Introduction, Sections 1 and 2
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from The New Science of Politics (1952) 35 [These selections are drawn from Voegelin’s first major work on politics and political theory, which originated as a series of lectures entitled “Truth and Representation” given in 1951 at the University of Chicago under the auspices of the Charles R. Walgreen Foundation. Before Voegelin proceeds to his principal theme, he opens with the assertion that the “existence of man in political society is historical existence; and a theory of politics, if it penetrates to principles, must at the same time be a theory of history.” He then proposes that a restoration of political science is now necessary, and that this restoration entails a return to the consciousness of principles. Turning then to the theme of his lectures, “Truth and Representation ,” he first distinguishes and analyzes what he terms “elemental ” and “existential” political representation. He then proceeds to identify three types of truth symbolized in ancient societies, which have provided the bases for all later Western political forms of self-­ understanding, to wit: “cosmological,” “anthropological,” and “soteriological ” truth. Included here are Sections 1 and 2 of four total sections in the Introduction ; a summary of Chapter One; Sections 1–­6 and 9 of Chapter Two; and Section 1 of Chapter Three.—Eds.] From Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 5: Modernity Without Restraint: The Political Religions; The New Science of Politics; and Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, ed. Manfred Henningsen (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000), 88–98; 129–43, 147–48; 149–53. First published in Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952). © 1952 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved. Published by arrangement with University of Chicago Press. 36 part two | the philosophical science of politics Introduction 1 The existence of man in political society is historical existence; and a theory of politics, if it penetrates to principles, must at the same time be a theory of history. The following lectures on the central problem of a theory of politics, on representation, will, therefore , carry the inquiry beyond a description of the conventionally so-­ called representative institutions into the nature of representation as the form by which a political society gains existence for action in history. Moreover, the analysis will not stop at this point but will proceed to an exploration of the symbols by which political societies interpret themselves as representatives of a transcendent truth. And the manifold of such symbols, finally, will not form a flat catalogue but prove amenable to theoretization as an intelligible succession of phases in a historical process. An inquiry concerning representation, if its theoretical implications are unfolded consistently, will in fact become a philosophy of history. To pursue a theoretical problem to the point where the principles of politics meet with the principles of a philosophy of history is not customary today. Nevertheless, the procedure cannot be considered an innovation in political science; it will rather appear as a restoration, if it be remembered that the two fields which today are cultivated separately were inseparably united when political science was founded by Plato. This integral theory of politics was born from the crisis of Hellenic society. In an hour of crisis, when the order of a society flounders and disintegrates, the fundamental problems of political existence in history are more apt to come into view than in periods of comparative stability. Ever since, one may say, the contraction of political science to a description of existing institutions and the apology of their principles, that is, the degradation of political science to a handmaid of the powers that be, has been typical for stable situations, while its expansion to its full grandeur as the science of human existence in society and history, as well as of the principles of order in general, has been typical for the great epochs of a revolutionary and critical nature. On the largest scale of Western history three such epochs occurred. The foundation of political science through Plato and Aristotle marked 37 the new science of politics the Hellenic crisis; Saint Augustine’s Civitas Dei marked the crisis of Rome and Christianity; and Hegel’s philosophy of law and history marked the first major earthquake of the Western crisis. These are only the great epochs and the great restorations; the millennial periods between them are marked by minor epochs and secondary restorations; for the modern period, in particular, one should remember the great attempt of Bodin in the crisis of the sixteenth century...