According to Eric Voegelin, the “spiritual disorder of our time” is driven by the prevalence of ideologies whose aim “is to destroy the order of being, which is experienced as defective and unjust, and through man’s creative power to replace it with a perfect and just order.”
Since this last bit is an absurdity—as the progenitors of such “gnostic” agendas fully realize—the result of their seductive doctrines is something other than the paradise they promise.
Though their “attempt at world destruction will not destroy the world,” if allowed to continue it will “increase the disorder in society.”
This disordering mania for civilizational self-destruction has now reached a global scale, having afflicted a critical mass of those currently controlling our major institutions. In such a situation, what is a poor sanity-seeking soul to do?
Voegelin assures us that our “civilizational crisis” “does not by any means have to be borne as an inevitable fate.” Rather, “everyone possesses the means of overcoming it in his own life,” and is therefore “obliged to avoid this folly and live his life in order.”
If this sounds like a formula for survivalist retreat, then we have missed the good professor’s point. It is Gnosticism’s flight from reality that threatens to wreak havoc in the world. By contrast, our embrace of the order of being is a remedy for both self and society.
Ideology blames God and nature for the ills we experience, and seeks salvation in the replacement of true religion and genuine science with manmade systems of pseudo-salvation.
A truthful analysis demonstrates that evil arises from man’s failure to live in accordance with the nature of things. The fault is not in our stars, or their Creator, but in ourselves.
This recognition comes to light as we engage in a ratio—a process of reasoning or analysis—which enables us to diagnose the disorder in our own lives, and the lives of others, and to suggest specific remedies for specific sins.
Here below, such a ratio will always be limited by the fallibility of its agents. As St. Thomas More said, “it is impossible for everything to turn out well, unless all human beings are good, and I don’t expect that to happen for some years to come.”
On the other hand, we should never underestimate the good such a ratio can do. The power of what Voegelin calls “the therapy of order” is witnessed, however perversely, in the fury with which ideologues enforce prohibitions on questioning their dogmas.
Today’s “cancel culture” is only the latest iteration of the perennial trend by which “society resists the therapeutic activity of science.” The deaths of Socrates, Christ, and countless of their followers, is proof positive of the seriousness with which the madmen cling to the helm, despite the perils of the course they are steering.
The most “successful” of their suppressive strategies is not so much “the pressure of totalitarian terror,” as effective as that can be. Far worse is when ideology “arrogates to itself the name of science and prohibits science as nonscience.”
In order for such a prohibition to be “made socially effective,” each of us has to agree to be silenced by the threats, insults, and penalties inflicted on transgressors by the pseudoscientific police. In other words, we have to betray the order of being, whether for survival, or (as C. S. Lewis put it) “for sweeties.”
Refusing to be so silenced is not only the first step in a process of personal liberation, but also the beginnings of a powerful public service.