Gnosis in EricVoegelin's Philosophy - Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Think. Live Free.

Gnosis in EricVoegelin’s Philosophy

The book certainly has an odd reception. Setting aside a few
positivists, everybody seems to consider it very important, though
nobody knows exactly why. Anyway, from my correspondence I
see that it is read widely; and apparently it does not sell badly.

Eric Voegelin on The New Science
of Politics,
11 November 19531

The present paper re-examines the role that terms such as
“”gnostic,”” “”gnosis”” and “”gnosticism”” played in Eric Voegelin’s
thought and its development. Such a re-examination seems appropriate
for a number of reasons. First, as Murray Jardine observed,
Eric Voegelin is still “”probably best known to the current generation
of American political theorists from his unrelenting critique of
modernity in The New Science of Politics […].””2 Voegelin’s “”unrelenting
critique”” in what is, arguably, his most “”successful”” book was
based on a twofold argument. He claimed (1) that “”the growth of
gnosticism”” was “”the essence of modernity”” and (2) that there was a
historical continuity from ancient “”gnosis”” to its modern variants.3
For the proper evaluation of Voegelin’s work it appears essential,
therefore, to locate the insights from The New Science of Politics
(NSP)—and especially the insights concerning “”gnosticism””—within
the context of the overall development of Voegelin’s thought.
Furthermore, and second, there is the question of the empirical
validity of Voegelin’s analysis of the relationship between “”gnosticism””
and modernity as presented in NSP. The two problems—the
place of NSP within Voegelin’s life-work and the empirical validity
of the book’s contents—are analytically distinct. The analysis of
“”gnosticism”” might have been an important milestone in his work
even if it were factually incorrect. The value of the work does not
exclusively depend on its empirical correctness. Indeed, before we
can draw any conclusions regarding the relationship between the
two problems we will first need to establish in what ways, if at all,
Voegelin uses “”gnosticism”” as an “”empirical concept.””

The paper is divided into four parts. In the first part we will trace
the evolution of Voegelin’s treatment of “”gnosticism”” from NSP to
In Search of Order. Part 2 reconstructs Voegelin’s self-understanding
on the basis of his presentation of the “”meditative quest for truth””
as we find it in Anamnesis and the later works. This reconstruction
should then allow us to locate the work on “”gnosis”” within his selfunderstanding.
The question of the empirical validity of Voegelin’s
analysis of “”gnosticism”” is briefly taken up in Part 3. In the concluding
Part 4 we will explore the implications of our analysis for our
understanding of Voegelin’s philosophical quest as a whole.

1. Eric Voegelin on “”gnosticism””

Many authors tend to highlight the fact that Eric Voegelin, after
years of reflection, came to re-consider his views on the “”corrosion
of Western civilization through gnosticism.””4 Indeed, as we shall see
below, Voegelin admitted that NSP had overemphasized the “”gnostic””
contribution to the shaping of modernity. Other factors, such as the
“”miscarriage”” of Neo-Platonism during the Renaissance, had been
of equal importance. Commentators have also drawn attention to
NSP’s aggressive style, a style that appears very remote from the
“”meditative essays”” of his later work. Accordingly, it has been
suggested that NSP is little more than an example of “”Cold War
rhetorics.””5 On both accounts—those that emphasize flaws in its
contents as well as those that emphasize flaws in its style—NSP turns
out to be an exception or aberration in Voegelin’s enterprise and is
thus representative of only a fairly short episode in Voegelin’s life
and work.

These assessments, however, are problematic because they
conflict with Voegelin’s understanding of this particular “”episode.””
More than twenty years after the event, he still considered
the work he did on the Walgreen Lectures a “”breakthrough.””6
Arguably, it was this vision, the sudden recognition of a structural
equivalence between ancient “”gnosis”” and modern ideologies,
that launched Voegelin’s later work.7 If NSP was to be dismissed
as an “”episode”” or aberration, the status of the late work might be
called into question as well.8 It seems important, therefore, to
look back at what Voegelin himself had to say on this matter and
at how his views evolved in the aftermath of NSP.

1.1. Continuity

In the book proposal for NSP, at that time still entitled Beyond
Modernity, Voegelin explained that the second part of the proposed
work was to be “”devoted to modern society and the type of Gnostic
truth which it represents.”” Emphasizing the book’s originality, he
added that “”the idea that modern politics is essentially a Gnostic
movement is quite new. It is probably not known to anybody except
one or two specialists like Hans Urs von Balthasar.””9 These lines
reveal a genuine sense of discovery. While he was preparing the
volume, Voegelin must have felt that he was among the first to
unearth an important truth concerning both the history and essence
of modernity. This sense of discovery was later qualified as he
became aware that his work continued a tradition of scholarship that
included, in addition to von Balthasar, Ferdinand Christian Baur,
Hans Jonas and Henri de Lubac. While this insight might have
relativized his own contribution, it also allowed him to draw on an
established body of scholarship in defence of his own enterprise. As
late as 1959, eight years after lecturing on modernity and “”gnosticism””
in Chicago, Voegelin wrote in a letter to Carl J. Friedrich:

Then there is the question of Gnosis. You attribute to me the
“”readiness”” to identify all sorts of ideas as Gnostic—as if that were
my oddity. Well, if you attribute to me, as is frequently done, the
great discovery of the problem of modern Gnosis and its continuity
with antiquity, I must decline the honor and humbly disavow
that stroke of genius. I ran across the problem for the first time
in Balthasar’s Prometheus
of 1937. Then I ascertained that he was
right, through the study of Jonas’s Gnosis
of 1934, and through the
reading of mountains of materials on medieval sectarianism. For
the modern application, I found this view confirmed through the
works of Lubac. And then I took the precaution of discussing the
question in detail with Puech, Quispel, and Bultmann, that is,
with the foremost living authorities on Gnosis and Christianity.
They all agreed that this was indeed the
issue. To sum up:
everybody who is somebody in questions of this kind shares the
opinion. Of course, you are quite right when you state that this
comes as a surprise to the “”profession.”” But you know as well as I
do, that the “”profession”” consists to a notable percentage of
academic racketeers who cash professors’ salaries without the
minimum effort of even reading the books written by other
people. And when you speak of the “”startling consequences”” with
regard to the bracketing of contemporary figures, I can only
assure you that they are not startling at all, but common-place, to
the scholars who know their business. Again, I am flabbergasted
that you of all people should take the side of the racketeers against
the scholars—and what scholars—look again at the names given
above.””10

Against mounting criticism, Voegelin continued to pursue the
research program unfolding from NSP’s diagnosis of modernity
throughout the 1960s. In 1959, the problem of “”gnosticism”” was to
become the central focus of the final volume of the Order and
History series. The first part of the volume was to be entitled “”The
Gnosis of Western society from Charlemagne to the outburst of the
Reformation,”” while the second part had the provisional title “”The
Gnostic transformation of Western society.””11 And although the
emphasis on “”gnosis”” had faded to some extent, a revised outline of
the final volume of the series from 1963 still concludes with a section
on “”The continuity of the Gnostic movement from antiquity to the
present.””12 In 1961, as he was looking for external funding for his
new institute for political science in Munich, Voegelin applied to the
Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung with a proposal that included as one of its
important projects research on the “”entire complex of Gnosis,
ancient and modern”” as well as on the “”system”” as the typically
“”gnostic”” form of thinking. When it turned out that the Thyssen
foundation would not fund entire institutions but only research
projects, it was suggested that Voegelin should concentrate on the
project on “”gnosticism.”” With a reformulated project on “”modern
political mass movements and their spiritual motivation through
variants of gnosis”” Voegelin’s application was eventually successful.
The project was funded over three years between 1962 and 1965.13
And in the preface written for the 1968 American edition of Science,
Politics, and Gnosticism, Voegelin still asserted with confidence that
“”the more we come to know about the Gnosis of antiquity, the more
it becomes certain that modern movements of thought, such as
progressivism, positivism, Hegelianism, and Marxism, are variants
of Gnosticism.””14

#page#

These ideas remained a constant in Voegelin’s work also throughout
the 1970s and 1980s. “”The Eclipse of Reality”” compares Schiller’s
interpretation of Genesis to the “”ancient Gnostic inversion of the
Fall of man as a Promethean revolt against God,”” and speaks of the
“”Gnostic endowment of the homunculus,”” of the imaginary man
who, after embracing the “”Gnostic spirit”” as well as “”doxic reason,””
eclipses both faith and philosophy.15 The analysis of “”gnosticism””
continues in The Ecumenic Age, where we encounter the “”gnostic
thinkers,”” “”both ancient and modern,”” as the “”great psychologists of
alienation, carriers of the Promethean revolt.”” In fact, Voegelin links
the emergence of “”gnosticism”” directly to the substance of The
Ecumenic Age: “”…the Gnostic deformation of consciousness must
be put into the pragmatic and spiritual context of the Ecumenic Age
which is the subject-matter of the present volume.”” And again we are
reminded of the parallels between the ancient and modern variants
of the “”gnostic”” “”distortion of reality””: “”In the prototypical case of
modern Gnosticism, in Hegel’s system, the essential core is the same
as in the Valentinian speculations […].”” We learn that once
“”gnosticism,”” the “”dead end,”” had entered the universal field of
history, it was there to last:

“”Since Gnosticism surrounds the libido dominandi in man with
a halo of spiritualism or idealism, and can always nourish its
righteousness by pointing to the evil in the world, no historical
end to the attraction is predictable once magic pneumatism has
entered history as a mode of existence.””16

The theme returns also in “”Wisdom and the Magic of the Extreme:
A Meditation,”” where Voegelin explains that the “”Gnostic-satanic
movements”” with their “”revolt against reality”” had become “”a force
in world history.””17

Finally, both Volumes 4 and 5 of Order and History feature the
familiar distinction between ancient and modern “”gnosis.”” Volume
4 asserts that while the “”early [gnostic] movements attempt to escape
from the metaxy by splitting its poles into the hypostases of this world
and the Beyond, the modern apocalyptic-Gnostic movements attempt
to abolish the metaxy by transforming the Beyond into this
world.””18 The formula is used also in Volume 5, where both ancient
and modern “”gnosis”” amount to a “”revolt in consciousness””:

“”At the extreme of the revolt in consciousness, “”reality”” and the
“”beyond”” become two separate entities, two “”things,”” to be
magically manipulated by suffering man for the purpose of either
abolishing “”reality”” altogether and escaping into the “”beyond,”” or
of forcing the order of the “”beyond”” into “”reality.”” The first of the
magic alternatives is preferred by the Gnostics of antiquity, the
second one by the modern Gnostic thinkers.””19

Voegelin also does not in any way revoke the diagnosis of “”contemporary
Western society”” which was first put forward in NSP. In
Search of Order presents the “”deformation of consciousness”” and
the “”confusion of language”” as syndromes of a disorder that has
grown “”to the proportion of an established, in the sense of publicly
accepted, state of unconsciousness.””20

It is thus fair to say that Voegelin never departed fundamentally
from the NSP vision of a structural equivalence between ancient and
modern “”gnosis.”” Even if we admit that “”gnosticism”” did not again
feature as prominently as it did in NSP, the evidence still suggests
that this was not because Voegelin abandoned the arguments first
made in NSP but because he took them for granted and left the
details to the specialists and to his students.

1.2. Adjustments

Although, as we saw, Voegelin never abandoned his ideas on
“”gnosticism”” entirely, he had many reasons for becoming more
cautious in presenting them in his later work. After all, even the
authorities mentioned in his letter to Friedrich had openly expressed
their disagreement. Bultmann, for example, found Voegelin’s
characterization of “”gnosis”” inappropriate. He spoke of a “”secularization””
of the term and wondered whether this gesture was “”admissible.””
And again, commenting on Wissenschaft, Politik und Gnosis,
he disapproved of Voegelin’s use of the label “”gnosis”” and “”gnostic.””21
Voegelin’s friend Alfred Schütz, too, expressed reservations.22 As
always, however, the criticism that carried most weight and, therefore,
was most painful to endure was the criticism that came from
experts like Bultmann. In a letter to Gerhart Niemeyer, Voegelin
complained that

“”[w]henever you suggest a general causal connection between an
institutional state of order or disorder and a spiritual experience
and its symbolization, you run into the snag that a connoisseur of
history can give you an instantia contraria which invalidates the
general relation which you have assumed on the basis of your
limited materials.””23

Voegelin responded to the criticisms not by giving up his claims
regarding the contemporary relevance of “”gnosticism”” but by refining
them. In a lecture given at the Eric Voegelin-Symposium at the
University of Notre Dame during Spring 1971, held in honor of “”20
years of The New Science of Politics,”” he noted that “”there is nothing
about The New Science of Politics, as I wrote it twenty years ago, that
has to be retracted. It fits, on the whole, still, but a lot has to be
added.””24 On this occasion, he lamented the “”dogmatization, which
sets in whenever a book is published.”” In case of NSP, this dogmatization
was

perhaps more dangerous than in the other situations,…because
immediately the problem of gnosis as characteristic of modern
political ideas—especially in the great speculative systems of
Fichte, Hegel, of Marx and Comte, et al.—attracted attention and
was absolutized. And every day I get questions of the kind: “”Is the
Russian government a Gnostic government?”” Of course, things
are not that simple.

The situation was “”not that simple,”” he explained, because “”gnosis””
turned out to be but one element in the “”modern compound.”” There
were other elements, including apocalyptic and Neo-Platonic symbolisms.
He concluded: “”Gnosis is not the panacea and the recipe for
dealing with modernity. There are other problems besides Gnosis in
modern political science.””25

This broadening of the original vision is also discussed in the
Autobiographical Reflections, dictated in 1973:

Since my first applications of Gnosticism to modern phenomena
in The New Science of Politics and in 1959 in my study on Science,
Politics, and Gnosticism, I have had to revise my position. The
application of the category of Gnosticism to modern ideology, of
course, stands. In a more complete analysis, however, there are
other factors to be considered in addition. One of these factors is
the metastatic apocalypse deriving directly from the Israelite
prophets, via Paul, and forming a permanent strand in Christian
sectarian movements right up to the Renaissance…. I found,
furthermore, that neither the apocalyptic nor the Gnostic strand
completely accounts for the process of immanentization. This
factor has independent origins in the revival of neo-Platonism in
Florence in the late fifteenth century.26

As always when he felt it necessary to revise his “”position,”” Voegelin
explained the revision as an adjustment made in response to new
empirical material becoming available:

…over the years what I had seen in the 1940s and 1950s as a
problem had also been seen by others, and the historical exploration
of such problems as Gnosticism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the
Nag Hammadi finds, the prehistory of Pseudo-Dionysius, the
revival of neo-Platonism in the Renaissance and its developments
up to Hegel, had made enormous progress, so that now I could
refer to the studies of the sources conducted by a great number
of scholars—sources that had not been accessible to the public in
the 1940s and 1950s….””27

Thus, in 1973 Voegelin had plans to develop a “”philosophy of
history”” that would “”include the new picture of prehistory that is
emerging following the revision of the C-14 dates after 1966, as well
as the entirely new picture of origins of modernity in the Renaissance
with special emphasis on hermetism, neo-Platonism, magic,
apocalypse, and Gnosticism as compound strands in the structure of
the modern West.””28 The extent to which Voegelin’s horizon had
broadened since the 1950s is nicely illustrated in a list of twelve
“”languages of order”” [Sprachen der Ordnung] to be found in a file
“”Notes and research material on Philosophy of History”” in the
Hoover Archives.29 The twelve “”languages of order”” are:

Myth, ancient-oriental [alt-orientalisch]
Myth, hellenic
Revelation
Philosophy
Metaphysics
Theology
Apocalyptic
Gnosis
Neo-Platonic systems
Mysticism
Ideology
Philosophy of consciousness

The list indicates how, for Voegelin, the problem of “”gnosis”” had
become just one item in a cluster of fundamental problems related
to the experience and expression of order. Indeed, the problem that
was at the centre of the second part of NSP, the characterization of
modernity, seems to have largely disappeared from the range of
problems that Voegelin was exploring in his work. The problem
faded into background as it became clear that the periodization of
history into epochs or eras such as “”modernity”” resulted from “”the
application of apocalyptic symbols to immanent history.”” In the
address given at Notre Dame in 1971, Voegelin noted that the
problem of historical epochs, “”the paroxism of successive
avantgardes,”” was one of the problems he had neglected in NSP.30
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that later in his life he devoted
more time to the paleolithicum—he travelled to France, Ireland,
Iran and Hawaii in order to see pre-historical cave paintings and
monuments—than to “”modernity.””

Accordingly, when invited by Richard Bishirjian in 1976 to
contribute to a book on “”Gnosticism and Modernity,”” Voegelin
declined, referring to “”all [his] other work”” that he was burdened
with. But he offered important advice:

One comment I should make right now. Obviously the title
“”Gnosticism and Modernity”” is, at least partly, inspired by my own
work in the field. But when I hit on this problem, that was 25 years
ago. In the meantime, science in this matter has advanced. And
today I would have to say that Gnosticism is one component in the
historical structure of modernity but no more than one. Of equal
importance, it has turned out, are apocalyptic, neo-Platonism,
hermeticism, alchemy, and magic. Your projected volume would
have to take account of this newer development in the historical
sciences—or there will be critics who will blame it for inadequacy.31

In his reply Bishirjian wondered whether “”these various movements
[could] be considered species of the genus Gnosticism.””32 But
Voegelin disagreed:

The literature on magic, neo-Platonism, apocalyptic, Kabbalah,
hermeticism, and alchemy is growing prodigiously and can be
read by anybody who cares to read it. All of these factors are
components in the present intellectual disorder, just as is Gnosticism….
I would be cautious about using “”Gnosticism”” as a genus,
comprehending the other movements.33

There almost developed an aversion on Voegelin’s part against
attempts at making him the representative of a “”position”” in the
debate on “”modernity.”” He did not hide his impatience when he felt
that the insights of NSP were “”dogmatized”” beyond the empirical
analysis from which, he claimed, they were derived. For example, in
a letter to Dante Germino he writes:

Since you include some remarks on what I have said now almost
twenty years ago about the problem of modernity, I should
perhaps express a little sorrow that you tend to dogmatize a result
of empirical analysis. During the last twenty years, the study of
Gnosticism and its modern variants has advanced very much.
Hence, what apparently you consider a “”position”” in the matter,
has undergone considerable changes, which, in their turn, are not
a “”position”” but an expression of the present state of science in this
matter…. In the meanwhile, we have learned about the connections
between gnosis on the one side and sorcery and alchemy on
the other side through Festugière. It now looks as if the sorcery
which emerges from Enlightenment rationalism were a sequel to
medieval alchemy.34

2. “”Gnosticism”” as a “”type-concept””

The previous discussion does not allow us to draw easy conclusions.
As much as the question of “”modernity”” and “”epochs”” faded into the
background of Voegelin’s work, “”gnosticism”” gained in importance
as a perennial problem, as a temptation that was “”a constant force in
the millennial process of the quest for truth.””35 With the focus on
modernity gone, the analysis could move to the more general problem
of “”the experiences that result in immanentist constructions.””36

“”Gnosticism,”” as a theme, runs through Eric Voegelin’s work
from NSP to In Search of Order. To be sure, there were qualifications,
revisions, and adjustments as indicated in the previous section.
But Voegelin never surrendered his belief that behind the
notion of “”gnosis”” or “”gnosticism”” there was a very serious, perennial,
spiritual problem that somehow, in the modern era, had risen
to the level of social and political mass phenomena. The image that
emerges from the quotations provided in the first part of this
paper is the image of a thinker who wrestles with the discovery of
a problem and who struggles with its articulation. Voegelin is not
struggling with “”solutions””; his problem is the articulation of the
problem. It is thus not surprising that Voegelin returned to the
problem again and again, wrestling with its meaning and its
implications. His letters reveal that there were the occasional
moments when he felt that he was finally able to fully articulate the
problem. In retrospective, a brief hint found in a 1962 letter
appears almost comical:

The last week was somewhat hectic, as I finally had to solve the
problem of gnosis.37

As late as 1977, as we noted above, Voegelin was still working on the
relationship between the various historical manifestations of “”gnosticism.””
He announced that work on “”Wisdom and the Magic of the
Extreme”” had finally allowed him to “”render more precise the
distinction between ancient and modern gnosis.””38 The fact that
Voegelin was never able to put the problem to rest suggests that its
full articulation was never accomplished.

The criticism that his use of words such as “”gnostic”” and “”gnosis””
provoked, of course, left its mark. At various times Voegelin considered
giving up the label—””gnosticism””—but he remained loyal to
the problem. For example, in 1956 he wrote in a letter:

And I have solved at last the great methodological and terminological
problem for classifying ideas which operate with a change
in the nature of the world. Their origin lies with the Prophets; and
the term found is metastasis. That ought to make everybody
happy who balked at gnosis.—That is now a great relief, because
I have the conceptual instruments to handle such phenomena as
gnosis and Marcionism, and especially the modern ideas.39

The quotation is revealing. Voegelin could not ignore the expert
criticism, the “”balking,”” and yet he was unwilling to surrender the
problem as meaningless. It was now under the label of “”metastasis””
that ancient “”gnosis”” and “”especially the modern ideas”” were subsumed.
The “”solution”” was stable, however, only for a short time as
he was unable to avoid the notion of “”gnosticism”” altogether.
Voegelin continued to look for alternative labels for the “”gnostic””
spiritual problem and its various dimensions and manifestations.
Among the other labels that he proposed in this context are:
“”egophany,”” “”egophanic revolt,”” “”pneumopathology,”” “”doxic reason,””
“”resistance to reality,”” “”deformation of existence,”” “”refusal to
apperceive,”” “”schizophrenia.”” At some point Voegelin was looking
for similarities between clinical schizophrenia and the “”split consciousness””
of the creators of “”systems.””40 There is also the notion of
“”second realities,”” which caught his attention while he was reading
Musil and Doderer in 1956/7.41

We will be able to comprehend the meaning and the direction
of the development of Voegelin’s work only if we appreciate how his
language “”expanded.”” For the terms listed above occur together, in
various permutations and combinations, emphasizing various aspects
of the one cluster of spiritual problems that was once subsumed—
in a more compact “”concept””—under the label “”gnosticism.””
As we noted above, the process whereby these terms were
introduced never came to an end; and the new terms never fully
replaced the earlier ones. None of the terms, taken on its own,
seemed to capture the problems in its entirety. The terms worked
together, as in a cluster, so that Voegelin’s language in which he
explored the problem was enriched and thereby refined.

An important implication of this observation is that Voegelin’s
use of the label “”gnosticism”” cannot be fully comprehended and
evaluated in terms of its empirical validity. In the context of Voegelin’s
development, “”gnosticism”” is a concept that corresponds to a particular
phase in a research process that continued to look for more
effective language tools for the articulation of its “”object.”” This
process was probably initiated with the work on NSP and continued
after its publication; indeed, the process becomes thematic in
Anamnesis. We must not forget that the quest that Voegelin explores
in Anamnesis and his post-NSP works is also a self-exegesis, the
exegesis of a quest that Voegelin himself was pursuing.42 And it
might be instructive, therefore, to follow his lead in our interpretation
of his endeavour.

Beginning with Anamnesis, Voegelin’s work becomes increasingly
self-referential. A questioning movement is examined and,
thereby, exemplified. In its course, various names are given to the
movement. It finds its historical antecedent in the “”classical noesis””
of Plato and Aristotle; it takes place in the divine-human in-between,
in the metaxy, and is variously characterized as “”the quest for the
ground,”” “”noetic exegesis,”” “”participation,”” “”cognitive reflection,””
“”meditation,”” “”meditative process,”” “”reflective distance.”” In the
following we will highlight those features of Voegelin’s “”cognitive
reflection”” that are of interest to us in the context of the present
paper.

#page#

(i) The various names that the meditative process assigns to
itself are not concepts or definitions referring to objects. This
observation is so important to Voegelin that he repeats it again and
again. Cognitive reflection, he explains in “”The Beginning and the
Beyond,”” “”does not arise from the observation of an external object
but within the process from acts of reflection that relate present
insights to earlier ones.”” Thus, “”reflection is not an external act of
cognition directed towards the process as its object, but part of a
process that internally has cognitive structure.”” Within the meditative
process, “”there is no such thing as a pre-existent language that
can be applied to the movement of appeal-response; there is only the
language that arises from the metaxy of the process in its course.””43
In his essay “”Was ist politische Realität?”” [“”What is Political Reality?””],
Voegelin introduces the notion of “”language indices”” of the
meditative movement.44 The language symbols that emerge from the
process do not denote objects or their properties but are language
“”indices”” arising from the metaxy in the event of its becoming
luminous for itself and for the comprehensive reality. Indeed, “”the
symbols of noesis are linguistic indices of a movement of participation.
Their primary function is to illuminate this movement itself,
but they cannot illuminate it without simultaneously expressing
insights into the participating realities.””45 In other words, the symbols
are “”exegetic, not descriptive.””46 They are not to be understood
as a “”truth”” to be possessed as “”informative doctrine.”” “”The truth of
the symbols is not informative; it is evocative. The symbols do not
refer to structures in the external world but to the existential
movement in the metaxy from which they mysteriously emerge as
the exegesis of the movement in intelligibly expressive language.””
The “”reflective distance”” is the distance between the philosopher’s
existence “”as an event of participatory consciousness, and the
exegesis of the event through the symbols he developed in his
work.””47 Voegelin agrees with Bodin, who, in his Colloquium
Heptaplomeres, appears to suggest that “”symbolism is nothing more
than the last word of each historical religion; the reality of faith
through conversio lies beyond the symbols.””48 Accordingly, the
symbols have to be understood as an “”index”” of the meditative
movement because they lose their meaning if taken out of the
context of the movement that engendered them. If they are
separated from the engendering experience, the result will be a
“”hardening”” of the symbols into hypostases or doctrines. These
doctrines, as they enter history, then have an impact of their own
as they provoke “”alternative doctrines”” which are not motivated
by noetic experience. Voegelin dealt extensively with the resulting
confusion under titles such “”literalism,”” “”literalization,””
“”doctrinization.””49 In a letter to F.A. Wilhelmsen, focusing more
specifically on “”metaphysical symbols,”” Voegelin explained:

…metaphysical symbols…only make sense as the terminal points
of the existential movement of participation in the divine. It
appears to me that, in this manner, one can more convincingly
explain what is meant by doctrinization, i.e. by the separation of the
terminal symbols from the movement that has engendered them.50

Voegelin later added this phenomenon of “”doctrinization”” to the list
of factors which he considered components in “”the present intellectual
disorder”” next to “”gnosticism,”” magic, Neo-Platonism,
apocalypticism, hermeticism etc.51

(ii) The various symbols that emerge from the meditative process
may occur together, as in a group or cluster. They may form what
Voegelin calls a “”complex”” or “”meditative complex.”” A complex is a
“”symbolic framework,”” a unity, in which the symbols relate to and
mutually illuminate each other. The two perhaps most important
examples of such complexes are developed in In Search of Order:
“”consciousness–reality–language”” and “”intentionality–luminosity–
reflective distance.””52 The Ecumenic Age mentions the complex
“”experience–question–answer,”” which only when taken as a
whole can be considered a “”constant of consciousness.””53 A
complex is usually the most appropriate form of symbolization for
the experience of a tension; the complex holds the various poles
of the tension together as parts of the one reality that becomes
cognitively luminous in the experience, thereby preventing them
from being misconstrued as separate entities.54 Thus, by calling
these configurations “”complexes,”” Voegelin implies that their
components are not to be separated; a complex is not meant to be
“”cut up into pieces or fragmentized.”” For example, the “”tension
towards the ground”” can evoke a complex of three symbols: a
divine reality that inspires the soul’s movement, a concrete human
soul that quests, and the in-between of the metaxy. To say that this
complex must not be fragmented means that the study of the
divine side (theology), or of the human side (anthropology), or the
study of the in-between process (psychology) should not stand
separately. “”The meditative investigation must not be deformed
into these three forms”” because “”the in-between is not a question
of psychology, theology or anthropology; it is always a matter of
the response, of the movements and countermovements.””55 The
fragmentation of a complex is a derailment closely related to the
phenomena of deformation and “”doctrinization.””

A meditative complex emerges and unfolds as the result of a
process of differentiation. As the meditative process continues, an
integral set of new symbols (or old symbols with new meanings)
replaces, or is added to, the symbols already in use. The new symbols
manifest a refinement of the original insight into the experience that
engendered the earlier symbols. An enrichment of language may
reflect a refinement of “”vision”” and a differentiation of the consciousness
undergoing the meditative process. In the course of this
differentiation, the singularity of one “”compact”” symbol is replaced
with the complexity of a meditative complex. The complex itself
thereby becomes an index of the meditative process. Through these
complexes of symbols and their differentiation the process becomes
luminous for itself.

(iii) Voegelin emphasizes that noesis “”arises, not independently
of the conception of order of the surrounding society, but in a critical
argument with the latter. Wherever noesis appears, it stands in a
relation of tension to society’s self-interpretation.””56 “”The movement
towards truth always resists an untruth.””57

(iv) As they try to protect the noetic center of the metaxy against
the “”deformative forces prevalent at the time,”” the meditations
obtain a “”historical dimension.””58 As noesis enters history, and
consciousness gains insights into its structure, all non-noetic experiences
and symbols are revealed as “”attempts to gain true insights
into the existential tension towards the ground.”” Noesis establishes
a basic equivalence with other types of symbolisms and thereby
evokes the “”universal field of history”” with itself as the standard of
“”rationality.”” In other words, noesis “”indexes history as a field of
rational structure”” by identifying the degree of rationality of other
truths in relation to itself. A ranking or “”positioning”” takes place,
which is expressed in “”type-concepts.”” As examples of “”modern
type-concepts,”” Voegelin lists “”compact and differentiated experiences,””
the “”primary cosmic experience,”” the “”noetic and revelatory
experiences of transcendence,”” the “”parekbasis or derailment into
dogmatism,”” the “”metastatic, apocalyptic, and Gnostic experiences,””
“”revolutionary experiences,”” “”and so on [usw].””59 The formation of
type-concepts reflects that noesis forces all other interpretations of
order into the role of “”objects””:

In this oppositional relation lies the starting point for a process of
differentiation, in which the noetic interpretation can become a
“”science”” relating to political reality as its “”object.”” This oppositional
relation is, furthermore, reciprocal in that the protagonists
of a given non-noetic interpretation are not helpless when their
noetic critics attempt to objectify them. They do not let themselves
be pushed into the role of an “”object of investigation””
without resistance. Instead, they will in turn objectify their noetic
opponents from the viewpoint of their own knowledge of order.60

These type-concepts, he elaborates further, are to be distinguished
“”from the indices of the exegesis, in which the noetic
movement of participation becomes linguistically transparent to
itself and thereby communicable. Even though type-concepts can
be developed only in consequence of this exegesis, they do not
interpret the noetic experience itself but refer to phenomena
beyond its scope.””61 It is here, thus, where Voegelin helps us explain
his use of the term “”gnosticism”” as a “”type-concept.””

(v) Voegelin is right in distinguishing the “”type-concepts”” from
the indices of the meditative movement. The concepts are not
interpretations of the noetic experience; moreover, they objectify
the aspects of reality they refer to while, as noted above, the symbols
and complexes do not refer to “”objects”” at all. Indeed, Voegelin’s late
work defines the distinction between symbols and concepts in terms
of the distinction between luminosity and intentionality.62 While this
definition emphasizes the fundamental difference between symbols
and concepts, it also makes us realize their equivalence. Both
luminosity and intentionality are “”structural meanings”” of consciousness,
and they both are part of the complex “”luminosity–
intentionality–reflective distance,”” and hence they are, in a sense,
complementary. In particular, the concepts, too, are indices of the
meditative movement that engendered them through objectification.
For the meditative process begins in existential unrest caused
by the surrounding disorder; every movement towards truth always
resists an untruth. In this sense, the movement towards truth is
“”indexed”” by the untruth it resists. The type-concepts make this
resistance communicable.

(vi) We can push this analysis further by arguing that typeconcepts,
too, can form a “”complex.”” Just as the meditative process
leads to a refinement of meditative symbols and complexes, the typeconcepts,
too, can be elaborated by adding more concepts which, in
their relationship to the concepts already in use, lead to a refinement
of “”vision.”” In “”Wisdom and the Magic of the Extreme,”” Voegelin
speaks of two correlative complexes, the meditative complex of
“”(divine) appeal–(human) response–metaxy”” and a “”deformation
complex,”” to be derived from the former through fragmentation.63
Furthermore, there is the possibility of “”deformation complexes””
undergoing “”differentiating advances”” in parallel with the meditative
complex. This possibility is acknowledged in In Search of Order:

If, however, one does not stop thinking, the recall [of various cases
of “”disturbances of existential consciousness””] will read as a
“”story”” of deformative symbols [sic] engendered parallel with the
formative differentiation of the Beyond in the Near Eastern
ethnic cultures of the cosmological empires and the Chosen
People. The recall, far from being a plain account of indifferently
equal cases coming under a general head, tells a story of increasingly
conscious resistance to beginnings that come to an end
without reaching the End, culminating in the phantasy of a
beginning that will make an end of the Beginning. In the context
of the story, therefore, the cases partake of the diversification that
characterizes the quest for truth. Parallel with the diversified
history of truth and of attunement to its order, and closely related
to its substance, there appears to run a diversified history of
untruth and disorder.64

(vii) The notions of “”parallelism,”” “”opposition”” or “”correlation,””
however, do not adequately capture the complicated, multi-layered
relationship between the two stories/complexes. The two stories are
intertwined; there is a sense, in fact, in which they mutually
constitute each other. The forces of imagination that bring forth
luminous symbols are the very same forces that bring forth objectifying
concepts. The history of the quest for truth is involved in the
history of the resistance to truth, the history of untruth, and vice
versa. History “”turns out to be a process not only of truth becoming
luminous, but also of truth becoming deformed and lost by the very
forces of imagination and language which let the truth break forth
into image and word.”” Even more, “”the differentiating advances of
truth can become the source of new types of untruth, when visions
are misused to obscure areas of reality outside their more immediate
field, or when visionary symbols are subjected to the deformative
processes of doctrinization and literalization.””65 But the meditative
quest is not simply passively subjected to deformation; it actively
contributes to the deformative process by objectifying its competitors.
Through language symbols the process becomes luminous for
itself and the participating realities; through type-concepts the
process structures the universal field of history in which it finds
itself. Its competitors in the struggle for truth are objectified and
ranked according to their degree of rationality. The situation of the
struggle induces “”a ‘language of the struggle,’…burdening the
formulation with the double meaning of truth and opposition to
untruth; and through the oppositional component of meaning
something of the untruth opposed creeps into the symbolization of
truth.””66 At the same time, the meditative process finds itself
objectified by its competitors in the struggle for truth. Historically,
therefore, the struggle is bound to adopt the form of “”verbal
mimesis.””

(viii) Voegelin analyses the dynamics of the “”verbal mimesis”” in
his discussion of the role of the “”fool”” in Anselm of Canterbury’s
exchange with Gaunilo, following the Proslogion.67 In the context of
Anselm’s text, Gaunilo acts “”the role of the fool, of the insipiens, who
says ‘There is no God’ and assumes that the explorer of faith
[Anselm] is engaged in a ‘proof’ for the assertion that God exists.”” As
we noted above, it is the encounter with untruth, with the fool, that
provokes the noetic response. The noetic response, of course, is not
a “”proof”” in the sense of a logical demonstration, “”but only in the
sense of an epideixis, of a pointing to an area of reality that the
constructor of the negative propositions has chosen to overlook, or
to ignore, or refuses to perceive. One cannot prove reality by a
syllogism; one can only point to it and invite the doubter to look.””

This “”pointing to reality”” may lead noesis to counter the fool’s
“”negative propositions”” with “”positive propositions”” of its own.
“”Reality”” then becomes a “”this”” or “”that”” rather than a mystery in the
process of revelation. The encounter with the fool, thus, affects the
noetic reflection in that the latter, confronting the negative assertion
that God does not exist, acquires the “”character of an affirmative
position.”” Hence, “”the symbolism of the noetic quest threatens to
derail into a quarrel about proof and non-proof of a proposition
when the fool enters the discussion.”” This quarrel between the
“”positive”” and “”negative”” response to the divine appeal is an example
of “”verbal mimesis””:

As a consequence, the two types of theology together represent
the verbal mimesis of the human tension between the potentialities
of response or non-response to divine presence in personal,
social, and historical existence.68

(ix) Thus, truth and untruth, meditation and deformation,
meditative complex and deformation complex are not simply
“”opposed”” to each other. Voegelin, as we saw, acknowledged that
“”something of the untruth opposed creeps into the symbolization
of truth””; and at least indirectly he also acknowledged the reverse
effect, that something of the truth denied and resisted creeps into
the symbolization of untruth.69 We also noted that the meditative
process is a real player in the mimetic game of objectification; it
entails the seed, we may say, for its own deformation. But there
is also a sense in which, vice versa, the process of deformation can
contribute to the formative quest:

…a movement of resistance [against truth], if it achieves clarity
about its experiential motivations and elaborates the story of its
deformative quest, can contribute substantially to the understanding
of the paradox in the formative structure it resists, while
the defenders of the truth may fall into the various traps prepared
by their own self-assertive resistance and thus contribute substantially
to an understanding of the forces of deformation.70

Therefore, Voegelin concluded, “”in the depth of the quest,
formative truth and deformative untruth are more closely related
than the language of ‘truth’ and ‘resistance’ would suggest.””71

(x) The spectacular drama of the struggle for truth in history
should not overshadow the fact that the struggle is fought also
“”within”” the consciousness engaged in the meditative quest. “”The
fool cannot be dismissed lightly,”” Voegelin explains, because “”the
folly of responding to the divine appeal by denial or evasion is just
as much a human possibility as the positive response. As a
potentiality it is present in every man, including the believer; and
in certain historical situations its actualization can become a
massive social force.””72 Therefore, “”the thinker engaged in the
formative quest is a human being plagued by the forces of selfassertive
resistance in his soul just as much as his counterpart, the
resister to the paradoxic structure of consciousness-reality, is
plagued by the truth of reality.””73 For it is from within the quest
that both luminous symbols and objectifying type-concepts unfold.
At any cross-section of history, therefore, it is only its
reflective distance that distinguishes the formative quest from the
other players in the mimetic game of objectification. By reflectively
distancing itself from the symbols and concepts currently in
use, the meditative process reminds itself that both symbols and
concepts are but indices of its differentiating advance; they never
fully exhaust the process itself. Referring specifically to Plato’s
example, Voegelin observes that

Plato’s positive “”type of theology”” derived its validity from the
defense of truth against the negative type of the Sophists, but the
truth defended was not to be found in the propositional “”type””
itself; even the positive type would have been empty without its
background in the truth of experience.74

(xi) The insight into the truth which is beyond the symbols used
in its defence explains Voegelin’s interest in mysticism. According to
“”What is Political Reality?,”” classical noesis and mysticism are the
two “”pre-dogmatic realities of knowledge”” in which the logos of
consciousness was optimally differentiated. In modern times, Voegelin
explains, mysticism has twice become the source of attempts to
find the way back from dogmatism to the rationality of thought: once
by Bodin in the 16th century, “”in the situation of theological
dogmatomachy””; the second time by Bergson in the 20th century,
“”in the situation of ideological dogmatomachy.”” The mysticism of
Bodin avoids the derailment into “”literalist dogma”” by maintaining
the balance between the knowledge of symbols and the
knowledge of what lies beyond them. This balance between the
realms of silence and of expression characterizes the nature of
“”tolerance.””75

Voegelin’s interest in mysticism pre-dates NSP. In a letter to
Friedrich von Engel-Janosi, Voegelin noted in 1943 that the
“”philosophical process begins, not with the categories of being,
but with the rationalization of the encounter with the divine
[Rationalisierung des Gotteserlebnisses] through the mysticism
of the via negativa.””76 At the end of 1944 Voegelin explained that
he had interpreted Nietzsche, for the study on Nietzsche and
Pascal, from the perspective of the “”theologia negativa,”” and this
for the following reason:

What collapses is a historical stage of concretisation and the
corresponding institutions; for the individual today, as much as
for the individual in the 5th and 15th century, there remains the
socially indestructible position of the theologia negativa; for the
individual undergoes a crisis only if he insists on finding his
absolute coordinates in his nation, as a Marxist, as a Liberal etc.77

This is a revealing quote in that it draws our attention to the
experiential context of Voegelin’s pursuit of the via negativa. In a
time of “”collapse,”” the individual avoids being drawn into the
surrounding disorder by adopting the “”socially indestructible position””
of the “”theologia negativa.””

We are now in a position to characterize Voegelin’s use of
“”gnosticism”” as a concept. As we saw, Voegelin’s noetic quest arises
in the form of a resistance against the surrounding disorder; the
quest for truth always resists an untruth. In Voegelin’s case, this
“”untruth”” was at some point subsumed under the label “”gnosticism,””
a type-concept derived from the noetic indexation of history. In
order to appreciate the significance of the label for Voegelin’s
analysis, we need to remind ourselves again that both the meditative
symbols as well as the objectifying type-concepts are achievements
of the consciousness engaged in the meditative quest. The indexation
of history is at the same time a self-indexation of the meditation;
it is indexed by the untruth that it resists. Accordingly, Voegelin’s
work is indexed by its meditative symbols as much as by its typeconcepts.
However, in the course of the meditative process, both
the meditative symbols and the type-concepts undergo a differentiating
advance whereby the more compact language symbols and
concepts are replaced or qualified by newer, more refined symbols
and concepts. According to the self-understanding of Voegelin’s
quest, this process is to be expected; it signifies a “”refinement of,””
rather than a “”departure from,”” earlier assumptions.

The close relationship in Voegelin’s analysis between symbols
and concepts, between the meditative complex and the “”deformation
complex,”” will allow us, in the concluding Part 4 of this paper,
to characterize the “”philosophical type”” that Voegelin’s philosophy
represents. Before we can turn to this conclusion, however, we need
to briefly examine the question of the empirical validity of Voegelin’s
analysis of “”gnosticism.””

#page#

3. Voegelin’s “”errors””

The previous observations are not meant to be “”apologetic””; we are
not attempting to “”rescue”” Voegelin’s work on “”gnosticism”” from
attacks by zealous critics. On the contrary, if “”gnosis”” and “”gnosticism””
in Voegelin are understood as empirical concepts then we
must agree with the critics that his work is full of problems. Two
observations deserve to be highlighted in this context. First, his use
of “”gnosticism”” violated the most elementary methodological principles
that he had defined for himself long before and, in fact, in (!)
NSP. Let us briefly review these principles. In On the Form of the
American Mind, Voegelin had explained that his analysis was not
meant to impose an interpretation “”from the outside”” onto the
material; instead it represented an “”attempt at extracting the instruments
of interpretation as well as the meaning from the material
itself.””78 In NSP Voegelin was able to articulate his methodological
principles with greater clarity by distinguishing between “”the language
symbols that are produced as an integral part of the social
cosmion in the process of its self-illumination and the language
symbols in political science.”” The relationship between the two sets
of symbols is such that the latter should always derive from the
former:

Both are related with each other in so far as the second set is
developed out of the first one through the process that provisionally
was called critical clarification. In the course of this process
some of the symbols that occur in reality will be dropped because
they cannot be put to any use in the economy of science, while
new symbols will be developed in theory for the critically adequate
description of symbols that are part of reality.79

In NSP, the symbols of political science are referred to as “”concepts.””
Voegelin thereby introduced for the first time a distinction
between “”symbols”” and “”concepts””—long before the two terms
became attached to the distinction between luminosity and intentionality.
At the time of NSP the meaning of the two terms is fairly
straightforward. “”Symbols”” emerge from the self-interpretation of
the social cosmion, while theoretical “”concepts”” are the result of the
“”critical clarification”” of the symbols. Political science begins with
the symbols, with the self-interpretation of the cosmion, and advances
towards concepts. Voegelin noted that there were many
symbols that could not be clarified to the point that they were of “”any
cognitive use in science””:

More than once in a discussion of a political topic it has happened
that a student—and for that matter not always a student—would
ask me how I defined fascism, or socialism, or some other ism of
that order. And more than once I had to surprise the questioner—
who apparently as part of a college education had picked up the
idea that science was a warehouse of dictionary definitions—by
my assurance that I did not feel obliged to indulge in such
definitions, because movements of the suggested type, together
with their symbolisms, were part of reality, that only concepts
could be defined but not reality, and that it was highly doubtful
whether the language symbols in question could be critically
clarified to such a point that they were of any cognitive use in
science.80

If Voegelin had applied these principles—which he finds in
Aristotle—to the analysis of “”gnosticism,”” he could not have written
The New Science of Politics. The term “”gnosticism”” did not arise
from the self-interpretation of a social cosmion, nor can it be
considered the result of a process of “”critical clarification”” on the part
of political scientists. In fact, the term “”gnosticism”” emerged in
18th century France; applying it to religious movements in late
antiquity is an anachronism. While Greek words like Christianos,
Christianikos, Christianismos began to appear in ancient texts a
few generations after Jesus, no such words existed for “”gnosticism””
or a “”gnostic religion.”” Some Christian heresiologists
reported that the members of at least some groups which later
came to be called “”gnostic”” referred to themselves as gnostikos. As
the heresiologists then began to compile catalogues of heresies,
they were unable to resist the temptation to generalize such
sporadic self-designations into one single category. There are
instances in Irenaeus, for example, in which the term “”gnostics””
is used as a generalising label for all heretics. For a long time the
main sources available on “”gnostic”” sects and movements were
the treatises of Christian heresiologists writing explicitly against
the heretics. When the “”ism”” was created in the 18th century, the
term “”gnosticism”” still had a pejorative connotation. Thus, “”gnosticism””
is not a symbol as understood in NSP; the large majority
of groups designated as “”gnostic”” did not interpret themselves in
these terms. But, in Voegelin’s usage of the term, “”gnosticism”” is
not a “”concept”” either because he does not provide a “”critical
clarification”” of (i) the self-understanding of religious movements
of late antiquity, or of (ii) the heresiologists who categorized them
or of (iii) the French thinkers who introduced this particular “”ism””
in the 18th century. On the contrary, NSP contributed to the
inflationary use of the term which makes today’s students of early
Christianity and religions of the Greco-Roman world wonder how
they could have learned “”from very authoritative interpreters of
Gnosis”” that “”science is Gnostic and superstition is Gnostic;
power, counter-power, and lack of power are Gnostic; left is
Gnostic and right is Gnostic; Hegel is Gnostic and Marx is
Gnostic; Freud is Gnostic and Jung is Gnostic; all things and their
opposites are equally Gnostic.””81 The confusion is largely due to
the fact that “”gnosticism”” cannot be defined as a category of ideas
or “”ideal type”” that exists outside history. Attempts to delineate its
margins through lists of characteristic features and symbols—
such as the six defining features listed in Voegelin’s “”Ersatz
Religion: The Gnostic Mass Movements of our Time””82—against
which concrete historical manifestations are “”checked”” have been
shown to encompass either too much or too little.83

Moreover, the alleged historical continuity linking ancient and
modern manifestations of “”gnosticism”” is deeply problematic. In
Chapter 54 of his The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman
Empire, Edward Gibbon had already established a direct line of
continuity beginning with the Paulicians in seventh century Syria
and Armenia, to their resettlement in the Balkans, their ramification
into the Bogomils, the migration of both Bogomils and Paulicians
into Northern Italy, and the emergence of the Cathars in Southern
France in the eleventh century. From the Cathars Gibbon saw links
to the Waldenses and Spiritual Franciscans and the later sectarian
movements, which spread all over Europe with climaxes in the
Lollard movement in England and the Hussite movement in Bohemia
in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. By the time of the
Reformation, these protest movements had grown into mass movements
with manifestations in the Peasant Wars in Germany and the
Anabaptist movement, which continued to diffuse into the Netherlands
and Moravia. Gibbon considered the Paulicians as “”non-
Manichaean Gnostics.”” For him, as for many Protestant writers, the
Paulicians were the ancestors of the Protestant churches and hence
had to be absolved from “”heretic”” Manichaean influences. Accordingly,
Gibbon does not attempt to establish the Paulicians”” roots in
late Antiquity. However, many scholars assume that the Paulician
heresy (in its dualist version) originated in late Antiquity with direct
or indirect links to Manichaeism, Marcionism, and possibly “”other””
“”gnostic”” groups, and hence make the Paulicians a crucial link in a
continuity of “”dualist”” teaching from Antiquity to the late Middle
Ages. But the evidence they refer to in defence of this continuity is
partly circumstantial and partly anachronistic. There is evidence that
Manichaean groups were present in Armenia in the late sixth
century, some fifty years before Armenia became the geographic
centre of the Paulician movement.84 Moreover, we have Peter of
Sicily’s report on the Paulicians, which he wrote from his visit to
Tephrice, the capital of the by then powerful Paulician organization,
in 869. After his nine-month visit, Peter characterized the Paulicians
as offshoots of the Manichaeans, and all subsequent Byzantine
historians and theologians considered them direct descendants of
the Manichaeans; the two groups were in fact considered the same
heresy. Considering the conventions of the time—””Manichaeism””
was often used as a generic label for all “”dualist”” heresies—and
considering the context of Peter’s visit—as an ambassador of the
Byzantine Empire, his task was to negotiate peace and arrange an
exchange of prisoners in what was effectively a state of war—his
account must be treated with caution. In any case, we know of a
Manichaean presence in Armenia prior to the arrival of the Paulicians,
and Peter’s evidence comes from the ninth century; but we do not
have any contemporary corroboration of direct contacts between
Manichaeans and Paulicians from the crucial sixth and seventh
centuries.85

Interestingly, these problems do not affect Voegelin’s analysis in
NSP as much as we might fear because, although it treats “”gnosticism””
as an ancient religious movement that “”accompanied Christianity
from its very beginnings,”” NSP does

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