Preface
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from Israel and Revelation (1956) 289 From Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 14: Order and History, Vol. 1: Israel and Revelation, ed. Maurice P. Hogan (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001), 19-25; 39-51. [The Preface and Introduction to the first volume of Order and History , Israel and Revelation, are crucial articulations of the principles discovered by Voegelin in his work on the unpublished (in his lifetime ) and eventually abandoned History of Political Ideas, written during the 1940s. The declarative sentence that opens the Preface—­ after which he proceeds to outline the plan of Order and History—­ asserts the theoretical approach that a philosopher seeking the existential truth of personal and social order in history must follow: “The order of history emerges from the history of order.” The subtitle of the Introduction—­ “The Symbolization of Order”—­ succinctly identifies the topic whose analysis would guide his work from this period on, an analysis whose interpretive principles and defining elements he would develop and deepen until his death in 1985. And the masterfully crafted opening sentence of the Introduction, in which Voegelin declares that “God and man, world and society form a primordial community of being,” articulates the ontological-­ interpretive basis for all his future meditations on “typical features in the process of [human] symbolization” of the order of reality. These introductory selections from Israel and Revelation precede the book’s lengthy empirical studies, which begin with “The Cosmological Order of the Ancient Near East,” continue with “The Historical Order of Israel” and “History and the Trail of Symbols,” and end with “Moses and the Prophets.”—Eds.] 290 part five | philosophy of history Preface The order of history emerges from the history of order. Every society is burdened with the task, under its concrete conditions, of creating an order that will endow the fact of its existence with meaning in terms of ends divine and human. And the attempts to find the symbolic forms that will adequately express the meaning, while imperfect, do not form a senseless series of failures. For the great societies, beginning with the civilizations of the ancient Near East, have created a sequence of orders, intelligibly connected with one another as advances toward, or recessions from, an adequate symbolization of truth concerning the order of being of which the order of society is a part. That is not to say that every succeeding order is unequivocally marked as progressive or recessive in relation to the preceding ones. For new insights into the truth of order may be achieved in some respects, while the very enthusiasm and passion of the advance will cast a shroud of oblivion over discoveries of the past. Amnesia with regard to past achievement is one of the most important social phenomena. Still, while there is no simple pattern of progress or cycles running through history, its process is intelligible as a struggle for true order. This intelligible structure of history, however, is not to be found within the order of any one of the concrete societies participating in the process. It is not a project for human or social action but a reality to be discerned retrospectively in a flow of events that extends, through the present of the observer, indefinitely into the future. Philosophers of history have spoken of this reality as providence, when they still lived within the orbit of Christianity, or as List der Vernunft, when they were affected by the trauma of Enlightenment. In either case they referred to a reality beyond the plans of concrete human beings—­ a reality of which the origin and end is unknown and which for that reason cannot be brought within the grasp of finite action. What is knowable is only that part of the process that has unfolded in the past; and that part to the extent only to which it is accessible to the instruments of cognition that have emerged from the process itself. The study on Order and History, of which the first volume is here presented to the public, is an inquiry into the order of man, society , and history to the extent to which it has become accessible 291 israel and revelation to science. The principal types of order, together with their self-­ expression in symbols, will be studied as they succeed one another in history. These types of order and symbolic form are the following: (1) The imperial organizations of the ancient Near East, and their existence in the form of the cosmological myth; (2) the...


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