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.
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.
Summary by Joanne Tetlow
Ambiguity exists in the symbols of Israelite history. According to Voegelin, the compactness of the cosmological myth holding together
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
In further tracing
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
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
Thus, the state of the soul and salvation remained ambiguous for
Under the royalist version of Saul’s monarchy, theopolity is supported despite all of
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