Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation – Part IV – chap. 12 – Moses

09/26/2010 – Joanne Tetlow on Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation – Part IV – chap. 12 – Moses

Summary

Without exception, Moses is the key figure in the Old Testament. The historical memory of the legends, stories, and facts about Moses, his role as prophet of God, and founder of the people of Israel constituted through the Sinaitic covenant endured in the Deuteronomic Torah and the “positive communal consciousness” of the Jews. In this chapter, Voegelin highlights the centrality of Moses to Israel and Revelation in the following interrelated ways:

(1) Moses as an individual experiences order in his soul as a “leap in being” in response to divine revelation at Sinai;

(2) Moses mediates the historical substance of a “people under God” as a collective “Son of God” in contrast to the gods of the cosmological order of Egypt;

(3) Moses communicates Yahweh as “I AM WHO I AM” in the thornbush episode not as a philosophical proposition, but as a compact experience, which contains the potential of a differentiated metaphysics of God’s divine nature; and

(4) The Mosaic Covenant creates a new dispensation of a theopolity through the Decalogue and inculcation of divine order to Israel as a community.

           Beneath and behind the layers of literary and historical forms about Moses and his acts (and divine acts) against Pharaoh, i.e., plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, magical tricks of turning a staff into a serpent, and so on, Voegelin identifies the common historical substance: the clash between the Yahweh of Moses and the cosmic-divine civilization of Egypt. In Israel’s history, this is a struggle between prophets and kings. Despite Moses being sidelined in the Old Testament from the Deborah Song to the end of the Davidic Empire, because Moses’ words are secondary to the words of God Himself, the prophetic myth (legends, etc.) around Moses served to legitimatize subsequent Old Testament prophets and their writings, e.g., the Deuteronomic Torah. The Mosaic problem of legends is that the stories and events may render opaque the true meaning of Moses’ direct experience of Yahweh as opposed to the cosmological gods of Pharaoh and his Egypt. This direct experience is the “leap in being,” a differentiating event that can only be understood by symbols, not concepts.

            The symbol of “Son of God” is identified by Voegelin as one in the Pyramid Text where Pharaoh is greeted by the gods as the “Son of God.” In Exodus 4:22, the new “Son of God” is Israel. An existing symbol was transferred from the cosmological myth of Egypt to the new “Son of God” created by Yahweh through Moses: a people under God. Moses was indispensable as God’s agent in constituting a people into the present under God. And, this could only be accomplished by Moses, who himself had the original experience of a soul touched, ordered, and made present by and under God.  

          Yahweh revealed himself to Moses and his people in the thornbush episode as “I AM WHO I AM.” Although this statement has been interpreted through the centuries as God’s metaphysical disclosure, Voegelin reminds us that because of its compactness, Israel did not articulate or engage in philosophy. As such, Etienne Gilson describes this statement not as a “metaphysics in Exodus, but as a metaphysics of Exodus.” In other words, Aquinas’s interpretation that God’s name as “I AM WHO I AM” denotes his essence, universality, and present being as the incommunicable substance of God is valid in the respect that a philosophical proposition was contained within the compact symbol itself, even though at the time of Exodus 3:14, this revelation to Moses meant that the divine presence was with him and his people. In the context of this revelation, God was not making a metaphysical disclosure, but assuring Moses and Israel that he was with them, even though he was hidden in substance, and manifest in many forms, similar to the cosmological Amon Hymns of Dynasty XIX. Yet, the compact symbol of “I AM WHO I AM” had the potential of future differentiation by Christian philosophers, such as Aquinas, about the nature of God. 

            In this example and in the entirety of the work, Voegelin makes the claim that Revelation and History are inseparable. It is in the history of Israel that Revelation occurs. The New Dispensation of the Sinaitic Covenant mediated by Moses to form a people under God was established by the Decalogue, not principally as moral or ceremonial law, but as rules to create a theopolity that could restrain rebellious existence, and inculcate divine order into the souls of Israel. Similar to the extrapolated metaphysical statement about God’s “I AM” statement, the compact symbol of the 10 commandments, although at the time did not mean moral law, could be interpreted and differentiated as a philosophy of order at a later time.

The God of Moses was not the God of Israel, but of mankind, a point Voegelin consistently makes in this work. Thus, although the Davidic Empire may have deformed the theopolity established at Sinai by instituting a “royal” Son of God, Israel itself as a collective “Son of God” was already defective, which the Davidic kingship mitigated by infusing a universal spirit into the compact community. A break with the collective existence under God to a personal, universal experience would have to wait until Christ and the New Testament. Moses and Israel established the necessary conditions for such a further Revelation to occur.

Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation – Part IV – chap. 11 – The Deuteronomic Torah

08/21/2010 – Joanne Tetlow on Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation – Part IV – chap. 11 – The Deuteronomic Torah
 

Summary

    Voegelin’s important distinction between Israel’s paradigmatic and pragmatic history returns in full force under the Deuteronomic Torah. We are reminded again that when the people of Israel were constituted as the Chosen People under the Sinaitic Covenant in Exodus a “leap in being” occurred. As such, Israel was differentiated from the compactness of the cosmological civilizations, and under this paradigmatic experience, God became divinely transcendent. This “inner form of existence” under God experienced as a leap in being survives and carries Israel through the recession and despair of its own idolatry, rebellion, and disobedience. Despite the deep level of corruption and idolatry under Manasseh, King of Judah, recorded in 2 Kings 21, the discovery of the Deuteronomic Torah by Manasseh’s 2nd successor Josiah and his immediate and complete repentance and institutionalized reform held hope of restoration of true order in Israel’s pragmatic history.

But, the compactness of Israel’s identity as a collective people under God in history prevented openness to the spiritual universalism that Yahweh was the one God of mankind, and that the history of Israel was world history. A further differentiation of the individual soul under God did not occur for Israel as it did in Hellenic philosophy.  An explanation why is the Deuteronomic Torah.

According to Voegelin, the Deuteronomic Torah is the symbol in which the spirit of the prophets blended with the Judaite will of collective existence. The universal monotheistic God of Israel was contained by the words of Moses. Apparently written during the late 7th century B.C., Deuteronomy was the new Torah found and made public by Josiah in 622 B.C. Instead of the words of Yahweh spoken to Moses at Sinai, the book of the covenant, or Deuteronomy, were the words of Moses recounting what happened at Sinai and Israel’s subsequent history before entering the promised land. Moses’ authorship of Deuteronomy is a myth of political order, because, of course, Moses could not write a book about his own death. While Exodus is about the paradigmatic event of Moses and the people being spoken to directly by Yahweh creating the “inner form” of existence, Deuteronomy contains the words of Moses telling the people about their own history of the Exodus, covenant, and desert experience. Voegelin does not see this as a relapse in being into cosmological myth, but he interprets the Deuteronomic Torah as mythical in the sense that the immediate existence under God is broken by the mediation of a fictitious author of the Torah. This Torah of Moses is not the living constitution of Israel, but a myth by which Moses attempts to reconstitute Judah who is falling into Sheol. The depth of the fall from true order is such that the people have the capacity to respond to only an artifice, not the real source of being in the Sinaitic covenant.

The effect of this myth is twofold. First, Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy was not discredited until the 20th century, and second, holding onto the myth of Moses supported the bible as the “word of God.” In actuality, then, the problem with the Deuteronomic Torah was ignored for centuries, but now it has come to light. That problem is that the Deuteronomic Torah changed the inner form of existence under God qua the Sinaitic Covenant to existence under God in the form of written law. The Deuteronomic Torah transformed the “word of God’ into the words of Moses. Voegelin earlier observed that: “The “nature of Israelite compactness can be summarized, therefore, as a perpetual mortgage of the world-immanent, concrete event on the transcendent truth that on its occasion was revealed.” (164) This mortgage occurs when the historical circumstances of revelation are given the authority of the word itself, and made permanent because the concrete events become the content of revelation, rather than its context. The instructions of Yahweh become permanent regulations suppressing the inner form of existence to a life of law.

In other words, the historical context of God’s revelation to Israel has become the content of revelation ending the narrative history of Israel. This added content is both the Book of the Covenant of Deuteronomy 5 and 12 consisting of Yahweh’s words and the ordinances spoken by the prophets in 9th century B.C., and the later regulations applicable to kings, priests, and prophets of the Kingdom of Judah in 7th century B.C.  As such, Deuteronomy is a symbol of the border between the original order of Israel as the inner form of existence and the Jewish community. Despite the flattening of the life of the spirit by the instantiation of the leap of being into a written law book, the living order of Israel endured, and Deuteronomy became the symbol of Jewish communal existence and preservation of the Sinaitic tradition. However, that tradition is Law and Prophets for a particular ethnic-religious community, a contraction of the universal potential of the Sinaitic revelation to all mankind. Still, the survival of the Sinaitic tradition and the “positive communal consciousness” the Jews experienced from the negative aspects of religious warfare and the end of the Israel’s worldly existence, gave rise to the Old Testament and the “spirit” of Christianity.

One of the most provocative claims by Voegelin is the dating of Deuteronomy in 7th century B.C., and that Moses is not its author.

Summary – Part 2, Ch. 4-6

03/13/10 – Joanne Tetlow – Voegelin – Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation – Part II – chaps. 4-6 – The Historical Order of Israel Summary The emergence of Israel as a historical form occurs when God chooses a people under the Mosaic covenant. Exodus from Egypt and its cosmological society to Canaan, the promised land is a differentiating event. The experience of the Israelites in Canaan ending in destruction and not permanence reveals that the symbol of Canaan is not the kingdom of God. As a result of the ambiguity of Canaan, which represents the historical form of Israel and the end of Israelite history because of conquest, there is no Israelite civilization residing in a permanent territory, but a people constituted in covenant. Voegelin distinguishes between pragmatic and paradigmatic events, or sacred and profane history. The Old Testament is about the Jews relationship with God; they are the carrier of truth. Cosmological societies did not produce an Old Testament, because their experience of order was undifferentiated. With Israel, “history as an inner form of existence” emerges in contrast to the cosmological myth. What Spengler and Toynbee miss is the understanding that the experience of order and symbols is not a product of a civilization, but its constitutive forms. This eclipse of God is blind to understanding Israel as “a form of existence of a society under God.” Pragmatically, Israel exists in time; paradigmatically it is the inner form which constitutes a society. Israel as an historical form expands its meaning beyond the present into the past with the following problems: (1) ontological reality of mankind: the process of human history is ontologically real, because the historical truth contained in compact symbolism becomes articulate, and the past inarticulate form can be seen; (2) origin of history is a historically moving present: Israel is the first, but not the last history. Because faith is not subjective, but a leap in being, the historical form is an ontologically real event in history represented by symbols, which can be generalized as “Either-Or” or “Before-After.” Gentiles, Jews, and Christians experience this in different degrees of clarity, i.e., the Gentiles in the law of divine creation; Jews in the covenant and divine command; and Christians in Christ and the law of the heart; and (3) loss of historical substance: historical form can be lost when men and society reverse the leap and reject God. Both “emergence” and “recession” occur in Israelite history. By wanting a king and establishing a kingdom, the Exodus is reversed and the Sheol of civilization revisited. The kingdom “recession” evokes the Yahwism of the Prophets. Israel’s historical form is not regained by the kingdom, but by the Prophets retaining a community under God who does not reside in Canaan. Ironically, the kingdom and covenant are pairs in and out of sequence. Chronologically, the kingdom is second; motivationally in pragmatic history, the kingdom precedes the covenant; but in content, the covenant dominates the kingdom. It is this break of the initial compact order that creates the reversals in hierarchy. Monarchy was necessary to preserve Israel, but the Mosaic instructions were violated. The principle is that political success was no substitute for life in obedience to the divine law. Relation between the life of the spirit and life of the world remains unresolved, but the emergence from the compactness of the Mosaic period to the Prophetic differentiation actualized the life of the spirit and substantive order under the covenant. The nature of Israelite compactness was the “perpetual mortgage of the world-immanent, concrete event on the transcendent truth that on its occasion was revealed.” This new community was to integrate into mankind pursuant to the Abrahamic promise, and though the Talmudic Jews separated from mankind, Christianity became “one mankind under God.” The idea of history has its origin in covenant, and we are currently living in the present of that covenant. Israel has become mankind, and thus, Israelite history is world-history. The Old Testament is paradigmatic world-history—the compactness of cosmological symbolism broken by the Prophets and universalistic understanding of divine transcendence, albeit burdened by Israelite pragmatic existence; nevertheless, provided paradigmatic symbols of relation of order to covenant. As such, Israel is a symbol of revelation.

Summary – Part 1, Ch. 1-3

02/27/10 – Joanne Tetlow Voegelin – Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation Part I – chaps. 1-3 – Mesopotamia, Achaemenian Empire, and Egypt Summary Voegelin begins his study of Israel and Revelation with an introductory chapter about his philosophy of symbolization of order. There is a dialectical interplay between “order” and “history” in that, according to Voegelin, “the order of history emerges from the history of order.” Circular reasoning is not an issue in this apparently tautological statement, because the “order” in history emerges from man’s participation in the divine transcendent being. Knowledge of God, man, world, and society is only available through the perspective of participation, because “participation is existence itself.” Man cannot attain knowledge of the “whole,” but only partial understanding of the mystery of being; thus, it is impossible to stand objectively outside of our own experience of existence and look at history or philosophy as objects for examination. From this “participatory” understanding, Voegelin elaborates the process of symbolization man uses to express experiences of the unknown. Before Israel came into existence, the cosmological societies of the Ancient Near East, i.e., Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Persia, or “microcosmos,” were predominated by “myth.” Importantly, these cosmological societies of the Ancient Near East were representative of mankind. In cosmological symbolization, the experience of participation in order is mythical. As pre-philosophical—before the Greek discovery of reason—Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt existed under a cosmic-divine order symbolized politically as “empire.” Empire and cosmos were interchangeable; theology and politics were fused, because the gods were the world itself. The many Mesopotamian city-states symbolized political polytheism. Various symbols were rationalized into “political summodeism,” where local gods subordinated themselves to the one highest empire god. Other symbols of the analogical relation between the divine and man were the zodiac, the number twelve, the sun, and the New Year’s Festival. A pluralism of symbols appeared as society resembled the celestial, cosmic sphere. Each symbol was a partial representation of the same truth of the divine being. Persia’s Zoroastrianism modified the strict correlation between cosmological and societal experience by introducing a dualism that operated at the immanent level of a divine king eradicating evil. The later experience of Egypt in its Pharaonic symbolism of “one- God, one-King” moved from compactness toward differentiation in preparation for the existence of Israel. Egypt achieved “consubstantiality,” or the experience of a community of being with its origin in “divine” substance. Still hierarchical, the divine flowed into the mundane, human existence. While polytheism is not broken within the mythical existence of Egypt, Voegelin observes a movement toward differentiation, because there is one divine substance that co-exists within the community of being. God is seen as “one” and “spiritual.” Divine kingship, a rarity, did not result in a leap of being, but did allow a manifestation of god in human form, rather than god being in human form. Memphite theology of the Pharaonic order—One God, One World, One Egypt—leans toward monotheism in the theogonic speculation that other gods originate through creation by the one truly highest god, and that Egyptian society is attuned to being by ordering itself under the king as the emanation of the god. Consubstantiality meant that the creation of world as a divine idea was of the same substance as the creation of Egypt as the royal idea. Nevertheless, man does not break out of the compact world, because there is no experience of transcendence. The subject can participate in the divine substance only by obedience to Pharaoh. The stage is set for the breakdown of cosmological order and the understanding that the mythical symbols are inadequate representations of the divine being.

Part III – Chap. 7 – From Clan Society to Kingship

Summary by Joanne Tetlow

Ambiguity exists in the symbols of Israelite history. According to Voegelin, the compactness of the cosmological myth holding together Israel’s community prevented a “leap in being” prompted by the Yahwist prophetic experience. Particularist beliefs as a Chosen People always thwarted the universal impulse inspired by the Prophets. The tension between the particular and universal is part of Israelite history as a symbol of revelation.

The trail of symbols begins with Yahweh’s covenant with Abram in Genesis 15 preceded by the battle between Mesopotamian and Canaanite kings in which Abram rescues his nephew Lot from Sodom. The blessing of Abram by Melchizedek, the priest analogized to Christ in the book of Hebrews, is interpreted by Voegelin as a priest-king, or El Elyon, representing Baal. By later rejecting the loot offered by the King of Sodom, Abram shows his belief in Yahweh. Politically, Abram is subject to the political compacts of the Canaanite system; however, this changed by God’s covenant with Abram. Referring to the covenant, Voegelin states that, “The symbol of bondage has become the symbol of freedom.”  A “leap in being” occurs within Abram; he is now called Abraham. The Abrahamic covenant stands in contrast to the cosmological compactness of Canaanite civilization. Covenant, not kingdom, predominates the biblical narrative as the former is permanent while the latter is temporary vanishing during the 8th century B.C. when kingdom is destroyed by the Assyrians.

In further tracing Israel’s development prior to the Davidic kingdom, Voegelin identifies three events whose symbols represented a movement away from compactness toward differentiation: (1) the Deborah Song; (2) Gideon as a form of kingship; and (3) the Samuel-Saul relation.

After the conquests of Joshua, pockets of the promised land remained unconquered. This fact and the constant threat of foreign enemies put the Israelite confederacy under serious pressure. Since the Israelite Confederacy was not a political organization with a military, Yahweh did not have the resources to fight holy wars.  Deborah’s Song in Judges is a symbol of Yahweh’s power to deliver the Jews from Canaanite attack, and shows a break with the cosmological myth. Yahweh revealed himself as the source of true order, since there was no human mediator to “transform the cosmic into social order.” Yahweh fought holy wars in defense of his people against aggressors, not against other gods. Voegelin notes that Israel’s history follows a double course: God comes to the aid of his people waiting in passivity for his intervention, while Israel at certain times also engages as a politically organized people acting under the guidance of God. Throughout Israelite history, the people do not trust until after Yahweh has gained victory. The cycle of disobedience, idolatry, and bondage requiring Yahweh’s divine rescue from pagan domination is ongoing. Unfortunately, success in Canaan meant syncretism with foreign gods. By 1100 B.C., Israelites and Canaanites had formed a people in the same country. As a result, polygamy was adopted and became prevalent.

Following Deborah, Gideon served as a bridge figure who acted as the political form of a king setting the stage for national monarchy under Saul. The clan society was moving towards kingship. Voegelin notes especially Gideon’s institution of a “temple” as a new symbol of political order. It served as a cult center for the kingdom and the people. The problem, though, was that God became politicized. But, Yahweh was no Baal. According to Voegelin, “it was the Yahweh of Israel who, as a political god, put the first imperial stamp on Syriac civilization.” Yet, the theopolity created during the Israeli kings to keep the nation alive changed under the prophets, who became the representatives of true spiritual order. Under the Prophets, Yahweh was represented as the universal, nonpolitical, god who could create order in the soul moving the focus away from monarchy back to covenant.

Voegelin outlines two views of the rise of Saul, Israel’s first king: (1) royalist; and (2) antiroyalist. The royalist position holds that Yahweh instituted Saul’s monarchy, not the people or Saul himself. Yahweh anointed Saul, not Samuel, the priest. Yet, the prophets referred to were part of orgiastic cults revealing the influence of Baalic ecstatism into Yahwism—more evidence of Israelite syncretism. Later prophets opposed the monarchy and its support for a democratic spiritual experience, which adulterated a pure relation with God. Saul’s direct violation of his own ordinance not to consult other spirits by calling upon the witch of Endor to give him guidance on the eve of the battle of Gilboa represents a disordered soul. Unlike the Greek belief in various spirits working in the afterlife, Israel believed in a transcendent God who had imposed death. For the Greeks, immortality could perfect mortality, but for the Jews, only in life could the soul be ordered and perfected.

Thus, the state of the soul and salvation remained ambiguous for Israel. Voegelin analyzes two symbols representing the difference between the Hellenic and Israelite civilizations: (1) historical realism; and (2) development of philosophy. Despite Israel’s syncretism, it was predisposed against other cosmic spirits. That is why it developed the symbolic form of the History of the Patriarchs—real people as important figures who functioned in a similar manner as the cosmic spirits of Hellas. In fact, Isaiah writes that no man can help Israel, except Yahweh himself who will return into history and redeem his people. As the prophets spoke, the divide between God and man, and the secular nature of the world and suffering of life could only be resolved by the return of God into history. There were no cosmic-divine spirits to help.

Israel gained historical realism, but not philosophy. Voegelin attributes this to Israel’s compact experience of the soul through clans and tribes, not as individuals. The spirit of God is present in Israel’s community, “but it is not present as the ordering force in the soul of every man, as the Nous of the mystic-philosophers or the Logos of Christ is present in every member of the Mystical Body, creating by its presence the homonoia, the likemindedness of the community.” (240)  The spiritual relation of the individual soul to God self-interpreted is philosophy, and this was not possible for the Hebrews and the intramundane compactness of the tribe. Still, even though there was not philosophy, an Israelite humanism developed from the reality of a people formed under the existence of God providing a sensitivity and awareness to the importance of individuals in humanity.

Under the royalist version of Saul’s monarchy, theopolity is supported despite all of Israel’s problems with it, including the kings. Apparently, theopolity does not guarantee obedience to the covenant.

The second antiroyalist view of Saul’s monarchy is interpreted as the people’s rejection of Yahweh and his rule over them as a king in a theopolity. It was the people, not Yahweh, who instituted kingship. Voegelin notes the paradigmatic symbol of Samuel and Saul, or the spiritual and temporal control over politics. Samuel warns the people of changing from judges to a king, one that replaces the divine King. Obedient to God’s command, Samuel as priest anoints Saul as king. Now that Israel has a king apparently blessed by God, is theopolity undermined by a royal institution? Does the antiroyalist position resolve the theocratic problem? Is a temporal polity (national monarchy) indirectly under Yahweh an advance toward differentiation and spiritual order? Is politics spiritual or temporal, or both? Israel’s pragmatic history reveals that monarchy did not last. Voegelin points to the individual experience of the transcendent God as a differentiating event. No institution, church or state, mediates this experience of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. If that is the case, a direct relation to Yahweh is the objective. Thus, Israel’s monarchy, while politically necessary, was not paradigmatic.  It is the covenant that is eternal and universal as spoken by the Prophets, and as revealed in Scripture. God is the direct ruler and king in a theopolity over Israel; the differentiation, or leap in being, occurs when God becomes the universal, nonpolitical God to the individual soul.

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A speculative inquiry and argument about how development, as a principle, can be properly applied as a hermeneutic for the study of Christian doctrine.  Development legitmately exists and has occurred both with respect to the apprehensions of Christian belief and in terms of how these apprehensions are to be expressed.  Newman tackled these issues approximately from 1841 to 1845 when attempting to determine if the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church can be properly regarded as an aberration or as a faithful presentation of authentic Christian belief. 

His conclusions were greeted with consernation by some Catholics and Protestants in his day although, in time, his thesis about the propriety of development within doctrine has come to be widely accepted.  In the kind of language which Newman uses, the truth of a religious teaching is best revealed if it penetrates the minds of believers in such a way as to effect a transformation from within–a transformation relating to persons and a transformation which also reveals an unsuspected depth of meaning (beyond what had been previously accepted or known).  The legitimacy of development then acts to create an exigence for a critical philosophy of history which can be employed as an explanatory theorem within theology in order to develop a theology which is more comprehensive and more in keeping with the nature and mission of Catholic theology. Below please find the weekly notes and podcasts from past seminars.

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Please read the following paper by Dr. Neil Ormerod, who will give a lecture on May 2, 2009 for The Lonergan Institute. This paper was prepared for a public lecture Neil gave at Newman College, a Jesuit College located at Melbourne University in Australia. Click here to read the text in MS Word format.

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