I'm tempted to dilate on the meaning of such evocative "richness," since the vast majority of prose is safely dead before it even soils the page. But I think I'll just move on to the next chapter, which is called Configurations in History -- of which one might well ask: "are there any? Or do we simply conjure and superimpose a bunch of likely stories over the riot of the past, and try to squeeze timepast into a teapot?"
Whatever history is, human beings are without a doubt in it, if not fully of it. Which is why, for example, political campaigns spend millions of dollars in the effort to convince us to accept one historical narrative over another.
Obama's stenographers in the MSM, for example, desperately wish for us to believe that Romney's recent journey to Europe and the Middle East was a gaffe-ridden disaster instead of a righteous pimp-slap to Dear Leader. Once one bows before the narrative, the facts take care of themselves. Some appear out of nowhere, like a ghostly electron in a quantum field, while others vanish in the same way.
Come to think of it, Bohr's complementarity principle might be fruitfully applied to historiography, in that the past essentially consists of a kind of infinite field that has no pattern until we consciously observe it.
But clearly, no person could ever access "the" total pattern of history, any more than he could understand the total economy -- or even the totality of his own mind. The only exception to this would be revelation, i.e., a vertical memo from "outside" or "above" the system.
Among other barriers, history is obviously still happening, and it is impossible in principle to understand the meaning of a process until it is completed.
Indeed, Voegelin cautions us that "if any present solution to problems is taken in a doctrinaire manner, as giving the ultimate truth about history, this is one of the gravest misunderstandings possible" (emphasis mine). Why so grave? For starters, there are about 100 million graves from the 20th century that stand as mute testimony to the gravity of such doctrinaire "solutions." It takes a lot of human eggs to make a leftist omelette.
Socrates' famous wise crack about "knowing thyself" is of course sound and timeless advice. But like all other kinds of knowledge (as discussed in yesterday's post), we can only know ourselves at all because we cannot know ourselves completely. But someone must know us, or self-knowledge would be inconceivable.
Could history have the same structure? Yes, but only for the believer, who is indeed vouchsafed an intuition of the total meaning of history, for as Christ is "Word made flesh," he is also, and quintessentially, "future made present." This doesn't mean that history stops per se -- a common misunderstanding of the first generation of believers -- but that the end is "present," so to speak, and accessible within time.
So history is obviously "incomplete," since it "extends into an unknown future." And yet, via such modalities discussed in yesterday's post -- e.g., faith, hope, and love -- we hail the future from afar with a kind of ontological confidence that the unbeliever can only match with either hypocrisy or a comforting fairy tale.
Speaking of escapes -- and inscapes -- from reality, Voegelin focuses on one particular category of history that has dominated the West, exodus. Generally speaking, "When a society gains a new insight into the true order of personal and social existence, and when it [abandons] the larger society of which it is a part when it gains this insight, this constitutes an exodus."
This pattern may be traced back to father Abraham, who embarked upon "the first formal exodus of which we have any knowledge."
Is that true? Yes, in a mythopoetic or "deep historical" way. But there were also a number of purely anthropological or even "Darwinian" exoduses prior to that, for example, the exodus from the trees to the open savannah, or the exodus out of Africa 100,000 years ago, give or take.
More recently there was the American exodus from Europe, which was indeed based upon "a new insight into the true order of personal and social existence," i.e., that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
This wasn't a new insight per se, but the first time a human group broke off from the larger society of which it was a part, and explicitly defined itself in this manner. For this very reason, Jefferson suggested a design for the Seal of the United States depicting the children of Israel being led out of the larger society of Egypt based upon their own "new insight" into the nature of reality and a fabulous recipe for cheesecake.
This pattern has a more general continuity with natural selection, out of which new species are supposed to emerge based upon geographical, behavioral, and/or temporal separation and isolation from the main group.
I can only speak for my own species, but this is certainly how Raccoons emerged, via intellectual and spiritual separation -- what we call exodeus -- from the larger group. Which would also explain my
tiny select readership.
Because of our evolutionary divergence, Coon food is inedible for most humans (it causes severe gas, from what I've been told), whereas we couldn't last two weeks on a strict diet of typical human food offered by the MSM or grown by tenured subsistence farmers in the parched groves of academia.
Supposing one has a new insight into the true order of reality, what is one to do? First of all, "there is always the question whether to emigrate from the present order into a situation in which the new order can become socially dominant..." The South, for example, decided to found a new confederacy based upon the insight that it is good for one man to own another. But was it true? No, that would be impossible, for if all men are created equal, it is not possible that some men are born in chains.
Meanwhile, what was once an exodus -- an exterior phenomenon -- has now become an... what would be word? Esodus, I suppose. This is convenient, because in certain ways it parallels the important distinction (but not separation) between exoteric and esoteric religiosity, or outer and inner, respectively.
At any rate, "The completion of this idea occurs in Christianity, in which this conception of the exodus has become a fundamental catagory..." (Voegelin).
Way out of time. To be continued...