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Meeting Index

Eric Voegelin Society Meeting 2001

"Epilogue" for The Voegelinian Revolution (2d Ed., 2000, Transaction Pubs.), Parts II-IV

Excerpted for presentation at the Eric Voegelin Society Meeting, San Francisco, Aug. 31, 2001

 Copyright 2001 Ellis Sandoz

(Note: Any quotation or citation should be from the published work, pp. 258-77.)


"A dry soul is wisest and best," wrote Heraclitus and Voegelin agreed.1 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).2

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 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 Platos resistance to the sophists and especially to Gorgias and the distinction between apodeixis and epideixis for properly understanding the so-called "proofs" of Gods 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 differentiation of the Beyond of the many gods of Hesiod, to the meaning of the differentiation in Platos 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."3

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 Aristotles commentary on it; the prayer of Plotinus (Enneads 5.1.6); the prayer of the Timaeus (48D-53C); Goethes "mental prayer"; the equivalent Christian experiences-symbolizations in Col. 2:9: "For in [Christ] dwells all of the fulness [pleroma] of the Godhead bodily;" and in Aquinas tetragrammaton (S.T.

Voegelins 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."5 Moreover, the "noetic search for the structure of a reality that includes divinity is itself an event within the reality we are questioning . . . .at 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."6 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."7 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."8 The paradox (a prominent question 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 (Exodus 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."9 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 Kants 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 supersensual, all this is thought itself, the transition is only thought itself."10 Clarifying though this is, Hegels 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 systemthereby obscuring through "hypostatization" that "the noetic movement itself, the divine-human encounter, is still an active process in tension toward the symbols of faith."11 Philosophy, Voegelin steadily insists, is ever the questing love of divine wisdom of 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.12

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 mans existence as a state of imperfection; and this awareness provokes the human movement in response to the divine appeal. The illumination, as Saint 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 countermovment of his quest (XXVI). Hence, the latter part of the Proslogion consistently praises the divine light in the analogical language of perfection. Anselms 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. Saint 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.13

With this quotation we can conclude our sketch of Voegelins analysis, for the balance achieved by Anselm is not surpassed elsewhere (as Voegelins 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 scholars 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 Voegelins 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.14


It is right, I think, to approach In Search of Order from the perspective gained through the foregoing discussion 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.15 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. While writing explicitly about Platos "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," Voegelins 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.16

This is not a new insight on Voegelins part, as one commentator summarizes his early perspective on the subject of participatory experience: "...analysis 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.17

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 is before us, an unfinished meditation? Perhaps the rule of reading is given in Voegelins 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 Voegelins 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 experience and symbolization all but disappears from the pages of this book. This is not because Voegelin is safely back in the fold of naturalistic science in the mode of quantum theory or of hermeneutics but because the rigor of analysis in the In-Between as participatory is more directlyi.e., economically and succinctly articulated experientially by Platos epekeina (Beyond) than when the more easily hypostatized language of entities and things is allowed to express 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 tensions structure-process less likely in thought and discourse. These considerations should not, of course, be so construed as to obscure Voegelins insistence upon the paradoxical Parousia of It-reality also in experiences of thing-reality, as intimated (for instance, within the biblical horizon) in Eph. 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."18

Thus "God," so far from being abolishedto 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, by this analysis. 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 itin harmony with the principle of analogia entis. While it may not be music, In Search of Order is Handels Hallelujah Chorus in the chaste discourse of classical philosophy, the noetic effusion of a dry soul. It may not be poetry but 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.19

It breathes the vision of the Psalmist that

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth 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.20

Already in his doctoral dissertation of 1922 on Wechselwirkung und Gezweiung [Reciprocity and Community], following Max Scheler and Othmar Spann, and in the Herrschaftslehre, Voegelin finds the individual human person to be potentially Imago Dei, "the intersection of divine eternity and human temporality;" and as he later wrote, he regarded the experience of the Divine ground of being as the central problem of all philosophizing whatever terminology seemed from time to time most felicitous in exploring and articulating the experience.21 A decade after 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 Incarnation.

Here the impossible union. . . .22

There is a thread to follow, and the continuity is striking. Thus in his first book (published in 1928) Voegelin devotes a remarkable chapter to Jonathan Edwards 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]." In The History of the Race Idea (1933), Voegelin opened his critique of the Nazi reductionist biological anthropology by juxtaposing Christian understanding of human existence that it presumed finally to replace, presented from Thomas Kempiss 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."23 The Political Religions (1938) concluded an acid delineation of Nazi religiosity by invoking the German Theology, a meditative classic by the fourteenth century mystic known simply as the Frankfurter: "The inner-worldly religiosity experienced by the collective bodybe it humanity, the people, the class, the race, or the stateas the Realissimum is abandonment of God. . . .According to the German Theology the belief that man is the source of good. . .is anti-Christian renunciation."24 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 fact of Gods 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.25

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."26 The apparent meagerness of the contemplatives 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 Bodins 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."27 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 Bodins Lettre a Jean Bautru . . .as a fundamental text in every university of the future, which every student must learn."28


In Search of Order can thereby be seen as Voegelins 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 mans participation in divine Being as the sine qua non of his undeformed 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 invocationall in the interest of refining the participatory mode of discourse so as more tellingly to express the philosophers 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 Petropulos convincingly shows, this is not new in principle: meditation as the essence of philosophizing is characteristic of Voegelins published work from age twenty-one onward. Chief among Voegelins 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 are devised; and he draws the distinction between apodictic and epideictic proofs, a distinction lost on fools.29

Finally, the drift of my suggestions of what Voegelin is about in his last book, one in steady continuity with earlier work, is borne out in many places but powerfully so in two passages that give the philosophers perspective on the search of 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.30

In a later passage he writes:

[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 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 questioners 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 questioners 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.31

Setting aside the intentionalism of its formulation thirty years earlier, considered as "the analysis of existential consciousness," Voegelin writes, "[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."32

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 philosopherthe priest and servant of the gods."33 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."34 Gebhardt rightly recurs to this element of Voegelins work in noting that for him, when the church has abandoned its duty of spiritual leadership, "it is the philosopher-scholar who is called upon to accept the office of magisterium and defend it against intellectual usurpers." The theme is humbly sounded in In Search of Order when Voegelin writes 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-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 why he does not know.35





 Copyright 2001  John von Heyking



This is a work in progress. Please do not quote or cite without authors permission.


Nicholas of Cusa, a key medieval conciliarist, has until now been a relatively neglected political thinker. His philosophical and mystical writings are more popular, especially among those who see his "coincidence of opposites" as a salutary antidote to the imperialism and enframing of Western metaphysics. Yet, there have been only two book-length studies of his political thought written in English, although more recent writings have drawn upon his philosophical and mystical writings to shed light on very contemporary problems of religious tolerance and interreligious dialogue.1 Writing in the 1940s, however, Voegelin seemed to find a soulmate in his own quest for order when he described Nicholas understanding of history as the "open horizon of a mankind ever growing in faith and intellectual penetration of faith.... [T]he mystical faith in the concordantia of mankind was still extended over them as the eternal arc, far outreaching the discord of the times."2 Without explicitly referring to the German cardinal in his later writings, Voegelin seems to have adopted numerous themes of his into his own writings, as one could read the chapter on Nicholas and see in general outline major themes that Voegelin would incorporate into his own writings. The ODonovans also recently judged De concordantia catholica as "an indispensable aid to grasping an important and neglected relationship in the history of modern political thought: between democratic liberalism and Christian mysticism."3 Even so, the relative lack of attention to Nicholas by political scientists is likely the result of him being perceived as a second-rate political thinker whose political ideas have more to do with ecclesiastical concerns than with politics per se, and whose political ideas are largely drawn from the deeper well of Marsilius of Padua.4 He is also an ambiguous figure whose views on cosmology were seen as instrumental in convincing Giordano Bruno, Descartes, and Kepler to proclaim the infinity of space, a key turning point in the development of modernity and technology;5 his Neoplatonism is seen as a transition between medieval and Renaissance worlds (Cassirer); his Neoplatonism is combined with the kind of uncertainty about essences that gives his thought a modern, Pascalian hew;6 his Neoplatonic conception of political order and essences contrasts with a quasi-Hobbesian understanding of law wherein laws essence includes coercion; his Neoplatonic mysticism contrasts with the heightened importance he gives to human creativity and human convention; finally, his open-ended view of history, which provides the basis for his teachings on global religious pluralism, contrasts with his attempt to resuscitate the ideal of the sacrum imperium where he advocates moving the imperial center from Rome to Arles and the creation of a centrally controlled army. The paradoxical tone of this thinker, for whom the contradiction of opposites is central to his thought, was captured well by Paul Sigmund, who concludes his book by observing that he arranged to have his body to be buried in Rome but to have his heart kept in his hometown of Trier.

While these paradoxes are interesting in their own right, I wish to focus on a general problem that runs throughout Nicholas thought that is highly pertinent to our own times: the meaning of interreligious harmony and globalization. One of the problems of discussing religious tolerance within the context of liberalism and globalization is that the liberal need to "relativize" religious meanings and rituals for the sake of toleration leads them to get swamped by materialist culture, leaving them impotent and cloistered into the private sphere. The Madisonian argument that a multiplicity of sects promotes religion, just as a multiplicity of factions promotes liberty and the overall public interest, gets turned around by modern culture whereby those sects must excessively water down their message to offer a homogenous "Bud Lite" religion; this watering down occurs because all end up agreeing that their rituals are merely conventional and thus untrue in any meaningful and public sense. As we shall see, Nicholas too advocated a competition among religions along lines similar to those of Madison, but he anchored the glory that it would give to God in ideas of interreligious harmony, mixed constitutionalism, and a nuanced account of convention. His ideas about constitutionalism, when virtue is fused with law, suggests that such competition would be guided by virtue as much as possible.



Nicholas faced a crisis slightly more complex than our own situation because he faced the simultaneous problems of raw power imperialism as well as a corrupt Roman Catholic Church that had fused spiritual and temporal powers that lent its weight to imperial evocations of order. Our problem is slightly less complex because globalization usually refers simply to the primacy of economic relations over political ones, which makes religious toleration serve simply to facilitate the evacuation of any moral content from the public sphere that does not conform to economic rationality. Conversely, globalization, which can be compared to the global rule of technology and what Alexandre Kojve called the universal homogeneous state, assumes profound claims regarding the rearrangement of God, man, world, and society, in the modern world, which would offer grounds for comparing our situation with the fusion of spiritual and temporal power that Nicholas complained about.7 Even so, Nicholas addresses an age when understandings of God and man, world and society, were in transition, which serves as the context for his writings on religious toleration.

Nicholas wrote his On the Peace of Faith as a response to religious persecution in Constantinople. In it, he develops a teaching of natural faith that is meant to be communicable to all nations, and his political proposals include fostering a Madisonian type competition among religions to inspire various religions to strive for the greater glory of God:

This rivalry [between nations] comes about simply because each group seems to worship you in all that they appear to adore. No one really wants as his way of worship something that is common practice for all. To want what everyone else wants is imitation. In all those things that man seeks after, that alone is really sought which is the good, and that is You Yourself.... You, therefore, who are the giver of life and of being, are that one who seems to be sought in the different rites, and who are designated with different names.8


The main problem that this paper addresses is how such competition is to be judged. How is Gods judgment to be known? By the number of believers? In De concordantia catholica, unanimity and majority rule play crucial parts in manifesting Gods judgment. However, in De pace fidei, Nicholas Christianity would have failed by that same measure because he has the representative of Persia observe that "except for a few in Europe," the majority of humanity rejects the Trinity (DPF 9). The contrast is striking between the Persians statement, and Nicholas own statement in De concordantia catholica that the Holy Roman Empire is closest to God because of its size (DCC 3.5.342-3.6.343-47). Further, the number of believers could be wrong, as they may be seduced by sects that offer shallow religious teachings rather than deeper ones that also place greater demands on people. If the majority of people are fools (DCC 2.138), as Nicholas observes despite his commitment to consent, then judgment cannot be found here.

Nicholas expressed deep worries about the fate of the empire, and its moral status, and he seems to have foreseen the moral vacuum that might ensue if the empire did not get its moral act together. The sense of adventure and conquest of sea-borne explorations also gave him the opportunity to reflect on the massive expansion of imperialist power. For instance, he uses the example of a cartographer, who receives his knowledge of the world from seafaring messengers, to illustrate the way a human being receives knowledge about the world through his senses.9 His reflections on the infinity of space also lead him to consider the possibility of wide scale human rule (which his Christology would reject):

For when we take note of a very small grain of mustard and behold its power and might with the eye of our intellect, we find a vestige [of God], so that we are aroused unto marveling at our God. For although the grain is so small in physical size, nevertheless its power is endless. In this piece of grain there is present (1) a large tree with leaves and branches and (2) many other grains in which, likewise, this same power is present beyond all numbering. Likewise, with my intellect I see that if the power of a grain of mustard were actually to be unfolded, then this sensible worldor, indeed, ten worlds or a thousand or as many worlds as are countablewould not suffice [therefor]. What individual who reflects upon these points will not marvel when he adds (1) that the intellect of man encompasses all this power of a grain, (2) that it apprehends that the foregoing is true, and (3) that thereby in its apprehension it thus excels the whole capacity of the entire sensible worldnot [the capacity] of one world [only] but [that] of infinite worlds?10


Nicholass musings about the possibility of a single grain of mustard unfolding to take up numerous worlds has important implications for his understanding of explicatio, the key concept central to his understanding of humanitys action in history. If a single grain could unfold to take up numerous worlds, and the human mind could perceive it, then Nicholas seems to have considered planetary rule a possibility in the explicatio of humanitys historical unfolding.



At least until the millennium, which Nicholas thought would not occur until about the twenty-first century (DCC 1.12.54), the world religions would have to interact peaceably through dialogue on a level intelligible to all of them. Failure to do so would result in economic and religious imperialism that undermines all religious and moral precepts. Cary Nederman recently showed how Nicholass understanding of the inequalities of political life and the historicity of religious and political culture, as presented in On the Peace of Faith, anchored his argument for toleration.11 My paper pursues this line of thought further by exploring the philosophical anthropology that underlies this inequality and by suggesting that it must be understood within the context of Nicholass constitutionalism and not because he was so enamored with the prominence in the Middle Ages of "experts." The next section will examine the historicity of those rituals by showing how Nicholass constitutionalism prevents his understanding of the conventionality of rituals from sliding under forces of homogenization because people cannot worship according to rituals of their own design.

A look at Nicholas constitutionalism will assist us to see the background of his political solution for interreligious harmony. Voegelin calls De concordantia catholica "practically a handbook of parliamentary procedure" and many have commented on Nicholas anticipation of modern constitutionalism, as seen in his ideas of consent and his attention to procedure.12 Nicholas conciliarism was based on Christs saying that the church exists whenever any two meet in my name: "we should believe that God is present in a council when church matters are concluded with care and in peace" (DCC 2.23.198; see also 2.3.77, 2.19.101, 3.10.369; Matthew 8:20 and Acts 15:25). Unanimity, or at least harmonious majority rule, was a sign of Christs presence in council proceedings. Thus, the councils proclamations constitute the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, which allows him to use canon law and council decisions as expressions of the churchs explicatio in De concordantia catholica. Even so, the explicatios manifestation was not haphazard, nor was it comparable to a kind of populist popular will, as Nicholas attended to just procedure to ensure a just outcome. The procedures of just constitutionalism are as much a part of Gods presence as unity over what is deliberated about. He attends to procedure such as for voting and debate to ensure the mechanics of consent. However, legal procedure is meant always to be infused with, and not a replacement for, virtue, as he lists three conditions required for a peaceful assembly: freedom of speech, just participants, and divine inspiration (DCC 2.3.76). Freedom of speech is the most important legal procedure that Nicholas discusses. It protects participants from threats, and is a part of Nicholas broader understanding of constitutionalism, whereby leaders and the led obey common laws (including pope and emperor). The requirement for just participants reflects his admonition to virtue for every participant but it also reflects his view that participants must be qualified in one sense or another. On that point, Nicholas weaves together the need to have church or imperial officials (depending on whether he is speaking of ecclesiastical or imperial councils) as well as lay persons who are there by virtue of their expertise. Thus, the universal council of the church includes bishops, but Nicholas also advocated including lay persons, not merely as witnesses, but as legislators and signatories to documents "if they are at least qualified and knowledgeable" (DCC 2.138). Procedure also includes the necessity of including just people in council (drawn from various social ranks), and those with sufficient expertise to deliberate.

While all human beings are equal in power (potentates) and equally free, the wisdom, reason, and prudence given to rulers by nature gives them to knowledge to draw up just laws (DCC 2.14.127): "by a certain natural instinct, the rule of the wise and the subjection of the ignorant is harmonized through common laws that have the wise as their special authors, protectors, and executors, and the concurrent agreement of all the others in voluntary subjection" (DCC 3.275). In De concordantia catholica, Nicholas declares that "Almighty God has assigned a certain natural servility to the ignorant and the stupid, so that they readily trust the wise to help them preserve themselves.... The ignorant could not govern themselves and so become servile to the wise out of necessity" (DCC 3.271, 274). Thus, on matters needing only majority vote, the level of virtue and expertise becomes more important, as "discretion and prudence and authority ought rightly to lead us to consider whether the judgment of fools whose number is infinite might not outweigh the votes of the wise" (DCC 2.138; see also 137). Nicholas concern for parliamentary procedure was not simply a concern for "proceduralism" that one finds in much of contemporary liberal theory, that of Rawls for example. Rather, his concern is closer to that of a John Stuart Mill who thought that representative democracy also required the weighty input of the educated (though what counts as wisdom differs between the two). Thus, Nicholas thought that legislators should be characterized by their wisdom and prudence in crafting laws, though their powers were to be subject to the free consent of the people (rudes), who lack ruling abilities and the leisure to contemplate eternal wisdom. As a result, legislation would have to be consistent with the customs and mores of society.

At times, however, the importance of custom for Nicholas is heightened to the extent that it constitutes, not only the basis of his consent theory, but he regards it as the surer sign of Holy Spirits explicatio than even legislation by councils. Just as councils provide for more stable deliberation and wisdom than a single pope, customs appear to be surer manifestations of explicatio than legislative decrees. Usage is the surest sign that legislation has been consented to (DCC 2.14.130), although silence is also considered a sign of tacit consent (DCC 2.32.239; see also 2.11.105): "Hence laws are confirmed in usage and approved by the custom of those using them. And it is also true of the statutes of the Roman pontiff that they lose their force through nonusage" (DCC 2.10.103). Thus, the validity of a law depends on three factors: the authority of the legislator, publication and promulgation, and approval of the statute through usage (DCC 2.11.105). Further, customs are prior to legislation, as Nicholas states that "where a legal authority is lacking, the customs of the people and the practices of ones ancestors are observed as the law" (DCC 2.13.126). The force of custom is stronger than that of legislators: "[W]e respect what has been introduced by custom even when it is not known whether it had the consent of any ruler with the power to legislate" (DCC 2.12.110) even when a particular custom contradicts general binding laws. The reason for this is that usage is not only a sign of consent, but is the only thing that gives all-important efficacy of the law: "consent is given through usage, it is obvious that its efficacy comes from consent" (DCC 2.13.120). The consent that is signaled through usage corresponds to Nicholas principle that Christ is present whenever two or more meet peacefully in His name (and with unanimity or at least a majority).

The external appearance of the law is the law, so much so that Nicholas departs from the medieval scholastic tradition by including consent and coercion into his understanding of the essence of law. St. Thomas Aquinas defined law as "nothing else than the ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has care of the community, and promulgated," and he excluded both consent and coercion as its essential properties, although both play crucial roles in the realization of laws effectiveness in society.13 Nicholas principle of explicatio, with its emphasis on the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in history through the form of councils and customs, leads him to include coercion and consent in the essence of law. Commenting on the crisis of the Church, empire, and the crisis caused by the neglect of the law, Nicholas comes closest to articulating a definition of law when he states: "Unless a law retains its sanction and its punitive force it becomes blunted and falls into disuse. Mans appetite for evil must be controlled by the bridle of the law and restrained by its limitations. Law without coercion has no sanction and loses its effectiveness. It no more merits to be called a law than a corpse should be called a man" (DCC 3.26.486). While this statement is not a formal definition of law, one cannot simply dismiss it as rhetorical flourish because the image of body politic is central to Nicholas understanding of political order (see DCC 3.41.567-98). Comparing the effectiveness of law with the soul, as opposed to the body, brings Nicholas closer to an empiricist understanding of law, like that of Hobbes than to the traditional scholastic understanding.14 This interpretation is supported by another statement, where he characterizes laws as resting places amidst a chaotic universe: "and it should be known that church laws [constitutiones] are like common resting places [stationes]" (DCC 2.10.104). Whether this somewhat empiricist understanding of law can be reconciled with his Neoplatonic mysticism is unclear, but it appears consistent with his view that peace is a sign of Gods presence. In the case of law, its effectiveness and harmony with natural law is a sign of Gods presence. It is unclear whether Nicholas took the next step in reasoning by asking whether imperial and ecclesiastical disorder is a sign of Gods absence or of His punishment of the wicked in His flock. Nicholas advocacy of legal, political, and coercive means to bring peace to the empire, as opposed to preaching patience amidst tribulations, suggests the difficulty in reconciling Neoplatonic mysticism, the Holy Spirits action in history, and his constitutionalism. Even so, his position is important because it reflects the importance of custom, and how it is formed by just procedures and virtuous human beings acting within them, and the creative role Nicholas gives them as historical agents of the Holy Spirit, which becomes important when we turn to consider interreligious harmony and the nature of convention. However, it also shows the difficulty of reconciling a politics of consent with a politics of virtue even when the mechanics of consent are supposed to be woven together with the rule of the virtuous.



Nicholas constitutional ideas provide the context for his proposals for interreligious harmony as well as his thoughts on the conventional nature of rites. Nicholas bases his proposals for interreligious harmony on a mysticism that maintains the Augustinian-Thomistic harmony of faith and reason. It is up to philosophical mystics to guide the nations plurality of rituals in such a way that the one universal faith, latria (DPF 6), which provides the basis for all of them, prevents those rituals from ossifying and becoming the cause of war among various nations and religions. While Nicholas "privileged" Christianity as the one true faith, he also saw it as the most rational and it was on the basis of the interpenetration of reason and faith that he could call for mutual toleration. For instance, he quotes Ambrose by stating that the church, a "rational harmony," is "one body made up of all spirits of a rational nature [that] adheres to Christ, their head" (DCC I.preface). The coincidence of reason and faith in the church is rooted in an organic relationship between the two, whereby reason unfolds from the experience of faith, and where reason explicates and forms that very experience: "For faith implies in itself all that is intelligible, and the intellect is the explication of the faith. Hence, the intellect is directed by faith, and faith is extended by the intellect. Where there is no sound faith, there is no true intellect."15 Thus, for Nicholas, there are no separate truths of faith and truths of reason because faith and reason are interpenetrated by each other. This notion gets borne out in his doctrine of the coincidence of opposites by which human knowledge ascends to wisdom through dialectic negative theology, and which he expressed symbolically as a cloud and as the darkness that stands between God and man: "when we endeavor to gaze upon Him with the eye of the mind we fall into darkness, knowing that in that very darkness is the mount in which He is pleased to dwell for the sake of all those who live a life of the spirit" (DDI III.11). The opposites are the darkness and their coincidence that lies beyond opposites is the infinite that structures the ascent:

The end, then, which is its own end, is infinite, and every end which is not its own end is a finite end. Thou, Lord, who are the End ending all things art the End whereof there is no end, and thus an end without an end, or infinite. This eludeth all reason, because it implieth a contradiction. Thus, when I assert the existence of an end without an end, I admit darkness to be light, ignorance to be knowledge, and the impossible to be a necessity. Since we admit the existence of an end of the finite, we needs must admit the infinite, or the ultimate end, or the end without an end. Now we cannot but admit the existence of finite beings, wherefore we cannot but admit the infinite. Thus, we admit the coincidence of contradictories, above which is the infinite.16


Infinity and finitude are relative indices of experience. The symbol infinity presupposes our being finite creatures, and the symbol finitude presupposes our experience of infinity. However, because Nicholas symbolizes the infinite as lying beyond the darkness, seekers must possess necessary existential virtues to persevere the uncertainty of existence that is undergirded by the deus absconditus. These existential virtues of the few enable them to serve as guardians for the nations, and form the backdrop to the way he applies his understanding of the mixed constitution to interreligious harmony.

"Wise men perceive that there is a marvelous combination in nature" (DCC 1.2.12), and their experience in these combinations and oppositions enable them to serve as guardians for the nations. Nicholas explicates these ideas in his De pace fidei, which consists of a dialogue between representatives of various nations and the Lord. He uses the dialogue to explore the various principles of the one religion that Nicholas thinks forms the basis of the worlds major religions. It expresses his natural faith, as it were. Nederman observes that "the division between the wise and the ignorant shapes the whole course of De pace fidei," and he points to the characteristic philosophic wisdom and political prudence of the wise that is meant to lead the various people to concord.17 Nicholass understanding of inequality, however, is attenuated by his commitment to constitutionalism, not aristocracy, and by his understanding of what philosophic wisdom consists.

Nicholas provides hints of what that philosophic wisdom consists at the outset of De pace fidei. Consistent with the symbiotic account of faith and reason summarized above, Nicholas presents the dialogue as a report of a vision by "a certain individual, fired with the love of God," who had recently visited Constantinople, the location of atrocities due to religion" (DPF 1). This is an autobiographical allusion, but in the treatise the anonymity of the reporter directs the reader toward the content of the vision itself, as well as the readers participation within that vision, which unites reporter and reader together into a spiritual community where the reporters "authority" consists of nothing more than one who evokes such participation in the reader. This provides a clue for understanding the way Nicholas understands the inequality between the wise and the ignorant because the reporter simply evokes a vision in the reader, who, by virtue of his being human, possesses some darkened but preexistent knowledge of it. The reporters action, like that of the prophets, is fundamentally more of one who evokes experience than as one who transmits authoritative doctrine. The reporter receives his vision by being "lifted up to a certain intellectual height where, as though in the company of those who had already departed life, a discussion of this matter was held in the presence of these distinguished individuals" (chap. 1). The experience of dying to the world, a common theme in Augustinian mystical writings, compares with Nicholass discussion of the seeker who finds himself faced by the darkness that surrounds God, the coincidence of opposites that resides beyond opposites. By prefacing the dialogue with an evocation of the experience of unknowing, Nicholas directs our attention to the importance of such existential virtues for leaders, which he contrasts with the led who depend on customs that become ossified and for whom such customs become "gradually accepted and defended as immutable truths," which causes dissension and religious conflict (DPF 1). Whereas someone like Alexis de Tocqueville would later warn about the constant danger that the dizzying existential uncertainties of modern freedom would tempt modern man to grasp onto despotic ideologues, Nicholas appears aware of this problem and applies his understanding of constitutionalism to it by providing a role for these guardians to form and lead national religious rituals.18

The reporter will then report how the King turns the nations representatives into prophets (ch. 2). The reporter says of his vision that the representatives of the various nations paid proper obeisance to the King as a prelude to their actual discussion (DPF 2), which sets the dialogue within the context of the symbiotic relationship of faith and reason outlined above. Such people are prophets because they have been provided leisure "to enable them to proceed to a knowledge of themselves by using their own freedom of judgment." By contrast, "[b]urdened and preoccupied with the cares of the body [the vast multitude] cannot seek you, the hidden God" (DPF 1). As with the anonymity of the reporter of the dialogue, Nicholas presumes a fundamental equality between leader and the multitude despite their spiritual differences. His inequality may or may not be rooted in nature, but his is a nature that is shot through with the experience of grace, as the reporter and the prophets received their visions. Thus, Nicholas can synthesize their superior existential virtue with equality, as he does in De concordantia catholica (DCC 2.14.127).

In addition to mysticism, Nicholas understanding of interreligious harmony is rooted in a recognition of the historicity, or a kind of conventionalism, at the root of all religious rituals. This is a kind of conventionalism because his understanding of intelligence and freedom indicates that human conventions are not simply conventional, as it were, but are natural as well; they are a kind of second nature. This attenuated sense of conventionalism places Nicholas between dogmatic religiosity that views all rituals as divinely mandated and a postmodern-like celebration of human creativity that feeds into homogenizing forces of globalism.

Nicholas viewed prophets for national religions as transmitters of the universal faith into particular nations, and the rudes trust the wise to teach them the one truth faith through the media of diverse national religions and rites. Nicholas regarded rites, not simply as conventional, simply as products of human will, but as having their nature residing between pure convention and acts of divine will. He did so by understanding rites as sensible signs of religious experiences. Such rites "have been instituted and received as sensible signs of the truth of faith. But signs are subject to change; not however that which is signified." Rites and especially the ritualistic descriptions of eternal life that accompany them, are to be understood figuratively. Nederman points to an especially interesting example in which Peter explains to the German that the Islamic conception of eternal life, which Europeans would reject, must be understood figuratively:

It says, for example, in the Koran, that many beautiful black damsels are to be found, who have large and white eyes. Now certainly no German in this world, even if he were given over to the vices of the flesh, would care for women of this description. Consequently, it ought to be clear that this has to be understood in a kind of allegorical way, for in another place the Koran forbids the presence of concubines in churches and synagogues.... [F]or because these things are generally desired in this world it is presupposed that in the next world there will be an equal desire, and that then they will be found more exquisitely and abundantly, otherwise, without this simile, it would be impossible to explain that this life will be the completion of all desires (DPF 15).


Peter tells the German that the author of the Koran expressed spiritual truths in a direct and sensible manner, and he goes on to explain, with reference to Avicenna, that the fulfilment of desires would consist of "intellectual happiness of the vision or fruition of God." Thus, Nicholas could see equivalences of experience that get expressed through a diversity of languages and other "sensible signs."

Another key example is his affirmation of the baptism of desire, which shows how sacraments necessary for salvation can be seen as signs of experiences. He has Paul tell the Armenian that all religions have rituals consisting of religious ablutions or washings, and goes on to state that "Faith is a matter of necessity for adults, who can, nevertheless, be saved without the sacrament when it is impossible to receive it. When, however, they are in a position to receive the sacrament, we can hardly call them believers if they refuse to act as believers in rejecting the sacrament of regeneration" (DPF 17).

The Eucharist is also a sign: "Since we believe that Christ is the food of our mind, then we believe also that we receive Him under the appearance of eating. And since it is necessary that we be of one mind in this belief, that we obtain the food of eternal life in Christ, why not demonstrate this by our belief in the sacrament of the Eucharist?" (DPF 18). Pauls seeming flippancy toward the Eucharist ("why not (cur non)?") alarms the Armenian who worries that Pauls figurative treatment of the Eucharist reduces it to simply a human creation. The Armenian shows the same concern that critics of Madisonian pluralism have: severing the necessary link between sign and signified reduces all signs and rituals to mere preferences that get swamped by utilitarian and materialistic nonreligious forces, and ultimately, leads to a homogenous and impious culture.

Paul responds that he is not as flippant as he seems to be, by pointing out that nothing is impossible for God, so belief in transubstantiation is easy if one already believes that Christ redeems one. If Christ transforms the slime of the earth into rational and redeemed beings, and "if nature herself does this in the case of animal life" (Nicholas seems to have the combination of body and soul in mind), then transubstantiation makes sense. In the case of bread, Paul states that the substance, "which is the farthest removed from what is perceptible to the senses," changes but the accident (bread) remains intact. The Armenian responds that the multitude will not accept his qualification because it removes the mystery of faith too far from what is perceptible. In other words, Pauls explanation fails to transmit the universal faith into sensible, particular idiom. Pauls response is intriguing and illuminates how Nicholas understood the application of his idea of interreligious harmony to his constitutionalist argument for consent. Paul concedes that the Eucharist is a sign for a deeper reality, and that the actual rite is unnecessary for salvation as long as faith is present. Thus, its observance should not be obligatory and authorities should rely on expediency on whether to use it. So far, Paul cannot seem to satisfy the worry of the Bohemian, who speaks up, that the particular rite of Eucharist is simply a product of human fabrication. However, Paul adds that "hence it is that if anyone who believes and yet at the same time judges himself unworthy to approach the table of the great King, I would prefer that this humility be rather praised" (DPF 18).

This answer appears as inadequate to the Armenians objections as Pauls previous responses. However, it also brings together, in compressed form, Nicholas understanding of rituals, consent, and his understanding of the way nations "compete" in their rituals. On the surface, Pauls response appears inadequate because, even though the action of an individual who imaginatively places himself before Gods judgment may be sincere, Paul still has not explained why doing so in a rite involving bread and wine differs from one involving human sacrifice, for example. So far, all he seems to say is that the only thing that matters is that the individual participant believes the rite to be true regardless of the truth of the rite. Paul does not state the source of the rites validity. In the context of the dialogue, the particular national tradition could simply bestow validity. However, he does not appear to indicate anything more than that, other than the prophets politico-religious statesmanship that will renovate the particular national religion on the basis of universal latria. But prophetic statesmanship is a vertical relationship between prophet and nation, and does not address the problem of competition among rites and how believers are to understand their particular rites as true. In order to determine how Nicholas intended us to understand the competition among rites, where rites are something between being absolute and being simply conventional, a closer examination of his understanding of human being as creative is necessary.



A consideration of Nicholass conception of human being as creative sheds light on the problem because it shows how the individuals belief in the Eucharist, and in rituals in general, is more than just a salutary facade for the rudes.19 The rudes participation in rituals is a crucial part of Gods providential plan. Earlier in De pace fidei, Nicholas has the Word explain the Trinity in such a way that the triune Christian God gets understood as the productive essence of the simple divine essence (DPF 8-9), which satisfies the non-Christians who can see analogues of this fecundity in their prophets. The human soul is an analogue of the productive or "fecund" divine essence: "Observe that since in the essence of the rational soul there is a certain fecundity (quaedam fecunditas) - the mind - wisdom, and love or will, in that the mind exercises the intellect or wisdom from which comes the will or love, it has this threefold fecundity in the unity of the soul in the likeness of the uncreated Trinity. So every created thing produces an image of the creative power and has in its own way a fecundity in a close or distant likeness to the fecundity of that Trinity which is the creator of all."20 In short, the soul as the image of God, in which the mind and intellect are sovereign over the will, is "fecund."

Nicholas provides two examples in other works that extend the analogy of fecundity to human creativity. The first example is found at the conclusion of De Ludo Globi II.114-121, where Nicholas compares God to a minter of coins and human beings as bankers. God creates coins and human beings give them value in their use:

Cardinal: If you consider [the matter] deeply, [you will see that] the value of the intellectual nature is the supreme value after the value of God. For the value of God and of all things is present conceptually and discernedly in the intellectual natures power. And although the intellect does not give being to value, nevertheless without the intellect value cannot be discernednot even the fact that it exists. For if the intellect were removed, there could be no knowledge of whether there is value. If the rational and proportioning power did not exist, then appraising-judgment would cease; and if this latter were not to exist, then surely value would cease. Hereby the minds preciousness appears, since without the mind all created things would be devoid of value. Therefore, if God willed that His own work should be esteemed to be of some value, it was necessary that He create among these works the intellectual nature.21


For Nicholas, human beings act of discerning value - giving praise - to Gods creation is an appropriate act of the created intellect, and it is not simply an act of will. Further, Gods creation already has value, but human beings praise of it enables that value to become manifest, and existent in a very real sense in terms of Nicholas understanding of history. One sees resemblances here of Nicholas understanding of the church as existing wherever two meet in Christs name, and of law whose essence includes usage through custom. If we apply this thought to the problem of rite in De pace fidei, God would be the minter of latria and salvation, and human beings would be the bankers who give value in history through their praise. One could extend the analogy by viewing the means by which bankers settle on value as analogous to the way that prophets and the rudes settle on ways to praise God, by understanding praise as something they both do, and as involving human creativity from both sides. Understanding creativity as praise - whereby praise involves using historical materials to understand God in the particular manner of a historical and national setting - allows us to view Nicholas conventionalism as rooted in the intellect and will acting together.

Such praise takes on a more active role in another work, De Mente, where Nicholas argues that it is the proper role of the intellect to realize itself as the image of God, going so far as to speculate that a work of art that could be imagined to complete itself is superior to one that was made complete by the artist:

And because no matter how nearly perfect an image is, if it cannot become more perfect and more conformed to its exemplar, it is never as perfect as any imperfect image whatsoever that has the power to conform itself ever more and more, without limit, to its inaccessible exemplar. For in this respect the image, as best it can, imitates infinity. [The situation is] as if the painter were to make two images [of himself], one of which was dead but seemed actually more like him, and the other of which was less like him but was alivei.e., was such that when stimulated-to-movement by its object, [viz., himself, the original], it could make itself ever more conformed [to the object]. No one doubts that the second image is the more perfect qua imitating, to a greater degree, the art of the painter. In a similar way, every mindeven ours, too, although it is created as lower than all other minds has from God the fact that, as best it can be, it is a perfect and living image of the Infinite Art. Therefore, mind is three and onehaving power, wisdom, and the union of both in such a way that it is a perfect image of the Art, i.e., in such a way that it can conform itself, when stimulated, ever more and more to its Exemplar. In this way, even though our mind at the outset of its creation does not have the actual reflection of the Creative Art in terms of trinity and oneness, nevertheless it does have the concreated power through which it can make itself, when stimulated, more conformed to the actuality of the Divine Art. Hence, in the one-ness of the minds essence there is power, wisdom, and will. And master and mastery coincide in the essence as in a living image of the Infinite Artan image which, when stimulated, can make itself always more conformed to Divine Actuality, while the preciseness of the Infinite Art remains always inaccessible.22(


No image is as perfect as the one that has the power to conform itself "ever more and more, without limit, to its inaccessible exemplar." The "concreated" art is not as perfect nor precise as the divine Art. However, Nicholas attempts to situate human autonomy and creativity within a paradigm of imitation that, in a sense, completes what the divine artist started. Understood as "concreative" rather than as creative, Nicholass understanding of human action prevents his understanding of the historicity of religious rites from slipping into pure conventionalism. It also prevents his recognition of limitless (and self-directed, in an attenuated sense) imitation from transforming into the limitless acquisition of power, which was the possibility he recognized in the above-mentioned example of the grain of mustard.

In this regard, human beings would regard their particular rites as situated responses to the master plan, and not simply as products of their own making. These ideas about human creativity tie together Nicholass account of peoples complex motivations towards particular rites with his understanding of the logic of consent. People will not accept rites or changes to rites that they themselves do not believe to be divine; they must believe themselves as standing in judgment when they participate in them but also as concreative partners. In this sense, the interaction of prophets and rudes resembles not so much rulers and ruled, but the interaction among various types and talents of participant-rulers in councils whose deliberations - guided by just procedure and just people - get recorded as the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

Nicholas Madisonian-sounding advocacy of a competition of rites is situated within a complex theological and philosophical understanding of the warp and woof of various human capabilities and inclinations. Nicholas ideas about concreativity suggest that he wanted to harness the rudes instincts to love their own customs to universal latria by having them take pride in their customs but as contributors to a larger historical process where nations simultaneously acknowledge the truth of their rituals but also the contingency of their place within that larger process. Nicholas indicates that a diversity of rites is important and natural, and that common rites would hinder worship insofar that people would think that they are worshiping according to a pattern that someone else had established. This means that any innovations introduced by elites to push national rites toward universal latria must draw from the national traditions themselves in order for this practice to remain within the bounds of Nicholass theory of consent. Thus, Nicholas has Paul state at the end of the dialogue that a great deal of latitude should be allowed for the diversity of rites, and "provided that faith and peace are preserved, the various nations should be permitted their own devotions and ceremonies. As a matter of fact, I think that this diversity would bring about an increase in devotion. For each individual nation will endeavor to make its own ritual more splendid, that they might surpass others and, in this way, they will achieve greater praise from both God and man" (DPF 18). Nicholas thought that a diversity of rites would be a spur to virtue for people, as they would take pride in their own national rites and strive to make them more splendid than those of other nations. Nicholas weaving together of national rites with universal history is based on a social ontology similar to that of Augustines Confessions where an individual life has individual and cosmological significance, and serves as a kind of cosmion of the whole. National rites for Nicholas constitute a similar kind of cosmion because they enable people to take particular pride in their particular rites; they recognize both the contingency and truth of their rites.23



Nicholas bases his ideas of religious toleration on an understanding of rituals that sees them standing between universal latria and pure conventionalism. His mixed constitutionalism provides the basis for viewing rituals as a mixture of prophetic transmission of universal latria and a peoples lived religious experience, where the competition among rites serves as a kind of analogy, for the rudes, for the philosophizing conducted by prophetic mystics. Nicholas medieval political and religious ideas are thus more contemporary, more conducive to the spirit of liberalism, than current ideas that force religious expression to the public sidelines and that view religious expression simply as backward and unsophisticated, merely as "conventional." Nicholas ideas allow us to see interreligious dialogue under the eternal arc rather than as predetermined by the corrosive end of history by providing us with a thoughtful account of wisdom, constitutionalism, and custom.


The Political Thought of Joachim of Fiore

Copyright 2001 Matthias Riedl 

Anyone who has ever read the New Science of Politics knows that Eric Voegelin was convinced that Joachim of Fiore, who lived in the 12th century, is an important figure in the history of political thought. Voegelin's most famous thesis on the Calabrian Abbot was, that: "In his Trinitarian eschatology Joachim created the aggregate of symbols which govern the self-interpretation of modern societies." The four symbols that Voegelin explicitly mentioned are (1) "the third age", which in Voegelin's view reappeared for example in the third positive stadium of Auguste Comte and the Third Reich of the Nazis. (2) The leader or "Fuehrer" that shows the people the way into the third age. (3) The Gnostic prophet. (4) The new order of a spiritual community.

From the citations in Voegelin's works one can see that he stopped his research on Joachim after the 40s, when he finished his work on the History of Political Ideas. It seems that he did not take note of publications on Joachim that were written after the Second World War, except Karl Loewith's Meaning in History. In the meantime hundreds of books and articles on Joachim have been published, especially by historians. Several original works of Joachim have been discovered, the last one only four years ago. The Humboldt-University Berlin and the University of Padua are working on a critical edition of the complete works. In summary, over the last few decades the abbot has become one of the most attractive figures in medieval studies. So, I guess that it is time for a new valuation of Joachim's works also in political science. Naturally, such a study has to deal with Voegelin's work because he was the first political scientist to point to the importance of this medieval theologian, and as far as I can see Voegelin is still the only political scientist that provides a genuine view on the thought of the abbot.

Regarding the current state of research I am convinced that Voegelin's main thesis can be maintained. Joachim's symbols are still an important part of the self-interpretation of modern societies. And we can still see how these symbols reappear, seemingly with a certain necessity. In Germany as one can imagine the symbol of the "third age" is discredited, at least for a certain time. But this is not the case in other European countries. To give just one example: Italy's most popular post-modern philosopher, Gianni Vattimo, speaks of the coming third age in which all discrimination will end and everybody will accept the world as a world of difference. Vattimo explicitly regards himself as standing in the tradition of Joachim of Fiore.

When I say that Voegelin's main thesis can be maintained I must also add that Voegelin has to be corrected in the details of his thesis. Just one example: Today we know that Joachim didn't expect a leader (dux) into the third age. The symbol appears in one of Joachim's works, yet without major significance. But, after the experience of the charismatic leader St. Francis, Joachim's immediate successors, the Franciscan Spirituals tried to personalize the eschatological expectation of their prophet. This is only a small and rather formal correction, but there is another problem, that appears especially in the New Science, and that is that Voegelin calls Joachim a Gnostic. I mention this because on the one hand that assertion has been repeated in many publications especially by students of Eric Voegelin, and on the other hand the same assertion is the reason why all historians that deal with Joachim rejected Voegelin's view. This is a great pity because I don't think that this was Voegelin's main point. The steady repetition of the gnosis-thesis prevents many scholars from taking a more careful look at Voegelin's works. If we consider the essential elements of Gnostic thought, as they have been described by the scholars like Kurt Rudolph or Hans Jonas, we can say that Joachim was definitely not a Gnostic. Some of the arguments are:

1) The Gnostic believes that there are two gods, a good and a bad god. They are permanently fighting each other and they are equally strong. Joachim's believes that there is only the one triune God. All evil forces are nothing but tools in the hand of the good God.

2) The Gnostic struggles to attain the gnosis, the knowledge that provides redemption. Joachim is convinced that there is no such knowledge that can be attained by the initiative of man. Real knowledge can only be received from God.

3) The Gnostic tries to redeem himself by knowledge. Joachim believes that man can only be redeemed by God. In his works one can find very orthodox treatises on the doctrine of grace.

4) The Gnosis, the knowledge that the Gnostic speaks about, is usually cosmological knowledge. Joachim on the other hand does not show the slightest interest in cosmology.

5) The Gnostic believes that this world is irretrievably lost and corrupted. It has been created by the bad god and therefore the Gnostic tries to escape from it. Joachim believes in the creation of the world as written in the book of Genesis. He also thinks that there can be a perfection of man and society inside this world. Therefore there is no need to escape from it.

In several of his works Joachim argues against the Gnostic movements of his time, like the Albigensians. He does not do this just because the Gnostics are regarded as heretics but because he cannot accept their view.

If we look again at the works of Eric Voegelin we can see that he calls Joachim a Gnostic only in the publications written at the time of the New Science. When he first wrote about Joachim in the Die Politischen Religionen, he called him an apocalyptic thinker. And this is certainly right. The Revelation of John is the basic text from which all of Joachim's thought starts. Later, in the Autobiographical Reflections, Voegelin admitted that the Gnosis-thesis, as formulated in the New Science, cannot be maintained. He realized that there is a difference between Gnosis and Apocalyptic, and that both symbolic forms play an important role in modern ideological movements. In a late work like The Ecumenic Age he does not call Joachim a Gnostic anymore.


Today I want to speak about a spectacular discovery that was made during the Second World War. An Italian scholar found several medieval drawings and attributed them to the Calabrian abbot. It became clear that some of Joachim's ideas where so new that he couldn't even find adequate words to write them down. The abbot therefore chose another way of symbolic articulation, he decided to draw his ideas. His scholars collected the drawings in the so called Liber Figurarum (Book of Figures). Today I want to present one of the figures that must be of particular interest to political scientists. It shows the sketch of a constitution, the constitution that Joachim expected to reveal itself in the coming third age of the Holy Ghost.

The figure is extremely complex and as far as I have yet discovered it can be divided into at least seven symbolic levels. The texts inside and around the figure are commentaries on these symbolic contents. But one can also say that this figure is something like a summary of Joachim's political thought. One can read all of Joachim's works like commentaries to this drawing. I want only to pick out some aspects.

1) As the title (dispositio novi ordinis pertinens ad tercium statum ad instar superne Jerusalem) says the figure is formed according to the heavenly Jerusalem. And indeed we can see for example the twelve gates that are described in the Revelation of John (Rev. 21,10sqq). If Joachim says that the society of the third age is formed according to the heavenly Jerusalem he does not say that it already is the heavenly Jerusalem. And in one of his works the abbot writes that the society of the third age will be a partial realization of the society in the beyond. So, to speak in Voegelin's terms the eschaton is not completely immanentized as in the prophecies of the Positivists or the Communists. Like all apocalyptic prophets Joachim expects the end of the world and the coming of a new aion. But and this is the crucial point human society will not be transformed in the beyond as the apostle Paul wrote. It will be transformed in the course of history and then be transferred into the beyond. To Joachim history is the process of perfection of man and at the same time the process of political perfection. That means that the society of the third age and the society of the beyond are almost identical.

2) The shape of the figure shows a Greek altar cross as could be found all over Europe in these times. It is easy to see that the figure has three main parts. That means that the future society will be divided into three classes. The cross stands for the monks that will govern the society of the third age. The predella stands for the clerics. And the whole order is based on the pedestal of the lay people.

3) The figure can also be seen as an architectural plan for a monastery or as a monastic rule. And it is clear that this has not just a symbolic meaning. The remarks Joachim made are so detailed that we must assume that the abbot expected similar monasteries to be built in the future. But because Joachim describes the future society as completely monastisized, this is not only the constitution of a monastery, it is the constitution of the future society. One of the commentaries says that the supplying of the monastery should happen according to regional circumstances. That means that these monasteries should be built all around the world. We can also find detailed measures that tell us about the distances between the single houses. That all might sound strange to us. But among medieval monastic orders it was very common to send architectural plans to all foundations in order to give all monasteries the same shape.

The commentary says that the real monks live only inside the "cross". The cross is divided into five oratories in which we find different kinds of monks. a) The monks that are not very clever and that have to do physical work. b) The monks that are old and weak. They have done their duties. Therefore they are allowed to drink wine and to eat meat twice a day. c) The monks that teach the other monks. d) The monks that Joachim calls the perfect men (viri perfecti). Like anchorites they stay in single cells beyond the monasteries walls and lead an absolutely quiet live. All they do is to contemplate and meditate. They are in direct contact with God. e) In the centre we find the abbot and his confidants. His house is called the sedes Dei, the throne of God. That makes clear that Joachim's constitution shows a theocratic order. The abbot, the spiritual father (pater spiriutalis) of all inhabitants, is the representative of God. He rules not only over the monks but also over clerics and lay people. There are representatives of the abbot, the priores and the praelates, in every house. They pass on the instructions of the abbot. Only the prior of the real spiritual monks must act in a certain manner. He is not allowed to shout at the spiritual men. He may only speak to them in a very low and quiet way in order not to disturb their meditation.

The clerics have an intermediary function. They go up into the house of the monks who are in direct contact with God. After having received the spiritual knowledge from the monks they go down to the house of the lay people to preach. Concerning the clerics, there's a specific feature in Joachim's constitution: They have to work, especially in agriculture.

The lay people have to supply the monastery not only with food and clothing but also with novices. Only in this house do we find women, who should not only give birth to children but who also do all the needlework. The men do handicrafts and are traditionally organized in guilds. The young boys first enter the house of the clerics where they learn to speak Latin and to read the Bible, before they join the monks and receive the real knowledge provided by the Holy Ghost.

4) Now we can understand why another symbolic level is the body. As in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12) Joachim describes the society as a synergistic collective in which all parts function like the parts of the body. The house of the lay people is called the foot because the whole society "stands" on their supply. The oratory of the spiritual monks is called the eye because they live in a steady vision of God and pass on their knowledge to all their brothers. And so on. Every part of the society acts for the benefit of the whole society.

5) Other interesting symbols are the different dispensations of the spirit. Joachim cites from the classical messianic prophecy of Isaiah (Is. 12,2sqq) where it is said that seven spirits come down upon the messiah. In Joachim's figure we find all of them. The lay people have the spiritus timoris, the spirit that provides the fear of God. The spiritual monks have the spiritus sapientiae, the spirit that provides wisdom, etc.

Now, if we put the two symbols of the body and the messianic spirit together we get the picture of a collective messiah. This is what Joachim expects for the third age of the Holy Ghost: There will be a society that is in perfect harmony like the parts of the human body. And this society will reveal itself like a messiah.

Joachim's basic theory of history was that there is a succession of three ages, the age of the Father, the age of the Son and the age of the Holy Ghost. In the course of history God will reveal himself in three stages according to the three persons of his essence. The increasing knowledge of the essence of God will make man able to create a political order that is more and more adequate to God's will. The first age of the father was dominated by the patriarchs, the married lay people like Abraham and Jacob. The second age was dominated by the clerics, who are, like Jesus Christ, rulers and priests at the same time. The third age of the Holy Ghost will be dominated by the monks that lead a spiritual life and possess spiritual knowledge. But all the other forms of society will still exist. As we have seen there are clerics and lay people in the third age as well. Yet they will find their place in the right order according to the Divine will: monks on the top, clerics in the middle, and lay people at the bottom.

Now, what we see here is a concept of order that does not show a cosmological analogy. This is not a cosmion. It is an hierarchical order that shows a historical analogy. It contains all the steps of social development that Joachim identified. Those who stand at the beginning of the progress of mankind are the bottom of the society, those who are the result of the progress stand at the top. And this is maybe what Voegelin meant when he spoke of modern ideologies as Gnostic movements, and what he meant when he said that these ideologies have their roots in the ideas of Joachim of Fiore. The abbot's concept of order is not like the ancient Gnostic doctrines just the attempt to escape from the cosmos. It rather is the attempt to escape from cosmology. Joachim made experiences that let him conclude that a political order cannot be based on the everlasting realities like the cosmic order or the human nature. He drew a political order that is based on the changes in history, the increasing knowledge of man and the transformation of human nature, that means the increasing ability of man to receive knowledge.

But what are the existential experiences behind this concept? I want to pick out one experience that is significant especially for this sketch of a constitution, and that was described by many authors in the 12th century. Looking at the social developments in his time Joachim could observe a broad movement toward a more spiritual life. After the end of the investiture controversy there was a big disappointment about the condition of the church, that had become too secular in the eyes of many Christians. A lot of people started to believe that the sacraments of the official church were no longer sufficient for a save way into paradise. Thousands of nobles gave away all their possessions and became monks. A huge number of clerics decided too lead a monastic live and gathered in new orders like the Premonstratensians. But also the lay people wanted to participate in monastic live and to have better chances to reach heaven. The Cistercian order invented the so-called converses, lay people that are in a lower rank members of the monastic order but are allowed to marry. They did all the necessary work and so the monks had more time to contemplate. (Joachim was a Cistercian before he founded his own order.) Even the spiritual monks, that as we have seen are part of the community but live in single cells, look very much like another order that was founded at the end of the 11th century, the Carthusians. Joachim concluded that the whole society was moving toward monasticism, toward the perfect way of living. So, in his picture of the society that we have just seen, we find almost all the spiritual movements of the 12th century. One must admit: The concept was based on an empirical fundament.

One of big the mistakes Joachim made, was a mistake that a lot of political thinkers made after him, as they do today. The abbot wanted to see only the empirical facts that fit his own theory, and he thought that all these movements would be linear developments that will reach complete fulfilment.

Joachim wanted not just to observe the progress toward complete spirituality, but to be an active part of it. He founded his own order, the Florensians, who were more ascetic and observed stricter rules than most of the other orders. He went up on the Sila mountains to build a monastery far away from civilization. But what happened to his foundation? Immediately after his death the monks left the cold climate of the mountains and settled in the warm valleys of Southern Italy. The rules became more moderate and after a few centuries the order disappeared.

To come to an end: The Joachim failed as a prophet and he failed as a monastic founder. He failed like all political thinkers and political activists that believe in the perfectibility of man. Yet his failure was less terrible and less violent than that of all the others who followed.


Entzauberung, Secularization, 'Umbesetzung', Immanentization

A Short Comparative Analysis of Voegelin's Concept of Immanentization

Copyright 2001 Govert Buijs


Draft in progress (not to be quoted)

Written in a language somewhat similar to English.

The language is not yet corrected by a native speaker!



One of the key concepts in Voegelins The New Science of Politics is the concept of immanentization. At first sight the concept has a clear meaning. Strictly spoken it refers to a process in which that what formerly was transcendent has become or is becoming immanent. But beyond this very short explication of the term, problems arise. One becomes especially aware of these problems when comparing the phrase to similar phrases that seem to refer to the very same process, but that seem to suggest different interpretations of the process.

There is indeed extant a family of important concepts, that seem to refer to the very same process, the modern loss of a transcendent referent for this world. One can think of concepts like Entzauberung (Max Weber), secularisation (one of the thinkers using this concept in political theory has been Carl Schmitt, and in the philosophy of history it has been used by Karl Lwith) and Umbesetzung (Hans Blumenberg). In this paper I will undertake an effort to get more clarity about the specific contribution of Voegelins concept of immanentization by comparing it to some of these other familiar concepts.

Some of the key problems surrounding all these terms can be pointed out immediately. To mention a few: do they refer to specific historic periods, so that one can speak of a secularized or immanentized age? Or do they refer to an option that is semper et ubique, always and everywhere, open for people (provided that there is still any god-talk around, or even more vaguely: provided that there is still some awareness of a dimension other than what catches the eye)? Do they refer to collective processes or primarily to a process in individual human souls? Do they refer to a change of meaning that befalls certain specific ideas, or specific symbols, or specific images (perhaps so specific that one can trace them to one corpus of writings and/or one author, as Lwith and Voegelin claim is the case with Joachim of Fiore?). As the concepts try to establish in one phrase both a certain continuity and a certain discontinuity the question arises where the continuity and where the discontinuity is to be established. And what will deserve the greatest attention and will be stressed most emphatically, the continuity or the discontinuity? Do the concepts refer to a loss, to a replacement or substitution (Ersatz) or to something new in its own right?

The aim of this paper is very limited. I intend to undertake a first and still very sketchy attempt to get a clearer picture of Voegelins concept of immanentization by comparing and contrasting it to the other concepts mentioned. The paper as it is, is meant to be a starting point for discussion and further clarification.





Secularization: a brief historical note

Strictly spoken, the concept of secularization is the oldest concept of the ones mentioned. Rumor has it that it had been invented by the French diplomat Longueville during the negotiations that led up to the Peace of West-Phalia in the 17th century. Here the concept was used to give a semblance of legitimacy to the use of church property as a means of compensating the Elector of Brandenburg for the loss of his territory to Sweden. The land was not taken from the church, but was secularized which as a matter of fact meant the very same thing but had a more acceptable and legitimate ring to it. The term later became the official legal term for withdrawing church property from the church and giving it to the state or any other worldly institution.

In the years up to the French Revolution and later in the 19th century the phrase acquired a somewhat programmatic meaning: secularization become a goal to be achieved for enlightened people. The church had to get rid of its worldly properties and its worldly influence. On the European continent the word then gets more and more abstract socio-cultural overtones: society and culture had to be secularized (or from the opposite camp: the secularization of society and culture had to be prevented), which meant: the influence of church and religion had to be diminished. World and life had to be seen, experienced and lived from a naturalistic point of view without reference to anything supernatural.

In the Anglo-Saxon world where the relations between State and Church had been quite different from those on the Continent the word secular seems to have been introduced right away as a concept to denote a certain worldview. In 1846 George Jacob Holyoake founded the Londoner Secular Society and he published in 1854 a book titled Secularism. The Practical Philosophy of the People. It was, as he himself wrote later on, a new name for a new thing. It was a plea for taking secular things as secular and therefore cutting them loose from church and religion. Especially his plea for secular schools was noteworthy.

So initially the concept of secularization has not been a scientific concept, used to analyze certain phenomena in reality, but a political and a legal concept, used to create new states of affairs (new relations of property) and still later on it became a concept to promote a certain specific secular worldview.

In the order of time, of the four concepts mentioned in the Introduction, this leaves Webers Entzauberung as the first scientific concept.


Entzauberung (Weber)

Initially, Webers concept of Entzauberung has not drawn the attention it deserved. An indication of this lack of attention might be that Talcott Parsons in his translation of The Protestants Ethic did not search for a technical term that would have rendered the Weberian phrase as exactly as possible like disenchantment but uses the more general and explanatory phrase the eliminination of magic. As a matter of fact the concept does not occur very often in Webers work. The essay on The Protestant Ethic has the phrase only three times, although Protestantism (i.c. Calvinism, i.c. Puritanism) for Weber has been the most important carrier of the process in modern times.

However, the term becomes particularly prominent in Webers late essay on Science as a Vocation (1917/1919). Here the phrase is used as an attempt to describe the essential characteristic of the predicament of modernity. It is indissolubly tied to that other famous phrase of Webers, the rationalization of the world. Rationalization and disenchantment almost are synonyms for Weber. However, of these two the concept of disenchantment specifically refers to the irreversible losses of the process of rationalization.

The great loss that Weber is referring to is the rift between the two worlds of Sein and Sollen, or in a somewhat different fashion between the world of means and the world of ends, or in a still somewhat different fashion the world of thinking and the world of willing or choosing.

Through the process of rationalization it has become impossible to make rational decisions about the ultimate goals in life. The unity of life, which had been achieved in the great world religions, but especially in Christianity, is lost. The great religions had succeeded in making the meaning of life a matter of public knowledge (not individual choice) and the prescribed means of achieving this meaning were as well a matter of public knowledge and hence by definition rational.

In the rationalization processes however the means are becoming more and more prominent over against the ends or goals. The spheres of politics and of economics are among the most important spheres of means that are cut loose from any overriding, otherworldly goals. They come into their own more and more, developing their own rationality. Moreover, these spheres are determining public life more and more. So at the end of the day the great historical religions (and philosophy) loose their public relevance, and the only thing relevant left in public life is (instrumental) rationality. Society as a whole therefore becomes more and more dominated by rational forms of organization i.e. by bureaucracy (Weber is using here the notorious metaphor of the iron cage).

However, on an individual level the religious way of life might still be an option. This option however can only be based on an individual choice, without any assistance of reason, for reason has withdrawn from the sphere of individual life choices.

So the disenchantment for Weber has at least the following implications:

the loss of public relevance of the world religions

the loss of unity of life and the development of different and separate spheres of life, each with its own, mutually incompatible way of life. The world becomes an arena of contesting forces.

the necessity for the individual to make choices unassisted by rationality.

Webers often-quoted words are still worth quoting once again:

Heute aber ist religiser Alltag. Die alten vielen Gtter, entzaubert und daher in Gestalt unpersnlicher Mchte, entstiegen ihre Grbern, streben nach Gewalt ber unser Leben und beginnen untereinander wieder ihren ewigen Kampf.

In Science as a Vocation Weber seems to analyze the disenchantment indeed as a collective process from which it is impossible to withdraw individually. Or to be more precise: it is possible to withdraw from the disenchantment but at the very same time one will become totally irrelevant in public life. So at the end of the day there are only two options for Weber: either one becomes a politician (publicly relevant, but obliged to adhere to the values of political organization, to the values of rational bureaucracy) or one becomes a world-averting mystic (who is just not up to everyday life and therefore is a publicly utterly irrelevant figure).

The consequences are spelled out dramatically by Weber: Everyone has to decide all by himself who he is going to be. Everyone has to choose between 'God' and 'devil', however, 'your devil might be my God and my God might be your devil'. There is no publicly available rational measure of man left.


Secularization (Schmitt)

Alle prgnanten Begriffe der modernen Staatslehre sind skularisierte theologische Begriffe, is the famous opening sentence of the third chapter of Carl Schmitts Politische Theologie (1922). All meaningful concepts of modern political theory /theory of the state are secularized theological concepts. For Schmit this 'secularization is not only or merely a matter of historical derivation, but a matter of the systematic structure of the concepts.

The third chapter that itself is called also Politische Theologie is not a clear cut exposition and explanation of the opening sentence. What Schmitt actually gives in this chapter is more like a method, a way to proceed in the sociology of law. In order to understand the dominant political and legal concepts of an age, one should relate these concepts to the dominant metaphysics of that age. Why some political or legal concepts are almost self-evident in a certain age but are experienced as strange and abstruse in an other age can only become understandable against the background of the dominant metaphysics of that age. For example: the monarch fulfills in the legal theory of the 17th century the same function as God in the Cartesian world-system. And in the modern concept of sovereignty the divine attribute of omnipotence is transferred to the state or to the political sovereign.

A more elaborate exposition of his analysis of the Western secularization process Schmitt has given in his essay on Das Zeitalter der Neutralisierungen und Entpolitisierungen that is the second part of his Der Begriff des Politischen (version 1932). Here Schmitt uses the conception of a central sphere (Zentralgebiet), which is the sphere of life that shapes the basic perspective of the dominant elites in a society in a given age. For all the major problems in a society in that age the solution will be sought in a direction that is given with this basic perspective. Problems of other spheres of life become secondary. The humanitarian-ethical perspective of the dominant elites in the 18th century render the vexing theological and metaphysical problems of the 16th and 17th century obsolete. And the economical perspective of the 19th century have the same result regarding ethics. And the technical perspective of the 20th century renders everything else obsolete: all problems become technical problems, for which technical solutions have to be found. However, the authority of every central sphere is for Schmitt essentially religious: one can speak of a religion of economics and a religion of technicism etc.

For Schmitt however, the stakes are much higher than a mere exercise in the historical sociology of legal concepts. By relating metaphysical and legal concepts (in a given period), it can be showed that the legal concepts actually reflect a specific way of seeing the world, or more specific: a program of organizing the world in a certain way. And in this program certain aspects of the world, as they were experienced until that moment, are suppressed. So the question then becomes; what has become of these aspects? Are they simply erased? Or are they still present in a metamorphosed way?

So among the questions that Schmitt is asking are the following:

What has become in the eternal dialogue that is democracy of the former distinction between good and evil (Schmitt has spoken contemptuously of the Weimar-democracy as that political order that would respond to the question Jesus of Bar-Abbas by starting a debating group about the matter).

What has become of the power of the sovereign to decide about the legitimacy of the political order? Where rests this decision-power now ultimately?

What has become of the transcendence of God over against the world and parallel with that of the transcendence of the sovereign over against the people? Or has the people become co-extensive with itself and has it become its own sovereign? Is the people always right then?

What makes a political order a legitimate order in the pre-modern and in the modern situation?


So Schmitts method of analyzing legal (and political) concepts as expressions of a hidden metaphysics becomes a first step in the critique of these concepts. The secularization paradigm is a means of revealing the highly ambiguous and risky character of the new in the light of the old. It is indeed a polemical strategy of questioning the legitimacy of the new.

Schmitts analyses confine themselves strictly to the level of the history of ideas. Schmitt does not attempt to find a measure with which to judge the old as well as the new. He allows himself only to describe the historical developments

Apparently there is for Schmitt no outside of the historical processes. Apparently, at the end of the day as a political theorist one has to submit to history. There is no means of establishing the truth of a given political order.

And yet this is not the last word about the enigmatic figure of Carl Schmitt (provided such a last word is ever possible!). For why is he engaged in his at the same time polemical and submitting critique of the modern political constellation? In the background of Schmitts writings there looms a deep awareness of some orthodox-christian dogmas, especially the dogma of original sin. Schmitt simply does not believe that a world of eternal peace is possible, where Alle Menschen werden Brder and where the distinction between good and evil has become obsolete.


Umbesetzung (Blumenberg)

Hans Blumenbergs Die Legitimitt der Neuzeit is a fierce attack on the whole class of concepts that we are dealing with in this paper. For him they are Kategorien des geschichtlichen Unrechts. Blumenbergs most important objection is that phrases like secularization, Verweltlichung, modern Gnosticism etc. do not take modernity for what it is in itself, but from the outset analyze modernity in terms of something else, something which it is not or is not anymore. From the outset in these phrases modernity appears as something derivative, inauthentic and hence illegitimate. So the phrases undermine the legitimacy of the modern age (Legitimitt der Neuzeit).

Important sparring partners in this respect for Blumenberg are Carl Schmitt, Karl Lwith and (especially in the beginning of the second volume of Die Legitimitt der Neuzeit, although mentioned only once in a footnote) also Eric Voegelin.

The first volume of Die Legitimitt der Neuzeit deals with a number of quite different possible forms of the secularization thesis. And every time Blumenbergs conclusion is similar. The truth of the secularization is in most cases merely a linguistic matter, through which a semblance of continuity is used to suppress deeper and more fundamental discontinuities.

Blumenberg gives a wealth of examples of the secularization thesis, as they can be found in very different types of literature: the modern search for scientific certainty as a secularization of the search for the search for the certainty of salvation in Christianity; the modern work ethic as a secularized monastic asceticism; the Dandy as a secularized Christian saint; the radical self-reflective subjectivism in modern literature as a secularization of the Pietist and Puritan self-experience; the political equality of citizens before the law as the secularization of the equality of all mankind before God etc. etc.

So einfach ist, scheint es, die Substanz in ihren Metamorphosen zu identifizieren, und so leicht reihen sich die Metastasen des einen Ursprungs aneinander, wenn man das Rezept einmal gefunden hat.(p. 22)

Among the specific forms of the secularization thesis that Blumenberg is investigating at length are

Secularization as a means of revealing a meaning of modernity that otherwise remains hidden to itself: a hermeneutic function (Gadamer).

Modernity as unthinkable without Christianity (39vv)

The modern consciousness of history as a secularization of the Christian salvation history (Lwith).

Modern political theory as secularized Christian theology (Schmitt)

Of course it becomes a question of the first magnitude for Blumenberg how it is possible that the whole theme of secularization and all the more specified instances of it come up again and again. Where smoke is, there has to be a fire somewhere. So what is the fire that produces time and again the smoke of the secularization-theses?
To get hold of this problem Blumenberg coins his phrase of Umbesetzung (and therewith actually comes close to formulating his own version of the secularization thesis). Formulated in the most abstract manner, for Blumenberg there is no continuity of substance between Christianity and modernity but there is however a functional continuity. There is a continuity of questions that man asks about the world and about himself in the world. In an earlier age, Christianity filled in all the answers to the questions. However, due to a crisis in late medieval Christianity the given answers lost their plausibility (to use a famous term of Peter Berger). The answers to the questions became vacant places. These vacancies had to be filled, just as Christianity had filled them in an earlier age, when still earlier answers had lost their credibility. So modernity, in particular modern scientific thinking, had to fulfill the same function: providing answers to mans basic questions. The vacant places had to be refilled. But this does not imply that the new answers are substantially dependent upon the old answers. They stand on their own feet. For the process of refilling vacancies Blumenberg uses the phrase Umbesetzung.

Was in dem als Skularisierung gedeuteten Vorgang berwiegend, jedenfalls bisher mit nur wenigen erkennbaren und spezifischen Ausnahmen, geschehen ist, lsst sich nicht als Umsetzung authentisch theologischer Gehalte in ihre skulare Selbstentfremdung, sondern als Umbesetzung vakant gewordener Positionen van Antworten beschreiben, deren zugehrige Fragen nicht eliminiert werden konnten. (75)

However, Blumenberg does not elaborate extensively on the source of these questions Why is it that man experiences the world as questionable?


Immanentization (Voegelin)

The concept of 'immanentization' is a very prominent concept in Voegelin's early work up to The New Science of Politics (1952), but much less in his later writings (I will came back to that). Already in the race-books the substance of the concept is very much present. In Rasse und Staat (1933) the modern state is analyzed as an immanent particularization of the universal transcendent corpus mysticum. And in Die Rassenidee in der Geistesgeschichte (1933) a very prominent concept is that of 'Verinnerlichung' which can be read as an exact synonym of 'immanentization', for it refers to a process in which the human body and the human person are cut loose from either a divine origin or a divine destiny. In the 18th century, long before Darwin, man came to be seen as the product of a natural, organic process ('Verinnerlichung des Leibes', pp. 80-127). And in the 19th century the view became prominent that the human destiny is not to be found in a transcendent realm, but has to be realized here and now on earth ('Verinnerlichung der Person', pp. 128-160). In this life the full human life can be lived (Goethe was often cited as concrete proof of this view).

Another formulation is to be found Die politischen Religionen (1938). Here Voegelin claims that some of the key concepts of the modern idea of the state presuppose the 'beheading of God' ('das gottliche Haupt wird abgeschlagen'). This has the fateful consequence that the political sphere becomes loaded with absolute oppositions between (immanent) divine empires and (immanent) evil empires. The political community becomes an immanentally closed entity. So the religious impulse of man does not withdraw from the public sphere and is therefore not somehow lost (as Weber's 'Entzauberung' seemed to imply), but it is redirected toward another object.

'(W)enn Gott hinter der Welt unsichtbar geworden ist, dann werden die Inhalte der Welt zu neuen Gttern; wenn die Symbole der berweltliche Religiositt verbannt werden, treten neue, aus der innerweltichen Wissenschaftssprache entwickelte Symbole an ihre Stelle.' (PR, 50v)

In The New Science of Politics the term immanentization is used as a key tool for analyzing the course of western civilization. Voegelin here speaks of 'two phases of immanentization'. the first phase is still within the orbit of the Christian faith and is marked by the speculations of Joachim of Fiore and his break with the Augustinian symbolism of the two cities or two realms. 'The Joachitic speculation was an attempt to endow the immanent course of history with a meaning that was not provided in the Augustinian conception.' (NSP, 119). The second phase of immanentization is called by Voegelin 'secularization'. It is marked by the 18th century idea of progress.

In the relevant pages (119-132) the concept of 'immanentization' already has the following shades of meaning: treating symbols of faith as propositions concerning objects of immanent experience (NSP, 120). It is 'fallacious' (NSP,120). It has a 'psychological' drive, the longing for absolute certainty and the overcoming of existential anxiety (NSP, 122). The 'drive' has another aspect as well, for Voegelin uses the phrase 'lust for massively possessive experience' (NSP, 123). It is 'an attempt at bringing our knowledge of transcendence into a firmer grip than the cognitio fidei, the cognition of faith, will afford' (NSP, 124). And the certainty gained carries with it the promise of salvific meaning, it is an act of self-salvation (NSP, 129v). And it involves somehow a replacement or re-direction of energy: energy that until then was devoted toward the growth of the soul now becomes invested in the growth of civilization.

The drive toward certainty is somehow fulfilled or caught by the Gnostic experiences in so far as they are an expansion of the soul to the point where God is drawn into the existence of man (NSP, 124).

The immanentization has 'phases' (already mentioned).

It also has 'variants' i.e. the teleological and the axiological and the activist-mystical (NSP, 120v). The first is the quite conservative attitude of getting slowly and gradually world and life 'better and bigger' every day. The second is the utopian attitude, simply posing an absolute claim of perfection without worrying about the way to go there. The third variant is the really revolutionary variant, where the way toward the absolute perfection is concretely spelled out as a 'turning around' of the nature of man by the way of revolutionary action.

Apart from these what may be called attitudinal variants there are also variants of content according to the faculty of man that is taken as 'central sphere' of immanentization. The expansion of the soul toward God may be primarily emotional, intellectual or volitional.

And finally, there is also a contextual component, that influences the specific direction of the 'drive toward certainty': mundane history as the field in which certainty has to be gained.

Some observations can be made regarding the status of 'immanentization' as a process.

Although at first sight the concept is used to characterize a certain historical period, the modern age and its first inklings in the 13th century, already in The New Science of Politics greater emphasis is put on the 'psychological' dynamics of immanentization.

In the subsequent work the key term then becomes 'consciousness'. In the later writings Voegelin elaborates more and more this side of the matter. From1966 the theory of consciousness is presented as the centerpiece of the theory of politics and history (although some very important essays on the theory of consciousness were written in the '40-ties, so they have to be seen in the background of The New Science as well).

As was already indicated, in the later writings the term 'immanentization' itself becomes less and less prominent. But the themes that are indicated in a nutshell in the pages just cited are deepened and elaborated upon very extensively. And it looks like Voegelin is constantly searching for more adequate analytical concepts to diagnose what perhaps can be described as a 'syndrome': egophanic or spiritual revolt, existential resistance, pneumapathology, the closed soul, loss of reality, refusal to appercieve, anoia, nabala, morbus animi etc. etc. (a shortlist is for example to be found in In Search of Order (OH V), 44-47). In a syndrome not one of the symptoms is by itself decisive for the diagnosis, but it is the pattern as a whole that matters. In every concrete case, even one or more of the specific symptoms might be missing. In my view the metaphor of the syndrome is a helpful tool of putting together the sometimes quite diverse analyses by Voegelin of what are obviously in his view related phenomena.

What are the elements of this syndrome of immanentization in Voegelins later work? I give a list (basically based on the Wisdom-essay and on In Search of Order)

1. Dissatisfaction with the existent order.

2. An awareness - that has spread in history in the wake of specific experiences of transcendence esp. in 'Jerusalem' and 'Athens' - that the world as it is is not necessarily or definitively as it is. There is a transcendent measure to which reality has to live up to.

3. An awareness of the tension between 1 and 2 and hence an awareness of the mystery of suffering in reality. Life can be death and death can be life. There is meaning in reality, but not all of reality is meaningful.

It is important to note that 1,2 and 3 are so to say the point of departure for immanentization, but do not force man to take this direction. In fact, in philosophy and in Christianity man is effectively prevented from doing so. They both challenge man to maintain what Voegelin calls the 'balance of consciousness' which can be seen as a balance between the acceptance of the mystery of suffering and at the same time affirming the meaning in reality.

Immanentization on the contrary may occur when people refuse to maintain this balance. The following symptoms then may occur.

4. Forgetfullness of the meaning in reality. Reality as a whole can be symbolized as negative.

5. As the tension between 1. and 2. is experienced within the human consciousness, the thought can come up very easily that the tension can as well be solved within the human consciousness. Perhaps the mystery of suffering is not only to be experienced in the consciousness, but it can overcome by it as well. The content of the consciousness can develop toward a supposed 'knowledge' of the recipe to overcome the suffering. The problem of reality is redefined as a problem of the consciousness.

6. In order to make this redefinition convincing one has to reinterpret reality as a correlate of the human consciousness. Everything that is 'other' than consciousness has to be suppressed, first in the consciousness and then in reality. Only consciousness appears in the consciousness (egophany).

7. In this suppression the literalization of symbols is an important factor. Symbols by definition originate as an expression of 'otherness', of transcendence. So they have to be reinterpreted as mere products of the consciousness.

8.The human imagination can produce images of reality that are in fact distortions of reality (and it can make use of the reinterpreted older symbols in articulating these images).

9. The consciousness can allow itself to be convinced by the distorted images and take the distorted image for the whole of reality. Voegelin calls this a 'Second reality' that eclipses the first reality.

10. Action is needed to bridge the gap between the 'Second reality' and the first reality, which is always a violent imposition of the image upon reality.

More and more, Voegelins work becomes a meditation on the different directions the consciousness can take. The immanentization becomes an option that is always there in the human consciousness as a temptation. His meditative analyses are meant to recognize the forms this temptation might take in his own concrete consciousness, but they are published as a help to the reader to recognize this temptation in her or his own consciousness.

For Voegelin it is very important to stress that the process of immanentization certainly has collective dimensions, but there is a way out for the individual. There is the option of a 'revolt against the revolt', of opting out of the 'collective unconscious' and making conscious what has been suppressed and claiming public relevance for it. So his analysis intends to leave intact the individual human responsibility for the own soul.

This might be one of the reasons why Voegelin is less and less interested in 'immanentization' as a historical process in Western modernity. More and more his analysis have their main thrust in the 'care of the soul', in what can be called 'political psycho-hygiene'.


7. Some conclusions

What does Voegelin's concept of 'immanentization' contribute compared to the other concepts dealt with in this paper? Only a few observations can be made here.

Compared to Weber's 'Entzauberung' the difference is there in at least three respects:

a. The immanentisation is clearly not the Weberian Entzauberung but is its opposite. It is the re-enchantment of the world but on the basis of a specific immanent point of view. Immanentization for Voegelin does not refer to a disappearance of religion from the public scene, but to its metamorphosis. It refers to a 're-enchantment' of the world that had become 'de-divinized' in experiences of transcendence.

b. Weber had to leave the younger ones with an irrational choice between a strictly personal God and a strictly personal devil. Voegelin tries to analyse the different options within the consciousness as in terms of 'golden and irons cords', in terms of options that are true to reality and options that imply a selling of the soul to 'irreal' life-patterns. So the care of the soul is very important in Voegelin's analysis of the dynamics of immanentization.

c. The possibility of analyzing this dynamics in terms of good versus evil and hence allow for the possibility of theoretically resisting modern ideologies at a public-theoretical level.

Compared to Schmitt's concept of secularization

a. There is a parallel with Schmitt's way of interpreting an age with a view to its dominant metaphysics, especially where it comes to the religious character of the 'central sphere' of a societal order. For Schmitt also there is no disappearance of religion, but only a metamorphosis.

b. There is a parallel as well in that Schmitt actually seeks to maintain the distinction between good and evil in public life. However Schmitt actually allows for no intellectual tools to make that distinction otherwise than the blind decision. For Schmitt there is no 'measure' to which the political order has to orient itself.

c. Schmitt's analyses confine themselves to the 'history of ideas', Voegelin attempts to analyze experiences of consciousness. As a basis for resistance against the modern age Schmitt has only the submission to the authority of the dogma (and where the dogma is silent, there is the irrational deciosion), while Voegelin can so to say can dive into the experiential depth of the dogma (or better: of the symbols) and hence is more sensitive in distinguishing between right and wrong in modernity.

Compared to Blumenberg's 'Umbesetzung':

a. There is a similarity in that both Blumenberg and Voegelin are not satisfied with the analysis of historical changes of ideas in terms of dependency and derivation. There has to be a kind of constant structure in man that drives him to ask questions. In the answers given there can be different options: mythical, religious, scientific etc.

b. There is a difference in that for Voegelin these answers can be analyzed and compared in a systematic order. Moreover, each of these answers also have their negative possibility that goes with them and which also can be analyzed. And analysis implies here as well: to make a judgment about their adequacy, their truth.

"In Search of the Body Politic"

Copyright 2001 Todd Breyfogle


I regret not being able to give these remarks in person, for the panelists have offered five very stimulating papers.

I have entitled my remarks "In Search of the Body Politic." Each of the papers, in its own way, addresses Voegelins search for an appropriate symbolization of order in history and the history of order, understood as the search for the symbolization and locus of the harmony of the body politic. It is not surprising that harmony (concordia, or concordantia) should be a dominant theme in the quest for order for both strive for an intelligible reconciliation of similar and dissimilar things. What is interesting is the degree to which the image of the body as a metaphor for understanding the order of political life takes center stage.

In emphasizing Voegelins attempt to articulate the harmony of the timeless with time, Professor Sandozs paper points us to the centrality of the Incarnation in Voegelins thought. Revelation is understood as "the fact of Gods presence in reflective use of the image of the cross as consciousness" (Sandoz, p. 6), a grace which, in Voegelins words "imposes a supernatural form on the nature of man" just as the eternal Logos was made flesh (NSP, quoted at Sandoz, p. 7). Reflectionand so political reflectionfor Voegelin, is always embodied reflection which is measured and confirmed by the revelation of the Measure itself.

Professor Buijss account of immanentization is also an examination of Voegelins attempt to articulate the harmony of the timeless with time. He draws our attention to Voegelins Rasse und Staat, where "the modern state is analyzed as an immanent particularization of the universal transcendent corpus mysticum." (Buijs, p. 8) As Buijs reminds us, for Voegelin (as for Carl Schmitt) modern secular ideology is marked by the metamorphosis of religion not religions disappearance. At issue is the symbolization of a mystical body against which both epistemology and politics are to be measured. The body of Christ is made flesh in a corrupt and dangerous way. This deformed metamorphosis profoundly affects what Voegelin calls "the balance of consciousness" because the balance of consciousness itself requires an appropriate balance of spiritual and material; the secular immanentization of the corpus mysticum yields a corrupt "political psycho-hygiene" (Buijs, p. 11) and so a corrupted political order.

Professor Riedls paper is a most helpful re-examination of Joachims relation (or lack thereof) to Voegelins account of Gnosticism. Of particular importance to the present theme is his account of Joachims use of the form of the cross for understanding the order and harmony of monastic living. The cross, as the illustration shows, literally forms the physical displacement of the several bodies in relation to each other. In Joachims ideal of monastic life, the monks form the body of the cross in both hierarchical and harmonious fashion. Joachims mistake, as Riedl observes, was to mistake this embodied cross as empirical evidence of the possibility of the third age of the Holy Ghost.

Professor von Heykings account of mixed constitutionalism and religious pluralism in Nicholas of Cusa is a valuable resuscitation of this important medieval political thinker. The problem of the embodied spirit is present here too: How is the voice or judgment of God to be rendered incarnate in human affairs? Cusanuss articulations of conciliarism and custom as the embodiment of Gods spirit are, in von Heykings presentation, models for understanding how religious and political differences can be rendered harmonious without dispatching the standard of ultimate (Christian) truth. Yet it is surprising that von Heyking does not make use of the two splendidand dominantmetaphors which frame the De concordantia catholica. The work opens with an extended discussion of Christ as the spouse of the Church. Marriagetwo "compound bodies" become onesets the stage for understanding the temporal harmony of the body politic. A different and more elaborate metaphor of the body concludes the work (at III.585ff). Drawing upon recent physiological theories, Nicholas depicts the Church and Empire as different systems within a unified body and so both subject to the good of the body. The Church is represented by the circulatory systemthe divine laws are the arteries which branch out bringing the life-giving spirit, while canon laws are the veins which serve as intermediaries between the arteries and the flesh. The Empire is represented by the nervous systemimperial laws branch out, connecting the brain to the bones and so contributing to the support of the flesh which is always in danger of decaying. Complementary and interrelated functions allow diverse institutions and dispositions to coexist in orderly, harmonious fashion.

It has become fashionable in certain circles to derive a political theory from Trinitarian relations. Voegelin, and the analyses today, locates the symbolization of the body politic not in the Trinity but in the Incarnation. In attending to the Incarnation, we are reminded that the fragility of orderin the soul and the polis alikerequires the maintenance of both the body and the mystery of the corpus mysticum. "The face of faces is veiled in all faces, and seen in a riddle." (Nicholas of Cusa, De visione Dei, vi.)