from Remembrance of Things Past (1978)
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from Remembrance of Things Past (1978) 195 From Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 12: Published Essays, 1966–1985, ed. Ellis Sandoz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), 311–13. [“Remembrance of Things Past” was written as Chapter 1 for the first American edition of Anamnesis (1978), translated and edited by Gerhart Niemeyer. This edition differed significantly from the original German Anamnesis of 1966, omitting a number of historical and philosophical essays, but adding both this new “introductory ” chapter and the major 1974 essay “Reason: The Classic Experience.” In this brief excerpt from the chapter, serving as an apt preface to the three essays that follow, Voegelin offers general reflections on “a reality in which human beings with a consciousness occur.”—Eds.] Reality . . . can move into the position of an object-­ of-­ thought intended by a subject-­ of-­ cognition, but before this can happen there must be a reality in which human beings with a consciousness occur . Moreover, by virtue of their consciousness these human beings are quite conscious of being parts of a comprehensive reality and express their awareness by the symbols of birth and death, of a cosmic whole structured by realms of being, of a world of external objects and of the presence of divine reality in the cosmos, of mortality and immortality, of creation into the cosmic order and of salvation from its disorder, of descent into the depth of the psyche and meditative ascent toward its beyond. Within this rich field of reality-­ consciousness, finally, there occur the processes of wondering , questing, and seeking, of being moved and drawn into the search by a consciousness of ignorance, which, in order to be sensed 196 part four | philosophy and the open soul as ignorance, requires an apprehension of something worth to be known; of an appeal to which man can lovingly respond or not so lovingly deny himself; of the joy of finding and the despair of having lost the direction; of the advance of truth from the compact to differentiated experiences and symbols; and of the great breakthroughs of insight through visions of the prophetic, the philosophic, and the Christian apostolic type. In brief, Man’s conscious existence is an event within reality, and man’s consciousness is quite conscious of being constituted by the reality of which it is conscious. The intentionality is a substructure within the comprehensive consciousness of a reality that becomes luminous for its truth in the consciousness of man. Recognizing this comprehensive structure of consciousness, however, raised a fundamental issue in philosophical epistemology . If the abstract statements about the structure of consciousness were to be accepted as true, they had first to be recognized as true in the concrete. Their truth rested on the concrete experiences of reality by concrete human beings who were able to articulate their experience of reality and of their own role as participants in it, and thus engender the language of consciousness. The truth of consciousness was both abstract and concrete. The process of verification had to penetrate, therefore, through the engendered symbols to the engendering experience; and the truth of the experience had to be ascertained by a responsive experience that could verify or falsify the engendering experience. Even worse, the process was further burdened with the impossibility of separating language and experience as independent entities. There was no engendering experience as an autonomous entity but only the experience as articulated by symbols; and at the other end of the process of verification, there was no responsive experience as an autonomous entity either but only an experience that could articulate itself in language symbols and, if necessary, modify the symbols of the engendering experience in order to let the truth of symbols more adequately render the truth of reality experienced. The truth of consciousness, its verification and advance, could not be identified with either the truth of statements or the truth of experience; it was a process that let its truth become luminous in the procedural tension between experience and symbolization. Neither the experiences nor the symbols 197 remembrance of things past could become autonomous objects of investigation for an outside observer. The truth of consciousness revealed itself through participation in the process of reality; it was essentially historical. ...