Consciousness and Transcendence

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* Book: Michael P. Morrisey, Consciousness and Transcendence: The Theology of Eric Voegelin. University of NotreDame Press, 1994,




"It is the first sustained book-length, single-authored attempt to assess Voegelin from the perspective of a Christian theologian .In many respects, the book is exemplary in giving a broad and thoughtful introduction that goes some way toward contextualizing Voegelin’s work for theologians, Given Morrissey’s interests, it was perhaps to be expected that the bulk of his work concentrates on the later and more clearly philosophical writings of Voegelin. Indeed, hardly any work of Voegelin’s before 1951 is given any detailed discussion, with the partial exception of The Form of the American Mind, first published in 1928, after Voegelin’s study period in the United States. This focus is something of a shame because it is difficult to appreciate some of the important and continuous themes in Voegelin’s work if one does not take into account his attempt to make sense of the disorders of modernity.

His explorations of the nature of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century social movements are developed in his books on the racial social movement that swirled around Central Europe in the 1930s: The History of the Race Idea (1933), Race and State(1933) and The Political Religions (1938).One important aspect of Voegelin’s efforts was that he worked within the perspective of a Weberian-inspired social science that in his hands was acutely sensitive to the connections between arenas normally seen in modernity as separate: the political and the spiritual.


Central to this achievement is, for Morrissey, Voegelin’s transcendence of the division between philosophy and theo-logy, which Morrisey believes amounts to a veiled reconstruction of theology. But Voegelin in fact opposed what he termed ‘propositional metaphysics’ and ‘doctrinalization’ and tried to recover the primary experiences and the languages of myth, philosophy, revelation and mysticism. In this, his guide was Plato, who stood as a model for Voegelin of a thinker who sought to explore the mystery of reality. From Plato, Voegelin took his model of what true philosophy and theology should be, that is, the meditative exploration of reality in all its fullness, not as a scientizing venture but as ‘a quest motivated by the erotic response to the divine pull on one’s soul’(p. 10)"