Eric Voegelin: In Search of Order

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Voegelin, Eric. In Search of Order, Volume V of Order and History. 5 vols. Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 1987.

This is Eric Voegelin’s unfinished conclusion to his Order and History series.  He gives us just enough clues as to what he probably meant without a complete explanation.  While little more than 100 pages, this is a dense read.

A note on language: “Beyond” for Voegelin and Plato is similar to what Christians mean when they say God is hyper-ousia.

Man participates in being not in the sense that there is an object “man” and an object “being,” but rather “a part of being capable of experiencing itself as such” (OH 1:1-2).  Man’s participation in being is a reflexive tension in his existence (is this what Maximus means by the expansion/diastolic and contraction/systolic of being?).

Voegelin’s thesis hinges on the dynamic interplay between It-reality and Thing-reality.  Thing-reality is fairly obvious: it is the world as object. It-reality requires some Platonic metaphysics: it is the methexis, the participation.  It is the reality that comprehends partners-in-being (Voegelin 16).

Let’s unpack that. The enemies in metaphysics are those who take legitimate symbols (e.g., Plato’s nous) and absolutize and hypostatize them.  In other words, they treat reality as an object of consciousness rather than the event of participation. This will make more sense when we discuss Hegel and Marx.

“The order of history is the history of order.”  

Gnostics, our enemies, either try to abolish reality altogether and escape into “the Beyond,” or they try to bring the Beyond into our reality now.  The first is ancient Gnosticism. The latter is post-Hegelian, Marxist, and Cultural Marxist gnosticism (37).

Philosophical symbols either shed light on our quest for order, or they are manipulative and turn metaphysics into a deformative task.  Some of these symbols are nouse, amamnesis, etc.

The German Revolution

The Germans wanted to access being in a purely subject-object mode. They created a new symbol, speculation, in order to do it. Speculation allowed the observer to stand outside the field of historical consciousness.  Whereas each man had to participate (or not) in the “Beyond” as himself, now man would be forced to participate in the new observer’s own speculation. In other words, you have to participate in the structure of my own thought.  As Hegel noted, “once the realm of perception [Vorstellung] is revolutionized, reality cannot hold out” (quoted in Voegelin 51).

The second half of the book explores various Hellenistic accounts of Being. Voegelin died before he finished this part, so the arguments aren’t always focused or in context, erudite they may be otherwise.

Mnemosyne: the dimension of consciousness of the Beyond (72).

One thought on “Eric Voegelin: In Search of Order

  1. Pingback: The Nature of Law (Eric Voegelin) | The Correctness of our Sentiments

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