false gold of novelty and originality. In reading through Sandoz’s collection, one discovers little that is in and of itself original and even less that smacks of novelty. Instead one finds timeless truths stated in a timely fashion. As Sandoz intones, reminding the reader of the truth that “physical safety of a society” requires “spiritual health nurtured by truth and justice,” “This is not a novel insight, but unoriginal thinking may bear the mark of truth in human affairs.”
Why, then, write anything new? The answer has much to do with an insight Martin Luther discovered in his own struggles, namely that we will be attacked spiritually precisely where we are weakest and, being human, we are invariably weak. One predominant sign of our weakness is that we forget more than we remember. We must then be reminded of the permanent things, which we discover—arguably rediscover—in the Platonic act of education as remembering our spiritual origin, birthright, and temporal and eternal inheritance—a truth at the very heart of Voegelin’s conception of anamnesis and one that informs Sandoz’s understanding as an educator. As he notes of Voegelin in his “Notes for a Talk” reflecting on “Voegelin as Master Teacher”:
“Devotion to truth and a desire to communicate it to students illumined every lecture and discussion, with the exploration of questions constantly reflecting the tension toward the divine Ground of reality as the decisive context for exploring the human condition and political issues.”
“This sense of openness to the horizon of being, and refusal to truncate reality or go along with reductionist constructs of any kind whatever, encouraged students to engage in the examination of complicated materials as partners in the discussion. . . .”
We write then to resist the disorder of our age, and disorder there always has been and will be—until the end of time. Truthful writing, then, is itself an act of resistance against this disorder, and at its most luminous reminds us of the need to think deeply about all that is true, good, and beautiful in order to live wisely. Sandoz’s collection accomplishes this by continually returning our attention to the essence of the tradition of liberty admirably captured in certain Protestant sensibilities undergirding the American founding and illuminated through a Voegelinian inspired understanding of philosophy as both a rational and mystical enterprise.
As in any collection of essays, there is a measure of repetitiveness, sometimes unavoidable and at other times arguably necessary, and differences in the quality and perspicuity of individual chapters. Nevertheless, what makes these essays commendable to the reader, apart from the importance of the topic itself, is the brilliant and pithy clarity with which Sandoz is able to capture certain complex truths. Such a formulation is found at the end of the third essay when summarizing the varied roots of the American founding. As Sandoz states:
“The statesmen of the period, thus, drew upon the prudential science of the old Greeks, such as that esteemed in Aristotle’s phronimos and in Tully; upon the enlightened faith of a citizenry long practiced in the operations of free institutions—economic, political, and ecclesiastical; and upon what they themselves called ‘the divine science of politics.'”
“The founding generation resisted corruption with all the civilizational resources available from Aristotle, Cicero, and education in classical philosophy more generally; biblical faith experientially and theoretically grounded; a solid common law constitutional heritage refined by decades of self-government and prudential habit; and by Enlightenment optimism and confidence in the individual human being and the open horizon of human existence reaching upward toward the transcendent and forward toward a better world for all human beings.”
Such formulations are only possible by someone who himself is a master teacher. They receive their compact luminosity in light of a lifetime of reading, contemplation, and writing and, when found in a collection of essays of an elder statesman and professor, they are deserving of careful consideration.
Publius in Federalist 51 emphatically states that, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” The founders have, as Sandoz reminds, “A True Map of Man.” And what precisely is this true map of man? It is a knowledge derived from noetic reflection and pneumatic illumination that man in the metaxy exists between God and beasts. As Sandoz states, “He is a self-reflective part of being, In-Between reality bridging the distance from the animals to God and partaking of both.” That Sandoz adds that man partakes of “both in a most disconcerting and inconvenient manner,” only illuminates the need for man to be reminded all the more clearly, consistently, and continually of his origins and birthright. “Thus man,” as Sandoz continues, “despite all mutilations and waywardness, is ineluctably theomorphic.” It is the philosopher’s no less than the theologian’s duty to provide him with a “true account of himself or be condemned by his own obtuseness or rebelliousness to live a lie.” As Sandoz notes in a later chapter with respect to the work of the philosopher of order, “The words of Marcus Aurelius will apply to him: ‘The philosopher, the priest and servant of the gods.’”
It is worth noting what should be obvious enough given Sandoz’s oeuvre, let alone the four overt chapters dedicated to his teacher and mentor: the spirit of Voegelin courses throughout his works and these essays. It is a spirit of luminous brilliance, which Sandoz embodies and which make his writings no less enlightening. If for Sandoz the horizon in these essays remains overtly the American constitutional tradition, it is not a critique but a boon for the student of American government. And for the reader less interested in this particular tradition, there remains the underlying exposition of ordered liberty rooted in metaxial existence that involves the interplay between the scientific and the spiritual, between philosophy and mystery, and between the rational search for meaning and the divine luminosity irrupting upon man to make this search meaningful.
It should then not be surprising, though arguably still provocative—especially for analytical philosophers—that for Sandoz mystic philosophy is philosophy, though this does not mean it is unscientific. As Sandoz notes at the outset of the chapter directly dealing with this theme, “What Is a Mystic Philosopher and Why it Matters”:
“A mystic philosopher is one who takes the tension toward the transcendent divine Ground of being as the cardinal attribute of human reality per se and explores the whole hierarchy of being from this decisive perspective. Thus, all philosophy worthy of the name is mystic philosophy.”
Stated elsewhere, “Political science is a prudential and noetic science” and “there can be no good life without life itself,” a life in which the “consciousness of individual human beings” alone can “respond to divine initiatives and irruptions.”
That such individuals are not ubiquitous or that such irruptions are occasional (though more frequent than many think or would like to think) does not mean they cannot be examined scientifically. That is to say, “By validating the analytical discourse through personal critical understanding and questioning,” Voegelin “was doing science.” In short, “The understanding of experience as participatory is key.” And it is the obligation of every individual “to seek truth and live in accordance with it, to resist evil, live his life in order and—as far as he is able to do it—not succumb to corruptions prevalent in society, regardless of the sources.”
It is in light of such thoughtful depths about the nature of man and the vocation of the philosopher, and particularly the vocation of the political philosopher, who must ever remain mindful of the inherent tensions of human existence, that the analysis of the chapter, “United States in the World Arena” seems to lag. My intent in highlighting this is not to enter a debate about the relative merits or demerits of America’s post-9/11 policies. Rather it is intended to spur conversation about whether or not all topics—however dear to us—should not be subject to the same scrutiny that alone can prevent us from succumbing to possibly erroneous reasoning and, consequently, erroneous action. This chapter seems arguably ill at home in a collection of essays rooted in an awareness that it is ever the loss of tension in the metaxy that undergirds personal and political actions that often prove deleterious to liberty. Referencing President Bush’ April 13, 2004 press conference in which he asserts that, “’Freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every man and woman in this world,’” Sandoz concludes, “Better a bold policy than a timid one, or no policy at all, in an ineluctable high-stakes game where losing is no option. Besides: God takes care of children, drunks, and the United States of America, we cheerfully remember.”
Although I empathize with Sandoz’s concerns regarding “rampant anti-Americanism” that “has exploded both at home and abroad,” and though I am by no means unaware of the threats we face as a nation and civilization, I am not sure such assertions necessarily help us to think deeply and converse wisely. Sandoz reminds us that “politics is a pragmatic endeavor and not a suicide pact.” I could not agree more, but I fear that such rhetoric in a “high stakes game” will not help us to win. It seemingly betrays the spirit of the philosopher no less than the statesman, whose “Openness to the Whole, experienced both noetically and pneumatically, is the chief mark of noetic inquiry and of philosophy as a calling and way of life.”
Indeed, Sandoz provides his own best critique when discussing “The Philosopher’s Vocation”: “Within the limits of possibility and persuasion, the philosopher is called actively to resist untruth through searching noetic critique, grounded as in Aristotle in robust common sense, which is the foundation of prudential rationality and of political science itself.” It would seem a measure of prudence and moderation might necessitate a more circumspect analysis of America’s post-9/11 policies. That is to say, if the spirit of “resistance and conviction form the sine qua non of any Liberty worthy of the name,” the conception of liberty must be rightly ordered for this resistance and conviction not to succumb to immoderation and imprudence. The conversation is therefore not about the principle of resistance but resisting at the right time in the right way for the right reasons.
This sense of rightness also causes me to wonder about another theme, which strikes more directly and arguably more profoundly at the Voegelinian-Sandozian enterprise, namely whether all invocations of spirit are more or less equivocal and can therefore be interchanged, exchanged, and appropriated with little concern about committing an injustice. Consider, for instance, the following. In a section entitled, “Anthropology and the Tension of Existence,” Sandoz quotes Voegelin:
“By spirit we understand the openness of man to the divine ground of his existence; by estrangement from the spirit, the closure and the revolt against the ground. Through spirit man actualizes his potential to partake of the divine. He rises thereby to the imago Dei which it is his destiny to be.”
Sandoz then proceeds to cite Voegelin’s invocation of the prophet Ezekiel, where God tells Ezekiel that he has made him, “‘A watchman for the house of Israel.’” Sandoz makes references to the same passage, Ezekiel 33:7-9, in an earlier essay as an answer to the implicit question regarding what “the individual must do in order to propagate truth and to resist massive societal corruption as a personal obligation.” Yet such appropriations seem to bear within them certain inherent and intransigent difficulties as they seemingly muddle particular distinctions and categories of thought. With respect to Ezekiel, over what does this particular watchman watch but the house of a particular God? And must he not watch over this house in a particular way? The borrowing of promises, commands, warnings, and the like directed to the earthly sojourners in the city of God and applying them in one form or another to the citizens of the city of man has always struck me as problematic. It seems akin to picking up a letter written by John Adams to his wife, Abigail, and reading a particular loving verse and then embracing it as if it were written to me, for me. It would prove hopeless nonsense, however much the principle of love in and of itself remains true in general and in specific instances when rightly interpreted.
This might rouse the non-dogmatic ire of some—possibly even Professor Sandoz, who is ever mindful that, “The ultimate truth of faith is not at stake in the dogmas or even in the symbols.” But arguably there is a difference between rarified, ossified dogma untethered from metaxial experiences and their symbols and the experience and symbolization of one particular being speaking to a particular people about particular things applicable in a particular way. The Bible seems to fall into the latter category and the failure to take due note of what is said by whom to whom seems to lead to deadly ends. Consider merely the authentic, heartfelt sacrifice of Nadab and Abihu offered up to God. Loving sacrifice is a good thing, but seemingly not an absolute good. In this light I wonder whether or not Sandoz is giving due consideration to his own invocation of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians of which Sandoz himself states explicitly, “The liberty claimed through Christ is freedom from the law and the gift of righteousness through divine Grace.” It would seem this liberty is of a peculiar type meant for a peculiar people. It seems Paul is at pains to make precisely this point.
I, for my part, in raising these points, do not hope to solve the tension between various positions regarding the interplay of spirit, spirits, spiritualism, and dogmas, let alone to argue that appropriations and misappropriations were not part and parcel of the American colonial and founding periods and, indeed, continue to be invoked today by politicians, pundits, and academics of all stripes for sundry reasons. Nor am I looking to revisit the conversation of the essence or meaning of Voegelin’s (or Sandoz’s) faith. With respect to the foregoing, I fear that this side of eternity we might find ourselves in a position akin to the one Voegelin recounts between Kuyuk Khan and Pope Innocent IV in The New Science of Politics.
Still, if we bemoan the appropriations, and more often misappropriations, of eschatological hopes through secular messiahs interested only in their secular fulfillment, I wonder if in some way we do not beget a similar error when we appropriate promises made to a particular and peculiar people and apply them to the ostensibly good end of maintaining the necessary tensions in the metaxy. Sandoz invokes Étienne Gilson’s question with respect to a people in possession of revelation, “‘How can you possibly philosophize as though you had never heard it?’”
Arguably this is the key question that every philosopher living in the Christian era must ask. And yet, it seems to necessitate taking that revelation on its own terms and possibly recognizing that Dorothy Sayers might have been on to something when she pronounces, “But if Christian dogma is irrelevant to life, to what, in Heaven’s name is it relevant?—since religious dogma is in fact nothing but a statement of doctrines concerning the nature of life and the universe. . . . Between Humanism and Christianity and between Paganism and Theism there is no distinction whatever except a distinction of dogma.” This dogma is the Dogma, which is Christ—a drama whose “plot pivots upon a single character, and the whole action is the answer to a single central problem: What think ye of Christ?” Of course it might well be correct to note as Sandoz does, drawing on Voegelin:
“The God of Abraham, Moses, Plato, and Paul is one and the same God, disclosed to spiritually sensitive men of all ages and communicated in equivalent language modalities and symbolisms. To make any other assumption about human communion with divine being would be extraordinary, if one acknowledges that there is one mankind and one reality, of which man is ontologically the self-reflective articulate part.”
It strikes me however that here is a conversation still worth having, one rooted in a love for truth and the “loving noetic search of the heights and depths of reality conducted as faith seeking understanding and accepting as authoritative truth the insights attained in the open quest of reality experienced.” In Anselm’s dictum we find a touchstone of agreement and a basis on which to have such a conversation, namely that “the philosopher is the true type of man.” And herein lies the rub, for it seems we cannot escape the most foundational of all questions: “What is truth?”
Throughout the collection of essays, Sandoz is at pains to remind the reader (as noted once already) that, “Now as always before, resistance and conviction form the sine qua non of any Liberty worthy of the name.” What is more, “‘One cannot combat a satanic force with morality and humanity alone.’” He repeatedly invokes in one form or another “the defiant fervor” of the revolutionary generation, itself reflected in the title of his collection, which is meant to invoke Patrick Henry’s famous words. As you read the collection, you cannot help but wonder if this disposition has not been lost in modern American life.
Indeed, you are left contemplating whether it is not precisely the loss of the “the true ‘rugged individual’ of our tradition and ontology”—one who is “anchored in commonsense reality while acknowledging his own human inability as nobility enough for a person engaged in the divine-human collaboration whereby the ineffable becomes effable in biography, history, and human affairs, an intimation of divine Providence”—that resides at the very heart of our spiritual and political apathy. (And in the foregoing citation we once again see an example of the power of Sandoz’s ability to pithily capture the essence of a complex truth in a few poignant words.)
In Sandoz’s reference to the aged James Madison’s admiration for the “acuity of his generation in seeing the hand of tyranny in a three-penny tax on tea,” we see the spirit of an elder statesman challenging us to ask why we are allowing ourselves to become content to serve as a “flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as its shepherd.” Akin to Esau, we are giving up our birthright for a meager pot of egalitarian porridge. Yet Sandoz is not despondent. “We still have a republic,” he states, “if we can keep it.” To keep it we have to read carefully, think deeply, converse wisely, and live prudently—lessons Sandoz would have us learn and live.
“I too am a painter,” one who has learned much from Ellis Sandoz and one whose own writing is also dedicated to the defense of Liberty. His writings have helped me retain the vision that political philosophy, so central to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is not a soulless, bloodless venture. Political philosophy is nothing short of revolutionary, and it is the spirit of the American Revolution, in which individuals dedicated to the principles of ordered liberty pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, that courses through Sandoz’s collection. Give Me Liberty or give me death. This is the essence of the love of wisdom—of philosophy as a vocation and not as a field for dispassionate, disinterested study. Like Voegelin, we who have been called to be philosophers and teachers must “overtly and explicitly” profess truth and resist corruption. That Sandoz reminds us of this once again is not only appreciated by this reader but is undeniably a civilizational necessity. It deserves our careful attention embodied in careful reading and prudential living. That it is not novel or original makes it all the more compelling:
“The spiritual disorder of our time, the civilizational crisis of which everyone so readily speaks, does not by any means have to be borne as an inevitable fate; [but], on the contrary, everyone possesses the means of overcoming it in his own life. . . . No one is obliged to take part in the spiritual crisis of society; on the contrary, everyone is obliged to avoid this folly and live his life in order.”
 The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force Academy, the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
 “Preface” in Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, trans. Anne Cohler (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), xlv.
 “Preface” in Ellis Sandoz, Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy (South Bend, Ind.: St. Augustine Press, 2013), ix.
 Ibid., 96.
 Ibid., 67. Sandoz makes the same point in the first essay of the collection where, in reference to the “Good” as the end to which our “politics of aspiration” aspire, he notes that he wishes this Platonic insight “seemed less tedious and the answer about it less predictable. But perhaps unoriginality is the mark of truth in human affairs.” Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 54.
 For instance, compare the concluding pages of the essay, “The Free Man and the Free Government in Political Philosophy” (17) with the opening pages of the essay, “Religion and the American Founding” (21-22).
 Sandoz, Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy, 45.
 Ibid., 107. After elaborating on this concise and informative summary by offering another equally illuminating and comprehensive summary from a different vantage point, Sandoz concludes, “This complex amalgam constituted the politics of Liberty, as I have tried to show.” Ibid.
 The Federalist, ed. George Carey and James McClellan (Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund, 2001), 269.
 . Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy, 31-35.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., 6-7.
 Ibid., 7.
 Ibid., 82.
 Ibid., 57.
 Ibid., 79. With respect to philosophy as mysticism, see also pages 67 and 72. On page 72, Sandoz notes, “The key problem of philosophy is the relation to transcendence, i.e., that philosophy originates in mysticism.” With respect to the science of political philosophy, consider Sandoz’s citation of Voegelin, “The consciousness of being caused by the Divine ground and being in search of the Divine ground—that is reason [nous]. Period.” Ibid., 85.
 Ibid., 63.
 Ibid., 63, 62.
 Ibid., 54.
 Ibid., 61.
 Ibid., 68-69.
 Bush cited in ibid., 49.
 Ibid., 50.
 Ibid., 51.
 Ibid., 53.
 Ibid., 80-81.
 Ibid., 81.
 “Preface” in ibid., ix.
 Voegelin quoted in ibid., 87-88.
 Ibid., 88.
 Ibid., 68. See also the later invocation in the chapter, “The Philosopher’s Vocation,” 92-93.
 Ibid., 66.
 Lev 10:1-3: “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’’ And Aaron held his peace.” Here and throughout all Biblical citations by the author are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
 Sandoz, Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy, 97.
 Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 56-59.
 Sandoz, Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy, 8. See also page 55: “He [Voegelin] often stressed to his secular-minded audiences (especially in Munich) that science is controlled by experience—and you can’t go back of revelation, ignore the occasions when it occurred, or pretend that such pneumatic experiences never happened.”
 Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos (Manchester, N.H.: Sophia Institute Press, 1974), 35.
 Ibid., 3. The particular title of the chapter is, “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged is the Official Creed of Christendom.”
 Sandoz, Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy, 90.
 Ibid., 91.
 “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’” John 18:36-38.
 “Preface” in Sandoz, Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy, ix.
 Voegelin quoted in ibid., 108; see also page 75.
 Ibid., 18.
 Ibid., 10.
 Ibid., 18.
 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Harvey C. Mansfield and Debra Winthrop (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), 692; see all of volume II, part 2, chapters 6 and 7, pages 690-702.
 Gen 25:29-34.
 Sandoz, Give Me Liberty: Studies in Constitutionalism and Philosophy, 31.
 Ibid., 77.
 Voegelin quoted in ibid., 86.
Also available is Lee Trepanier’s review here.