Eric Voegelin’s Science, Politics, and Gnosticism presents a diagnosis of the mental illnesses plaguing modern political societies, and a remedy to boot.
With ingenious simplicity, Voegelin outlines the differences between the pursuit of genuine science (Greek: episteme) and its counterfeit (so-called gnosis).
The first, exemplified in Socratic philosophy and Christian theology, “is concerned with the truth of things that everyone talks about”: virtue and other conditions of happiness.
Though men can be—and are—confused about such things, their opinions are rooted in “the order of being that is accessible to knowledge” by anyone making the requisite effort.
With the help of intellectual discipline and heavenly grace, these opinions can be refined and enlarged to constitute a non-negligible guide to living a healthy human existence.
Gnosticism, by contrast, hawks a manmade simulacrum of knowledge, whose origins and end are precisely opposed to those of science.
To the gnostic mind, the “order of being” is inherently hostile to human happiness, and the latter is only to be obtained by a systematic negation or conquest of reality.
“Knowledge,” in this view, is nothing but a weapon by which man becomes his own Savior through the destruction of the order that has been given to him.
Of course, the eradication of the world as we know it could not have a liberating effect unless man were also to fulfill the role of Creator, substituting an alternative order of his own.
That man cannot create himself—or the world—is, however, self-evident. How then does the gnostic mind persuade its adherents to sign up for its program of collective suicide?
Voegelin’s answer is shocking, but well documented. He begins with Karl Marx, who anticipates that some of his readers may raise “tangible” objections to his blithe assertion that man creates himself.
In response, Marx sneers that “for socialist man” such questions are “a practical impossibility.”
In other words: those with the temerity to challenge the foundations of Marx’s ideology will not be welcome in the faculty lounge, or even in society itself, once they have succumbed to the charms of his false philosophy (or to those of the secret police).
Through these and similar passages in a host of eminent authors, Voegelin demonstrates that many of the most esteemed modern intellectuals—from Hobbes and Comte to Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger—are in the end nothing but “intellectual swindler[s].”
And that is not all. What could possess men of that intellectual caliber to propound theories they know to be unsupportable?
As it happens, “possess” is an apt term, for the only plausible motive—and one that is upheld by close examination of their writings—is a hatred of “the order of being” so desperate as to drive them to attempt what they know to be impossible.
Since the transcendent root of the “order of being” is nothing but the divine intellect and will—that is, God—we see that much of what comprises modern philosophy is motivated by an opposition to what is that can only be described as diabolical.
What lessons are we to draw from this analysis? Stay tuned for further commentary.