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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3
Hierarchy

We now shall characterize some of the most important sacred symbols used to link the political aspects of human life with the divine.

A basic form of legitimization for the rule of people over people is found in the radiation of power along a hierarchy of rulers and offices that ranges from God at the top down to the subject at the bottom. This symbol has a manifold history, and we will hint only at some significant manifestations. We can already find it in the sun cult of Akhenaton, at a very high degree of spiritualization, and the development in Egypt could have had consequences for later European developments. It is obviously no coincidence that the sun-images called forth in connection with the doctrine of the emanation of divine substance occupy such a significant position, in particular for the Egyptian Plotinus. Moreover, Philo of Alexandria's work on monarchy tells us to what extent the natural star myth pushed aside the spiritual myth during the Ptolemian Age, because he decidedly opposes any belief in the sun or moon as sovereign gods and insists that the rulers, in exercising their power, are subject to the invisible logos. The image of sacral effusion was perfected by Maimonides, who absorbed the entire eastern Mediterranean culture and conveyed its streams to Western Europe through complex and many-branched channels. A century after Maimonides, we find the symbol of outpouring from the source— which the Jewish thinker, together with that of the radiation of light, had minutely established at the Egyptian court—in Dante's De Monarchia: “It is now clear that the authority for temporal world-government must come directly, without intermediary, from the universal fount of authority, which, though it flows pure from a single spring, spills over into many channels out of the abundance of its goodness.” And the emperor “in the light of paternal grace…

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