The 'Chosen People' and the Universal Commonwealth: From Bergson to Voegelin
16 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2012
Date Written: July 26, 2012
In his essay “In Search of the Ground,” E. Voegelin parallels Saint Augustine’s amor Dei with Bergson’s openness toward the ground of existence “because we all experience our own existence as not existing out of itself but as coming from somewhere even if we do not know from where.” Bergson distinguishes two forms of religion: the “static” one and the “dynamic religion,” which is real, complete mysticism and all the examples he chooses are Catholic: Saint Paul, Saint Theresa, Saint Catherine of Siena, Saint Francis, and Saint Joan of Arc. The transition occurs all of a sudden, unexpectedly in the soul – be it the soul of a mystic philosopher or a prophet – by coming into contact with the élan vital, the “principle of life.” This suddenness may be compared to what Voegelin calls for his part the leap in being, that is the discovery of the transcendent being to the world as the source of the order in man and society. What Bergson describes as a “progress,” is, according to Voegelin’s own terminology, the transition from a compact to a differentiated understanding of the divine, that is to say a difference in degree and not in essence. This is why, whereas Bergson dismisses mythology, Voegelin takes it into account. Interpreting the Sermon on the Mount – Ye have heard that…But I say onto you – in terms of the opposition between the “closed” and the “open,” Bergson claims the superiority of Christianity as an evidence. Voegelin, although recognizing that all symbolizations of the divine reality are “equivalent,” or rather vary only in differentiation, seems nevertheless to take literally the words of Jesus: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. In conclusion we suggest that each of the arguments of both authors developed in this paper is in contradiction with Emmanuel Levinas’ teaching.
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