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Book Title: Science, Politics, and Gnosticism|
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Reader ratings: 6.6
The author of the book: Eric Voegelin
Edition: Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Date of issue: October 1st 2004
ISBN 13: 9781932236484
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 5.89 MB
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Very insightful, without being particularly helpful if one does not hold a belief in a transcendent order of being anchored in God(s)—that is, pretty much the entirety of those who populate the masses that Voegelin would wish to have turn away from their erroneous and destructive path. Difficult because worthy of multiple pauses in order to consider what is being stated, with a considerable amount of the latter delivered through succinct but piercingly discerning and lucid prose.
This slim book comprises two essays penned by Voegelin in 1959—Science, Politics and Gnosticism and Ersatz Religion: The Gnostic Mass Movements Of Our Time. In a nutshell, the former analyzes a situation in which the author determines that most of our modern mass movements and ideologies—progressivism, (neo-)positivism, communism, fascism, national socialism, psychoanalysis—are gnostic in orientation, derived from select intellectual's speculation that truth cannot be located by the opening of our souls to transcendent being, but rather immanent within ourselves. In other words, God is Dead and Man arisen in His place; in gnostic fashion, the reality of the world is to be rejected and a new reality to be imposed through the gnostic will-to-power of this rookie deity. Voegelin sees a change in the ends of modern gnosticism from that of old—away from the Chiliastic and towards the Parousiastic—the Presence of Being that, though empty, is omnipermeating—away from philosophia, the love of knowledge, to gnosis, absolute knowledge, from the finite to the infinite, from accepting the hand of fate to endeavoring to control its wending; from faith to certainty. In such thought do we once again see minds at war with a world that horrifies them, disgusts them, frustrates them, and their desire to do away with this reality in order to impose a new one which pleases and expurgates and assures. In this will-to-power Voegelin determines a magical, an occult element traceable back to the Jewish lore of the Golem, the attempt of man to kill God by immanentizing his creational purview within the human will, as well as the enduring paradox of these thinker's propensity for the construction of systems based upon rational conclusions drawn about reality that posit a reality reliant upon those very systems newly determined. This modern permutation of doxai-as-episteme is especially perilous because certain prophets of this gnosticism—Voegelin's formidable brows furrow deepest at Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Comte, and Heidegger—forbid us to question their ideological dogma—for to do so would reveal the fact that that which would challenge them has been discarded and/or ignored—which might delude us into thinking we cannot make an individual choice to reject this gnostic falsity and its consequent effect of leading one to live a life in spiritual disorder—i.e. perhaps as an unthinking member of the masses blindly performing morally questionable actions; yes, I'm talking to you Nazi SS rank-and-filer.
The second essay is a truly thoughtful and enlightening analysis of the rise of these modern gnostic movements, why they have proven such a commonplace throughout history, and how they were seeded and grown from shared common threads within Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and ancient Hellenic philosophy. Voegelin posits that the truth of our reality—that of a transcendent order of being that, besides its being anchored in a Godhead, cannot be ascertained but only intuited and positioned by and within metaphysical, mythological and symbolic structures—has always placed a terrible strain upon our souls and minds; the precariousness and mysteriousness of our existence, the terrible finality of unknown and unknowable death, the thin reed of faith upon which we are required to hang the short and swift years of our drawing of breath place an onerous burden upon each individual, and the allure of a gnosticism that promises deliverance from an uncertain truth by means of a certain untruth has a seemingly enduring appeal. He further contends that the more established and delineated that a religion becomes, the more stress it places upon the faith of its believers—under the piercing light of such a vast amount of detailed thought and reflection the cracks in the edifice become glaringly apparent. Using brief examinations of Thomas Moore's Utopia, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan and Hegel's Philosophy of History, Voegelin determines that there are six characteristics that reveal the nature of the gnostic attitude as well as three primary symbols that can inevitably be found, though usually in intermingled amounts, within the same. Of the latter, the first is of particular interest, comprising a teleological drive towards ultimate perfection, an axiological goal of achieving a state of highest value, and an admixture of these two. These three constituent elements are to be found in Progressivism, Utopian Idealism, and the mass movements deriving from Comte and Marx respectively. Voegelin poignantly accounts for the seductiveness of such ideologies in the comforting assurances of ending human misery, solidifying the future, and placing a disturbingly ineffable fate squarely within the controlling and shaping hands of familiar mankind that they offer; but, having severed themselves from the ontic reality of transcendent being by their expurgation of that of the latter which casts doubt upon their system's verity, their framework is unstable and prone to violent movement and so will be whatever the society that is contained within their structure.
I can't say that I'm in full agreement with Voegelin about his analysis—and his solutions to such salvational doctrines don't offer much in the way of viable options outside of resist; however, as explanatory systems for how we have arrived at where we are, I believe his insights are valuable and contain a healthy chunk of wisdom. If nothing else, I am now determined to finally crack The Drama of Atheist Humanism and dig deeper and further in Plato's Complete Works , as the Attic genius is the figure from whom Voegelin has drawn the majority of his own personal philosophy.
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Read information about the authorGerman-born American political philosopher. He taught political theory and sociology at the University of Vienna after his habilitation there in 1928. While in Austria Voegelin established the beginnings of his long lasting friendship with F. A. Hayek. In 1933 he published two books criticizing Nazi racism, and was forced to flee from Austria following the Anschluss in 1938. After a brief stay in Switzerland, he arrived in the United States and taught at a series of universities before joining Louisiana State University's Department of Government in 1942. His advisers on his dissertation were Hans Kelsen and Othmar Spann.
Voegelin remained in Baton Rouge until 1958 when he accepted an offer by Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität to fill Max Weber's former chair in political science, which had been empty since Weber's death in 1920. In Munich he founded the Institut für Politische Wissenschaft. Voegelin returned to America in 1969 to join Stanford University's Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace as Henry Salvatori Fellow where he continued his work until his death on January 19, 1985. He was a member of the Philadelphia Society.
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