Modernity without Restraint: The Political Religions, the New Science of Politics, and Science, Politics, and Gnosticism

By Manfred Henningsen; Eric Voegelin | Go to book overview
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Editor's Introduction

I

The three books by Eric Voegelin that are published in this volume were written in remarkably different phases of his life, reflecting the circumstances of his respective Austrian, American, and German biographies. When the study Die politischen Religionen was first published in Vienna in April 1938, Austria had been annexed a month earlier by Nazi Germany. Voegelin was informed at the end of March that he should not expect any successful employment at an Austrian university in the future and should therefore look for a job at an American university.1 When he received the letter with the friendly suggestion he was still a Privatdozent and adjunct professor at the university, officially employed as an assistant at the law school. On April 22, 1938, he lost the right to teach; the so-called venia legendi was withdrawn by the ministry. On May 17 he was fired from the position of an assistant, effective at the end of the month. When the Gestapo tried to get hold of his passport he fled to Switzerland. He and his wife, Lissy, ended up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where, on Christmas 1938, he wrote the preface for a new edition of Die politischen Religionen, which his publisher, Bermann-Fischer, issued in Stockholm in 1939. This preface was also meant as an answer to Thomas Mann, who—after having read the book—had written Voegelin a highly critical letter about the lack of passionate denouncement of the Nazis.2

The second book,The New Science of Politics, is a series of lectures he gave at the University of Chicago in the winter quarter

____________________
1
The letter from the Austrian Ministry of Culture was dated April 1, 1938. Eric Voegelin Papers, Hoover Institution Archives, Increment Box.
2
Thomas Mann letter, ibid., box 24, file 11.

-1-

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