Your Passport to the Promised Land
For Voegelin, Augustine formulated the problem in a way that has never been surpassed, probably because it cannot be.
This makes sense, for just as God -- O -- is by definition the ultimate category, movement toward O -- (↑) -- would have to be considered the "ultimate activity," so to speak, of existence, since neither can it be surpassed (although one may proceed faster or slower, and passing is allowed on the right).
Augustine writes that within the soul there are two "organizing centers," which he calls "love of self" and "love of God." And "between these two centers there is continual tension: man is always inclined to fall into the love of self and away from the love of God."
Thus, "Exodus is defined by St. Augustine as the tendency to abandon one's entanglements with the world, to abandon the love of self, and turn toward the love of God" (Voegelin). This is "a movement of the heart," a "departure from Babylon" (Augustine).
In terms of chaos theory, we might think of these as as a kind of bivalent phase space of subjectivity in the familiar "crazy-cOOneye," drunken TOOts, or infinity pattern, like so:
It could also be symmbolized O <---> Ø.
Again, for human beings, it is the in-between that counts. We must tolerate this tension, for it is where "new insights into order occur." In turn, these insights give direction and pattern to the vertical exodus.
Outside this tension, "progress" of any kind would be literally inconceivable, for one would either be plunged into the nescience of Ø or into the omni-science of O. Not for nothing does Moses "see" the promised land but never arrive there. If he had, then world history would have ended right then and there.
So "the tension between the established order and the new insight yields a new order of higher validity"; and it is "higher" because closer to O. However, we can never "see" the closeness per se; rather, we can only harvest the fruits of the insight, so to speak.
Analogously, imagine a pre-scientific people that stumbles upon a superior method of agriculture. They have no idea how it works. All they know is that if they keep doing it, they have a more abundant yield. I think this accounts for a certain tendency in religion for ritual to devolve to what amounts to obsessive-compulsiveness.
We'll discuss this in more detail later, but elsewhere Voegelin speaks of how religious symbols -- which are intended to memorialize and engender experiences in O -- may gradually become metaphysically "opaque," and fail to do the job. In a sense, we might say that the tension between O and Ø is lost, and O becomes "contained" by the latter.
This is the well-known problem of the spirit being vanquished by the letter, Word by words, pnuema by pnuemababble. It is also what permits one to deepak one's chopra before the spiritually naive. Walk on hot coals and Unleash the Power Within!, and all that. Such charlatans always promise some magical way to collapse the tension between O and Ø.
Think I'm exaggerating? In his latest assault on grammar, the windi hindi attempts to explain why we aren't immortal, and how we might become so via Good Thoughts:
"The human body consists of hundreds of billions of cells that function perfectly, and if we were single-celled creatures, immortality would be normal." As you can see, he has no idea whatsoever what the word "immortality" means. He also inverts the cosmos, placing algae above human beings. He is half right, of course, since some human beings do fall beneath the level of innocent amoebas.
Back to the †ension and its alternatives. Voegelin points out that for most people, since they don't consciously think about it, it is "objectified by various imageries" or "depicted in very definite colors and incidents."
This is especially problematic for the two-dimensional atheist who has no intuitive feel for scripture, and approaches it more literally than the most abject literalist, i.e., "the world is not 6,000 years old, so God does not exist. QED."
Here is where a great deal of mischief arises, because man has been known to try to eliminate the Tension in ways that are extremely destructive.
There are really two principle ways to accomplish this. The first is much less harmful, as it posits a kind of nonlocal existence beyond this world (e.g., moksha, nirvana) through which one may inscape via egobliteration. There are a number of problems with this approach, one being that you can spend your whole life sitting on a pillow meditating, and achieve nothing. Conversely, if you are successful, you also achieve nothing.
The second type is far more dangerous to the collective. It encompasses "the modern apocalyptic visions of the perfect realm of reason, the perfect realm of positivist science in the Comtian sense, or the perfect realm of Marxist Communism" (Voegelin).
Notice that the political religions of the left always appeal to the "pain," so to speak, of the Tension, and offer a promise of release from it. They have a special insight into the cause and cure of this fruitful tension.
The cure is simultaneously prosaic and sterile -- like Deepak's words above, or Obama's words whenever -- but pernicious in the extreme, for the same reason that it would be dangerous for a physician to pretend to vaccinate people with a fake vaccine. The physician looks for all the world like a genuine healer, and yet, is covertly assuring the spread of disease and disorder.
I need to wrap this up. Let's just say that there is no horizontal cure for existence, because human existence is an orientation in being and not a disease to be overcome.