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Science, Politics, and Gnosticism Paperback – October 1, 2004


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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Eric Voegelin, who was born in Austria, taught for most of his career at Louisiana State University. In 1958 he returned to Europe to become the director of the Institute for Political Science at the University of Munich. A prodigious writer, he is perhaps most renowned for his multivolume work, Order and History.

Ellis Sandoz is Hermann Moyse Jr. Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Director of the Eric Voegelin Institute for American Renaissance Studies at Louisiana State University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 102 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932236481
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932236484
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,195,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Pacillo on August 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
These two essays describe the inability of modern political thought to get a grip on the disorder and horror of the 20th century. Part of the problem is that the thinkers themselves have been susceptible to the diseases under study. The roots of modern disorder are found in "Gnosticism," which is defined narrowly as a Christian heresy, but thought of by Voegelin as a typical response to the universal problems of uncertainty, meaninglessness, and alienation. Thus, seemingly disparate movements like fascism and positivism are interpreted within a Gnostic framework.

After describing the characteristics of ancient Gnosticism, Voegelin defines his own approach to the "science of politics," derived mainly from Plato and Aristotle. He then proceeds to analyze thinkers such as Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger and to isolate what he feels to be their dominant motives. The one great theme of all Gnosticisms, ancient or modern, is the desire to do away with the notion of an objective world. If the project of world-transformation is to be made plausible, then nothing can be seen to be outside of human power. Social reality is a constructed thing, not a thing given or found; and as such, it may be "deconstructed."

In the second, shorter essay, "Ersatz Religion," Voegelin describes the complex of ideas characteristic of modern Gnosticism, such as millenialism, utopianism, and positivism. As the title of the essay suggests, the religious impulse does not die after the murder of God; it gets redirected into "political religions." Politics then becomes a matter of fanatical belief, instead of debatable opinions.

Despite its theoretical concerns, the book is not too abstract, and it is not too reliant on jargon. Those with no prior reading in philosophy may need to look up a term every once in a while. Eric Voegelin's thought is sober and ordered -- and that's a nice model for political science after the century of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By "tim_farrington" on July 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
Eric Voegelin was one of the most profound philosophers of history of the twentieth century. More than any other thinker I know, he was able to articulate a body of thought that recognizes the human need for a grounding in transcendent truth and analyses the vicissitudes of the inevitable search for meaning. His work deserves to be widely read, but perhaps because of its imposing bulk--his masterwork, "Order and History," weighs in at five fat volumes of complex reasoning, vivid exegeses of the symbolic forms of the past five thousand years, and indepth and illuminating readings of philosophers from Parmenides to Heidegger--it is not. "Science, Politics, and Gnosticism" is a perfect hors d'oeuvre of a book, and serves well not as a systematic introduction to the full scope of his vision but as a tasty morsel of his maturing thought at a crucial point in his oeuvre. Voegelin's incisive critique of ideological thinking in this book is lucid and mercifully accessible. I would hope that a reader comes away from this potent little classic inspired to dig deeper into the mine of wisdom that Voegelin's work offers.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
Oh, the visionary has a new system to save the world? Put that in section II B, tray 5, right next to the same idea that sprouted 1000 years ago under a different name.
Voegelin has boiled down the rules for understanding all secular visions of salvation, which invariably play on some human dissatisfaction, the diagnosis of which always omits a key "given" of human nature, which is thus marketed as changeable, but isn't, leading to fanatical attempts to control people, devolving into scaring them into submission with the threat of death.
The opposite of the Christian love ethic which posits a brotherhood in relation to a heavenly Father, according to Voegelin.
Voegelin here achieves a scientific method of explaining how non-christian ideas relate to Christian ideas of social organization. He was very popular in Cold War times, but is also versatile enough here to help with the great conversation we are all having in relation to terrorism. This book is simple, direct and profound.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By GangstaLawya on August 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Voegelin has done the public a great service by tracing a common thread of gnosticism amongst modern political philosophies. He goes to Marx's juwish roots in order to expose the theme of the golem that underlies Marxian thought as laid out in Marx's Political and Economic Manuscripts. The Kabbalistic underpinnings of socialistic philosophy forecasts these philosophies as gnostic philosophies.

Although Voegelin indulges in almost pure abstraction (characterisitic of his German education) it is quite accurate since it exposes the naked truth a la Jack Kerouac of these ideas.

The gnostic character of modern philosophies, such as Hegel, Comte, Marx, feminism and so on comes out in the theme of "alienation." Alienation from the rest of society is the result of some form of discord or disharmony. Recourse to a "secret knowledge" will reveal the solution to this problem of disharmony. Applying this secret knowledge will result in an "immanenitizing of the eschaton."

The last concept comes from Roman Catholic scholarship in defining the heresy of gnosticism. In article 676 of the Catholic catechism, it says that: "The AntiChrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism." Voegelin says that gnosticism tries to bring about a heaven on earth or "immanentize the eschaton.
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