Friday, August 24, 2012

The Religious Roots of "Progressive" Politicians

I'm happy to see that the work of my favorite philosopher, Eric Voegelin, is starting to make some inroads into popular culture. Yesterday, James Taranto, who writes the "Best of the Web" column for the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece called "Out of Mani, One" exploring the Manichean roots of "Progressive" politics, and their particular expression in Barack Obama. Mr. Taranto's very brief column was then linked to by the mighty Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

Taranto does not mention Professor Voegelin, but links to the column that provoked his column, a piece by David Solway, called "The Ideology of the Left: Gnostics of Our Time," which specifically cites Voegelin's work. Taranto writes:

"Gnosticism is a utopian philosophy. Its essential premises are that the world, not man, is fallen and the route to salvation lies in knowledge (gnosis in Greek), not faith. As poet David Solway explains in a essay: 'The world and all its customs, beliefs, norms, usages, and statutes was disavowed as a vast and perverse deception. The imperative was to restore a prior or potential, but shattered, harmony by whatever means necessary and thus to recreate the Creation.'

Solway argues that the psychology of contemporary left 'is intrinsically a Gnostic one':

'All of the Left's diverse manifestations, from radical communism to the more complaisant forms of soft-focus socialism, are actuated by the mystical lure of a harmonious society posited as the end-goal of History--a society in which the elements of conflict have been banished and sufficient wherewithal is assured for all its members. The Hegelian assumption--partially adopted by Marx--of the "end" toward which the forces of History are tending is the secular version of the Gnostic reverie of the benign blueprint that was somehow botched. The Leftist dream of ultimate "ends" mirrors the Gnostic illusion of first beginnings, of a pre-existent purpose. For this psychology, only the Ideal is Real, and the Real is recognized as something that is opposed to the actual, to what is presently the case.'

This makes sense of the disconnect between Obama's largely uplifting 2008 campaign and his unrelentingly vicious 2012 one. Then, he presented himself as 'the Ideal,' the bringer of 'hope and change' whose promise was 'fundamentally transforming the United States of America.'"

It does make sense. "Progressives" are gnostics who derive their motivation from opposition. The opposition is, obviously, to the existing reality. Obama's promise of  "fundamentally transforming the United States of America" is a Gnostic project.

Those concerned about the "separation of church and state" should be especially concerned about "Progressives" and Barack Obama. You can only separate two things if you have two things. Mitt Romney is a Mormon, a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. His church is a definable body with definable doctrines. His church can be easily distinguished from the state. The same cannot be said of President Obama.

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney


Miguel Conner said...

The problem is that Voegelin's insights, questionable as they are from the start, have been clearly negated by Nag Hammadi scholarship. The Classic Gnostics and Manichaeans never held that society or the sensible world could be transformed, redeemed, or rectified. At least no more than any other early Christian movement beyond tending to the downtrodden.

Dad29 said...

The first 'gnostic' was Eve, who munched the goodies b/c it would make her equal w/God.

So while Hammadi may well be correct on the details, the big picture is the same.