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In the Search for Order: The Spirit of Voegelin’s Late Work

In The Search For Order: The Spirit Of Voegelin’s Late Work

The principal work by Voegelin written in the final years of his life and published posthumously includes the final volume of Order and History, entitled In Search of Order, his deathbed meditation dictated to Paul Caringella, “Quod Deus Dicitur,” and the unfinished Aquinas Lecture titled “The Beginning and the Beyond: A Meditation on Truth.”1 While a great deal need not be made of the patently incomplete character of each of these documents, construing the silence of omissions has led to various interpretive debates in the secondary literature about the possibly “changed” views of the “late” Voegelin on crucial matters. The principal issues raised deserve brief mention and clarification from my perspective at the outset of this discussion.

In particular, there have been questions raised about the triumph of his “scientific” side over his “spiritual” side in the final writings — a false dichotomy, in my view. There was a hinted emergence of two “schools” of interpretation pitting a German against an alleged American interpre­tation of the master’s thought. Such an odd outbreak of nationalism aside, the emergence of an interpretive divergence of some sort seems undeniable. But its depth and justifiability when measured against Voegelin’s texts themselves are questions that are more opaque and probably must remain so as largely accounted for by the predispositions of the interpreters and not merely or even primarily by complexities in the work being interpreted.2

To put matters simply: Was Eric Voegelin a scientist to the marrow of his bones? Yes. Was he a mystic-philosopher in all of his work from the 1920s until the very end of his life? Yes — by express self-declaration so from the 1960s. Can one be both mystic-philosopher and political scientist in the philosophical sense estab­lished in classical antiquity by Plato and Aristotle? Yes — and that was Voegelin’s position as I read it, as I think he himself intended it, and as I have tried to portray it in my own studies of him. I do not see a change of heart in the late Voegelin on these basic issues.

The silences in his late writings on the specific subject of Christianity cannot be construed as evidence of a change of heart. To argue otherwise involves something akin to reading tea leaves. The subject matter of Christianity lay ahead in In Search of Order, as he plainly indicates, and time ran out before he ever got to it. Shall we then fault Voegelin for an untimely death? He did all he could. Moreover, the experience of transcendent divine Reality is obviously and profoundly the subject of “Quod Deus Dicitur,” evidently the latest of all the late writings. There is a different tone in the last volume of Order and History to which we must be atten­tive, to be sure. In “Quod Deus Dicitur,” however, the tone is familiar, and one hears a mystic-philosopher speaking until he can speak no more — and quoting in the process from a document that contains (so far as I know) one of the most direct statements of his abiding devotion to Christianity ever reduced to the printed page,3 as well as from the final part of In Search of Order.

I take the “two-Voegelin” characterization to be at best misleading: There is one Voegelin whose complex and profound thought deserves to be understood on its own terms. But there may be real issues here nonetheless. Some evidently center, in part, on uneasiness with a per­ceived “religious” Voegelin and, in part, on the question of an academi­cally “useable” Voegelin in a period of rampant scientism where religion is passé or worse. This evident climate of opinion seems bleakly domi­nant for the foreseeable future, and it is plainly dominant at the expense of the life of the soul— as it always has been.

Thus, it may be arguably true that the power and stature of Eric Voegelin’s scholarly achievement can never gain any real attention in the “mainstream” intellectual life of our time, if it is portrayed as fundamentally grounded in spiritual experiences and is, thus, in some sense “religious” and to be dismissed out of hand as such. There is more than a little to this argument, I must agree, and it poses something of a dilemma. To speak as I do in following the sources of a “philosophical science” rooted in the work of a “mystic-philosopher” who affirms the cardinal importance of human participation in the divine Ground of being, of the reality of the life of the spirit as the basis of noetic science, may seem to invite a strategic catastrophe for the intellectual and academic cause of Eric Voegelin.

This is not because of what Voegelin did in fact achieve. Rather it is because of the company he may seem to be keeping (i.e., obscurantists, crackpots, fanatics, and other deluded enthusiasts as the religious are regularly caricatured by Hollywood, the public media, and sneering intellectuals, for instance) when his work of a lifetime is so characterized and pigeonholed. He himself had mild misgivings on this score, fearful of possibly being identified as one more California guru. It is at least possible that the austere style of presentation of In Search of Order was partly intended as a prophylaxis against any such absurd confusion. Perhaps there is a perception and packaging prob­lem, in short. Protecting the core of the work of an erudite and ab­solutely solid analytical philosopher certainly assumes importance on this consideration.

Well, what shall we do about that, one wonders? Let him become a phenomenologist or a hermeneuticist or, perhaps, a quasi-Catholic philosopher so that the learned academy in its devotion to these re­spected strands of scholarship will at least be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief and relate him to their own respectable professional en­deavors? Voegelin’s debts and suggested similarities to Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, and Scheler could be stressed.4 The connective tissue is truly there, the contexts and affinities legitimately cited, and the philosophical company suitably distinguished. Much good could come of it, to be sure.

But can the decisive differences unique to Voegelin survive such processes of comparison and assimilation, I wonder? Some such move does serve to underscore the steady and sustained interest of Voegelin early and late in devising the groundwork for a more adequate political science, one that thereby could be rendered more palatable to secular-minded contemporary academics and to their students. There is some­thing to be said in favor of this approach, considered as a stratagem. Better half a loaf than no bread at all, to think along with these advo­cates and to think politically. The real Voegelin is a scandal, we might whisper softly to ourselves in dark of night. We crave respectability and seek to make an impact, to be successful — not simply to disappear into the abyss of forgotten labors, unread books, and lost opportunities purged from memory, lemmings into the sea. Prudence itself dictates such a course, goes the siren song. Moreover, conscientious scholars with the best of good intentions will disagree over the meaning of the complicated material they are studying and do so in good faith. Honest disagreements are simply inevitable.

Under these circumstances, I can only say that, tempting as it may be, the prudential calculation — if that becomes the driving considera­tion — is inadmissible as distorting the material on principle, if and when it is carried out to the neglect of the overall content of Voegelin’s work. To look for the context of Voegelin’s science, to relate it to its origins in the history of German Geisteswissenschaft, and to see it as developing that scholarly mode as a dimension of contemporary philoso­phy and science may be entirely legitimate, providing the account does not become reductionist in the process.5 To discover ways in which Voegelin’s work fits into the broad spectrum of movements of contem­porary theory is valuable and important — if one does not ideologize his thought in the process by (say) supposedly rescuing him from the conservative-reactionary camp by assimilating him to a left-liberal posi­tion more compatible with the interpreter’s own political commitments.

It has to be stressed (as I have done elsewhere on more than one occa­sion) that Eric Voegelin was, indeed, above all a philosopher and a scientist, not a party hack or politically correct ideologue of any stripe. Nobody is entitled through any device whatever with impunity to turn him into one posthumously.6 Details regarding the complex debate over the scope of meditation and meaning of science in Voegelin’s late work must be left to other occasions.7 However, it is important to re­mind ourselves of the rudiments of Voegelin’s noetic science as he has stated matters himself. Such a concise statement is given in Science, Politics, and Gnosticism §1, where the episteme politike is discussed, and its reliance on Aristotle’s Analytica Posteriora, with a caveat and elaboration — as follows:

“When we speak or scientific analysis, we wish to emphasize the contrast with formal analysis. An analysis by means of formal logic can lead to no more than a demonstration that an opinion suffers from an inherent contradiction, or that different opinions contradict one another, or that conclusions have been invalidly drawn. A scientific analysis, on the other hand, makes it possible to judge of the truth of the premises implied by an opinion. It can do this, however, only on the assumption that truth about the order of being — to which, of course, opinions also refer—is objectively ascertainable.”

And Platonic-Aristotelian analysis does in fact operate on the assumption that there is an order of being accessible to a science beyond opinion. Its aim is knowledge of the order of being, of the levels of the hierarchy of being and their interrelationships, of the essential structure of the realms of being, and especially of human nature and its place in the totality of being. Analysis, therefore, is scientific and leads to a science of order through the fact that, and insofar as, it is ontologically oriented. . . . The decisive event in the establishment of politike episteme was the specifically philosophical [i.e., noetic] realization that the levels of being discernible within the world are surmounted by a tran­scendent source of being and its order. And this insight was itself rooted in the real movements of the human spiritual soul toward divine Being experienced as transcendent.

In the experiences of love for the world-transcendent origin of being, in philia toward the sophon (the wise), in eros toward the agathon (the good) and the kalon (the beautiful), man became philosopher. From these experiences arose the image of the order of being. At the opening of the soul — that is the metaphor Bergson uses to describe the event — the order of being becomes visible even to its Ground and origin in the Beyond, the Platonic epekeina, in which the soul participates as it suffers and achieves its opening. Only when the order of being as a whole, unto its origin in transcendent Being, comes into view, can the analysis be under­taken with any hope of success; for only then can current opinions about right order be examined as to their agreement with the order of being. When the strong and successful are highly rated, they can then be contrasted with those who possess the virtue of phronesis, who live sub specie mortis and act with the Last Judg­ment in mind.8

For those ready to object that this was formulated in 1958 and things changed afterward (and of course some things did change, but not the foundations of Voegelin noetic science), there is a pertinent reply by Voegelin to the question of a shift from the 1966 version of the theory of consciousness and the elaboration set forth in his final book, an answer he gave in March 1983.

Questioner: “. . . could you comment on any developments in your notion of Intentionality from Anamnesis to the first chapter of [In Search of Order]?’

Voegelin: “Well, I don’t know if it’s a development. It’s just a more accurate description of the complexes; of the problem of complex itself; of the concept of tension (it’s better developed); all of these tensions and systems of complexes.”

Questioner: “But you wouldn’t deny anything you said in Anamnesis?”

Voegelin: “No. I rarely have something to deny because I always stick close to the empirical materials and do not generalize beyond them. . . . I would only hesitate to go beyond the formulation of the tensions and the complexes, because I see no real experiences of anything going beyond that formulation.”‘9

A Dry Soul is Wisest and Best

Our brief reflections on the two principal writings open with “Quod Deus Dicitur,” and then turn to In Search of Order. Voegelin does in some degree move beyond earlier formulations even as he reiterates some of them in exploring the tension toward the divine Realissimum in his final meditation. In the process he gives hints on the Christian experiential horizon — a subject definitely on his mind. I say that ad­visedly, given the title of the meditation and on the grounds that, not only do we have here his very last utterances dictated during the last sixteen days of his life, but also because of Lissy Voegelin’s report of their conversations to this effect, with Voegelin telling her: “At last I understand Christianity!” And she responding: “Yes, Eric, but you’re going to take it with you!”10 

So he did. We have only a fragment, much of it drawn from previous writings. Does this confirm these earlier views? I think it does, and it thereby argues the continuity of Voegelin’s thought. What is the tenor of the meditation? “A dry soul is wisest and best,” wrote Heraclitus, and Voegelin agreed.11 On occasion of his discussion of Heraclitus, he concluded with the following:

“The transcendental irruption which makes the generation of the mystic-philosophers an epoch in the history of mankind has profoundly affected the problem of social order up to the present because the old collective order on the less differentiated level of consciousness is under permanent judgment (krisis) by the new authority, while the new order of the spirit is socially an aristocratic achievement of charismatic individuals, of the ‘dry souls’ who can say: ‘I have come to throw fire on the earth . . . . Do you believe I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, rather divi­sion'” (Luke 12:49, 51).12

The spirit of his “Quod Deus Dicitur” is in this same vein of affective austerity and invocation of the authority of the dry souls for their in­sight. He wishes to know “what is said to be God?” — what is called “ It,” as the comprehending Divinity of the Beyond of the gods of myth and doctrine is symbolized in the language of In Search of Order.

He explores this question during his final days and hours in sustained converse, as was his anamnestic method, with the great philosophical meditatives of history. Beginning from the formulation in the title as given by Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae 1.2.3), he analytically moves in succession to Anselm of Canterbury and Hegel, to Plato, to Psalm 13 (in the Vulgate, 14 in KJV), nods to Jeremiah and Isaiah, moves back to Plato’s resistance to the sophists and especially to Gorgias and the distinction between apodeixis and epideixis for properly under­standing the so-called “proofs” of God’s existence, to the meaning of theology in the Republic and Laws, to the ambivalent responsiveness of Aristophanes, to the recollection of the “One” in Parmenides’s differen­tiation of the Beyond of the many gods of Hesiod, to the meaning of the differentiation in Plato’s one “God” in the Timaeus, to end with thoughts remembered from In Search of Order:

“For Hesiod, Zeus is no god unless there is a divine reality Beyond the gods. In these Hesiodian symbolizations we recognize the first intimations of the comprehending (periechon) Beyond that ulti­mately becomes the epekeina of Plato.”13

The material intended for further reflection but unable to be di­rectly attended to, noted by Caringella, consisted of the following: the all enfolding divine of Anaximander and Aristotle’s commentary on it; the prayer of Plotinus (Enneads 5.1.6); the prayer of the Timaeus (48d-53c); Goethe’s “mental prayer”; the equivalent Christian experiences-symbolizations in Colossians 2:9: “For in [Christ] dwells all of the fulness [pleroma] of the Godhead bodily”; and in Aquinas’s Tetragrammaton (ST1. 13.11.1).14

Voegelin’s meditative path is an exploration of the consciousness of God experienced, not as an objectified thing, but rather as “the partner in a questing search that moves within a reality formed by participatory language.” Moreover, the “noetic search for the structure of a reality that includes divinity is itself an event within the reality we are ques­tioning. . . . [A]t every point . . . we are faced with the problem of an inquiry into something experienced as real before the inquiry into the structure of its reality has begun.”15 This is a primary event: Our reason in search of our faith is at the same time our faith in search of our reason!

The quest is an event and a historical process, seen against the back­ground of two major civilizational contexts: (1) the emergence of “God” from the polytheistic background of Hellas and (2) the emer­gence of “God” from “the tension between doctrinal and mystical theol­ogy in the Christian societies since antiquity.”16 These experiences-symbolizations produce an array of language dominating discourse on the subject but “stabilized” at a comparatively compact level of intentionalistic topics ranging from philosophy and religion through natural theology and supernatural theology, without ever “penetrating to the fundamentally paradoxic structure of thought that is peculiar to the participatory relation between the process of thought and the reality in which it proceeds.”17

The paradox (a prominent issue in the analysis of In Search of Order) principally lies in the relationship between (a) the divine-human encounter experienced in the search and (b) the reflective symbols arising in particular cultural and linguistic contexts that must be utilized in giving it noetic expression. In the instance of Thomas, the scriptural faith of I AM THAT I AM (Ex. 3:14; ego sum qui sum, in the Vulgate) is presupposed in the question concerning what is called God, at the core of which is the tension experienced-symbolized be­tween necessary Being and contingent being. “There is no divinity other than the necessity in tension with the contingency experienced in the noetic question.”18 The nub of the paradox lies in the intentional, parochial, finite means of symbolization inevitably employed by philoso­phers (and other meditatives) to articulate the experiential event of their participatory encounter with the trans-finite divine Beyond.

The breaking out of the doctrinal impasse that compactly obscures the prob­lem of paradox composes significant parts of the history of Western philosophy (both differentiating and deforming) — sometimes, for in­stance, in terms of the so-called proofs of the existence of God from Plato to Aquinas through Descartes and Leibniz to Kant’s rejection of such supposed efforts as untenable. But what, in fact, really is occurring in these places, Voegelin argues, is not syllogistic proofs but noetic analysis of the paradox of reality just circumscribed. So discerned by Hegel as being, not proofs, but descriptive analyses of the process of the Spirit (Geist) itself, he wrote: “The rising of thought beyond the sensual, the thought transcending the finite into the infinite, the leap that is made by breaking from the series of the sensual into the super-sensual, all this is thought itself, the transition is only thought itself.19

Clarifying though this is, Hegel’s subsequent error is to deform his in­sight into the paradoxic structure by construing it as the definitive solu­tion of the problem of divinity in the process of thought and by then incorporating it into his finished conceptual system — thereby obscur­ing through “hypostatization” that “the noetic movement itself, the divine-human encounter, is still an active process in tension toward the symbols of faith.”20 Philosophy, Voegelin steadily insists, is ever the questing love of divine wisdom in the spiritual man responsive to the appeal of It-reality; philosophy can, therefore, never become the per­fected real science or knowledge (wirkliches Wissen) imagined by the li­bidinous systematizer and his epigones.21

Despite the deformation, however, Voegelin finds Hegel close to the optimal expression of the problem as experienced by Anselm of Canterbury; but he oversteps the bounds stated by Anselm in Proslogion XV: “‘Oh Lord, you are not only that than which a greater cannot be conceived, but you are also greater than what can be conceived.’ This is the limit of noetic conceptual analysis disregarded by Hegel.” Voegelin then continues with this telling passage:

“The noetic quest of Anselm . . . assumes the form of a prayer for an understanding of the symbols of faith through the intellect. Behind the quest, and behind the fides the quest is supposed to understand, there now becomes visible the true source of the Anselmian effort in the living desire of the soul to move toward the divine light. The divine reality lets the light of its perfection fall into the soul; the illumination of the soul arouses the awareness of man’s existence as a state of imperfection; and this awareness provokes the human movement in response to the divine appeal.”

The illumination, as St. Augustine names this experience, has for Anselm indeed the character of an appeal, and even of a counsel and promise. For in order to express the experience of illumination he quotes John 16:24: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” The Johannine words of the Christ, and the Spirit that counsels in his name, words meant to be understood in their context, express the divine movement to which Anselm responds with the joyful countermovement of his quest (XXVI).

Hence, the latter part of the Proslogion consistently praises the divine light in the analogical language of perfection. Anselm’s prayer is a meditatio de ratione fidei as he formulates the nature of the quest in the first title of the Monologion. The praying quest responds to the appeal of reason in the fides; the Proslogion is the fides in ac­tion, in pursuit of its own reason. St. Anselm, we must therefore conclude, clearly understood the cognitive structure as internal to the metaxy, the In-Between of the soul in the Platonic sense.22

Voegelin’s reliance on Saint Augustine must be stressed in connection with any assessment of the argument of In Search of Order. Thus, as he indicated in a letter to Leo Strauss:

“With respect to the relationship of science (and especially meta­physics) and revelation, Augustine seems to me in principle to have shown the way. Revealed knowledge is, in the building of human knowledge, that knowledge of the pregivens of perception (sapientia, closely related to the Aristotelian nous as distinguished from episteme). To these pregivens belongs the experience of man of himself as esse, nosse, velle, the inseparable primal experience: I am as knowing and willing being; I know myself as being and willing; I will myself as a being and a knowing human. (For Au­gustine in the worldly sphere, the symbol of the trinity: the Father — Being; the Son — the recognizable order; the Spirit — the process of being in history). To these important pregivens belongs further the being of God beyond time (in the just characterized dimensions of creation, order, and dynamic) and the human knowledge of this being through “revelation.” Within this knowl­edge pregiven by sapientia stirs the philosophic episteme. I must confess that these pregivens appear to me quite acceptable.”23

The source of Voegelin’s use of It to symbolize the encompassing di­vine Reality is vaguely given as the common expression “It rains”24 and ascribed elsewhere to Nietzsche and to Karl Kraus, but it evidently also partakes of the neo-Platonic “light mysticism” of Saint Augustine and contemplatives influenced by his (and their) writings, including Anselm, Thus, Augustine writes:

“By the Platonic books [i.e., Plotinus, Enneads 5.1.1, etc.] I was admonished to return into myself. With you [Lord] as my guide I entered into my innermost citadel, and was given power to do so because you had become my helper (Ps. 29:11). I entered and with my soul’s eye, such as it was, saw above that same eye of my soul the immutable light higher than my mind — not the light of every day, obvious to anyone, nor a larger version of the same kind which would, as it were, have given out a much brighter light and filled everything with its magnitude. It was not that light, but a different thing, utterly different from all our kinds of light.”

“It transcended my mind, not in the way that oil floats on water, nor as heaven is above earth. It was superior because it made me, and 1 was inferior because I was made by it. The person who knows the truth knows it, and he who knows it knows eternity. Love knows it. Eternal truth and true love and beloved eternity: you are my God. To you I sigh “day and night” (Ps. 42:2). When I first came to know you, you raised me up to make me see that what I saw is Being, and that I who saw am not yet Being. And you gave a shock to the weakness of my sight by the strong radiance of your rays, and I trembled with love and awe.”25

In Julian of Norwich one finds the following meditation on I AM as more fully revealed in the Trinity:

“I it am. That is to say, I it am, the Might and the Goodness of the Fatherhood; I it am, the Wisdom of the Motherhood; I it am, the Light and Grace that is all blessed Love; I it am, the Trinity, I it am, the Unity: I am the sovereign Goodness of all manner of things. I am that maketh thee to love: I am that maketh thee to long: I it am, the endless fulfilling of all true desires.”26

What is the In Search of Order About?

The balance achieved by Anselm is never surpassed (as Voegelin’s loving recollection of it implies), and the important implications can best be studied by the reader in the original. The stance of Voegelin at the end of his days is of a man living in responsive openness to the divine appeal. He finds that what is at stake is not God but the truth of human exis­tence with the persuasive role of the philosopher unchanged since antiquity, the persistent partisan for reality — experienced in the propa­gation of existential truth: This is the scholar’s true vocation. If there is an “answer” given to the question of his unfinished meditation, it may be glimpsed in an affirmation of the comprehending Oneness of divin­ity Beyond the plurality of gods and things. At the end of Voegelin’s long struggle to understand, Reality experienced-symbolized is a mys­terious ordered (and disordered) tensional oneness moving toward the perfection of its Beyond — not a system. 27

It is right, I think, to approach In Search of Order from the perspec­tive gained through the foregoing consideration of “Quod Deus Dici­tur.” While the analysis there is directed toward the paradoxic structure of linguistic articulation of meditation as carried out by a philosopher, i.e., responsively by Voegelin himself, the substance of the study is that sketched already. Therefore, only the barest hints of the book need be attempted here. 28   This is because the dense intricacy of the analysis does not lend itself to cogent abridgment. But it is also because Voegelin himself is emphatic that no discursive teaching whatever can be derived from the class of decisive experiences such as the one just traced in Anselm. This is one further paradox to be considered, of course. Al­though he was writing explicitly about Plato’s “fides of the Cosmos” in the Timaeus that “becomes transparent for the drama of the Beyond enacted, through the tensional process of the Cosmos, from demiurgic Beginning to a salvational End,” Voegelin’s strictures apply more gener­ally, viz.:

“No ‘Principles,’ or ‘absolutes,’ or ‘doctrines’ can be extracted from this tensional complex; the quest for truth, as an event of participation in the process, can do no more than explore the structures in the divine mystery of the complex reality and, through the analysis of the experienced responses to the tensional pulls, arrive at some clarity about its own function in the drama in which it participates.”29

This is not a new insight on Voegelin’s part, as one commentator sum­marizes his early perspective on the subject of participatory experi­ence: “[A]nalysis of noetic acts and the person as the center of noetic acts revealed spirit to be incapable of reification. Spiritual and intellec­tual acts can only be understood by persons committing the same acts.” With reference to the writings of Othmar Spann and Max Scheler, but also of the young Voegelin:

“the ‘primacy of the spirit’ in the human community is found in the primal community of man and God. In meditation as the ground form of philosophizing the conditions of noetic under­standing are attained. Because the divine Ground of being resists reification, so too do the noetic acts of the person. The meditative movement of human consciousness, the via negationis which breaks every reification which interrupts communication between spirit and spirit (Gezweiung), is therefore the quintessential act of the human person. In the highest form of community, the unio mystica, the human discovers his true being in deo and through this his brother-and-sisterhood in humankind. This experience also gives the person the criteria for judging the untruthfulness of speculation which reduces humankind to mere worldly existence.” 30

What then is In Search of Order about? Is there a guiding thread through the maze that gives meaning to the enterprise to the degree that it lies before us, an unfinished meditation? Perhaps the rule of reading is given in Voegelin’s reiterated statement that the ineffable becomes effable in divine-human experience. In other words: The mystery of tran­scendent divine Being is not directly experientiable but only its effects (to use the “old” language of tradition and of his own earlier writings) as explored in the participatory quest of truth. The book is about Voegelin’s quest of truth and the terms of that quest as the form of philosophizing dictated by his examination of the structure of his own reflective consciousness. We may grandly speak of his “theory of con­sciousness,” of course. But the discipline of In Search of Order and its teaching for all who enter the quest for the truth of divine Reality is to avoid every intentionalist construction and every abstraction so as to stick to the concrete terminology of radically empirical analysis.

Thus, the old objectification of the dichotomous pairs immanent and transcendent and even of experience and symbolization all but disap­pears from the pages of this last book. That is not because Voegelin is safely back in the fold of naturalistic science in the mode of quantum theory or of hermeneutics. Rather it is because the rigor of analysis in the In-Between as participatory is more directly — i.e., economically and succinctly — articulated experientially by Plato’s epekeina (Beyond) than it is when the more easily hypostatized language of entities and things creeps in as the mode of expressing the tension toward the divine Ground whose exploration is noesis proper.

The disciplined vocabulary attempts to obviate Intentionality in favor of the participatory per­spective of the noetic quest, and thereby to make deformative lapses into doctrinalization, dogma, and hypostatization of the experiential tension’s structure-process less likely in thought and discourse. These considerations should not, of course, be so construed as to obscure Voegelin’s insistence upon the paradoxical Parousia of It-reality also in experiences of thing-reality, as intimated (for instance, within the biblical horizon) in Ephesians 4:6: “One God and Father of all, who [is] over all, and through all, and in all you.” As one commentator summarizes: “Consciousness as metaxy or ‘In-Between,’ then, always participates intentionalistically in ‘thing-reality’ and luminously in ‘It-reality’ at the same time.”31

Thus “God,” so far from being abolished — to venture illustrations not given by Voegelin himself, to help clarify a cardinal point — is apperceived as the divine presence encountered in every waking hour. Reason (Nous) itself is not “natural” but partakes of the divine-human encounter and collaboration to understand. Parousia is so expanded as to include the experienced presence of the divine It-reality celebrated by meditatives as widely different as William Blake and the Psalmist, who experience the creation as transparent for the Creator behind it, and for the undisclosed (ineffable) divine depth Beyond, intimated through it — in harmony with the principle of analogia entis. While it may not be set to music, In Search of Order is Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” in the chaste discourse of classical philosophy, the noetic effu­sion of a dry soul. It may not be poetry, but it is nonetheless filled with glimmerings of a mind ready:

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.32

It breathes the vision of the Psalmist that:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun. Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.”33

Already in his doctoral dissertation of 1922 on “Wechselwirkung und Gezweiung” (Interaction and Spiritual Community), following Max Scheler and Othmar Spann, and in the Herrschaftslehre (Theory of Governance), Voegelin understands the individual human person to be potentially imago dei, “the intersection of divine eternity and human temporality,” and he never relinquished that fundamental insight into man and reality. As he later wrote, he regarded the experience of the Divine ground of being as the central problem of all philosophizing — whatever terminology he found from time to time to be most felici­tous in exploring and articulating the experience. 34  A decade after Voegelin wrote the Herrschaftslehre T.S. Eliot wrote:

But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless With time, is an
occupation for the saint —
. . . . . . . .
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is
Here the impossible union. . . .35

There is a thread to follow, indeed, and the continuity from Voegelin’s young manhood onward is striking. Thus in his first book (published in 1928) he devotes a remarkable chapter to Jonathan Edwards’s spirituality and writes: “In the first half of the eighteenth cen­tury, in the person of Jonathan Edwards, the separation of dogma from mysticism begins in [America].” As we observed in chapter 5, in The History of the Race Idea (1933) Voegelin opened his critique of the Nazi reductionist biological anthropology by resolutely juxtaposing classical and Christian understanding of human existence that it pre­tended finally to replace, as presented by Max Scheler and by Thomas à Kempis in Imitation of Christ: “‘Every day is to be lived as if it were the last, and the soul should always be anxious for the world beyond the senses. Perfect calm of the soul can be found only in the eternal gaze upon God — . . . but this is not possible while I am in this mortal state.'”36

As previously noticed, The Political Religions (1938) concluded with Voegelin’s contemptuous rejection of Nazi pretensions by invoking the Frankfurter:

“The inner-worldly religiosity experienced by the collective body — be it humanity, the people, the class, the race, or the state — as the realissimum is abandonment of God . . . . According to the German Theology the belief that man is the source of good . . . is anti-Christian renunciation.”37

The epistemological issues were reflected in The New Science of Politics (1952) where Voegelin restricted existential faith to the arena of consciousness (glossing Hebrews 11:1) and revela­tion to the experiential fact of God’s presence in reflective consciousness:

“The experience of mutuality in the relation with God, of the amicitia in the Thomistic sense, of the grace that imposes a su­pernatural form on the nature of man, is the specific difference of Christian truth. The revelation of this grace in history, through the incarnation of the Logos in Christ, intelligibly fulfilled the adventitious movement of the spirit in the mystic philosophers [of antiquity]. The critical authority over the older truth of society that the soul had gained through its opening and its orientation toward the unseen measure [in Plato] was now confirmed through the revelation of the measure itself. In this sense, then, it may be said that the fact of revelation is its content.”38

Four years later in Israel and Revelation (1956) Voegelin formulated the matter at issue in these words: “Philosophy can touch no more than the being of the substance whose order flows through the world.”39  The apparent meagerness of the contemplative’s result is stressed by Voegelin on a number of occasions, partly a paradoxical outgrowth of what he took to be one of the most important insights of Jean Bodin in the midst of the sixteenth-century religious civil wars in France, an insight framed in Bodin’s letter of 1563 to his friend Jean Bautru:

“I had written to you in prior letters to this effect: do not allow conflicting opinions about religion to carry you away; only bear in mind this fact: genuine religion is nothing other than the sincere direction of a cleansed mind toward God.”40

Near the end of his life Voegelin stressed the signal importance of the sentiment and its prudential consequences for our pluralistic world: “Understanding the problem of mysticism as the simple doctrinal understanding of phronesis would be desirable as a task for educators today: reading Bodin’s Lettre a Jean Bautru . . . as a fundamental text in every university of the future, which every student must learn.”41

An Open Quest of Reality

In Search of Order can thereby be seen as Voegelin’s valedictory analysis of a set of interrelated problems that he struggled with for more than sixty years. He did so from a remarkably consistent and resolute perspective of affirmation of man’s participation in divine Being as the sine qua non of his very humanity. If anything is surprising about the book, it lies, I have tried to suggest, primarily in the subtle shift of vocabulary away from objectivation, in the tautness of the prose, in the emphasis upon the mysterious impersonal depth of It-reality beyond the doctrinal God of ready invocation — all in the interest of so refining the participa­tory mode of discourse as more tellingly to express the philosopher’s meditative process as the truly cooperative divine-human event of In-Between reality Voegelin experienced it as being.

Voegelin rigorously adapts the radical empiricism of Plato and James to express the process of noetic meditation in quest of truth — the Anselmian fides quaerens intellectum that emerges as the standard of true philosophizing. More­over, as William Petropulos convincingly shows, this is not new in principle: Meditation as the essence of philosophizing is characteristic of Voegelin’s published work from age twenty-one onward. Chief among Voegelin’s purposes in making these stylistic adjustments is a desire to safeguard insights through analytical precision against attack by those pests of every age, the dogmatists, sophists, and nabala: “The fool [nabal] hath said in his heart, There is no God” — i.e., the spiritu­ally obtuse among us of unlimited abundance. The type is analyzed in detail in “Quod Deus Dicitur.” There Voegelin concludes that it is pri­marily for such pneumopathological personalities that “proofs” of the existence of God must have been devised; and he draws the distinction between apodictic and epideictic proofs, a distinction lost on fools. 42  The status of such “proofs” is clarified, for instance, in relation to Bonaventure’s Itinerarium, or Journey of the Mind to God:

“The reasons taken from the exterior world, although not denied by Saint Bonaventure, are not of primary importance; they are stimuli inducing us to think and to become aware of the imme­diacy of our cognition of God. The being perceived in any created being cannot be perceived in its ultimate meaning without the knowledge of the Being which is God. Neither can any absolute and final and evident truth be known with certitude without the divine light shining through the objects and ideas. This light is always there; we have but to pay full attention to it. When we bring to full awareness the content of our first idea, it is impossible for us to think that God does not exist.”43

Finally, the drift of my suggestions of what Voegelin is about in his last book, whose very title conveys the author’s attitude of an open quest of reality, is borne out in many places but powerfully so in two pas­sages that give the philosopher’s perspective on the search for truth and its ontic status:

“In the analysis of Saint Thomas . . . there appears the personal God who bears the proper name “God,” but behind the God who speaks his Word and hears the word of prayer, there looms the nameless, the impersonal, the tetragrammatic God [YHWH or JHVH]. The God who is experienced as concretely present re­mains the God beyond his presence. The language of the gods, thus, is fraught with the problem of symbolizing the experience of a not-experientiable divine reality . . . . [I]f the consciousness of experience and symbolization remains alive . . . the succession of the gods becomes a series of events to be remembered as the his­tory of the Parousia of the living, divine Beyond. Not the Beyond but its Parousia in the bodily located consciousness of questioning man, the experience of the not-experientiable divine reality, has history: the history of truth emerging from the quest for truth. Under this aspect, the serious effort of the quest for truth acquires the character of a divine comedy.”44

In a later passage he says:

“[T]he quest for truth is ultimately penultimate. In the quest, reality is experienced as the mysterious movement of an It-reality through thing-reality toward a Beyond of things. Neither the things nor the non-things involved in this process are objects external to it; they are structures in the process, discerned through the quest for truth. Moreover, as the things and non-things are not external to the quest, the quest and its language are not exter­nal to them; in reflective distance, the quest itself is discerned as a “placed” event in the mysterious movement.”

For the questioner has to tell the story of his struggle for the unflawed order from his position in the flawed order of thingly existence; and he can tell it, therefore, only in the flawed language that speaks of non-things [God, the soul, consciousness, etc.] in the mode of things. This flawed language includes the language of the “gods.” Hence, the story of the quest does not put an End to the mystery but can only deepen the insight into its paradoxic penultimacy . . . . When the paradoxic experience of not-experientiable reality becomes conscious in reflective distance, the questioner’s language reveals itself as the paradoxic event of the ineffable becoming effable. This tension of effable-ineffable is the paradox in the structure of meditative language that cannot be dissolved by a speculative meta-language of the kind by which Hegel wanted to dissolve the paradoxic “identity of identity and non-identity.”

In reflective distance, the questioner rather experiences his speech as the divine silence breaking creatively forth in the imaginative word that will illuminate the quest as the questioner’s movement of return to the ineffable silence. The quest, thus, has no external “object” but is reality itself becoming luminous for its movement from the ineffable, through the Cosmos, to the ineffable.45 Setting aside the intentionalism of its formulation thirty years earlier, considered as “the analysis of existential consciousness,” Voegelin wrote, “[t]he present analysis thus confirms the statement by which this study on Order and History opened, the statement: ‘The order of history emerges from the history of order.'”46

On more than one occasion in his writings Voegelin asserts the authority of the philosopher as truth-sayer amid the crisis of an age of mendacity and rebellion. He chides the Oxford political philosophers for abdicating duty and invokes from Marcus Aurelius the image of “the philosopher — the priest and servant of the gods.” 47  He reminds his auditors in Munich of the solemn words of the Watchman of Ezekiel (33:7): “So, you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.”48 Jürgen Gebhardt rightly recurs to this ele­ment of Voegelin’s work in noting that for him, when the church has abandoned its duty of spiritual leadership (as it had, for instance, during the Hitler period), “it is the philosopher-scholar who is called upon to accept the office of magisterium and defend it against intellectual usurpers.” 49  The theme is humbly sounded in In Search of Order when the old philosopher finally writes for the last time of Parmenides and philosophy:

“The Being he has differentiated is the structure of the It-reality in consciousness . . . . The thinker has become the speaker of the It-reality with such self-assertive assurance that the balance of consciousness is disturbed. That he also is the speaker of a bodily located con­sciousness, of a human being known as Parmenides, becomes problematic . . . . The excitement that carried the “knowing man” from assertive to self-assertive symbolization provoked the balanc­ing resistance of the “philosopher,” of Socrates-Plato who knows that he does not know and, even more important, who knows why he does not know.”50

A profound serenity descends upon Voegelin’s meditative quest, his faith in search of understanding, and the mood is synoptically captured in a sentence near the end of The Ecumenic Age: “Things do not happen in the astrophysical universe; the universe, together with all things founded in it, happens in God.”51



1. OH, vol. V, In Search of Order (CW 18); “Quod Deus Dicitur,” chap. 14 in CW 12:376-94; and “The Beginning and the Beyond: A Meditation on Truth,” chap.5 in CW 28:173-232.

2. The gist of the debate among conscientious students of Voegelin’s work can best be gauged from a representative published exchange: Jürgen Gebhardt, “The Vocation of the Scholar,” and its answer by Frederick G. Lawrence, “The Problem of Eric Voegelin, Mystic Philosopher and Scientist,” in International and Interdiscipli­nary Perspectives on Eric Voegelin, ed. Stephen A. McKnight and Geoffrey L. Price (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), 10-58. Lawrence relies in part upon Paul Caringella’s unpublished paper “Voegelin’s Order and History” quoted in extenso by Lawrence ibid., 36-42; more fully see Paul Caringella, “Eric Voegelin: Philoso­pher of Divine Presence,” in Eric Voegelin’s Significance for the Modern Mind, ed. Ellis Sandoz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1991), 174-205. I do not mean to suggest that this is the only debate over the meaning of Voegelin’s work, of course.

3. Of Voegelin’s last days Paul Caringella, who sat by his bedside, gives this account:

Eric Voegelin began dictating “Quod Deus Dicitur” on January 2, 1985, the day before his eighty-fourth birthday. He revised the last pages on January 16; further revisions were made on January 17 and in the afternoon of January 18, his last full day before his death on Saturday the nineteenth at about eight in the morning.

When the dictation reached Anselm’s prayer, Voegelin provisionally inserted pertinent pages from an earlier manuscript, with minor adjustments. He simi­larly adapted at the beginning of Sec. 5 a paragraph from his “Response to Pro­fessor Altizer” (. . .1975 . . .). His discussion of Hesiod’s Theogony and Plato’s Timneus in the last pages and in the planned conclusion is based on the full ana­lytical treatment in the last thirty-odd pages of the unfinished fifth and last vol­ume of his Order and History.

Quoted from CW12: 376-77n. The response to Thomas J. J. Altizer mentioned (the “document” I referred to in the text) is reprinted in ibid., 292-303. One must also consider in this connection other late work, of course: “Wisdom and the Magic of the Extreme,” ibid., 315-75, esp. the paragraph beginning “But who is this person of the Christ really?” (369). Voegelin’s incomplete Aquinas Lecture at Marquette Uni­versity, “The Beginning and the Beyond: A Meditation on Truth,” in CW 28:173-232, contains a portion that is incorporated into “Quod Deus Dicitur” (CW 12: 193-203). See also Ellis Sandoz, In Memoriam Eric Voegelin,” Southern Review 21 (1985):372-75.

4. Valuable on Voegelin’s Augustinianism and relationship to Max Scheler’s writ­ings is William Petropulos, “The Person as Imago Dei: Augustine and Max Scheler in Eric Voegelin’s Herrschaftslehre and The Political Religions,” in The Politics of the Soul: Eric Voegelin on Religious Experience, ed. Glenn Hughes (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), 87-114; also William Petropulos, “Eric Voegelin and German Soci­ology,” in Manchester Sociology Occasional Papers No. 50, ed. Peter Halfpenney, De­partment of Sociology, University of Manchester (February 1998).

5. The fecund ambiguity of the German word Geist (translated in the more explicit English language as either mind or spirit or ghost) is a stumbling block that lies at the basis of much debate; and it certainly makes a significant difference in understanding, depending on which meaning is imputed to the term in various con­texts. The substantive matters at issue are pursued with vigor and seriousness espe­cially by Jürgen Gebhardt. Cf. Gebhardt, epilogue to In Search of Order, CW 18:125-34, esp. ad fin; Gebhardt, his portion of the editors’ introduction to On the Form of the American Mind [Geist], CW1:ixxxv; Gebhardt, editor’s introduction to History of Political Ideas, CW 25:l-35, esp. 21 ff.; Peter von Sivers, editor’s introduction to History of Political Ideas, CW 20:1-18, esp. 14-18, where interesting parallels with quantum theory are drawn.

6. See Ellis Sandoz, “Eric Voegelin a Conservative?” and “Voegelin’s Philosophy of History and Human Affairs,” in The Politics of Truth and Other Untimely Essays: The Crisis of Civic Consciousness (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 139-44 and esp. 163-69.

7. Cf. Sandoz, VR, chap. 7, “Principia Noetica: The Voegelinian Revolution,” 188-216. The method of Voegelin’s meditative inquiry is clarified in a number of places, among the most important being the following: his use of the “Aristotelian procedure” explained in The New Science of Politics, 31, 52, 80, in light of the critique of positivism given in the introduction to that book; OH lll [CW16], Plato and Aristotle, esp. chaps. 3, 6-9.

8. The entire section should be consulted. Quoted from Voegelin, Science, Politics, and Gnosticism: Two Essays, intro. by Ellis Sandoz (1968; repr., Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2004), 12-14; cf. Modernity without Restraint, CW 5:258-59. See also “Anx­iety and Reason,” in What Is History?, CW28:52-110, esp. beginning with the ques­tion “What is Reason?” (88 ff.) and the listing of ten primary meanings followed by an analysis; listing given herein, 132-33. An extensive discussion of some pertinent issues is provided in Barry Cooper, Eric Voegelin and the Foundations of Modern Political Sci­ence (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999). Some of my discussion herein overlaps that given in “Voegelins Philosophy of History and Human Affairs,” in Politics of Truth, by Sandoz, 144-70; also Sandoz, “Our Western Predicament-A Voegelinian Perspective on Modernity,” in Politik und Politeia: Formen und Probleme politischer Ordnung, Festgabe fur Jiirgen Gebhardt zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Wolf­gang Leidhold (Wiirzburg: Koenigshausen & Neumann Verlag, 1999), 521-33.

9. The Bginning and the Beyond, Papers from the Gadamer and Voegelin Con­ferences, supplementary issue of Lonergan Workshop, vol. 4, ed. Fred Lawrence (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984), 126-27.

10. Oral communication to the author by Lissy Voegelin after Eric Voegelin’s death.

11. Heraclitus, Fragment B 118, quoted from the Anthology of John Stobaeus in Jonathan Barnes, Early Greek Philosophy (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1987), 109; quoted by Voegelin in OH II, The World of the Polis, 238.

12. Ibid., 240.

13. Voegelin, “Quod Deus Dicitur,” in CW 12:376-92, sentence quoted from 392; cf. In Search of Order, CW 18:87-89.14. Voegelin, “Quod Deus Dicitur,” in CW 12:392-94.

15. Ibid., 376-77.

16. Ibid.,377.

17. Ibid., 378.

18. Ibid., 379.

19.  Ibid., 381, quoting Hegel, Encyklopaedie, 1830, §50, italics in original as translated and quoted by Voegelin.

20. Voegelin, “Quod Deus Dicitur,” 381.

21. Cf. Voegelin, “On Hegel: A Study in Sorcery,” in CW 12:213-55, at 223.22. Voegelin, “Quod Deus Dicitur,” 383-84. A printer’s error in the original cites John 6:24, here corrected; cf. n3, above.

23. Eric Voegelin to Leo Strauss, April 22, 1951, in Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934-1964, trans. and ed. by Peter Emberley and Barry Cooper (1993; repr., Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2004), 82-83; also “Notes on Augustine: Time and Memory,” chap. 8 in CW 32:483-501. In the letter to Strauss quoted in the text, Voegelin is remembering the Trinitarian anthropology given in Saint Augustine’s Confessions 13.11.12, where the theme of On the Trinity is announced; cf. Augustine, Confessions, trans. with an intro. and notes by Henry Chadwick (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 279-80.

24. In Search of Order, CW 18:30. Cf. the discussion in “The Beyond and Its Parousia,” a lecture given in 1982, in CW 33:396-414, at 398.

25. Augustine, Confessions 7.10.16, ed. Chadwick, p. 123; cf. ibid., 10.24.52: “This light itself is one, and all those are one who see it and love it” (p. 209).

26. Cited from Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, chap. 59 (italics and punctuation sic), as given in Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness, 12th ed. (1910; repr., New York: Meridian Books/Noonday Press, 1955), 113; cf. the discussion of It as the divine Darkness of the soul, when immersed in “the Cloud of Unknowing” in ascent into the “unknown of the intellect” that transcends “sight and knowledge.” “This acknowl­edgment of our intellectual ignorance, this humble surrender, is the entrance into the ‘Cloud of Unknowing'” (ibid., 348-49). This limit also marks the ultimate boundary of noesis, as Voegelin attests in many places, esp. Anamnesis, pt. 3, §4, “Tensions in the Knowledge of Reality [Wissensrealität]” (Munich: Piper Verlag, 1966), 323-40; trans. and ed. Gerhart Niemeyer (1978; Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1990), 183—99, which discusses philosophy’s limits and concludes with attention to Thomas Aquinas and Pseudo-Dionysius.

27. Voegelin, “Quod Deus Dicitur,” 291-92; In Search of Order, 109; Voegelin, OH IV, The Ecumenic Age, 233-35.

28. The reader may also wish to consult the original and more recent introduc­tions I prepared for the book’s 1987 and 1999 republication as part of the Collected Works (CW 18).

29. In Search of Order, 123. William James pertinently observed over a century ago:

This incommunicableness of the [mystic’s experience) is the keynote of all mys­ticism. Mystical truth exists for the individual who has the [experience], but for no one else. In this . . . it resembles the knowledge given to us in sensations more than that given by conceptual thought. Thought, with its remoteness and abstractness, has often enough in the history of philosophy been contrasted unfavorably with sensation. It is a commonplace of metaphysics that God’s knowledge cannot be discursive but must be intuitive . . . . [W]e have seen . . . that mystics may em­phatically deny that the senses play any part in the very highest type of knowl­edge which their [experiences] yield.

James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study of Human Nature, Being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902 (New York: Modern Library, n.d.) 396. I have substituted “[experiences]” in James’s text for his transport(s), since Voegelin never reported having had any of the latter. Vision and the whole range of meditative experience is analyzed by Voegelin in “Wisdom and the Magic of the Extreme,” in CW 12, esp. 345-71; see the discussion in Sandoz, VR, 218-25.

30. Petropulos, “Eric Voegelin and German Sociology,” 5, 21.

31. Robert McMahon, “Eric Voegelin’s Paradoxes of Consciousness and Partici­pation,” Review of Politics 61 (1999): 117-39, at 124. Cf. Thomas W. Heilke, Eric Voegelin: In Quest of Reality (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), esp. chap. 1.

32. William Blake, from Auguries of Innocence, in The Pocket Book of Verse, ed. with an intro. by M. E. Speare (New York: Washington Square Press, 1940) 86.

33. Ps. 19:1-5 (KJV).

34. For the doctoral dissertation, “Wechselwirkung und Gezweiung” (1922), and the “‘primacy of the spirit’ [as the] crux of Voegelin’s argument” therein, see the analysis of Petropulos, “Eric Voegelin and German Sociology,” 5; the dissertation itself is published in translation as “Interaction and Spiritual Community: A Methodolog­ical Investigation,” in CW 32:19-140. The quotation from Voegelin, “Herrschafts­lehre” (ca. 1931), is given as follows in the original, at MS chap. 1, p. 7, in Eric Voegelin Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Box 53.5: “Die Person, sagten wir, sei der Schnittpunk von göttlicher Ewigkeit und menschlicher Zeitlichkeit; in ihr offenbart sich die Endlichkeit also das Wesen der Welt. Person ist die Erfahrung der Grenze, and der ein Diesseitig-Endliches sich gegen ein Jenseitig-Unendliches absetz.” This document is published in translation as “The Theory of Governance,” in CW 32:224-372, and the passage quoted conies at the end of the section on Augustine and is rendered: “The person is . . . the point of intersection be­tween divine eternity and human temporality; in the person finitude is revealed as the essence of the world. The person is the experience of the limits demarcating world-immanent finiteness from the transcendent infinite” (236).

In 1953 Voegelin wrote: “Philosophizing seems to me to be in essence the interpretation of experiences of transcendence; these experiences have, as an historical fact, existed independently of Christianity, and there is no question that today too it is equally possible to philoso­phize without Christianity.” “Essentially my concern with Christianity has no reli­gious grounds at all.” Quotations from Eric Voegelin to Alfred Schütz, January 1, 1953, in The Philosophy of Order: Essays on History, Consciousness, and Politics: For Eric Voegelin on His 80th Birthday, January 3, 1981, ed. Peter J. Opitz and Gregor Sebba (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1981), 450, 449, respectively. By “religious” grounds Voegelin means no doctrinal or dogmatic grounds: His interest is empirical or experiential — and pneumatic or revelatory (religious) experiences interested him greatly, as is evi­dent. For later (1965) expression of the human person as imago dei, cf. Voegelin, “The German University and the Order of German Society: A Reconsideration of the Nazi Era,” in CW 12:1-35, at 17: In the context of a discussion of Thomas Mann, for instance, Voegelin there writes that “suffering . . . belongs to the essence of man, for though it is man’s destiny to be imago Dei, the possibility is also present not to live up to it — to fall away from it and to close oneself off.” Cf. the discussion in chap. 5, herein.

35. T. S. Eliot, from part V of “The Dry Salvages” (1941), in Four Quartets, quoted from Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950 (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1952) 136. Copyright © 1971 by Esme Valeric Eliot. Quoted by permission. I am grateful to Professor Todd Breyfogle for this citation. Sec Voegelin’s study from the early 1940s of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, published in CW 33:33-40: “Voegelin’s interpretation is governed by the fact that the work is the spiritual auto­biography of a Christian poet” (p.4).

36. Voegelin, On the Form of the American Mind [Geist], 131. Thomas à Kempis as quoted in Voegelin, The History of the Race Idea from Ray to Carus, CW 3:4-5. Cf. his discussion in the companion volume from 1933, Voegelin, Race and State, CW 2: 19-36, 102-13, and passim; see also chap. 5 herein.

37. Voegelin, Modernity without Restraint, CW 5:71.

38. Ibid., 150-51. On Faith, see ibid., 187 n24. For the underlying analysis of these matters supplemental to the discussion in The New Science of Politics, cf. my section of “The General Introduction to the Series,” History of Political Ideas, vol. I, CW 19:30-37, and citations therein.

39. Voegelin, OH, Israel and Revelation, 411. Cf. the discussion in Sandoz, Pol­itics of Truth, 156-69 and notes.

40. Translated in Paul Lawrence Rose, ed., Jean Bodin: Selected Writings on Phi­losophy, Religion, and Politics (Geneva: Droz, 1980) 81. This theme and the religious toleration consequential to mystical insight is the subject of Bodin, Colloquium of the Seven about the Secrets of the Sublime: Colloquium Heptaplomeres de Rerum Sublimium Arcanis Abditis, trans. with intro, annotations, and critical readings by Marion Leathers Daniels Kuntz (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975). The matter is thematic in David Walsh, The Third Millennium: Reflections on Faith and Reason (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1999). For Voegelin’s study of Jean Bodin, see Voegelin, History of Political Ideas, vol. V, CW 23:180-251, with the Letter to Jean Bautru discussed at 188-90: “This definition of true religion remains a constant in the work of Bodin” (188 n10).

41. The Beginning and the Beyond, ed. Lawrence, 106; on the same page Voegelin remarks: “I got into these problems of mysticism as a teenager, not because of reli­gious education in school (I went to a Protestant Sunday School), but because Hindus came to give lectures. But one must get it from somewhere.” Quoted from CW 33:426. Elsewhere he remarked relatedly: “I can quite definitely see that I got the practice of meditation by reading Upanishads, by reading the Symposium of Plato, by reading the Confessions of Saint Augustine. These are the classics of meditation to which one has to return — not Madame Guyon.” Quoted from Conversations with Eric Voegelin, in CW 33:304. Cf. AR, chap. 25, “Consciousness, Divine Presence, and the Mystic Phi­losopher,” 112-14.

42. Cf. Petropulos, “Eric Voegelin and German Sociology”; also Petropulos, “The Person as Imago Dei: Augustine and Max Scheler in Eric Voegelin,” in The Politics of the Soul, ed. Hughes. Quotation from Ps. 14:1 (KJV); Voegelin, “Quod Deus Dicitur,” 384-90.

43. Bonaventure, The Journey of the Mind to God, trans. Philotheus Boehner, ed. with intro. and notes by Stephen F. Brown (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993), 67-68 nl51.

44. Voegelin, In Search of Order, 83-84. Cf. William James’s discussion of “ineffability” and “noetic quality” as two leading marks of mystical experience, in James, Varieties of Religious Experience, 371; Evelyn Underhill critically expands James’s analysis in Mysticism, 81, 380. For a wide-ranging comparative study, see R. C. Zaehner, Mysticism Sacred and Profane (1957; repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1961).

45. Voegelin, In Search of Order, 19-20.

46. Ibid., 47

47. Voegelin, “The Oxford Political Philosophers,” Philosophical Quarterly 3 (April 1953): 97-114 ad fin; cf. The Communings with Himself of Marcus Aurelius Emperor of Rome, Together with His Speeches and Sayings, ed. with revised text and trans. by C. R. Haines (London: William Heinemann, 1924), 3.4.3 (p. 51).

48.  Quoted in Voegelin, “The German University,” in CW 12:35.

49. Gebhardt, “The Vocation of the Scholar,” 18. Voegelin’s condemnation of the churches’ dereliction and abdication of their responsibilities of spiritual leadership was bare-knuckled and scathing, as in the original foreword to The Political Religions, only recently published: “A consideration of National Socialism from the standpoint of religion must begin with the assumption that there is evil in the world; and not just as a deficient mode of being, as a negativum, but as a genuine substance and force that must be combated. But here we approach Manichean problems, and in general, a representative of the organized church will prefer to let his church and the entire world be destroyed by evil than to scorch his finger on a problem of dogma . . . . These circles react with somewhat more life only . . . when they fear a loss of revenue” (CW 33:22). Cf. more fully Hitler and the Germans, CW 31, esp. chaps. 4 and 5, which caused a sensation in Munich when delivered as a course of lectures at the university entitled “Introduction to Political Science” during spring semester 1964.

50. Voegelin, In Search of Order, 103-104.

51. Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, CW 17:408 (334 in the original LSU Press edition).


This excerpt is from Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America (University of Missouri Press, 2006)

Ellis Sandoz

Ellis Sandoz was the Hermann Moyse Jr. Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Louisiana State University, former Director of the Eric Voegelin Institute for American Renaissance Studies, and founder of the Eric Voegelin Society. He is the author and editor of more than twenty books.

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