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March 04, 2013

Political or Philosophical Book Recommendation Thread

Several people including ArthurK. are recommending The Law, by Bastiat. I'm putting that on the list because they used the magic word ("short").

I got a recommendation from Jonah Goldberg for Eric Voegelin. He's the guy, it turns out, who coined the phrase "immanentize the eschaton." He mentioned the book to me because I dropped an aphorism -- "God save us from those without a god but bursting at the seams with Religion" -- and thought it sounded like Voegelin. I'm reading his Science, Politics, and Gnosticism on Kindle.

I'm only like 30 pages in so I can't review it. I can say it has a mindblowing premise.

First, I have to explain Gnosticism. Gnosticism is the belief that the world was not created by God at all, but by an imperfect, lesser being who may actually be evil, and might even be Satan. Gnosticism holds that the material world we live in a false world, a world of lies created by either an incompetent or a demon, and that escape can only be had by gnosis, "enlightenment" (though I don't think that's a spot-on translation), which will free people from this Devil's world to the real world we faintly remember having been cast out of.

Gnostic teachings claim that we are exiles in this false world, castaways who drifted up on the shores of a hateful and alien island.

By the way, how wild is that? It's like science fiction. What a premise.

Voegelin claims that gnostic though has remained with us from the 2nd century when it was born, and I don't mean "sort of remained with us," or echoed with us, I mean he thinks it really remained a belief system into the modern age, and that Gnostic belief spawned all sorts of totalizing political movements which disdain the real world in favor of theory and party doctrine, such as Naziism and Communism. I think, again -- and this is wild, I have no idea if he can prove such a thing as I'm only 30 pages in -- he is not saying that Naziism and Communism were born out of an echo of Gnosticism or Gnostic-like thought, but out of genuine, real Gnostic religion/cosmology.

I have strong doubts that such a wild premise could ever be proved -- I think he'll strain to even establish it -- but it certainly is a wild enough premise that I want to see where he goes with it.

So that's what I'm reading; what's on your list, as far as this sort of book?

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posted by Ace at 05:48 PM

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