Saturday, August 03, 2013

A Voegelinian strudel for your morning coffee

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At the basis of the experienced dissatisfaction [with reality] lie the general miseries that afflict human existence, enumerated by Hesiod as hunger, hard work, disease, early death, and the injuries the weaker must suffer at the hands of the stronger. This general potential of dissatisfaction can then be exponentially aggravated by the disturbances of personal and social existence through events with historical mass effect. To the class of these events belong a variety of phenomena. From the demographic side one would have to consider large population movements through migration and conquest, unsettling whether peaceful or violent, unsettling alike for conquerors and conquered; furthermore, sudden decreases of population caused by human epidemics, mass starvation caused by the spread of animal and vegetable pests, and increases of population beyond the subsistence level provided by the economic and technical potential of place and time. From the political-pragmatic side one would have to consider the vast destruction of ethnic cultures by the imperial entrepreneurs of the Ecumenic Age and the subsequent rise of imperial-dogmatic civilizations from the wreckage of the ecumenic empires. For the modern period one would have to add the creation of the power differential between the Western and all other civilizations through the intellectual, scientific, commercial, and industrial revolutions in the West, as well as the exploitation of the differential to the global limits; the decline of Western power and order through the internal conflicts caused by the rise of imperial nationalisms and of equally imperial ideological movements; and the resistance of the non-Western civilizational societies to the destruction of their own cultures by a Western global ecumenism. 

The resisters are keenly aware of the discrepancy between thedisorder they have to suffer and the order they have lost, or which they despair to maintain or judge to lie beyond any probability of ever being gained; they are disappointed with the slowness of the movement in reality toward the order they experience as the true order demanded by the Beyond; they are morally aroused by, and angry with, the misery that the slowness of the transfiguring movement in reality entails; and the experiences of this class can heighten to the conviction that something is fundamentally wrong with reality itself, if it always bungles the movement toward the order supposed to be its meaning. At this point, when the resistance to disorder transforms itself into a revolt against the very process of reality and its structure, the tension of formative existence in the divine-human movement and countermovement of the metaxy can break down; the presence of the Beyond, its Parousia, is no longer experienced as an effective ordering force, and, as a consequence, the questioner for truthcan no longer tell a story that is part of the story told by the It-reality. At the extreme of the revolt in consciousness, “reality” and the “Beyond” become two separate entities, two “things,” to be magically manipulated by suffering man for the purpose of either abolishing“reality” altogether and escaping into the“Beyond,” or of forcing the order of the “Beyond” into “reality.” The first of the magic alternatives is preferred by the Gnostics of antiquity, the second one by the modern gnostic thinkers.


-- Eric Voegelin, "The Beginning of the Beginning", a chapter of In Search of Order, his fifth volume of his series Order and History  

Afterword:

What Voegelinians -- academics who have inherited and try to carry on the philosophical analyses of Voegelin (1901-1985) -- have failed to appreciate and investigate, is that Islam, in its military-imperialistic project to immanentize the eschaton, from the 7th century right up to our present now, is a massively virulent and violent example of what their mentor described as "modern gnosticism".

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