On the third of January 1981, the great scholar EricnVoegelin passed his eighth decade. The event was discreetlyncelebrated by the “inside circle” and by a second Festschriftnwhich collects more than twenty essays in his honor. Yet,ndespite the general acclaim of his oeuvre, Voegelin is annambiguous philosopher, which is not rare among Germannscholars and thinkers: Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger havencreated controversies around their thought, and their disciplesnhave even split into two camps, “left” and “right,”ni.e. nihilist vs. constructive, realist vs. existentialist.nL Ln several respects there are two Eric Voegelins. In Germany,nexcept for the more fervent group of his followers,nacademic opinion is rather cool: is he a political scientist.-‘na philosopher.’ a historian of ideas.-” The pigeonhole methodnof classifying him does not work. In contrast, he was warmlynreceived in the United States when he returned for a secondnvisit. Here, too, of course, the professors distrusted then”political scientist” who scrutinized history for traces ofnGnosticism, who wrote profoundly of Plato, the Hebrewnprophets and the wisdom of ancient China. Voegelin foundnan intellectual home among grateful American conservatives,nalthough it is possible that their loyalty to him is based onnmisunderstanding.nAmerica’s ideologically bruised conservatives think ofnVoegelin as a scholar who rescued the genuine philosophicalnvalues from the devastations of “value-free” political thoughtnand as a writer advocating and illustrating the religious worldnview. The first assumption is well-founded; the second is not.nOne of Voegelin’s targets of attack is Auguste Comte and thenpositivist school which reduces all things to a narrowly conceivedn”science,” leaving no room for the myriad of phenomenaninside and outside of man. Modern ideologies werenengendered partly by this reductionism, their other parentnbeing the gnostic world view. Consequently, Voegelin’s otherntarget is Gnosticism’s later representatives: Hegel, Marx,nNietzsche and, in retrospect, Joachim of Flore, the fathernof history’s division into the “ages” that Hegel, Marx andnComte inherited. The problem is not with the actual division,nwithout which man would be unable to orient himself on thenvast time-expanse of history, but with the assumption thatnin every classified age an ontological leap occurred. The endnresult of such a notion would be that mankind is bound tonarrive at a divine state at the end of history. Instead of beingnthe chronicle of men in a homogeneous time, history is interpretednas an immanent deity, maturing toward the eschatologicalnmoment. Secularized, this arrogant theory producesncontemporary adulation of progress and authorizes dreadfulnabuses by those who regard themselves as the priesthood ofnthe ultimate age—the totalitarians.nFor all his thorough critique of positivists, progressivistsnand ideologues, Voegelin should not be classified as a Chris­nChronicles of Culturen• OUR ELDERS•nC o M M i: ^’ Tnnntian author. I once called him a “Greek thinker,” more likenPlato than Isaiah or St. Paul, about whom he also wrote memorablenpages. What then is the philosophy of Eric Voegelin?nI see the essence of his thought—again the Platonic intuition—innthe correspondence he establishes between thenstructure of being and the structure of the soul. In this sense,nthe history of mankind—through empires, systems and ecumenicnperiods—is a continuous effort by man to conform tonthe order of reality, that is, to situate himself in the mediationalnzone (the Greek metexy), the transcendent God’sn”magnetic field.” History, Voegelin argues, is the story ofnapproaching this order. For millennia man believed in thenintramundane gods and searched for them in myths and othernsymbolizations. Then, simultaneously, two breakthroughsnoccurred, one in Israel and the other in Hellas. The onentranscendent God was adumbrated by prophets in Israel andnby philosophers in Hellas. The soul could now open to thenorder of being and itself become ordered.nA, Lt this point questions arise that, to my knowledge,nVoegelin’s friends and followers have not been asking. Afternthree volumes of his great opus. Order and History, devotednto Hellas and Palestine, Voegelin was expected to deal withnthe more modern times, which would, of course, involve anthorough treatment of Christianity. Instead, his fourth volumenwas The Ecumenic Age, and it is questionable whethernanything further will be published in this series. It seemsnthat Voegelin finds it difficult to come to terms with Christiannrevelation and subsequent Christian civilization. Indeed,nwhat could he propose after Israel and Revelation (Vol. I)nand Plato and Aristotle (Vol. III).” He cannot afford to considernthe Christian revelation as final, because that wouldnmean that we know the “meaning of history,” a propositionnthat Voegelin resolutely rejects. If, on the other hand, henadumbrates further revelations, he is forced into Heidegger’sncorner, where it is argued that the gods appear and disappear,neach set with a revelation (“unveiling”) of its own. But thenn