Religion, Politics and Law: Philosophical Reflections on the Sources of Normative Order in Society 9004172076, 9789004172074

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Religion, Politics and Law: Philosophical Reflections on the Sources of Normative Order in Society
 9004172076, 9789004172074

Table of contents :
List of Contributors
Philosophical Refl ections on Religion, Politics and Law: An Introduction --- Bart C. Labuschagne and Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt
I. Eric Voegelin's Philosophy of Law and Ethics: A Cr itique --- Andreas A.M. Kinneging
II. Plato's Political Ontology: On the Nature of Man and Regime --- Benjamin Bilski
III. Religion and Order: Philosophical Refl ections from Augustine to Hegel on the Spiritual Sources of Law and Politics --- Bart C. Labuschagne
IV. Politics and Religion in the Philosophy of the Enlightenment I: Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke and Rousseau --- Claus-E. Bärsch
V. Politics and Religion in the Philosophy of the Enlightenment II: Kant --- Claus-E. Bärsch
VI. Basic Outlines of the 'Political Science of Religion' --- Claus-E. Bärsch
VII. The Diabolical Dimensions in the Shapes of Political Reality --- Peter Berghoff
VIII. Love and Violence: Dialectical Refl ections on the Phenomenology of the Crusade --- Timo J.M. Slootweg
IX. Totalitarianism and Radical Islamic Ideologies --- David A.J. Suurland
X. The Enlightenment in Contemporary Cultural Debate --- Paul Cliteur and Geoff Gordon
XI. The Religious Aspects of the Founding of the American Republic: A Design of Religion and Reason --- Detlef David Bauszus
XII. Taking Pluralism Seriously: The US and the EU as Multicultural Democracies? --- Hans-Martien Th.D. ten Napel and Florian H. Karim Theissen
XIII. Law, Politics and Religion: In Search of Criteria for Understanding Modernity --- Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt
XIV. From Transcendence to Introcendence: The Consciousness of Political Reality and Psycho-Esoteric Constructions of Salvation --- Andreas Dordel and Andrea Ullrich
Name Index
Subject Index

Citation preview

Religion, Politics and Law

Religion, Politics and Law Philosophical Reflections on the Sources of Normative Order in Society

Edited by

Bart C. Labuschagne Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt


This book is printed on acid-free paper. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Religion, politics, and law : philosophical reflections on the sources of normative order in society / edited by Bart C. Labuschagne, Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 978-90-04-17207-4 (hardback) 1. Religion and politics. 2. Political science—Philosophy. 3. Enlightenment. 4. Religion and sociology. 5. Religion and law. I. Labuschagne, Barend Christoffel, 1962- II. Sonnenschmidt, Reinhard. III. Title. BL65.P7R4365 2009 201’.72--dc22 2008055370

ISBN 978 90 04 17207 4 Copyright 2009 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Hotei Publishing, IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. PRINTED IN THE NETHERLANDS


Acknowledgements ............................................................................. ix List of Contributors ............................................................................ xi Philosophical Reflections on Religion, Politics and Law: An Introduction ....................................................................................... 1 Bart C. Labuschagne and Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt PART A

PHILOSOPHICAL-HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES: WITH VOEGELIN BACK TO PLATO, ARISTOTLE, AUGUSTINE AND HEGEL I. Eric Voegelin’s Philosophy of Law and Ethics: A Cr itique ................................................................................15 Andreas A.M. Kinneging II. Plato’s Political Ontology: On the Nature of Man and Regime ........................................31 Benjamin Bilski III. Religion and Order: Philosophical Reflections from Augustine to Hegel on the Spiritual Sources of Law and Politics ................................71 Bart C. Labuschagne PART B

POLITICO-RELIGIOUS PERSPECTIVES: A CRITICAL REAPPRAISAL OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT, AND THE NEW APPROACH OF THE ‘POLITICAL SCIENCE OF RELIGION’ IV. Politics and Religion in the Philosophy of the Enlightenment I: Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke and Rousseau ...................................97 Claus-E. Bärsch



V. Politics and Religion in the Philosophy of the Enlightenment II: Kant ......................................................129 Claus-E. Bärsch VI. Basic Outlines of the ‘Political Science of Religion’ ..........167 Claus-E. Bärsch PART C

SYSTEMATICAL-PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES: ON EVIL, LOVE AND VIOLENCE, TOTALITARIANISM AND THE CURRENT MEANING OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT VII. The Diabolical Dimensions in the Shapes of Political Reality .................................................................. 205 Peter Berghoff VIII. Love and Violence: Dialectical Reflections on the Phenomenology of the Crusade ....................................................................223 Timo J.M. Slootweg IX. Totalitarianism and Radical Islamic Ideologies ..................257 David A.J. Suurland X. The Enlightenment in Contemporary Cultural Debate ..................................................................311 Paul Cliteur and Geoff Gordon PART D

PRACTICAL-PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES: DEALING WITH RELIGIOUS PLURALISM UNDER THE CONSTITUTION OR: THE CHALLENGING VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE IN MODERN DEMOCRACIES XI. The Religious Aspects of the Founding of the American Republic: A Design of Religion and Reason ......................335 Detlef David Bauszus XII. Taking Pluralism Seriously: The US and the EU as Multicultural Democracies? ........ 363 Hans-Martien Th.D. ten Napel and Florian H. Karim Theissen



XIII. Law, Politics and Religion: In Search of Criteria for Understanding Modernity......... 393 Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt XIV. From Transcendence to Introcendence: The Consciousness of Political Reality and Psycho-Esoteric Constructions of Salvation ......................415 Andreas Dordel and Andrea Ullrich Name Index ......................................................................................447 Subject Index ....................................................................................449


The present collection of essays brings together the work of two research groups on religion and society, one from Leiden University in the Netherlands, one from the University of Duisburg/Essen in Germany. The Dutch scholars are affiliated to the Law Faculty, the Department of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, and are engaged in a research programme on Social Cohesion and the Role of Law, part of which is dedicated to questions of Social Cohesion, Multiculturalism and Globalization and, within this theme, a sub-programme on Religion and State/Church relations. The Leiden approach to these questions is primarily legal philosophical, taken in a broad sense – that is: including ethics, social and political philosophy. The scholars from Germany are all Members of the Institute for the Political Science of Religion,1 dedicated to the study of the political dimension of religion and the religious dimension of politics. The approach they take is predominantly political philosophical, taking into account history, anthropology, and social philosophy. Both groups distinguish themselves by their interdisciplinary and philosophical approach of religion in society and the current meaning of faith and religion for law, morals and politics. The Leiden group published a book (in Dutch) in 2004: Religion as a Source for Social Cohesion in Liberal Democracy? Religion, State and Civil Religion in Post-Secular Society.2 The members of the Duisburg Institute for the Political Science of Religion issued their book (in German) in 2005: “Whoever does not Recognize Religion, Cannot Take Account of Politics.” Perspectives of the Political Science of Religion.3 During a Colloquium on Law, Religion and Politics: Philosophical Perspectives from Leiden and Duisburg at the Law Faculty in Leiden on April 20th and 21st 2006, the contributors to this book presented their current research on this subject. The ensuing discussion enabled them to elaborate on


Institut f ür Religionspolitologie; see B.C. Labuschagne (ed.), Religie als bron van sociale cohesie in de democratische rechtsstaat? Godsdienst, overheid en civiele religie in een post-geseculariseerde samenleving, Nijmegen: Ars Aequi Libri 2004. 3 Claus-E. Bärsch, et al. (ed.), “Wer Religion verkennt, erkennt Politik nicht”. Perspektiven der Religionspolitologie, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2005. 2



their written contributions extensively, the result of which is assembled in this volume. The theme discussed in this book reflects the common interest of these research groups: the relation between religion, and moral, legal and political order in society. A shared interest in the work of Eric Voegelin, one of the leading 20th-century philosophers on this subject, is a binding factor between them as well. One of Voegelin’s scholars, Claus-E. Bärsch, who co-founded the Institute for the Political Science of Religion, figures prominently in this book with three contributions, two on the Enlightenment’s view, not only on religion and politics, but also on reason and religion; and one on the new approach of the ‘Political Science of Religion’. His reasonable and genuinely philosophical approach to the questions we address ourselves in this volume, is an example for us all. Words of thanks are addressed to Leiden University’s Faculty of Law who hosted the Colloquium in 2006; to the Leids Universiteits Fonds/Van Beuningen, and to the Executive Board of Leiden University who generously supported the financial organization of this Colloquium; and finally to Ms. Amy Rodgers who diligently helped us prepare this book by meticulously proofreading the text and helping us to prevent making too many linguistic mistakes. Of course the final responsibility for the text lies with the editors themselves. Bart C. Labuschagne and Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt Leiden and Duisburg


Prof. em. Dr. Claus-E. Bärsch (1939), University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute for Political Science. Co-founder of the Institut für Religionspolitologie, Professor Emeritus of Political Theory and History of Ideas. Detlef David Bauszus (1962), University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute for Political Science. Member of the Institut für Religionspolitologie, Lecturer on Political Science. Dr. Peter Berghoff (1961), University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute for Political Science. Member of the Institut für Religionspolitologie, Lecturer on Political Theory and History of Ideas. Benjamin Bilski (1979), University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, Department of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, PhD-Fellow for Philosophy of Law. Prof. Dr. Paul B. Cliteur L L.M. (1955), University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, Department of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, Professor of Jurisprudence. Andreas Dordel (1967) and Andrea Ullrich (1965), University of DuisburgEssen, DFG- Project, Institute for Catholic Theology/Institute for Political Science. Members of the Institut für Religionspolitologie, PhDFellows for a project of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, titled: ‘Von der religiösen Esoterik zur politischen Exoterik?’ Geoff Gordon (1974), Free University Amsterdam, Faculty of Law, Department of International Law, PhD-Fellow. Prof. Dr. Andreas A.M. Kinneging (1962), University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, Department of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, Professor of Philosophy of Law.



Dr. Bart C. Labuschagne L L.M. (1962), University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, Department of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, Lecturer on Philosophy of Law. Dr. Hans-Martien Th. ten Napel L L.M. (1963), University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, Department of Public Law, Lecturer on Constitutional Law. Dr. Timo J.M. Slootweg (1962), University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, Department of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, Lecturer on Philosophy of Law. Dr. Reinhard W. Sonnenschmidt (1958), University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute for Political Science. Co-founder and director of the Institut für Religionspolitologie, Lecturer on Political Theory and History of Ideas, Director of the project of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, titled: ‘Von der religiösen Esoterik zur politischen Exoterik?’ David A.J. Suurland L L.M. (1975), University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, Department of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law, PhD-Fellow for Jurisprudence. Florian H. Karim Theissen L L.M. (1978), At the time of writing: University of Leiden, Faculty of Law, Department of Public Law, PhD-Fellow. Currently: Berenschot B.V. The Netherlands, Consultant.


The life of people in political community cannot be defined as a profane realm, in which we are concerned only with legal questions and the organization of power. A community is also a realm of religious order, (…). Humans live in political society with all traits of their being, from the physical to the spiritual and religious traits. (Eric Voegelin)1

As a means to introducing the general theme of the book, a story might be told here about the fate of a Viennese scholar who published a book in April 1938, titled Die Politischen Religionen (The Political Religions), from which the quote above is taken. The book contains an in-depth criticism of National Socialism and denounces it as a false, innerworldly, political religion; as a movement that could only come into being as a substitute for religion in a society that had been long cut off from its original, traditional religious and spiritual roots. Secularization and modernization have made modern man defenceless against spiritual temptations promising salvation and bliss in this world. A month earlier, Austria had been annexed to Germany through the notorious Anschluss. The National Socialist occupation resulted in the confiscation and banishment of this book soon after its publication. Printing ceased and all unsold copies of it were destroyed. The author of the book, Erich Voegelin,2 a former assistant of the famous legal philosopher Hans Kelsen, and at the time of the invasion an ausserordentlicher Professor at Vienna University, was fired from his post. The Gestapo tried to get hold of his passport, in order to prevent him from fleeing the country, but Erich Voegelin and his wife Lissy managed to 1 Eric Voegelin, ‘The Political Religions’, in: Manfred Henningsen (Ed.) Modernity without restraint, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 5, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000, p. 70, originally published in Vienna as Die Politischen Religionen, Vienna: Bermann-Fischer 1938. 2 Eric Voegelin lived from 1901 to 1985. His collected works are steadily being published by the University of Missouri Press since the late 1990’s.



escape via Switzerland to the United States of America. It enabled Voegelin to do research and to teach at several American Universities, and to create a vast and highly original scholarly oeuvre dealing with religion and order in society, which has only very recently been rediscovered in America as well as in Europe.3 Large-scale migration is an important phenomenon of globalization nowadays. Regardless of the causes for it, be it oppression (as in Voegelin’s case) or poverty, its consequences are felt everywhere. This is one of the causes why late modern or post-modern societies in the West have become increasingly multicultural and multi-religious. Ongoing, empirically undeniable processes of secularisation of traditional Western society – not only in terms of secularization of public spaces, “that have been emptied of God, or of any reference to ultimate reality”,4 but also consisting in the “falling off of religious belief and practice, in people turning away from God, and no longer going to Church(.)”5 – constitute another important, more indigenous phenomenon that has resulted in a spiritual and religious vacuum in which all kinds of new, (quasi)religious movements compete for the soul of post-modern man on the market of (instant) bliss. Influx and increasing presence and visibility of adherents of Islam have also shaped these societies in a new way, so that we might say that they have become ‘post-secularized’ societies. The problem of order in these societies, under pressure from divergent and even conflicting loyalties of its new citizens (heavily challenged after 11th September 2001 and subsequent acts of terror), and in general plagued by political indifference, materialism and consumer’s hedonism, has

3 For example: as late as 1998, that year saw the first Dutch scholarly publication on the work of Voegelin: G.J. Buijs, Tussen God en duivel. Totalitarisme, politiek en transcendentie bij Eric Voegelin, Amsterdam: Boom 1998. 4 Charles Taylor, A Secular Age, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007, p. 2. Taylor mentions a third sense of ‘secularization’ to which a great deal of his book is dedicated, but which we cannot extensively treat here. In our view, secularization in these first and second (strict) meanings is (at least in Western Europe) a well-established fact. As to broader meanings of ‘secularization’, the picture is more complicated. The literature on secularization – in whatever meaning – is immense, often contradictory, especially regarding the non-Western world, but two publications must be mentioned here to which we refer for further analysis: David Martin, On Secularization. Towards a Revised General Theory, Aldershot: Ashgate 2005, and Giacomo Marramoa Die Säkularisierung der westlichen Welt, Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag 1996. Discussing problems of secularization as such would however take us too far beyond the context of our present investigations. 5 Taylor, loc. cit.



caused great concern among politicians, jurists, and intellectuals. How can multicultural, multi-religious and mass societies be held together under a single legal order that is also experienced as a just legal order? The prevailing legal and political philosophy of political liberalism, with its emphasis on individual human rights, the rule of law and the separation of powers, did quite well under traditional monocultural conditions. This was so, because liberalism itself could not – nor needed to – articulate the high values from which these legal and political concepts derived. Western civilization itself, religiously rooted in Christianity, was the repository of values such as humanity, justice, mutual trust and good faith. Since modern times, especially since the Enlightenment, these values were considered to be self-containing, and not in any respect related to religion. On the contrary: religion was increasingly kept at bay and the ongoing, steady process of secularisation was more or less encouraged. Modern, enlightened man was supposed to do without religion, which goes for societal order too. Great was therefore the confusion of this so-called modern, enlightened man, when he discovered that many of these newly immigrant citizens were indeed religiously inspired and demanded their own place under the liberal sun of the Western World. At first, his response was very liberal indeed: freedom of religion should entail freedom for a Muslim to preach any kind of Jihad, great or small. Who is to decide whether mosques or Muslim schools constitute a threat to liberal society? However, this modern, liberal man soon started to entertain serious doubts. Was it after all such a good idea to stimulate a religious identity? How can adherents of a non-Western belief be induced to embrace democracy and the rule of law? How can they be led to believe in the presupposed values implicit in Western society? Were these values after all really of a religious, maybe of a civil religious character? Suddenly, religion was discovered as a grossly overlooked factor in late-modern societies. We have after all indeed been ‘among the believers’!6 However, what do we believe ourselves? This is where Eric Voegelin comes in. His intellectual heritage may help us to understand what has been going on for centuries, and why modernity has suffered from a lack of articulation of fundamental values from which the modern state derives its legitimacy, a problem 6 An allusion to V.S. Naipaul Among the Believers. An Islamic Journey, Knopf: New York 1981.



that became urgent, especially under current multicultural, multireligious and ‘post-secularized’ conditions. In December 1938, Eric Voegelin (who had in the meantime gotten a chair at Harvard University and had dropped the ‘h’ from his name Erich – henceforth named himself Eric – as a tribute to his new homecountry) wrote a fresh preface to the re-edition of Die Politischen Religionen, to be published by a branch of the publisher Bermann-Fisher, in Stockholm, Sweden in 1939. In this preface, Voegelin responded to the criticism by Thomas Mann (who, living in Switzerland at the time, had managed to get hold of a copy of the first, Viennese edition of the work) in a letter, reproaching Voegelin for not being sufficiently critical of the Nazis. Voegelin, however, in the new preface, stressed his opposition to collectivism and emphasized the necessity of an in-depth analysis of the spiritual and religious roots of totalitarianism, rather than providing only a moral condemnation of such movements. Focussing only on ethical condemnation obscures the nature of the problem, because it “diverts attention from the fact that a deeper and much more dangerous evil is hidden behind the ethically condemnable actions”.7 True resistance against Nazism must penetrate to the religious roots of morally abhorrent actions and ideas, which provide a much sounder philosophical and spiritual foundation for opposition, than merely attacking the problem at the level of moral convention. The problem of National Socialism was, according to Voegelin indicative of the larger crisis in the Western world, and his response to it was already evident in Die Politischen Religionen. Voegelin’s work can be read as a counterpoint to that of Max Weber, whose chair in Munich he was to take in 1958, after it had been vacant for more than forty years after Weber’s sudden death. Weber’s thesis about the ‘disenchantment’ of the modern world was countered by Voegelin’s view that modern man – who is still in need of religion – has found or invented ‘substitutes’ for religion; this is what has led modern man completely and dangerously astray. “(A)nd when God is invisible behind the world, the contents of the world will become new gods”.8 Voegelin’s motto for his research and academic endeavour is clear: back to the spiritual and religious roots of Western civilization, in order to rediscover the historical sources from which this civilization derives 7 Eric Voegelin, ‘The Political Religions’, in: Manfred Henningsen (ed.), Modernity without Restraint, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000, p. 24. 8 Op. cit. p. 60.



its essence, quality and strength. In short, these sources can be found both in classical antiquity, especially in Greek philosophy, and in the Judeo-Christian spiritual tradition in which an image of man – as a unique and free being, shaped in the image of God – was attained that reflects the true order of the soul, as close as could be proven possible in the history of mankind, according to Voegelin. The problem of religion and order in society turns out to be a problem of the order of the soul. Man’s religiousness, his quest for meaning within a larger whole of which he forms an integral part, is something too important to be left to theologians and scientists of religion alone. Political, legal and moral philosophers must take due account of man as a whole, including his spiritual en religious needs. Excluding the religious dimension of man, either out of unwillingness, mere ignorance (which is even worse) or even hostility against it is a much too dangerous option for moral, legal and political philosophy. When philosophy – and a fortiori academics and intellectuals in general – cannot come to grips with this spiritual dimension of man, no solution whatsoever will be reached to the problem of religion and order in society. In the present volume a joint Dutch-German effort, to a considerable extent inspired by the work of Voegelin, is made to come to terms with this problem of religion, politics and law on a philosophical basis. Our concerns regard the fragile spiritual infrastructure of modern liberal democracies: its existence, scope and strength, but also its internal and external threats, and how to deal with them, without relinquishing the very tenets and values that are contained within it. This book is divided in three parts, each of which views the problem of this spiritual order in society from a different but complementary side. In this first part, titled ‘A. Philosophical-Historical Perspectives: W ith Voegelin back to Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Hegel’, an effort is made to trace in the history of philosophy thoughtful, ground-breaking and significant points of view on religion and order in man and society. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine are discussed in consecutive contributions, as well as modern philosophers such as Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. By offering this more historic overview we hope to elucidate the classic tradition of philosophical thought on our subject, as it is still being rediscovered, ‘re-remembered’ and valued as an indispensable source of inspiration for our current dealing with the problem. Some authors take Voegelin’s work as a starting point; others refer to it in a more indirect way.



In the opening chapter by Andreas Kinneging, Plato’s and Aristotle’s classical episteme politike is taken as a focal point for a critical discussion of Eric Voegelin’s philosophy of law and ethics. Writing in the very same classical tradition as Voegelin did, Kinneging analyses his treatment of law as a major instrument of attunement of man’s soul to the order of being in society. Kinneging’s critique points at Voegelin’s lack of understanding of the way by which order in the soul is reached: that is, by the virtues. The question arises which virtue in particular forms the spiritual basis of man’s attunement to being, and whether this virtue is either acquired or more or less in-born. Plato’s political ontology is the subject of the second chapter, written by Benjamin Bilski, in which the relationship between the nature of a regime (no matter political or religious) and that of man is analysed. The central question posed here is by what standards the health and the truth of a religion or a political regime should be measured: according to the standards set by religion, those set by the regime, or philosophically, focussing on that which the regime or religion is likely to turn people into. In an extensive analysis of Plato’s Politeia, this question of the nature of regimes, in which the analogy between the order in the soul and in the city is carefully interpreted, is discussed: is there only a likeness between them (homoiotes), or is the analogy much more profound, based on a common pattern ( paradeigma) of man and states? In the third chapter, Bart Labuschagne reflects on the ways in which religion and order have been experienced and conceptualised, as spiritual sources of morality, law and politics. Modern, secular and liberal democracies live from preconditions that these states themselves cannot guarantee. In a study, inspired by Voegelin, Labuschagne takes the reader from Augustine to Hegel, showing how religion and order can be mediated by means of a ‘trinitarian’ understanding of their interrelatedness: a differentiation of the religious, the political and the philosophical dimension in societal order, represented in an ideal-typical ordering in the priestly, the kingly and the prophetical respectively. In so far as positive religions possess this tri-dimensional or ‘trinitarian’ character, pace Labuschagne, the more they will be able to integrate successfully in post-secular democratic societies and contribute positively to the spiritual infrastructure of normative order in these societies. The second part of this book, critically reappraising the heritage of the Enlightenment, sheds new light on the Enlightenment philosophers’ views pertaining to reason and belief, state and church, tolerance and



religious freedom of citizens, introducing a distinctively new approach to these problems, inspired by the work of Eric Voegelin. In three individual chapters, Claus-E. Bärsch (who completed his dissertation under Voegelin himself at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich in 1972), elaborates upon the relationship between religion and politics, culminating into an approach that Bärsch has labelled as the ‘Political Science of Religion’, originally coined in German as ‘Religionspolitologie’ but unfortunately very hard to translate; instead of ‘political science of religion’ one might translate it as ‘politology of religion’, but unfortunately this cannot be considered correct English. In this part of our book, Bärsch continues the philosophical-historical lines of the previous part, by assessing some key philosophers of the early and radical Enlightenment, such as Hobbes and Spinoza (chapter IV), as well as the emblematic philosopher of the Enlightenment: Immanuel Kant (chapter V). In both these chapters, Bärsch focuses on their conceptualisation of the relation between politics and religion, taking into account questions such as: how reason and belief relate to one another, how church- and state-relations were seen by them, as well as tolerance and religious freedom of the citizens. In current academic and intellectual debate, the Enlightenment is often brought forward as a panacea for all kinds of problems in modern and postmodern societies coping with religious and moral diversity. Nowadays, the view is cherished that modern moral, political and legal principles held so dear (civil and political liberties, separation of church and state, religion viewed as a private matter), were discovered and developed during the Enlightenment. Bärsch however shows in his extensive and meticulous analysis, comprising two consecutive chapters, that this view on the Enlightenment is mythical at least, and may even be distorted. The Enlightenment itself is in dire need of enlightenment, as Bärsch propounds. In the last chapter of this part of the book (chapter VI), Bärsch sketches the basic outlines of the recent approach in political science, developed by him and his scholars, under the name of ‘Political science of religion’ (‘Religionspolitologie’), that is: the focus on the political dimension of religion, as well as the religious dimension of politics and ‘the political’. Being a scholar of Eric Voegelin, he is indebted to his New Science of Politics, in fact the restorative movement of the classical epistèmè politikè, with a keen view on man as also (and maybe pre-eminently) a spiritual being. One of the central analytical devices in this approach, is the differentiation in four levels or spheres that have to be taken into



account when a problem is analysed in religio-political terms: 1. The spheres of existence; 2. The Categories of cognition; 3. The order of man, society and history – the political in the narrower sense; 4. The meaning of existence and the quest for a good and happy life. The third part of our volume dwells on several substantial keyconcepts within religion itself and how to deal with it. As the title displays, this central section of the book expounds from a more systematical-philosophical perspective several themes that lie deep in the bosom of religion and at the bottom of man’s soul: concepts, images and symbols of good and evil, of love and violence and how man is constantly tempted to act on his more or less dim notions of these deep voices and forces, that can come from within and without simultaneously. Not only classic examples such as the Crusades, but also peculiarly modern phenomena such as totalitarianism and radical Islamism form subjects in dire need of closer scrutiny, in order to be able to locate where their evil nature exactly lurks. Awkward questions can but must be posed here: is it just ‘blind’ violence, or are there deep spiritual sources beneath these phenomena, springing from – for example – love? And more importantly: how do we approach these darker sides of man’s soul and the ways they manifest themselves? How should we deal with these seemingly uncontrollable, maybe demonical forces in the soul and in society? A typically modern answer is to enlighten man in these respects. Is Enlightenment still the resolution? In chapter VII, Peter Berghoff takes the reader along the deep abysses of the soul as well as of political reality, in his analysis of the diabolical dimensions that shape that reality in very sinister but in some respects inevitable ways. By contrasting symbolisation with diabolisation, Berghoff shows what exactly constitutes evil: it is not suffering as such, which can be experienced as meaningful within a specific, symbolic horizon of meaning, but evil is suffering that shatters these very horizons of meaning altogether, and is thereby transformed into something diabolic. This process is analysed on six different levels, ranging from the diabolisation of material desire; social and political institutions; to that of transcendence. In the end, the question remains: how can we uphold political order in which one man’s God is another’s Devil? Berghoff ’s analysis elucidates where we should locate these processes of diabolisation and ‘demonisation’, and how we should deal with them. Timo Slootweg continues in chapter VIII this series of analyses with some dialectical reflections, inspired by Hegel, Kierkegaard, Derrida



and Lefort, on the phenomenology of the Crusade, in order to shed some light on the ‘awe inspiring contrast’ (Hegel) between love and violence. In this chapter, a scrupulous analysis of some of the most puzzling paradoxes within religion and belief is carried out, namely the relation between love and violence. Is a holy war truly possible? What is the meaning of the violent aspects of the relation between religion and politics? Do they exist? If so, can they be overcome? Is rationalism the way out, or is (atheist) rationalism itself an expression of violence? Slootweg shows how faith can be understood as a phenomenon that is inherent in an open democracy that should be ordered in the end according to the dialectics of intensive dialogue. This on-going dialogue can only be held within the empty space of democracy, an empty space that can be interpreted as a religious indeterminacy that cannot be just relegated to the private sphere, as some would rather have it. One of the greatest challenges of our time is how to deal with fundamentalist terrorism such as that of radical Islamic ideologies. David Suurland takes up this problem in chapter IX, using the works of Hannah Arendt, and analysing radical Islamic ideologies in terms of totalitarianism. A number of sources from which current radical Islamic movements derive their inspiration is analysed here, for example in the thought of Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966), back to that of Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab (1703–1792). Special attention is paid to the anti-Semitism inherent to these ideologies. Consciousness of these aspects of Islamic fundamentalism is a necessary first step in dealing with it. This last requirement, elucidating and enlightening consciousness, can be considered as a fundamental tenet of the movement of Enlightenment as such, which is the subject of chapter X. In their contribution, Paul Cliteur and Geoff Gordon explore the meaning of Enlightenment in present-day’s cultural debate. The works of Jonathan Israel and that of Ian Buruma, two current representatives of Enlightenment thinking are discussed in contradistinction with each other (Israel as a defender of ‘radical Enlightenment’ and Buruma of ‘moderate Enlightenment’) with an eye on the way the religious-political murder of Theo van Gogh on November 2nd, 2004, in the Netherlands has led to a fierce debate about religion, culture and the need for a reappraisal of the Enlightenment. Especially radical Enlightenment is, according to Cliteur and Gordon, an indispensable instrument for combating radical fundamentalist terrorists who commit murders in the name of their religion.



Practice shows that dealing with the religious nature of man in society, politics and law can take a variety of shapes, but that the increasing post-secular varieties of religious experience pose serious challenges to liberal democracies as well. For that reason, the forth part of the book, Part D. is dedicated to philosophical reflections on practice itself, in constitutional law, politics and society. The following questions are dealt with, all concerning the tension between diversity and unity in society’s spiritual infrastructure: to what extent is seriously dealing with religious pluralism, with true respect for what people believe, possible at all when the very religious order of society itself – in which the meaning of respect is stored in the form of society’s spiritual and social capital, built up during centuries of predominantly Christian ethics – is increasingly eroding, fragmentizing and becoming influenced by radically different loyalties? Is only a constitutional arrangement sufficient? Are legal norms in themselves and on their own account already an adequate tool in coping with the huge discrepancies between people’s spiritual and moral outlook in different religions? How can democracy function if the people – that is: the dèmos, conceived as the inhabitants of the political commonwealth as such – share no common notion of who they are, where they come from and what they consider to be their common destiny? Problems of common identity versus particular identity, and the integration of so many different people in a society in which they can recognize themselves and find themselves back, come together in this very question. It is clear that somewhere a limit lies as to the degree in which a legal order can cope with diversity and can simultaneously be perceived as a just legal order under one constitution. We shall see how differently the US and the EU have tried and still try to solve this constitutional problem, and how differently these solutions are evaluated by scholars on this subject. In the opening chapter of this part, chapter XI, Detlef David Bauszus takes us back to the founding of the United States of America and the Constitution. He shows how deeply embedded in religious language this founding actually took place. His analysis shows how distorted a historical account of the drawing of the US Constitution would be, if the religious dimension of it were left out. In the eyes of its founders, the US presented nothing less than a novus ordo seclorum, a new order of the ages. The Constitution owes a great debt to the religious beliefs of its citizens, as well as to the Christian tradition itself, according to Bauszus. His claim is that there was indeed “a substantial spiritual dimension to the founding of the United States of America (…). While the argument does not contend that the framers [of the Constitution, B.L. & R.S.]



established a Christian Republic or theocracy, it does challenge the view that they established a purely and entirely secular state.” (See below) Hans-Martien ten Napel and Florian Theissen investigate in chapter XII the preconditions for the functioning of multicultural democracies. They present a model of multicultural democracy that is based on cultural liberty. This notion entails a politics of explicitly recognizing cultural differences, thereby using regimes of power-sharing and reasonable accommodation of religious practices. Both the US and the EU are taken into consideration, in order to scrutinize to what extent they succeed in meeting the challenges of pluralism for democracy. Attention is also drawn to the experiences Third World countries such as India, South Africa and Malaysia with their inherent pluralism have in building multicultural democracies. Taking pluralism seriously is the only viable way for these democracies, according to Ten Napel and Theissen. In chapter XIII, Reinhard Sonnenschmidt examines how freedom of religion in Germany takes shape with regard to the so-called ‘sects’. Can adherents of these new religious movements enjoy full liberty of conscience, thought and belief ? To what extent are the contents of these beliefs detrimental to the very possibility to freely choose for them or to opt out from them? Sonnenschmidt carefully explores the character of these movements of ‘thought reform’, thereby taking into account Eric Voegelin’s studies on Gnosticism, as modern forms of self-salvation. A comparable trend is signalled by Andreas Dordel and Andrea Ullrich, who take a closer look at the recent psychological boom of conceptions and methods of self-discovery in chapter XIV. “The common focus of these modes of self-assurance is the restitution of a ‘divine self ’ as the way of salvation for the individual, as well as for mankind”. (See below) Dordel and Ullrich criticise these modes of introspective selfawareness with respect to its ethical and political consequences, with the help of the work of Eric Voegelin. In order to elucidate the typical spiritual character of these movements in contrast to more traditional spirituality, they coin it ‘introcendence’, in contrast to classical transcendence. Typical of introcendence is that ‘true’ transcendence is thought to lie within oneself: that redemption is found with ‘the God within yourself ’. The growing popularity of these ‘psycho-esoteric constructions of salvation’ is assessed as a typical product of secularization and individualization. These are processes deeply inherent in late-modern spirituality. They more or less function as private spiritual counterparts or correspondences of totalitarian religious movements such as radical Islam. It is always difficult to draw unequivocal conclusions from such a broad range of analyses, comprising an enormous variety of subjects that were



approached by so differing methods. Philosophical analysis, both historically and systematically, was paired together with more polemical and normative arguments, resulting into pragmatic and practical considerations. The ongoing discussion in Academia on religion in modern society that has mushroomed the last years, has finally reached the very disciplines and faculties where the normative order of society is corebusiness: the study of law and political science. For legal and political philosophers, this discussion has only recently started. The study on the sources of normative order in society, or the moral and spiritual infrastructure of modern states, has come to stay definitely. Of course, “to comprehend what is, is the task of philosophy,” to speak with Hegel. In this endeavour, “(a)s far as the individual is concerned, each individual is in any case a child of his time; thus philosophy, too, is its own time comprehended in thoughts”.9 Moreover, when we try to bring our time to thoughts and engage ourselves with great thinkers of our age, we must acknowledge that almost no philosopher has had such a clear and critical view of the present predicament of the late modern world, as Voegelin did. Let us, in order to conclude this introduction, lend our ears once again, as we did by quoting from his Die Politischen Religionen as the motto of our introduction, to what Voegelin wrote in the Preface to the second edition of this remarkable book. In it, he demonstrated to be a true philosopher, in Hegel’s meaning of the word ‘philosophy’. However, in the words Voegelin wrote, one can also recognize something prophetic. His message was not only critical on modernity, but left room for hope and spiritual renewal as well. There is no distinguished philosopher or thinker in the Western world today who, firstly, is not aware – and has not also expressed this sentiment – that the world is experiencing a serious crisis, is undergoing a process of withering, which has its origins in the secularization of the soul and in the ensuing severance of a consequently purely secular soul from its roots in religiousness, and, secondly, does not know that recovery can only be achieved through religious renewal, be it within the framework of the historical churches, be it outside this framework. Such renewal, to a large extent, can only be initiated by great religious personalities, but everyone can be ready and willing to do his share in paving the way for resistance to rise up against the evil.10


G.W.F. Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (Berlin, 1820), Vorrede, in translation by H.B. Nisbet, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, p. 21. 10 Eric Voegelin, ‘The Political Religions’, op. cit. p. 24.




ERIC VOEGELIN’S PHILOSOPHY OF LAW AND ETHICS: A CRITIQUE Andreas A.M. Kinneging 1. In the academic world of the present, political, legal, and moral philosophy are intellectually more or less separate continents. John Rawls, for instance, is regarded as a political philosopher, Ronald Dworkin as a legal philosopher, and Bernard Williams as a moral philosopher. The average ‘Introduction to Legal Philosophy’ differs quite substantially from its counterparts in either political or moral philosophy. The average political philosopher knows little of legal and moral philosophy, nor is he more than superficially interested in either of them. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for the average legal and moral philosopher. A few political philosophers, however, do not fit into these modern categories. Eric Voegelin is one of those rare specimens. He is selfconsciously a political philosopher in the tradition of the Platonic and Aristotelian episteme politike. This ‘political science’ is not just one science among many others. Aristotle’s famous definition in the Nicomachian Ethics (1094a19ff.) renders it a science concerned with the supreme good of man (antropinon agathon). More specifically, it is concerned with the attainment and preservation of this supreme good not only for the individual, but for the whole people (ethnos) or city ( polis). Hence, according to Aristotle it is the most authoritative of the sciences, to which all others are subordinate. Voegelin shares this august conception of political science, taking exception merely to the restriction of the concern of political science to a people or city. The logic of Aristotle’s argument implies a concern with the universal good, i.e. the good of mankind as a whole. Aristotle’s failure to express this is due to what Voegelin calls the “mortgage” or “burden of the polis”. Aristotle could not conceive of the good outside



the polis. This however does not affect the validity of his general argument, Voegelin argues, so we cannot disregard his general point.1 The episteme politike includes ‘legal science’ and ‘moral science’. Politics is inseparable from law and ethics and remains incomprehensible if one does not include these into one’s thinking. Therefore, the true political philosopher is eo ipso a legal and a moral philosopher. Moreover, legal and moral philosophy, practiced in isolation from political philosophy (and from each other), are vain and illusory. Voegelin wanted to be and considered himself a political philosopher in this classical sense. Hence, he also thought of himself as a legal and moral philosopher. Consequently, it is legitimate to ask what his views on law and ethics were, and to what extent these views can be said to continue and vindicate the episteme politike of Plato and Aristotle. This essay aims to establish that, on crucial points, Voegelin’s ideas fall short of the ancient original. We will begin with an exposition and critique of Voegelin’s conception of law (§2–5). We will then turn to his view of ethics (§6–9). At this point it is in order to state that the following reflections are made by someone who shares Voegelin’s conviction of the unequalled worth of the episteme politike as a science of the order of being, i.e. of natural law. 2. Because reflection on law is an integral part of the episteme politike, the subject of law can turn up anywhere in the works of a political philosopher writing in the classical tradition, and not necessarily in a separate work on law. In the case of Voegelin, however, we have a short monograph devoted completely to a reflection on law: The Nature of Law. This is the obvious source to begin our inquiry into Voegelin’s conception of law. However, some caveats are appropriate. Written sometime between 1954 and 1957, while Voegelin was teaching a course in jurisprudence at the Law School of Louisiana State University, The Nature of Law was published only in 1991, six years after Voegelin’s death, as volume 27 of Voegelin’s Collected Works, together with four book reviews, an outline of the actual jurisprudence course, and some pages of supplementary notes for the students.2 1

E. Voegelin, Order and History, 5 vols., Colombia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000, vol. II, p. 238; vol. III, p. 144; cf. vol. I, pp. 164, 180. 2 E. Voegelin, The Nature of Law, Colombia and London: University of Missouri Press 1991.



Even though Voegelin contemplated publishing it, he never did. (NL, p. xiii) The question is why? As any reader of The Nature of Law will have to admit, the book as we have it is rambling and poorly organized. Sometimes it quite extensively goes into things that are of secondary importance at best; frequently a conclusion of the greatest consequence is put forward abruptly, without sufficient argument. Voegelin was unquestionably aware of these shortcomings, and he could have revised the text for publication. Why did he not do this? It seems plausible to assume that Voegelin knew that a satisfactory revision would have to go beyond the bounds of the issue of the nature of law to such a degree, that it would in effect become an entirely different book. Most importantly, it would have to go much deeper into the question of the order of being, the ‘unseen measure’ of the social order, the specific role of the (true) political philosopher or the spoudaios in man’s participation in being, and the relation between order in society and order in the soul, or in other words, between law and ethics. We will have to return to these issues later. First, the gist of Voegelin’s argument in The Nature of Law must be provided. 3. In a very Aristotelian fashion, Voegelin asserts at the very beginning of the Nature of Law that a philosophical inquiry or analysis should start, without side-glances at intellectual authority however worthy, with the phenomena as they present themselves in the contemporary horizon of everyday knowledge and the language as it is in everyday use (NL, p. 6). However, philosophical inquiry or analysis is the search for the nature or essence of something, and reaches its goal only when the preanalytical experience of phenomena is dissolved into concepts referring to such a nature or essence (NL, p. 9) Hence, the question that concerns us here is the nature or essence of law. If we now take a closer look at the phenomenon of law as it appears in everyday life and in the everyday language of lawyers and laymen, it does not seem to have a nature or essence. The law, though we speak of it in the singular as if there were only one law, appears in a plurality of legal orders accepted as valid in a corresponding plurality of societies. This sentence suggests that “the law” is something like an essential aggregate of rules, a species or form, individuated in a plurality of legal orders, in the manner in which a biological species is individuated in a plurality of specimens. If this were the case,



the search for the nature of the law could be conducted by comparing as many legal orders as possible, with a view to finding the rules that they have in common. If an aggregate of rules common to all legal orders were to be found, it could be considered the essence of the law, and the rules of varying contents could be considered non-essential properties of the individuals or the species ‘legal order’. (NL, p. 8)

However, such a method of classification, that admittedly works well when dealing with biological species, is of no use when applied to the law. A concrete legal order does not allow a distinction between essential and non-essential rules. Every valid rule is potentially essential if it has a bearing on a specific case (NL, p. 9). Hence, validity rather than essence seems to be the category under which the law must be analyzed (NL, p. 9), or perhaps we should say that validity is the essence of the law (NL, p. 13). Should we then define the legal order as a specific aggregate of valid rules? Here we run into the problem of identity, which is tied up with the everyday phenomenon of legal change. Some rules lose their validity, while others become valid (NL, p. 12). If the legal order is defined as a specific aggregate of valid rules, every change in the rules would create a new legal order, which is of course unacceptable from the point of view of everyday experience (NL, p. 13). An apparent way out of this aporia is the definition of the legal order as a sequence of aggregates of valid rules, created successively by a constant legal procedure, commonly provided by a basic law or constitution. But this is not a solution, since the basic law or constitution is not a fixed entity either, but changes now and again. Hence, the paradox resurfaces on a higher level. The recourse to a basic law or constitution as the link between aggregates of law does not solve the question of the legal order as an identifiable entity existing in time. (NL, p. 16) Therewith the concept of validity, which at a first glance seemed a promising starting-point for the understanding of the nature of law, appears to lead to insoluble difficulties. Whatever may be the ground of the identity of a legal order, on the basis of the analysis above rules that are no longer valid, as well as rules that are not yet valid but will become valid, also have to be included in the notion of a legal order. (NL, p. 15) The question ‘what is law’ becomes even more complex, however, once one starts taking concrete court decisions into account, in addition to general rules. Taking into consideration that the court decision is the point at which the law becomes valid for the concrete case, (and the



unpredictability of many court decisions), it must be concluded that we never know what the aggregate of valid rules is. Every particular aggregate whose validity has become complete with a decision in a concrete case immediately belongs to the past and is thus no longer valid, and every particular aggregate which has not yet resulted in a concrete court decision is not yet valid. This leads to the conclusion that, if validity is the essence of law, the law does not exist. (NL, pp. 16–17) Since that is obviously absurd, the analysis of the law in terms of validity remains stuck in an aporia.3 4. The analysis can be carried on, only if we turn away from the law as a self-contained realm and also consider its social context. As our everyday experience reveals, the law is inherent in a society. (NL, p. 20) In fact, the relation between law and society is so intimate that the whole existence of man in society is pervaded by law (NL, p. 24). Most of our actions have legal implications or limitations; to a large extent, relations between human beings in society have a legal structure. (NL, p. 23) What is the point, the purpose, the telos of the law in society? It is the order of society. The law is an instrument with which society preserves itself in ordered existence. (NL, p. 24ff ) That purpose is the clue to the nature or essence of law. (NL, p. 26) The order of society is part of the order of being. It is that part of the order of being in which the realization of order depends on the actions of man. The social order is, so to speak, the burden of man. Man must discover the sources of the social order and uphold them. These 3 Even though Voegelin hardly mentions Kelsen in The Nature of Law, this reductio ad absurdum is undoubtedly directed against his former teacher’s theory of law as expounded in the Reine Rechtslehre (Pure Theory of Law). It should be noted, however, that Voegelin apparently did not consider Kelsen’s approach completely invalid. Cf. e.g. NL, pp. 21–22; Autobiographical Reflections, pp. 21–22: As a ‘logic of the legal system proper’ the Pure Theory of Law ‘was so good that it hardly could be improved upon’. However, Voegelin differed with Kelsen on the status of this logic. He disputed Kelsen’s view that a logic of norms was all that science could contribute to the study of the law, the state, and politics in general, the concrete content of norms being a matter of subjective value-judgment and therefore unscientific. Voegelin regarded this as a mistaken diminution of what science and rationality can achieve, inspired by an erroneous neo-Kantian methodology, departing from an insuperable gap between the ‘is’ and the ‘ought’. Cf. NL, p. 28.



constitute an ‘ought’ in the ontological sense. (NL, p. 42ff ) This ‘ought’ is not derived from a subjective will, but is given in the order of being. Man can participate in the order of being, but he can also fall from it, the consequence of which is a descent into chaos, death, hell, nothingness. Participation means attunement of his existence to the order of being. Everything depends on himself. The attunement is a problem for his freedom and responsibility. (NL, pp. 43–44) The forces in the soul that disturb the attunement to the order of being are as essentially human as the desire for order. Every man has to carry the burden of his all-too-human passions – of his pride and inertia, his aggressiveness and lack of courage, his righteous indignation (sic) and lack of wisdom, his dullness and lack of imagination, his complacency and indifference, his ignorance and folly. (NL, p. 63)

The law is a major instrument of attunement to the order of being in society. Hence, the organized process of making (and maintaining) the law is an inevitable means for keeping the social order in existence (NL, p. 30). A legal rule is meant to be a true proposition concerning the ‘ought’ in the ontological sense (NL, pp. 44–45). That does not imply, of course, that it will necessarily be true. On the contrary, it is quite possible that the empirical legal order does not reflect the order of being and hence does not contribute to the social order. The laws that uphold the social order cannot be discovered without the use of imagination and experimentation, through trial and error. Besides, they constantly require adaptation to changing circumstances. (NL, p. 43; pp. 67–68) Moreover, good will is needed to translate these discoveries into the reality of empirical law. Given the nature of man it is far from certain that any of this will occur. For instance, the lawmaker, whether higher or lower in the hierarchy of the law-making process, as a collective or individually, being human in the full sense of the word, may abuse his position and issue rules that depart widely from the truth of order. (NL, p. 60) This phenomenon has been the motive for more or less elaborate experiments with institutional safeguards against such abuse of position. (NL, p. 60) The separation of powers, the Bill of Rights, the independent judiciary, universal suffrage, and the election of the representatives for relatively short terms of office are (…) devices for reducing the possibility of abuse to a minimum. (NL, p. 60)

Yet, even the best devices are not fool-proof and do not work under all circumstances.



(F)or the institutional checks on the representative must themselves be staffed by human beings who are not beyond the weaknesses of man. In particular, the devices of universal suffrage and frequent elections have proved disappointing in many cases because the assumption that the mass of common men is the mysterious repository of the will to substantive order is wrong. (NL, p. 60)

Hence, there will always be a tension between the empirical law and the true law, corresponding to the ‘ought’ in the ontological sense. (NL, p. 30; p. 61) In every society, the lawmaking process rests for its validity on the understanding that a considerable margin of error must be allowed with regard to the truth of order in the ontological sense. Although there are limits to the proportions that the error may assume, existence in an imperfectly ordered society, with numerous and even gross injustices in single cases, is preferable to disorder and violence. (NL, p. 61)

The political philosopher plays a principal role in the preservation of the order of society. His philosophical analysis must penetrate the essence of the ‘ought’ in the ontological sense. He must develop the standards of true law, against which the empirical law can be measured. (NL, pp. 53–55) What does ‘standard’ mean here? It does not mean ‘substantive rule’. The ‘ought’ in the ontological sense cannot be expressed as a substantive rule. Nor did the founders of the episteme politike – Plato and Aristotle – think it could. Model projects, as worked out especially by Plato in the Politeia and the Nomoi, must not be taken as rules with autonomous validity (NL, pp. 53–54). Concrete rules are not essential. The content of the legal order differs according to time and place. What is essential is that the concrete rules are attuned to the order of being. 5. This is the gist of The Nature of Law. Some elements have necessarily been passed over in silence, but the heart of Voegelin’s thesis concerning the nature of law, as presented in that book, is summarized here. At least three significant lacunae – or rather three different aspects of one and the same lacuna – are made visible by it. In the first place, Voegelin nowhere discusses the relation between law and ethics. That is remarkable, since it is one of the principle insights of the episteme politike that not only the law, but also ethics is



fundamental to the preservation of order in society. These are the pillars of the social order. Ethics is concerned with the order in the soul. The soul is ordered by virtue. A man with a virtuous soul need not be governed, because he acts in accordance with the true order freely and willingly. Hence, if all men were virtuous, the law would be superfluous. But because they are not, every society needs laws. These have two functions, to enhance the virtue of the few with a natural affinity for it, and to compel the many by fear of punishment to abstain from evil.4 Moreover, only a man with a virtuous soul – Aristotle’s spoudaios – can govern society, because only he can and will establish and preserve the order of society.5 A man with a disordered soul necessarily creates disorder in society when he comes to power. The tyrant, whose soul is filled with unlawful desires, is a typical example of this. In The Nature of Law, Voegelin mentions the order in the soul a few times (NL, pp. 52, 53, 54), and the spoudaios once. (NL, pp. 62–63) But what exactly these concepts mean, and how they are related to the legal order and the order of society, remains a mystery. Virtues are not even referred to. For Voegelin’s views on these subjects we have to turn to other parts of his oeuvre. A second lacuna in The Nature of Law concerns man’s participation in or attunement to the order of being, his knowledge of the ‘ought’ in the ontological sense. This issue is fundamental to the episteme politike. Yet, it is left unexplained by Voegelin in what way this is to be achieved or even to be conceived of. And that is not surprising, since the explanation again centres on the notions of the order in the soul, virtue, and the spoudaios. Thirdly and lastly, it is left in the dark what is meant by the standards of true law. It is emphatically stated that they are not substantive rules. The historicity of concrete rules is complete. The standards of true law lie behind the substantive rules, that much is clear. However, what they positively are, is left unsaid. This, however, lies at the heart of the episteme politike and the ultimate justification of its conception of law. The standards of true law derive from what was called the ‘unseen measure’ by Solon, the fitting ( prosekon) by Aristotle, the agathon by Plato. This measure cannot be positively defined, but is nonetheless the 4

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1179b1ff. As a rule. However, there is also the case of the fortune-favored unwise. Cf. Voegelin, Anamnesis, pp. 64–65. 5



ground of the ‘ought’ in the ontological sense. To the many it is nothing; only the spoudaios, the man of virtue, whose soul is well-ordered, can fathom it. Hence, it is evident that the most important things that must be said with regard to the philosophy of law are passed over in The Nature of Law. They are the unspoken ground of what is actually said. By articulating them, however, the bounds of the philosophy of law are transcended. 6. Thus, we must turn to Voegelin’s views on ethics. Since Voegelin never wrote a separate work on ethics, his views have to be culled together from other works. Most of what is pertinent to this subject can be found in two of his main works, Anamnesis, and Order and History. Ethics is concerned with the order in the soul; that is the definition of the classical philosophers. The man with the well-ordered soul is, in Aristotle’s terminology, the spoudaios. Three questions immediately arise: why do we need order in the soul, how is it to be conceived of, and how is it to be achieved? The answer to the why-question is relatively straightforward. Everyone wishes for the good, writes Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics (1113a15ff ). Absolutely and in truth the object of wish is the good, but for the individual it is what seems good to him; so for the spoudaios it is the true good, but for the bad man ( phaulos) it is chance everything. (…) For the spoudaios judges everything rightly; in every individual case what things truly are, that they seem to him to be. (1113a23–31)

The order of being becomes visible only to those whose souls are wellordered. (O&H II, p. 256) Only they, therefore, wish for what is truly good, only they can choose what is truly good. Only they, in Voegelin’s words, can live in attunement with the order of being. 7. But how is this order in the soul to be envisioned? And how is it to be attained? Voegelin is fond of speaking of order in the soul as created by an ‘openness’ towards the transcendent reality of the order of being. This openness, according to him, is essential to the order in the soul.



In view of the fact that Voegelin considers himself a political philosopher in the classical tradition of the episteme politike this is notable, as the notion of openness in this ontological sense seems foreign to both Plato and Aristotle. To them, order in the soul is created by various aretai – virtues. At least that is the orthodox account. Hence, the important question arises how this Voegelinian openness is related to the doctrine of the aretai of the classical philosophers. Voegelin’s position appears to be that the orthodox account does not apply to Plato who, he believes, has understood the truth concerning the order of being more fully than Aristotle did. He argues that Plato discovered that all the aretai, except one, are of secondary importance. This single arete, phronesis, results from the opening of the soul to the transcendent reality of the order of being, and thus forms all of existence. All the other aretai operate within this formation (An., p. 66). Voegelin develops his heterodox view of Plato in Order and History III, pp. 162–167, where he discusses the models of the soul and society as expounded in book IV of the Politeia and the conception of the agathon, as put forward in books VI and VII. A short summary of the analysis, with one significant difference, is presented in Anamnesis, pp. 65–66. As is generally known, Plato makes a distinction between three elements within the soul in book IV, parallel to the three social orders within society. The soul contains a rational element (logistikon), a spirited element (thumoeides), and an appetitive element (epithumetikon). If an element functions well it is virtuous. Each element has its own virtue. The virtue of the rational element is wisdom (sophia), that of the spirited element is courage (andreia), and that of the appetitive element is temperance (sôphrosune). This last virtue, however, must also be present in the spirited element of the soul, and perhaps even in the rational element.6 A fourth virtue, justice (dikaiosune) cannot be attributed to one or more specific elements of the soul, but belongs to the virtuous soul as a whole. It exists when each element of the soul fulfils its proper function. Together, these four virtues have gone down in history as the cardinal virtues. Up to this point everything is crystal clear. But now, matters become more intricate. The difficulty centres around two separate but related issues. What is the precise role of dikaiosune in this scheme? And what is 6 Voegelin believes that sôphrosune is considered by Plato as a virtue of all the elements of the soul. Cf. O&H III, p. 163.



the weight of this whole scheme of virtues, in relation to Plato’s deepest convictions with regard to the order of the soul? In Order and History, Voegelin comes up with a different interpretation of the role of dikaiosune than in Anamnesis. In the latter work this virtue is merely one of the four cardinal virtues, and as such of secondary importance, as compared to phronesis. In the former work it is argued that (t)he Dikaiosyne that imposes right order on the forces within the soul has its origin outside of the soul. The place of Dikaiosyne in the model points toward transcendent reality as the source of order. (O&H III, p. 166)

Presumably, this should be taken to mean that, with this conception of dikaiosune, Plato himself already goes beyond his own model of order in the soul, as constituted by three elements and four virtues, and prepares the way for the true conception of order in the soul as expounded in books VI and VII of the Politeia.7 Hence, according to Voegelin a schism exists between an exoteric view (the shorter way), which centres around the cardinal virtues, and an esoteric view (the longer way), which starts from the insight, explicitly stated by Plato, that there is a thing greater than justice and the other virtues, and that that greater thing is the measure of the less perfect ones. (O&H III, p. 166, referring to Politeia 504d) ‘That ‘greater thing’ being the Platonic agathon, of course. In Voegelin’s view, Plato argues that the vision of the agathon creates a virtue in the soul that is not identical with any of the four cardinal virtues: phronesis. Outside of the closed system of the four cardinal virtues in the Politeia, there is phronesis as that virtue that is activated in man when he attains the opsis, the vision of the good. Resulting from the opening of the soul, it is a virtue thoroughly forming all of existence, within which formation only the system of the cardinal virtues operates. (An., p. 66)

8. In paragraph 9, we will go into the meaning of phronesis, which is central not only to moral, but also to legal philosophy within the tradition of


Cf. O&H, p. 163: “One must beware (…) to treat (these models) as a final ‘doctrine’, for they are rigid and defective in more than one respect.” Also, p. 166: “The models of good order in soul and society point toward a constitution of the soul beyond the three forces and the four virtues”.



the episteme politike. But first, we must reconsider Voegelin’s somewhat cavalier treatment of the Platonic model of order in the soul centring around the cardinal virtues, as presented in book IV of the Politeia. This treatment is motivated by the idea that the second model, presented in books VI and VII, centring around the vision of the agathon and the virtue of phronesis, has nothing to do with the first model. To the present author, this seems mistaken, and what is more, it seems to be the cause of a formidable blind spot in Voegelin’s version of the episteme politike. In order to substantiate this, we need to return to the question of the role of dikaiosune in the model of book IV. Voegelin’s claims that it “has its origins outside of the soul”, that it is somehow added to the three other virtues, which presumably have their origins within the soul. This would be justified if there were no reasonable explanation for its introduction into the model, and if Plato had brought it in as a deus ex machina. This is indeed what Voegelin seems to believe. There is a reasonable explanation, however. The gist of Plato’s argument in book IV is as follows. A man has a well-ordered soul, if the rational element within it is sophôs, the spirited element is andreiôs, and the spirited as well as appetitive element (and perhaps also the rational element) is sophrôn. If all these elements function properly, and do what they are supposed to do, nothing less and nothing more, a man is just (dikaiôs). That is to say: he gives to every one and everything what is due to them, what is fitting and appropriate, what is right by nature. The dikaios, the man with the well-ordered soul, is able to do that, because due to his sophia he understands what the situation demands of him, due to his andreia he overcomes unreasonable fear of what is demanded of him, and due to his sôphrosune he withstands the temptations of pleasure, physical and spiritual, that go against what is demanded of him.8 The dikaios is, in short, attuned to the order of being. What we have in book IV of the Politeia is the full and unabridged Platonic model of order in the soul. Thus, the schism perceived by Voegelin between ‘a short way’ and ‘a long way’ is non-existent. The passage that Voegelin relies upon, Politeia 504a–e, does not support his claims in any respect. Plato says at 504b that the statements made earlier, viz. in book IV, are lacking in precision (ellipes tes akribeias). Then, at 504d–e, we read, 8 Or is it more accurate to say that, according to Plato, we must first of all be temperate and courageous, in order to become wise, and be able to see what the situation demands?



(…) is there something yet greater than dikaiosune and the other things (i.e. the other cardinal virtues, A.K.) we went through? There is both something greater, I said, and also even for these very things it won’t do to look at a sketch, as now, but their most perfect elaboration must not be stinted. Or wouldn’t it be ridiculous to make every effort so that other things of little worth be as precise and pure as can be, while not deeming the greatest things worth the greatest precision?9

Hence, from 504 onwards Plato returns to the cardinal virtues of book IV – the greatest things! – to explain their nature with greater precision. It is true that there is one thing even greater than the cardinal virtues: the idea of the good (he idea tou agathou). (505a) But this is so, because the idea of the good is that ‘by which just things (dikaia) and the rest (i.e wise, courageous, and temperate things) become useful and beneficial’. (505a) That is, the (cardinal) virtues are virtues because they participate in the good. The idea of the good is the ultimate endorsement of these virtues. In sum: it is clear that for Plato the virtues were ‘the greatest things’ in the order of being. They are crucial to the order of the soul, and hence to the order of society. Voegelin fails to understand that. As a result, he is inappropriately negligent of the virtues. This mars his understanding of Plato and Aristotle, whose extensive discussion of the virtues – cardinal and others – is passed over in silence by Voegelin. It also mars his understanding of the wider tradition of moral deliberation within the episteme politike, including Cicero, Seneca, Augustine and Aquinas, all of whom consider the virtues to be crucial. But most importantly, it signals a shortcoming in his understanding of the order of being itself. 9. If what is stated above is true, Voegelin’s view of phronesis, as a virtue different in content and existential significance from any of the cardinal virtues, must be rejected. As to the supposed difference in content: contrary to what Voegelin believes, the phronesis of which Plato speaks at 518e (in book VII), in relation to the vision of the good, is nothing but the sophia expounded upon in book IV of the Politeia. Plato’s use of different terms has no significance. To him, sophia and phronesis are more or less synonymous.


Bloom translation, slightly modified by the author.



(In contrast to Aristotle, who meticulously distinguishes between various dianoetic virtues in book VI of the Nicomachean Ethics.) This can easily be established by considering what Plato actually says at 518dff. The other virtues of a soul, as they are called, are probably somewhat close to those of the body.10 For it is true that, where they do not exist beforehand, they are later produced by habits (ethos) and exercises (askesis), while the virtue of exercising phronesis is more than anything somehow more divine (theioteros), it seems; it never loses its power, but according to the way it is turned, it becomes useful and helpful or, again, useless and harmful. Or haven’t you yet reflected about the men who are said to be vicious ( poneros) but sophos, how shrewdly their petty soul sees and how sharply it distinguishes those things toward which it is turned, showing that it doesn’t have poor vision although it is compelled to serve vice (kakia); so that the sharper it sees, the more evil it accomplishes?11

This interesting clause makes clear, first of all, that to Plato phronesis and sophia are undoubtedly synonymous.12 Otherwise it would make no sense. Moreover, it makes clear that Voegelin’s claim that phronesis has a higher existential significance than the cardinal virtues is based on an erroneous interpretation of the difference between phronesis i.e. sophia on the one hand, and the other virtues of the soul, i.e. andreia, sôphrosune, and dikaiosune, on the other. The first is said by Plato to be ‘more than anything somehow more divine’, whereas the latter are ‘probably somewhat close to those of the body’. Voegelin believes that phronesis is called more divine, and is hence of greater existential worth, because of all the virtues it seems to be most immediately related to the vision of the good. But what Plato maintains here is merely that all the virtues are acquired by habit and training, except phronesis or sophia, which is somehow inborn. That is underscored by the fact that the qualification ‘divine’ in the clause quoted above also applies to ‘the wise scoundrel’. ‘Divine’ here is quite compatible with evil actions, and hence cannot refer to the attunement to the order of being. Not only are Voegelin’s depiction of the relation of phronesis to sophia, and of the existential status of phronesis fallacious, but so is his belief, quoted above, that Plato thinks that phronesis is activated in man when he attains the opsis, the vision of the good, as resulting from the opening of

10 11 12

Virtues of the body: strength, stamina, swiftness, etc. Bloom translation, slightly modified by the author. Cf. also e.g. Cratylus 411d–412b, Symposion 184d–e.



the soul by this vision. Phronesis is not activated in man when he attains the opsis; on the contrary, the opsis is attained, when it is attained, through phronesis. If the parable of the cave (at the beginning of book VII) makes one thing clear it is that the crucial question to Plato is how to turn the soul of man around toward the true things and thus make him phronimos. As is generally known, Plato thinks a good education is essential at this point. (519a–d) 10. Plato did not leave us an extensive analysis of the nature of phronesis. For that, we need to consult Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, book VI. Voegelin discusses Aristotle’s analysis in Anamnesis, in the chapter called ‘What is Right by Nature?’ Phronesis is conceived of as the virtue that enables man to see what is right by nature. What is right by nature is not given as an object about which one could state correct propositions once and for all. Rather, it has its being in man’s concrete experience of a justice which is everywhere the same and yet, in its realization, changeable and everywhere different. (An., p. 61)

Justice as an idea is universal, but what is just differs from case to case. Hence, in market transactions for instance, the just in general is always an equality between parties according to arithmetical proportion. (NE, 1131b25ff ) The just in every concrete case will be different, however, depending on what the parties have offered or promised each other. The general, eternal, immutable principles are not the problem, Voegelin argues here. They are usually universally known and subscribed to. The difficulty lies in judging correctly in a specific case. This is what phronesis achieves. Thus, the knowledge of what is right by nature is far removed from the knowledge of immutable, unchanging, substantive rules. The idea of natural law, as it comes to the fore in the episteme politike, is not concerned with such rules, but with the recognition of the unseen measure inherent in all concrete situations, the identification of the fitting, the experience of the agathon. This measure cannot be defined, but it can be known. It is the tacit knowledge of the phronimos, who is also called spoudaios by Aristotle. This tremendously important insight that lies at the core of the natural law tradition is what Voegelin, in the footsteps of Aristotle, struggles to put into words. Does this imply that phronesis has a special existential status after all? Does this mean that it is ontologically more fundamental than the other



virtues, if not in general, than at least with an eye on the good of man? Is this virtue the spiritual basis of man’s attunement to the order of being? Voegelin – following Aristotle – clearly believes that it is. But is this true? Or is Plato’s view more profound, that only the dikaios does what is right and is thus attuned to the order of being? Comparing Aristotles’ spoudaios to Plato’s dikaios, one cannot escape the conclusion that the first looks like a watered-down version of the latter, a dikaios without andreia, sôphrosune, and dikaiosune. But doesn’t such a man suspiciously resemble the ‘wise scoundrel’ Plato drew our attention to in the lines quoted above? BIBLIOGRAPHY Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, ed. J. Bywater, O.C.T., Oxford: Oxford University Press, n.d. Kelsen, Hans, Reine Rechtslehre, (1934), Aalen: Scientia Verlag 1994. Plato, Res Publica, ed. S.R. Slings, O.C.T., Oxford: Oxford University Press 2003. Plato, Republic, transl. Allan Bloom, New York: Basic Books, 2nd ed. 1991. Plato, Cratylus, in: Plato, Opera vol. I, ed. J. Burnet, O.C.T., Oxford: Oxford University Press, n.d. Plato, Symposion, in: Plato, Opera vol. II, ed. J. Burnet, O.C.T., Oxford: Oxford University Press, n.d. Voegelin, Eric, Order and History, 5 vols., Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana University Press 1956–87. Voegelin, Eric, The Nature of Law, vol.27 of The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana University Press 1991. Voegelin, Eric, Autobiographical Reflections, Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana University Press 1989. Voegelin, Eric, Anamnesis, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 1978.



One should achieve one of these things: learn the truth for oneself, or, if that is impossible, adopt the best and more irrefutable of men’s theories, and, borne upon this, sail through the dangers of life as upon a raft, unless someone should make that journey safer and less risky upon a firmer vessel of some divine doctrine. (Cebes to Socrates in Plato: Phaedo 85cd) But in heaven, I said, perhaps a pattern is laid up for the man who wants to see and found a city within himself on the basis of what he sees. It doesn’t make any difference whether it is or will be somewhere. For he would mind the things of this city alone, and of no other. (Plato: Republic 592b) Isn’t it quite necessary for us to agree that the very same forms and dispositions as are in the city are in each of us? (Plato: Republic 435e)

1. INTRODUCTION: PHILOSOPHY AND POETRY One of the most puzzling problems in both classical and modern political thought is the question of why men become what they are. To explore the answer to this question, we can distinguish between the question of what man is, and the question of how and why man changes. To probe what man is or becomes is to speak of man as man, or the nature of man, that is, his being. To know how and why man changes, his becoming, requires understanding his role and activity in the wider context of a political regime. And if it is possible to have knowledge of human nature, then this will include knowledge about man’s political nature as well as knowledge of the nature and structure of a regime, and the experience of living under a regime. For Plato, the nature of man is related to the nature of the political regime in a particular way – and this concerns questions



about the proper conduct of life and the meaning of justice. For Plato, the questions about human nature concern the manner in which man’s soul is ordered – and the study of the composition and ordering of the soul as a philosophic exercise is a study of its ontology. An understanding of the political nature of man has consequences for how political regimes are ordered and has normative implications for how they should be ordered. The theme of this chapter is the political soul of man, as it is described in Plato’s Republic, and the analogous relationship the soul has to the structure of the political regime. I will argue that this analogy between the city and soul, as described in the Republic, contains a theory that not only describes the nature of what man is, but also explains why men become what they are. This is a comprehensive ontological theory, of both the being and becoming of the political animal that is man. If the themes of this volume are questions surrounding the contemporary role of religion in the state, then what does Plato have anything to do with any of it? Why is it helpful to understand what Plato wrote about the three-part soul, to understand contemporary questions about belief, religion and citizenship? There must be something of a particular relationship between what a man believes to be true, what he does, and thereby, what he becomes. What one believes is nothing more or less than that what one accepts as true. A belief, for example, in a particular kind of religious revelation will be accompanied by a particular self-understanding. This in turn plays a part in the way in which man views the order of the world. Regardless of the content or truth of the belief, we can perhaps say that the fact of belief creates a particular ordering in man’s political soul – an ordering that is somehow related to his nature. We can further distinguish between knowledge and belief: everything that is known to be true is believed, but not everything that is believed is known, with reasonable certainty, to be true. According to Socrates and Plato, it is the role of philosophy to replace opinion with knowledge, while at the same time not despairing about what cannot be known. In Plato’s Phaedo, the character Cebes is unnerved by Socrates’ equanimity. Socrates is about to be executed, but the prospect of not knowing what lies beyond death does not scare him one bit. Cebes raises a question that represents a profound human need. While we cannot know for certain the truth about the most important things, life, death and our purpose in the world, is it not better to simply float on belief on the “firmer vessel of some divine doctrine” (85d)? Indeed, faith in faith is an



important source of consolation that provides elements of belief about the ordering of the universe, the place and role of man in a wider picture, and the condition of the soul after death. Such a ‘cosmology’, grounded in revelation or myth, provides a structure in which man is assigned a place and role, and belief in it will also contribute to the structure of his soul. For Socrates and Plato this will not do. The aim of philosophy is to probe nature, and replace opinion with knowledge on a rational basis, which faith qua faith does not provide. Philosophy, on the one hand, and poetry or religion on the other, thereby make competing claims to describe the nature and role of man. Both philosophy and religion (or poetry) make competing claims to describe the whole of reality, without which the particular cannot be understood.1 In Greek thought, the religious and the poetic come together in myth – indeed, given that the greatest poets Homer and Hesiod had such a great formative influence on Greek cultural and religious life, it is worth looking into what Plato called the ‘quarrel between philosophy and poetry’ (607b) in Book Ten of the Republic. Insights into contemporary politico-theological questions can be gained from studying this theme in Plato. In Greek, poie-sis literally means ‘production’, and can refer to writing or creating as such. The quarrel between poetry and philosophy concerns the fundamental differences in foundation, means and aims: where philosophy seeks to pursue knowledge and truth on a rational basis, poetry is based on the non-rational foundation of inspiration of the Muses, and the appeal of poetry is directed towards pleasure (607c). Although not every ‘divine doctrine’ appeals towards pleasure as poetry qua poetry does, the same philosophic problem applies to religion: how can we judge what is good and bad for man and the state, about a given religion or work of poetry, without having an objective standard in natural law, about what is good and bad? This cannot be accomplished if truth is dependent on the authority of the poet or prophet. The need for an independent and objective standard does not merely apply to Greek poetry in Plato’s organisation of the just state in the Republic, but also to religions and political ideologies. Erich Voegelin famously classified the revolutionary ideologies of Fascism, Marxism 1 Strauss, Natural Right and History, Chicago: Chicago University Press 1953, pp. 122–123.



and National Socialism as political religions, because their widespread appeal rested principally on their redemptive qualities. For Voegelin, the only appropriate response to such a ‘satanic political religion’ was not merely to be an upstanding human being, but to meet the threat with an equally strong ‘religiously good force’.2 With the benefit of hindsight, the urgency of his recommendation, written at the eleventh hour in 1938, was certainly a correct call for political action. But it does not settle the philosophic problem about the nature of justice or the questions of the human condition about how one ought to live. For if the political religion as such is the political problem, and Voegelin considers a better political religion as the solution – then the preference between the two types of religion cannot be settled by either. The standard by which to judge a religion as either good or evil cannot be settled on a religious horizon, but a different standard must be found independently by which to judge both. Voegelin does not himself provide this standard in The Political Religions,3 and this lacuna made him an easy target for criticism by philosophers who focused on classical natural right and natural law. If we are concerned with the questions pertaining to man as man, then we are concerned with nature. And to pursue or understand natural law, we must engage in political philosophy. One of the best places to find this is in the political philosophy of Plato’s Republic, which provides a standard of justice and the just life, based on the structure of the soul and the regime. The model of the soul of the Republic is its theory of the nature and composition of man, which is extended to a theory of the nature and composition of the regime. Because Plato draws normative conclusions from a model of human nature, both about the proper work of man, and the proper ordering of a regime, this is essentially a political theory of natural law and natural right. The analogy between soul and city is a famous motif of the Republic, and the subject of debate and a considerable variety of interpretations in recent years.4 In the view of this author, the analogy between the soul and the state contains the most important lessons of the Republic, because 2 Voegelin, ‘The Political Religions’, in: Manfred Henningsen (Ed.) Modernity without restraint, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 5, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000, pp. 19ff., originally published in Vienna, 1938. p. 24. 3 Voegelin does not provide the philosophic standard in The Political Religions (1938). Only much later did Voegelin provide this standard, to which his voluminous Order and History (1956ff) was devoted. 4 A great variety of incompatible interpretations of the city-soul analogy has emerged in recent years, partially due to selective emphasis. Unfortunately, the current chapter will not include a detailed commentary on other interpretations.



it provides an account of human nature and the political regime, that not only describes what men and states are, but also explains why they become what they are. This chapter is principally concerned with advancing an interpretation of the analogy between city and soul of Plato’s Republic, arguing that it is principally an ontological theory about the nature of the political that has three major aspects. Just as there is a Trias of the whole, the part and the individual, the city-soul analogy also operates in three distinct ways. The first aspect of the analogy is referred to as the Analogy as Mirror, which describes the whole man and the whole political regime and reveals that they are alike. The second aspect of the analogy is referred to as the Analogy as Natural Law, and concerns the virtues in the parts of the soul, and the arrangement of social classes. Thirdly, the Analogy as Theory of Becoming concerns the individual, and describes how man operates and changes within the structure of the city. These three aspects of the analogy are taken up in the three main sections of this chapter.5 A further interpretative claim is that, when these three distinct aspects of the analogy that pertain to the whole city and soul, to the part and to the individual – are taken together, we gain a theory that is more than the sum of its parts, which is referred to as Plato’s political ontology – a comprehensive theory about the being and becoming of man in the political regime. But if Plato’s theory is about the political regimes, what does this have to do with religion? Firstly, Plato works to establish an order about the nature of the soul and the structure of justice based on the cardinal virtues – he does so on a rational basis, but at the same time he embraces the beauty of the best poetry by virtue of his magnificent writing. It is no coincidence that Plato is still read for pleasure. As a great writer, therefore, he uses poetry in the service of philosophy. The second manner in which poetry is used in the service of philosophy is in the just state itself. Given that the idea of philosophic justice is related to a hierarchy of the cardinal virtues, an order is established. As we shall see in the section on the Analogy as Natural Law below, Socrates introduces the ‘Noble Lie’, a founding myth about the city that fulfils the role of a civil 5

Plato presents an ontological theory of the soul and state, which operates in three ways. The term ‘analogy’ is used throughout this paper, because this is a scholarly custom. In many ways the term ‘analogy’ is less appropriate for the second and third senses, because we deal with an ontological theory. Nonetheless, for convenience, the custom is not abandoned.



religion, which ordinary citizens ought to believe in order to acquiesce to the hierarchy of the state. Finally, and most importantly, the three aspects of the analogy taken together, Plato’s political ontology, provide a generic and objective standard by which to judge the health of a given regime, by examining its structure, its valuing of virtues and judging what kinds of men it is likely to produce. This comprehensive natural law teaching can also be applied to examine and judge the structures of religions or sub-political regimes. Taken together, Plato provides us with a theory that tells us what men are and why they become what they are, and allows us to judge the standards of a religion, ideology or political regime, without being trapped by the parameters. Plato’s Republic is deeply relevant for our time, not because it is good to analyse Plato for the sake of our education, but because Plato analyses us better than we tend to understand ourselves. Let us look at the Republic in detail.

2. THE ANALOGY OF CITY AND SOUL AS MIRROR Plato’s Republic is best known for its account of an ‘ideal’ state, or a most just polis; however, the Greek title of this work is not Kallipolis (‘beautiful city’) or Aristokratia, but Politeia, which means ‘regime’, ‘constitution’ or ‘order’. Indeed, the Republic is as much about the other regimes it addresses in speech, from the small village in Book Two to the regime of the afterlife in the Myth of Er in Book Ten. The five most important regimes remain the ideal state or the aristocracy, the timocracy, the oligarchy, the democracy and the tyranny, but others can be identified also. The regimes of sub-political units, such as the school, family and military are also addressed. Philosophically relevant regimes can also be identified in the dramatic setting of the dialogue, in the interactions between the characters, in the location and in the historic subtext of Athens’ future defeat by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War. Regimes can also be identified in the views on justice that the interlocutors express – views that reflect their personalities and relate to corresponding regimes. Since this work covers so many regimes, and is indeed an attempt to cover all possible orders, following the original title Politeia we are justified in saying that Plato’s Republic is about the regime as such. So how does Plato approach the question of the nature of the regime? In this section, the character of the soul and city are considered, as well as the application of the analogy as a mirror of likeness.



The primary question of the Republic concerns how one ought to live: does the just or the injust life make you happier? For an answer, a secondary question is pursued about what justice and injustice themselves are. To answer this secondary question, Plato probes the nature of man by drawing an image of the soul, and probes the nature of the political order by examining its structure. Plato then connects the image of the soul to the image of the state by an analogy, where the state describes the soul and the soul explains the state. Rather than probe the idea of justice abstractly, the Republic is concerned with the manner in which justice and injustice manifest themselves in the city, and in man. But how does this analogy work? Why are we justified in using the same terms as ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ to refer to both man and a political regime? Why is it possible to ascribe human traits to cities, or characteristics of a city to man – and what purpose does this serve in the Republic? Socrates notes early on that the common linguistic designations do not apply to both the city and man merely by coincidence or convention. He notes that “the single man – with these same forms in his soul – thanks to the same affections as those in the city, rightly lays claim to the same names” (435bc). In other words, the common use of the terms ‘justice’ and ‘injustice’ may refer to both cities and men, because they in fact refer to something that is intrinsically identical. The same ‘forms’ and ‘affections’ are present in both the city and man, and it is this ontological element of a shared pattern that permits the same linguistic designations to apply to both. This is the first important ontological assumption that underlies this analogy between the soul and the city, and therefore the just man is said to be like the just state, or that man and regime mirror each other. The mirroring is justified, because a common underlying pattern or structure has reflections in both the city and man. The more profound philosophic lessons of the Republic are therefore not merely about the city or man, but about the ontology of the common pattern. The term ‘analogy’ that is generally used for this motif in the Republic may be slightly misleading, because it refers only to a likeness, but not to a common ontology. The analogy as a mirror of likeness, however, is the most obvious aspect of this motif. In the narrative of the Republic, the city is used to explain the personality of man, and man is described in terms of the political movements of his soul. The personality of a just man is described as a well-ordered hierarchy and internal harmony between the parts of his soul; much as a just state pertains to the harmony and hierarchy between its social classes. Defective souls and a variety of psychological pathologies are described



politically, as factional strife or stasis, between the parts of the soul. Moreover, failed states have similarly imbalanced personality patterns. The Republic has several narrative structures. In the linear structure, both the city and soul are constructed and the narrative switches from city to soul and back by appealing to the analogy. In addition, the Republic has an ‘onion’ structure of several circles that surround the core questions: the primary question of whether the just or the unjust life is happier, is raised in Book One and settled in Book Nine. The philosophic core of the Republic is contained in Books Five through Seven, and the analogy between city and soul principally figures in the layer that surrounds the core: Books Four, Eight and Nine. In Book Four, the model of the three-part soul is carefully constructed following a discussion of the cardinal virtues. In Books Eight and Nine, the celebrated passage of the ‘decline’, the analogy between city and soul is applied without explicitly re-appraising the many assumptions that are carefully assembled in Book Four. The city as a whole is a mirror describing or reflecting the entire soul of man, and conversely, the image of the soul is an account of the entire city. In the linear narrative of the Republic, this is the most obvious and explicit aspect of the analogy. In Book Two, the question of the justice of man cannot be answered by looking at man, and so Socrates turns to the city, which may be ‘like’ man, because cities may also be described as ‘just’. The discussion reverts from city to soul and back at different points in the Republic, and each time the switch is justified with an invocation of ‘likeness’, using the terms homoiotes or homoios. The purpose of the analogy as mirror is principally didactic: in the ‘decline’ of Books Eight and Nine, where a variety of men is related to a variety of regimes, it is the full account of the horrors of a tyrannical regime that brings home very harshly the constitution of the soul of the tyrant – the thorough misery of which persuasively settles the primary question of the Republic that the unjust life could never be happier than the just life. One important explicit lesson of the Republic, the answer to the first question about happiness that motivates the entire discussion, is thus settled with the help of the analogy as mirror. But what is it that justifies using the city as a mirror for the soul, and vice versa? There are several elements that make this part of the analogy ‘work’. As noted above, common structural elements, such as the paradeigma, provide a needed metaphysical element for the argument (see below).



More important, however, is the manner in which the soul and the city are modelled: the city looks like a man with structural elements shared by ‘personalities’, and the model of the soul is reduced to its political movements, and described in political terms. The manner in which the city and the soul are described indicates that Plato consciously constructed these towards an analogy. Let us consider the character of the city and the model of the soul in greater detail. The Personality of the City and the Political Soul What do we know about the organisation of the regimes described in the Republic? In the first two cities of Book Two, a division of labour and the first division of classes are described. In the ‘pure’ working classonly ‘city of pigs’, the natural moderation and division of tasks create spontaneous justice, without requiring laws, political institutions or theories. In the second, feverish city, eros and the desires are released, and the swelling population requires a guardian class to protect its property and to wage wars of acquisition. From purging the luxurious city of its vices (Book Three), the discussion about education, military training and rulership leads the discussion to the most just state (Books Four through Seven). In the passage of the ‘decline’ (Books Eight and Nine), the personalities of men are correlated to the characters of states, where the emphasis is also on their structure. The democratic state, for example, is described as a many-coloured robe, much like the chaos within the soul of the democratic man, but we hear nothing about the deliberative or administrative procedures by which this regime operates – merely that the majority (of desires) has taken over “the Acropolis of the young man’s soul” (559b). Other than the education system of the best state, there is very little discussion of many essential institutional elements of any political regime, such as the institutions of political and judicial deliberation, their bureaucratic procedures or the substance of laws. We cannot claim that Plato was uninterested in these matters, since the Apology, Crito, Statesman and Laws concern many practicalities of legal procedures and the interrelation of governmental institutions. What matters for the Republic, on the other hand, are only a limited set of aspects of the regimes in question. In the regimes described, we are told about social classes, their desires, hierarchy, education and division of labour, about the political expression of virtues and vices, as well as about the structure and



character of the cities. In other words, in the Republic only those aspects and institutional details are mentioned that are also the traits of man. A city has a good education system, much as a man can be well educated, but we do not read anything about the bureaucracy that administers the education system, or about other stately legal and procedural matters that find no obvious parallels in the soul of man. What we know about the city, it seems, are mainly those traits that the soul shares. One may therefore conclude that the city is consciously assembled towards an analogous likeness with the soul. Is it possible to say something similar about the manner in which the soul is constructed? The model of the three-part soul is carefully assembled in Book Four. Its three parts, the seats of reason, spirit and desire, possess corresponding virtues and vices. The four cardinal virtues – wisdom, courage, moderation and justice – in succession guide the discussion in which the model of the soul is constructed. The resulting picture of a soul distinguished as three parts is not an attempt at a complete or realistic psychology, but one that is narrowed down to politically relevant parts and politically relevant movements. In addition, the soul itself is also spoken of in political terms. It is described as having a population of desires, whose parts are political entities. Political terms are used to describe the manner in which these parts of the soul stand in relation to each other, such as ‘faction’ (442d) and ‘ruling part’ (442c). An unhealthy soul is “mastered by the inferior multitude” (431a), as if the bundle of lower desires were a population of citizens. The genesis of the democratic man out of the oligarchic man is described as a factional conflict within the soul, in which fatherly authority is a ‘counter-alliance’ of the ‘oligarchic party’ in his soul against the multitude of licentious, unnecessary desires, who eventually rise from exile and commit an internal coup to yield the democratic man (560ab). The actions and passions of the soul as a whole are therefore principally political. What can we say about the manner in which the three parts of the soul operate and move? Two major arguments establish that the soul has three parts, and three minor arguments follow that restrict the way in which the soul functions. Socrates argues that the soul must have a higher and a lower element, because terms like ‘self-control’ imply that one better part of the self is controlling another lower part (431). The soul is further divided into three parts, by virtue of the anecdote of one Leontius (440), who could



not resist staring at a pile of corpses (a conflict between the higher and lower parts). When he saw them, Leontius was angry with himself, and the source of this anger was neither the lower desires, nor higher reason. Socrates has hereby demonstrated that there must be a third part of the soul, the spirit, which must be the seat of anger. This model of the three-part soul that Plato draws in the Republic is subject to several restrictions, which narrow down the ways in which the soul operates (perhaps beyond psychological realism). The three parts of the soul move separately, and the interrelation between them determines both the human type and the soul’s ‘health’. In Book Four, the soul is carefully constructed, and the three main assumptions that are introduced into the model simplify its parts and movements. These are the following: non-contradiction, the excluded middle (the soul cannot stand still), and the exclusion of non-political movements. The first two are familiar axioms of formal logic that preclude the construction of counter-examples that may contradict Plato’s theory; the last element ensures that the model of the soul is fully consistent with the analogy. Concerning the parts of the soul, Socrates notes that it is impossible that “the same, at the same time, with respect to the same part and in relation to the same thing, could ever suffer, be, or do opposites” (436e437a). This axiom of non-contradiction is introduced to prevent further subdivision of the soul into more than three parts, by stating that it is impossible to have a conflict within the same part of the soul, at the same time, with respect to the same thing.6 Secondly, the types of movements that these parts of the soul are capable of are severely restricted. Both affections and actions are conflated as movements of the parts of the soul (473b). It is not possible for the soul to stand still (depression or indifference), because all non-motions are conflated with all negative motions (473c). These restrictions simplify the model of the soul beyond a realistic picture, but in so doing, counter-examples that may be used against the overall theories of the Republic are pre-empted.7 6 If we smuggle in the logical axiom of the ‘identity of indiscernibles’, then Buridan’s Ass may be seen as a counterexample to this rule: an indecisive donkey that starves to death between two identical haystacks, representing a conflict within the same part of the soul, at the same time, with respect to the ‘same’ thing. Interestingly, after Socrates has introduced his version of the axiom of non-contradiction, he admits he cannot prove it is always true, by qualifying with: “let’s assume that this is so and go ahead” (437a). In an elegant display of Socratic ignorance, Plato thus allows for the possibility of counterexamples, but does not interfere here with the main narrative. 7 See the Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, ed. G.R.F. Ferrari, especially G.R.F. Ferrari, ‘The Three Part Soul’, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007, p. 171.



The kinds of movements of the three-part soul are fixed with these restrictions, but why is it composed of only three parts? If the lowest part corresponds with desires for sex and money; and spirit is the place of anger, honour and shame; and reason the place of philosophy and good political counsel, then can we not have more parts of the soul that account for other non-political movements, such as the perceptive part of the soul of Aristotle’s De Anima? Socrates explicitly concedes that “if there are some other parts in between, he binds them together and becomes entirely one from many, moderate and harmonized” (443d). If other parts of the soul, in other words, are conceivable and may very well exist, why are they left out of the story of the Republic? In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle introduces a four-part soul (1102b–1103a10), dividing the soul into rational and irrational parts, the irrational subdivided into a vegetative and appetitive part; and the rational subdivided into a purely rational and a rational-appetitive part. In the De Anima, Aristotle divides the soul into three parts, into the vegetative-nutritive, perceptive and rational-intellectual components, each part with a variety of actions and passions. In the Ethics, the model of the four-part soul serves to develop an ethical theory on the basis of the interrelation between the rational and the irrational in the human soul. Although the De Anima is the treatise of the soul as such (there is barely any mention made of man), the division there serves to explain a larger hierarchy of species, from plants to animals to humans. The image of the soul of Plato’s Phaedo concerns its characteristics as distinct from those of the body. The three-part soul of the Phaedrus serves to describe the dialectic between madness (mania) and sobriety (phronesis), in the white and black horses that pull a carriage, with the rider as a moderator between these two. In all these cases, the model and type of soul is indelibly related to the type of theory advanced. In the Republic, Plato introduces a tripartite soul for developing a political theory, and given its character and restrictions, we may refer to it as the ‘political soul’.8 Ferrari notes that the parts of the soul move according to opposites in conflict with each other, rather than negatives: e.g. the opposition between inclination and pulling away; the opposite of desiring is not a ‘non-desire’ but an active repulsion. A theory of opposites, rather than a theory of negatives, automatically introduces an ‘excluded middle’ axiom, just as there is no zero in Greek mathematics. 8 The Timaeus explicitly extrapolates from the discussion of the Republic, which had happened ‘the night before’, and also concerns a three-part soul that is used for non-political purposes. Both the Apology and Crito contain implicit tripartite divisions in the relationship between seeking honour, seeking money and seeking reason, justice or



Five Paradeigmata With a city that is restricted in its structure and personality, and with a soul that is narrowed to its political movements, the analogy between the city and soul is perhaps less of a miracle. Both the city and the soul, in their very construction, are consciously modelled towards an analogy with the other. The city is therefore not coincidentally like man; and vice versa, it is no coincidence that the soul looks like a city. Nevertheless, given these similarities, a basic question remains unanswered. Because if Socrates notes in Book Two that only common forms and affections in both cities and souls allow one to “rightly lays claim to the same names” (435bc) of justice, injustice and so on – then what is it exactly that the souls and cities actually share? What is meant by these ‘forms’? In Book Five, Socrates tells us that the philosophic pursuit of understanding what justice and injustice are (the secondary question of the Republic) was therefore, for the sake of a pattern (…) that we were seeking both what justice itself is like, and for the perfectly just man (…). Weren’t we, as we assert, also making a pattern in speech of a good city? (472ce)

The pattern or model ( paradeigma) seems to be what the city and soul share – a more concrete version of a Platonic idea with a particular structure that refers to political entities, cities and men alike. The common names of just and unjust can apply to both cities and men, because they refer to the common paradeigmata – and in the analogy between city and soul, therefore, neither the soul nor the city is ‘primary’. What is primary is the paradeigma, the common structure, and Plato’s political ontology principally concerns an investigation of the ‘ontology of the patterns’ – which is Plato’s account of the human political condition, and in the view of this author, this is the ultimate lesson of the Republic. With this ontological element in place, Socrates can proceed in the latter parts of the Republic systematically to the decline from the failed cities to men who are like them. In the Decline of Books Eight and Nine, after the construction of the aristocratic regime and the kingly philosophic wisdom. All together, these indicate that the categorical division of three levels of virtues and vices that correspond to the parts of the soul where they occur had been with Plato long before and after his composition of the Republic. Nonetheless, these facts about other writings of Plato do not in any way negate the fact that the three-part soul of the Republic is a political soul, with political movements as part of a political theory.



aristocrat, four failing regimes and their corresponding men are described, down to the tyranny and tyrant. In this passage, for each city, Socrates systematically describes four elements: the genesis of the city, the character of the city, the character of man and the genesis of man.9 The analogy as mirror, the first sense of the analogy we are concerned with, describes the nature of cities, and by that token, describes what their particular corresponding men are by their souls – an essential didactic element of the Republic which is needed to settle the primary question: the character of the tyranny is needed to understand the character of the tyrant, in order to demonstrate that the unjust life can never be happy. The account of the personalities of the five cities and the souls of five men has been considered as more of a psychological lesson than a realistic account of political revolutions. But it should not be forgotten that it is a characteristic of Platonism to view everything in terms of ontology – that is, the view that to fundamentally grasp and settle a problem philosophically, be it a question of epistemology, ethics, psychology, politics or aesthetics, means to turn to its ontology, its nature, its being – where the abstract is something permanent, and therefore more real than anything visible or perishable. The five cities and the five men are, above all, accounts of paradeigmata, patterns that describe and explain particular structures of the political, structures that underlie both cities and men. The most just state in Plato’s Republic, referred to as the aristocracy, is an aristocracy of merit. The three social classes of workers, guardians and philosopher-kings, represent in ascending order the capabilities for virtues, where each citizen performs a social role according to the highest abilities of his or her soul. (We will return to the question of natural law in the next section.) In the best regime, the aristocracy, each class, each citizen, each part of the soul, is ‘doing its job’. There is no private property in the top two classes of rulers and guardians in this state and there is no slavery at the bottom either. 9

See the Appendix for a tabulated overview of these four narrative elements for each city. In the timocracy, the character of the man is described before the genesis of man; whereas the genesis of man is described before the character of man in the oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. Plato likely made this slight structural switch in order to end the ‘decline’ with the account of the character of the tyrant – in order to settle the primary question of the Republic about happiness.



The first stage of collapse into the timocracy, towards the regime of the lovers of honour, or time-, starts with social reordering of property. The real estate that was kept in common among the top two classes in the aristocratic socialism of the just state is seized as private property by the military class. In a striking similarity to Sparta, these men further enslave members of the working class, and turn towards a full-time preoccupation with war and guarding against any rebellion of their ‘helots’ (547c). The make-up of this regime is presented as being ‘in between’ aristocracy and oligarchy, sharing some traits of both, and possessing some unique traits as well. Like the aristocracy, the timocratic regime values the gumnastike¯ and war, but mousike¯ and logos are absent from the curriculum. The balance will tip towards simple leaders more inclined to wage war, because the wise are kept out of politics (547e).10 The traits this city shares with an oligarchy are a love of money, and the trait unique to the timocracy is that it is a regime defined by a love of honour. This selection of aristocratic, oligarchic and unique traits, taken together, tells us what the timocratic man is: a lover of victory; conscious of a hierarchy of honour; he is obedient to rulers, tame to his equals and brutal to slaves (549a). In addition, he is a lover of gumnastike¯ and the hunt – while the logos and mousike- are absent from his soul. From this side-by-side comparison, Socrates concludes that the “timocratic youth is like the timocratic city” (549b), where the traits and structure of the whole of the large, describe the traits and structure of the small. The next stage of the ‘decline’ is an account of the oligarchy, the regime where the rich rule, and where the threshold for rulership is determined by property and not by relevant capacities (551e). Apart from the rulers, just about all the people in the city are beggars, described as drones and buzzing bees; some of whom are stingless, harmless old beggars. But against those “wrongdoers with stings” (552e), spirited beggars or thieves, the rulers must be on guard. This regime is also the first to allow


This is the first instance of a systemic injustice against a virtue. The wise are not absent from the city, but when they are kept out of politics, the city as a whole will not value, appreciate or allow for the political or military expression of the virtue of wisdom. In the ‘decline’ as a whole, the slide from perfect justice to perfect injustice also entails this steady breakdown of the possibilities for expressing virtues. This is an element of the ‘theory of becoming’ of the third sense of the analogy, described below.



“the greatest of all evils” (552a), a withdrawal from active citizenship, or voluntary quietism.11 Just like the city, the oligarchic man holds money in honourable esteem and within his own soul, ‘some decent part of himself ’ holds down all unnecessary desires that may interfere with the acquisition of money. Just like the city (and just like the character Polemarchus in Book One), his conception of justice is based on a “good reputation in contractual relations” (554cd). In addition, as with the drone thieves present in the city, his inner drone gives him an urge “to spend what belongs to others” (554d). Just as in the case of the timocracy, these elements of the oligarchic regime, all taken together, draw up a psychological pattern of the man’s soul, and hence the man is said to be like the regime. The next stage of collapse, the second to worst regime for Plato, is the democracy. What is exactly the character of the democratic regime? For the first time in the section of the ‘decline’, the term paradeigma is introduced and is used to refer to lifestyle choices. Socrates notes that “thanks to its licence, it contains all species of regimes” ( politeiai ) (557d), where politeia can refer to organisations, institutions, as well as to people’s souls. The democratic regime is so undefined, has so much negative liberty, that any citizen may choose paradeigmata, patterns, as if all are equally available in a general store (557d). But how can we draw the analogy and claim that the man is like the regime, if there is an infinite variety of men? We cannot multiply or generalise all these various kinds of men to add up to the essential characteristic of the regime of democracy.12 If we cannot generalise from such variety, then how can the democratic city be considered to be like the democratic man? Not in outcome of choices and actions, not in the actualisation of potential, but in structure are democratic man and democracy alike. They are equivalent, because both have flattened any internal hierarchy. The city has flattened the political and social hierarchy by making an infinity of paradeigmata available to the citizen, where good and bad lifestyle choices are considered equal; and the citizen has flattened the hierarchy in his soul by treating all desires within as equal – necessary and 11

See the section on quietism below for an elaboration on this detail. As Bernard Williams claims in his critique of the ‘predominance view’ (Williams, ‘The Analogy of City and Soul in Plato’s Republic’, reprinted in Gail Fine (ed.), Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion and the Soul, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). See also Ferrari, City and Soul in Plato’s Republic, Chicago: Chicago University Press 2003, pp. 73–75, for a discussion of democracy and a response to Williams on this point. 12



unnecessary. This “sweet regime” dispenses “a certain equality to equals and unequals alike” (558c), and the democratic man will gratify the whim of the desire that occurs to him. Because this doctrine of equality applies to possibilities in the state and also to the potential of the soul in man, all desires “must be honoured on an equal basis” (561c). Man is like the city, therefore, not due to appearance, not due to content, but due to structure – and as a question of ordering, the common politeia of democracy and the democratic man is therefore a matter of ontology. Finally, the tyranny and the tyrant remain. The licence of the democratic regime leads to the chaos of anarchy, which make the rise of a tyrant possible, yielding “the greatest and most savage slavery out of the extreme of freedom” (564a). In the aforementioned constitutions, the structure of the regime is followed by the description of man.13 In the case of the tyranny and tyrant, the descriptions of the character of city and character of man are tied closer together, because both are focused on the tyrant. We can distinguish, however, between the descriptions of how the tyrant acts politically (566d–569c) and how the tyrant lives (573d–576c). What the tyrant does politically is immediately a part of the character of the state.14 Therefore, when Socrates points out that the tyrant “suspects certain men of having free thoughts” (567a), this suspicion is one that is entertained by the state as a whole. Similarly, the state as a whole is constantly stirring up war, and always on the lookout against anyone who is “courageous, who is great-minded, who is prudent, who is rich” (567a–c). Just as the timocracy systemically committed an injustice to wisdom as such, by keeping the wise out of politics, so the tyrant’s suspicion makes it that the tyranny as a whole is at war with the virtues as such, systemically the enemy of anything that is the highest in


See the Appendix and Part 4 on the analogy as ‘theory of becoming’ below: In addition to the description of the state and the description of man (application of the analogy as mirror), the passage of the ‘decline’ also describes the genesis of the city and the genesis of man. 14 Imposing the structure of the soul onto the city, or ‘externalisation’ (to borrow a term after Jonathan Lear, ‘Inside and Outside the Republic’, Phronesis, 37.2 (1992) pp. 184–215) is only possible in the Tyranny, as Ferrari rightly notes in his critique of Lear (City and Soul, op. cit. pp. 50–53, 94–100). It is the only instance where one may speak of a direct causality from the soul to the state, though such ‘direct causality’ is ultimately not the causality that significantly matters for the theory of the soul-state analogy. See Part 4 below for this author’s interpretation of the analogy as containing a theory of becoming in a non-deterministic indirect causality.



man. Those who dare to demonstrate their wisdom, courage or justice will be immediately assaulted as enemies of the state. The people are thus reduced to slavery. Their own desire for maximal freedom has led to the chaos that made it possible for the tyrant to do away with all freedom that brought about the worst slavery for all. In a mirror image of the most just state, we are also left with a three-class city, with the tyrant at the top, the drones who commit violence against citizens at the tyrant’s bidding, and obedient citizenslaves at the bottom – a far cry from the enlightened philosopher-king who presides over guardians and a working class. The tyrant himself is formed by a “tyrannical turn of mind” (573b). In an inversion of the Socratic upward turn of the soul to philosophy, the tyrant turns downward towards desires and the compulsion of their fulfilment. Whereas the Socratic turn is grounded in a realisation of what one does not know and wonder, forming the basis of a lifelong activity of asking questions, the tyrannical turn is a complete submission and maximal political realisation of all desires that man can imagine – regardless of laws and customs, overthrowing all restraints, ruining the lives or property of others, even of his parents. In a final inversion of the cardinal virtues, the characteristics of the tyrant include the vices of being “drunken, erotic and melancholic” (578c). An intense “crowd of desires” will constantly “pilot all the elements of his soul”, especially towards the unnecessary desires which lead him to expropriation of his parents’ property and parricide for the sake of sex (574a–d). The tyrant is further identified by his eros, which lives within him “like a tyrant in all anarchy and lawlessness” (575a). Where eros was described as a tyrannical master in Book One by the aged Cephalus (329c), the tyrant is described as the embodiment of eros in Book Nine. The psychological portrait of the tyrant, with his fear, desire and slavishness is brought back to Book One, and the principal question which drives the narrative of the Republic, whether the just or unjust life is happier, is now settled. The Mirror as Lesson The psychological depth and insight that these portraits provide is made possible by the common ontology that justifies placing a city next to man, and only in this way can the most important questions of the Republic be settled, the most important lessons taught. The analogy as a mirror of city and man, supported by a common pattern, principally



has a didactic purpose. The purpose of this comparative and indirect sense of the analogy is to teach us the being of man, by reflecting on the structure of his corresponding city. This didactic function of this part of the analogy is enough to settle the primary question of the Republic: only by completing the description of the tyranny can the switch be made to the tyrant himself, which in turn definitively establishes that the unjust life is the unhappiest life of all. Ferrari rightly notes that it seems that we must already to be disposed to see ourselves as microcosms, as the city-soul analogy recommends, in order to find convincing the account of the tyrannical man’s unhappiness that is the outcome of this analogy.15

Indeed, the paradeigmata, or patterns drawn up in the passage of the ‘decline’ provide a thorough descriptive account of what men are, and their corresponding cities – mirrored portraits that teach us about absolute and relative happiness by revealing ontological pictures of the nature and ordering of human political souls. But a cursory glance at the Decline reveals that this is not the whole story. Not merely are the characters of men and cities described in this passage, but also the genesis and change of the cities, and thereby also the genesis and change of the corresponding men. Indeed, the narrative structure of the ‘decline’ clearly delineates between four elements: the genesis of each city, the character of the city, the character of man and the genesis of man.16 The first sense of the analogy as mirror only accounts for a part of this story in establishing the likeness between the description of the character of the city, and the description of the character of man. The analogy as mirror, making use of a common paradeigma or pattern, merely asserts the likeness between city and man, comparing the whole structure of the city to the entire political soul of man. What this sense of the analogy does not do is to account for the experience of the citizen living within the city; the mirror, as such, does not explain how man changes. Metaphysically put: the analogy as mirror is a theory of being, but not a theory of becoming. The ‘decline’, however, also describes in detail how men and cities change, so the mirror cannot be all that there is to the analogy between city and soul. The mirror compares city and man, but does not tell us anything about the direct encounter of a man’s soul within the structure of the city. 15 16

Ferrrari, City and Soul, op. cit. p. 100. See Appendix.



To return to the principal question of this chapter: according to Plato, why do men become what they are? We need a descriptive account of what various types of men are – and this is provided in the model of the political soul, the structure of the city, a common paradeigma, and the analogy as their mirror; but we also need an explanation of why men in cities behave the way they do, and by that token, why they become what they are. What is needed is a theory about the direct experience of man in the city – and in fact, Plato provides this in the Republic, in the analogy between city and soul, which also operates in two more ways: a theory of becoming of the individual and a meritocratic theory of justice and natural law. We will now turn our attention first to the latter: a theory of justice and natural law. 3. THE ANALOGY OF CITY AND SOUL: NATURAL LAW The questions of the just life in the Republic lead to questions about justice itself. The just man has a harmoniously structured soul, and the just city has a harmoniously structured order of classes. It is not merely a question of having just people rule the city to make the city just, but the structure of the city must be intrinsically just as well. What are the structural or systemic considerations for political or social justice in the state? In the discussion on the cardinal virtues in Book Four, where the parts of the soul are delineated, their place in the city is also discussed. With a hierarchy matching a just soul, wisdom applies to the ruling class, courage to the top two classes and moderation to all classes, whereas justice applies to all classes as well as to the structure of the city as a whole. What does this social ordering of virtues say about the manner in which the state is to organise itself ? What, in other words, does the analogy between city and soul tell us about how the state should relate to its citizens, and the citizens to the state? What is the nature of the justice that exists in the implicit ‘social contract’ between the state and the citizen? What is the relation between the city’s responsibilities of governance (or citizens’ rights), and the responsibilities of active citizenship (or citizens’ duties)? To answer these questions requires examining the kind of natural law and meritocracy that characterises the idea of political justice in the just state. The justice of the city concerns the treatment of its citizens and the arrangement and functioning of its parts. In addition, there is a crucial aspect of the justice of the whole city that is generally neglected in the



scholarship: the structure of the city as a whole is just when it structurally values the highest in men, and allows the citizens to express their highest capacities in the state. This is its systemic justice. Accordingly, good governance targets the soul of its citizen as the object of justice, who is provided with the maximum possible expression of his and her highest capacities. The idea of systemic justice that treats the soul as its object makes the most just state of Plato’s Republic the purest conceivable meritocracy – pure, because it cuts through gender and family lines, in order to maintain its focus of justice on the abilities of the soul and nothing else. In this delicate framework, the ‘Noble Lie’ serves a purpose as a civil religion, a social preservative, which also reveals Plato’s views about the relationship between philosophy and religion. The Soul as Object and Agent of Justice The idea of justice that is related to the first city described in Book Two is that every man must do one job and fulfil one purpose. This definition is extended in Book Four to apply to every man, every class and every part of the soul, which should each do its job, remain in its place and be “minding its own business” (433a, 434c, 435b, 453b). The criterion for identifying who should do which job and why, is that “for which his nature made him naturally most fit” (433a). If the ranking of a city is done according to this kind of natural law, then what is the criterion of nature based on? In other words: nature of what? When the first working class-only city collapsed into a feverish and luxurious city in Book Two, a class of guardians is introduced out of a need to protect its property and to wage wars of acquisition. When they are first introduced into the city, the guardians are recruited from the best and the bravest of the working class, whose “natures … are fit for guarding the city” (374e). Similarly, in Book Four, the members of the ruling class are recruited from the best of the guardian class (428de). These social rankings are made according to the best abilities of the citizens, and these abilities pertain only to their capacities for expressing virtues, the capacities of the soul. In the discussion of Book Five, Socrates extends this view of nature to exclude any irrelevant physical features. If it were the nature of bald men to be shoemakers, it would seem silly to exclude longhaired men from the trade (454b). Not only are there no relevant differences in nature between men of the moneymaking class, but jobs within that class are also interchangeable without harm (434a). Socrates continues



that anyone who possesses higher natures should be eligible for a role in the guardian class. He takes this view of nature, and radically extends it across gender lines. The virtue of courage, andreia in Greek, which literally means ‘manliness’, is a virtue of the soul. As such, gender is not a relevant part of the nature of andreia employed in the Republic: If either the class of men or that of women shows its superiority in some art or other practice, then we will assert that that art must be assigned to it. But if they look as though they differ in this alone …, we will assert that it has not thereby proved that a woman differs from a man with respect to what we’re talking about. (454de)

And ‘what we’re talking about’ concerns the soul and the capacities the individual man or woman has for the expression of virtue, and this applies “only to the pursuits themselves” (454c), i.e. only to the ability for good working, good soldiering or good ruling. In this way, the structure of the state becomes layered socially according to the virtues of its citizens. The state is itself structured so as to give greater social and political responsibility, and higher social status, to men and women of increasing virtues in their souls. In its very social structure, the state systemically values the excellences of the soul. In addition, this systemic justice very specifically has the soul as its object. This is, in fact, a different kind of application of an analogy between the soul and the state – as it is the capacity of the soul, and nothing other than the capacity of the soul, that ensures a citizen’s placement in a particular class. To organise governance by treating the soul, rather than the body, as the object of justice implies very different policy priorities. If the body is the sole object of justice, then the provision of nourishment and shelter will suffice for state policy. Treating the soul as the object of justice, and ordering the state accordingly, entails a systemic justice towards capacity as such. This goes far beyond the fulfilment of basic needs, because the state not only allows but also actively encourages the maximisation of any excellence that benefits the state.17 In so doing, it fulfils the needs

17 This leaves open the problem of certain kinds of human excellence that are bad for the state. How should the state treat someone whose excellence is damaging, such as a famous poet, without impairing respect for excellence as such? Plato provides an answer to this puzzle in Book Three. The poet is banished kindly, promoted away with a literary award: ‘We would send him to another city, with myrrh poured over his head and crowned with wool’ (398a).



of the soul – which is the citizen’s right. In return for this systemic justice, the citizens are expected to perform their own role in society, according to the nature of their soul. In addition to the soul being the state’s object of justice, the dynamic of the constitution demands that each citizen should fulfil the duty according to his or hers soul’s capacity. The soul is, in other words, also the agent of justice, and a measure of deference to this delicate balance is expected of each citizen as well. The natural law that underlies this balance of rights and duties ensures that there are no non-participants or quietists either, whether voluntary on involuntary. This structure according to merit and capacity for virtue is very fragile. As noted above, jobs are interchangeable without harm within a class, but the danger is when lower natures of low desires and money grubbing become a part of the higher political and military spheres. If a money-maker by nature, inflated by wealth, multitude, strength, or something else of the kind, tries to get into the class of the warrior, or one of the warriors who is unworthy into that of the advisor and the guardian, and these men exchange tools and honours with one another; or when the same man tries to do all these things at once – then I suppose it’s also your opinion that this change in them and this meddling are the destruction of the city. (434b)

The lower natures are permitted to chase business life, but not to enter political life. Similarly, there is a risk that if guardians would enter the moneymaking class, they could start a rebellion – a risk Sparta faced at all times from its helot population. A further threat to the order of the state is the problem of succession from generation to generation. If virtues are in the soul, there is no guarantee that a man of a high nature will produce offspring of the same quality of soul. It is no coincidence that the principal cause of the ‘decline’ in Books Eight and Nine is succession and generational conflict. Conversely, it is also possible that a child of a higher nature is born to parents of the working class, and it would be an injustice to its soul to keep it there. What can be done to counteract these problems? What we need, Socrates hesitatingly proposes, is a gennaion pseudos, or ‘noble lie’. Could we, I said, somehow contrive one of those lies that come into being in case of need, of which we are just now speaking, some one noble lie to persuade, in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city? (414bc)



The Civil Religion of the Noble Lie The ‘noble lie’, an oft-misrepresented part of Plato’s Republic, is not there to give rulers licence to deceive their populations in order to take them to war. It is rather a founding myth introduced as a completion of the education programme at the end of Book Three (414b– 415e), that describes the origins of the city and justifies its social hierarchy. Copies of the Republic will not be for sale in Plato’s Republic, and only a very small fraction of its citizens will be philosophers. The structure of the philosophically founded order requires maintenance, not by philosophic argument, but appeal to myth. In this, the poetic and the religious come together, and the ‘noble lie’ comes to represent the civil religion of the just state, in which the quarrels between poetry and philosophy, or between political theology and political philosophy, are settled by using myth in the service of philosophy. The story of the ‘noble lie’ is a rather strange myth, but it can appear familiar to the Greek reader and to us, because it uses motifs adapted from famous Greek myths. In anticipation of the Parable of the Cave, first the rulers, then the soldiers and then the rest of the city must be persuaded that the upbringing and education they have been given “were like dreams” (414d). In reality, they were crafted under the earth like tools and sent up when completed. As soldiers, they must defend this earth, their mother, and consider other earth-born citizens their brothers (414e). In addition, the god has forged different metals in the souls of these citizens, which may be gold, silver, iron and bronze (415a). The ‘noble lie’ appears a familiar Greek myth, because the element of earth-born citizenship is adapted from the story of Cadmus who used earth-born warriors sown from dragons’ teeth, and the hierarchy of metals is adapted from Hesiod’s Theogony.18 The ‘noble lie’ has two obvious purposes. With the earth as their literal mother, the myth binds a population to their city as their natural home, and it binds the citizens together as siblings fighting to defend their parent. Secondly, the addition of the metals is used to justify the inequality between them. Although this aspect of Plato’s Republic has been misrepresented as proto-racism, the metals are a metaphor for the natural inequality of souls, not bodies. If all citizens believe in this myth, 18 See Malcolm Schofield, ‘The Noble Lie’, in: G.R.F. Ferrari (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007, p. 154.



then they will accept that their nature requires acquiescence about their place in the hierarchy of the state. In addition, a further important purpose of the ‘noble lie’ is that it forms the basis of policies necessary to preserve the social rankings according to human excellence. The myth is used to justify measures, overt or covert, to maintain or move people to the class where they belong. For example, the ‘noble lie’ is also extended into procedures like the rigging of the sex-lottery of the guardians (460a). This inequality of natures, however, does not preclude social mobility. Although citizens are expected to be deferential about their place, they may have better or worse children than their own excellence and social rank represents: So, because you’re all related, although for the most part you’ll produce offspring like yourselves, it sometimes happens that a silver child will be born from a golden parent, a golden child from a silver parent, and similarly all the others from each other. … And, if a child of theirs should be born with an admixture of bronze or iron, by no manner of means are they to take pity on it, but shall assign the proper value to its nature and thrust it out among the craftsmen or the farmers; and again, if from these men one should naturally grow who has an admixture of gold or silver, they will honor such ones and lead them up, some to the guardian group, others to the auxiliary, believing that there is an oracle that the city will be destroyed when an iron or bronze man is its guardian. (415abc, emphasis added)

When these higher silver and golden natures are identified early enough, they can be taken from their parents and put in auxiliary pre-school on their way to become fully fledged guardians, and possibly even rulers. Given that the question of nature is focused solely on the soul’s capacities for virtues, radically crossing lines of both gender and family, we may say that Plato’s most just state, the ‘aristocracy’, is not an aristocracy as we understand the term. It is purely an aristocracy of merit (or ‘meritocracy’?), where descent is sharply omitted as a relevant factor for social placement. The civil religion of the ‘noble lie’ merely serves to support this conception of philosophical justice and it gives non-philosophical citizens what they need to believe if they are to arrive at the same conclusions. The ‘noble lie’ is a good example of poetry, myth and religion acting in the interest of a philosophic natural law conception of justice. In addition, therefore, to the analogy as a mirror between the structure of the whole city and the entire soul of man – the second sense of the analogy concerns a meritocratic theory of justice, a structural or



systemic justice that ranks citizens socially according to their soul’s capacity for virtues. This is the analogy of city and soul in practice, which describes the policies of the state, and the rights and duties of categories of citizens, according to the abilities of the parts of their soul. Where the first sense of the analogy applied to the whole of man and the state, this second sense of the analogy as natural law concerns the organisation of the parts – which reveals to some extent how citizens of various dispositions can largely expect to be treated. But what does this systemic idea of justice tell us about the experience of the citizen? How does the structure of the city within which he lives permit or restrict his action? However, if we want to answer the principal question, of why do men become what they are, we need not merely a description of man’s soul and an idea of justice and natural law, but an account of the experience of the individual as well. Indeed, as noted above, in addition to describing what men and cities are, the ‘decline’ also shows how men change by operating within their city. Among other things, this raises the question about the nature of causality of the analogy between soul and state. Is it possible to distil a theory about the state causing what men become, and say something about a direct impact of the state on the soul? If we speak of a state causing what man becomes, aren’t we regressing into determinism? To understand what man becomes, the third sense of the analogy pertains to the experience of the individual. I will argue that there is causality at play of a particular kind: an indirect, non-deterministic causality, which describes the experience of the individual within the state, and contains an implicit theory of becoming. 4. THE ANALOGY OF CITY AND SOUL: THE INDIVIDUAL The first sense of the analogy between soul and state as mirror defines the soul, defines the city, and describes their common patterns. The second sense of the analogy as natural law concerns organising the city’s structure according to the abilities of the soul, where the justice accorded to the soul by the state represents the body of political rights, and each citizen has a duty to fulfil a task in that class that represents the best of his soul’s capacities. If there are discrepancies between the possibilities in the state and the potential in man, it can lead to a particular kind of injustice through inactive citizenship, or quietism – a voluntary injustice against the city by man, or an involuntary injustice imposed on man by



the state.19 Below I will argue that the theme of quietism fits into this, the analogy that pertains to the experience of the individual, which is based on an appreciation of the dynamic between the possibilities in the state and the potential in man. I will argue that a theory of becoming, which is implicitly present in the analogy, contains a non-deterministic indirect causality – which explains, among other things, the problem of quietism. So how does the analogy between city and soul apply to the individual? In order to start to answer this question, it might be helpful to borrow Two Concepts from Isaiah Berlin: the well-known distinction between positive and negative freedom, where positive freedom refers to the potential in the individual (and its actualisation), and negative freedom refers to the possibilities open to the individual that are provided by the regime. Possibility and Potential In his celebrated Two Concepts of Liberty, Isaiah Berlin distinguishes between positive and negative freedom. He defines negative freedom as a political liberty, which is the “area within which man can act unobstructed by others”,20 and forms of coercion as limitations upon the liberty of this negative space. Conversely, the notion of positive freedom is a ‘freedom to’ and “derives from the wish on the part of the individual to be his own master” and concerns the wish to “be an instrument of my own, not other men’s, acts of will (…) a subject, not an object (…) a somebody, not nobody (…) a doer”.21 From Plato’s perspective, this democratic liberalism of wanting says nothing about the being or nature of man, nor anything about excellence or the virtues. Plato did not consider freedom to be a virtue, not like courage, wisdom, moderation and justice. In fact, he has Socrates mock this appeal to freedom as one characteristic of democratic men (557bc), and demonstrates that the demand for complete freedom leads to the abolition of all freedom in the final stage of the decline to tyranny. Nonetheless, liberty of a particular kind, not compulsion, is needed for the possibility of expression of virtues. And although Berlin 19

Ferrari, City and Soul, op. cit. pp. 13–14. Ferrari discusses the problem of quietism in relation to the soul-state analogy as a peripheral theme in the drama of the dialogue. He argues that Socrates’ interlocutors Glaucon and Adeimantus, the brothers of Plato, are quietists and retreated from political life due to their family’s association with the Tyranny of the Thirty – the short-lived violent regime installed by Sparta after Athens was defeated in the Peloponnesian War – that included Plato’s relatives. 20 I. Berlin, ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, in: Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1969, p. 169. 21 I. Berlin, op. cit. p. 178.



says very little about the content of what liberty is used for, we need not be concerned with the shortcomings of this theory. But one thing that is exceptionally useful about Berlin’s dichotomy is that it provides us with the minimal metaphysical pieces to solve the puzzle of Plato’s analogy of the city and soul, and understand Plato’s political ontology. We can recast ‘negative liberty’ to be the space of possibility (and impossibility) that is the structure of the state, which every man and woman experiences directly; we can further reconfigure ‘positive liberty’ to refer to the potential in man (and the actualisation thereof).22 Let us examine how these elements, borrowed from Berlin, can help us understand how the soul-state analogy of Plato’s Republic affects the experience of the individual in the state. Each regime described in the Republic has a particular structure, and each of these structures imposes a particular negative space of possibility and impossibility upon its citizens. Analogous to ‘negative freedom’ this negative space of possibility allows the citizen to do certain things and not others, and by virtue of doing something (or nothing) for a certain time, his role changes and he becomes someone new, better or worse. Analogous to ‘positive freedom’ is the actualisation of the potential in man, which happens within this negative space of possibility of the city, or is denied by its impossibilities. Politically, each man has some potential for virtues, at whichever level; but their expression also depends on the negative liberty of possibilities that the state provides. This dynamic between the negative space of possibility and the positive potential in man is one of the implicit metaphysical considerations in the Republic, and one cannot understand the theory of becoming, implicit in the analogy between city and soul, without it. So why do men become what they are? And how can we speak of the state causing what men become?23 If we understand the regime as 22

To be clear: here I treat negative liberty (the structure of possibility) as a trait only of the state, and positive liberty (the potential in man) as a trait only of man. The actualisation of the potential in man is at the end of the day only something that can be accomplished by the individual, not the state (which is the basic mistake of all totalitarian regimes). Nuances such as the ‘potential of the state’ refer to its power, and are not relevant for the city-soul analogy in Plato. 23 An unsuccessful attempt to ascribe a direct causality in the analogy has been advanced by Jonathan Lear (‘Inside and Outside the Republic’, Phronesis, Vol XXXVII. 2, 1992, pp. 184–215) from city to soul (‘internalisation’) and from soul to city (‘externalisation’), is an attempt to reduce the complexity of this theme to a balance sheet of



a negative space of possibility (and impossibility), which interacts with the potential in man, we can say that this aspect of the analogy is the soul’s direct encounter with the structure of the city. What moves and changes in man is this particular dynamic between possibility and potential. But the potential in man is never actualised by the state, but by the individual himself. A good education alone does not make one educated, if the individual does not pick up on anything himself. Learning is an activity, not a passivity, and the actualisation of potential in man is likewise carried out by man himself, not by the state. The actualization of the potential for excellence ultimately comes down to the will and capacity of each individual. Yet there is one point in Book Two, where the metaphor of imprinting wax is invoked in a discussion of the education of small children: a “young and tender” mind quickly “assimilates itself to the model whose stamp anyone wishes to give to it” (377b) – and this example has been used in the literature to ascribe a direct causality to the city-soul analogy, to demonstrate that the structure of the city somehow imprints itself onto the soul.24 Although the context of this quote points clearly to impressionable children at the beginning of their education, it is completely mistaken to assume that all learning is reduced to passive indoctrination – a notion strongly contrary to Plato’s conception of philosophy, his theory of education and the curriculum in the Republic. These and other similar quotations that indicate direct influence of the city on the structure of the soul, simply do not add up to a theory. In describing the experience of the individual in the city, we cannot conclude that the analogy between city and soul contains an element of direct causality. There is reason to believe, however, that the analogy between city and soul contains a theory of becoming, and it appears that there is something of an indirect causality at work. If we can describe the structure of the city as a negative space of possibility (‘negative ‘psychological transactions’, of which the analogy between city and soul is a consequence, ‘a by-product of this psychological dynamic’ (p. 193). 24 Quotes like this one form the cornerstone of Lear’s theory, which received a thorough and detailed criticism in Ferrari’s City and Soul in Plato’s Republic. In Ferrari’s Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Norbert Blössner takes up the analogy (‘The City Soul Analogy’, pp. 345–385), and although he announces that he will address the question of ‘causal relations’ (p. 345) in both directions, he does not in fact answer his own question, because he is caught between Lear and Ferrari’s criticism of Lear. There are only several quotations about direct causality he falls back on (pp. 374–375), and in generalising vaguely, Blössner does not give us a theory.



liberty’) and the actualisation of potential as pertaining to the development and actions of man, then this puzzle can be clarified. When the city changes, then its structure of negative liberty also changes; and with that, new possibilities or opportunities open or close for the individual. With changed possibilities, man can act in different ways, or is compelled not to. And by virtue of what man can and cannot do, their potential may or may not be actualised – and it is this that changes what he is. It should be emphasised, however, that this aspect of the city-soul analogy, and its theory of becoming, is not deterministic. Berlin’s metaphysics is useful also because it is minimal, and leaves adequate ‘wiggle room’. The negative space of possibility of a state is not set in stone, and men generally do not live up to their potential or fulfil the potential that the state permits. Because there is always room to be found between the maximal actualisation of man’s potential and the possibilities open in the state, we are not dealing with ‘determinism’ of any kind. Furthermore, it is not the intentions, actions, policies, laws or education initiatives by the government that most affect man, but the ontological shift in the structure of possibility, the change in negative liberty, that is the decisive element – and this includes consequences not intended, but not prevented by the regime. The balance between possibility and potential as the application of the analogy between city and soul is crucial for appreciating the analogy, above all, as an ontological theory. The problem of quietism further helps illustrate this aspect of the analogy. Quietism and the Theory of Becoming Quietism, the political inactivity of a citizen, is considered a great injustice in the Republic – of which examples can be found both explicitly in the discussion as well as implicitly in the dramatic setting of the dialogue. It can be voluntary or involuntary, where voluntary quietism is an injustice committed by the citizen against the city, and involuntary quietism an injustice by the regime against man – and two examples of each can be identified in the Republic. The possibility for voluntary quietism angers Socrates when discussing the oligarchy in the ‘decline’. Socrates is outraged that the oligarchic regime allows men the injustice of withdrawing from it, by buying themselves out of the ‘social contract’. He tells us that, … this regime is the first to admit the greatest of all evils. – What?



– Allowing one man to sell everything that belongs to him … and when he has sold it, allowing him to live in the city belonging to none of its parts …. This sort of thing is at least not prevented in oligarchies. (552ab)

In the oligarchy, the injustice of withdrawal from active citizenship has been made possible by the reordered political space. It is noteworthy that it is the change in negative space of possibility (‘not prevented’), and not any active policy or any declared liberty that is the indirect cause of a man selling off his estate and sitting in the city on a pile of money enjoying his life, voluntarily withdrawing from citizenship into privacy. This possibility may not have been at all intended by the oligarchic regime, but it is the structural and ontological considerations of possibility and ordering – and not good or bad intentions of rulers – that are decisive in affecting men. The first example of involuntary quietism already occurs in the timocracy, where the military ruling class keeps the wise out of politics (547e, see above) – and then the state as a whole commits a systemic injustice against the virtue of wisdom. And when wisdom as such will no longer receive an expression in the state, wise men can only live as private men. The injustice by the state is not merely against these men and the potential that their virtues have to benefit the state; but in making the expression of a virtue politically impossible, the regime above all damages itself. We have noted above that the tyranny is at war with all virtues (567ac), and makes impossible the expression of any of them. It is never the question, or problem, therefore, how many ‘good people’ exist in times of tyranny – the structural problem is that they cannot express what makes them virtuous, and this will gradually affect what they become. The analogy between city and soul, therefore, and the non-deterministic indirect causality that comes with it, is not upset by counterexamples implicit in questions such as, ‘but can’t good people exist in a dictatorship?’ The democracy has examples of both voluntary and involuntary quietism – evidence of the problem of voluntary quietism is in the argument, of involuntary quietism in the drama. Even more than in the oligarchy, the structure of the democracy allows its citizens to do injustice to it. All virtues and vices have been equalised and the democratic citizen can do and be anything he pleases, with patterns à la carte in a ‘general store’ as different lifestyle choices (557e) – where there is no distinct difference in value between active citizenship or withdrawal from public life. The problem of voluntary quietism is greater in the



democracy than in the oligarchy, because the negative liberty of possibility is almost absolute. Involuntary quietism, as the withdrawal from political life of aristocratic men, is also a problem concerning the characters of Glaucon and Adeimantus.25 The Republic was written before and after Plato’s first visit to Syracuse in 388 BCE, when he was forty years old, and completed in the early years of the Academy. If the historic Glaucon and Adeimantus had been public figures at this time, as could be expected of their aristocratic background, they would have left an independent mark on the historical record. But apart from Xenophon’s account of Socrates convincing a young Glaucon not to enter politics,26 we know Plato’s brothers only as fictional characters. The shadow that hangs over the dramatic setting of the Republic is the future. Although the dramatic date is not a fixed point in ‘real’ historic time,27 the combination of characters, locations and known future events add a mis-en-scène of philosophic relevance. We know that the dialogue occurs in a peaceful interval of the Peloponnesian War, during the introduction of the new goddess Bendis to the Athenian pantheon and before the fall of Athens in 404 BCE. This fall ended democracy in Athens and led to the loss of all her imperial holdings. It was followed by the rise of the tyranny of the Thirty, which included Plato’s uncle Charmides and was led by Plato’s great-uncle Critias. Under its reign, Polemarchus would be killed. The democratic factions were supported from Piraeus, armed by Cephalus’ family business, and the final battle where Charmides was killed, took place near the temple of Bendis in the summer of 403 BCE. The shadow of the association with the Thirty by kin would seem to have made genuine political careers of Glaucon and Adeimantus impossible. This can be seen as an injustice to their excellence. Ferrari argues that, although Glaucon and Adeimantus probably had nothing to do with Critias’ coup, the political order that Socrates describes is also a response to their greatest needs.28 Historically, projecting the family trauma back to this dramatic setting, Plato designed a political order that would have given his brothers’ virtues their due


Ferrari, City and Soul, op. cit. pp. 13–14. Xenophon, Memorabilia, Book III, Chapter 1. 27 Debra Nails, ‘The Dramatic Date of Plato’s Republic’, The Classical Journal, Vol. 93, No. 4 (Apr.–May, 1998), pp. 383–396. 28 Ferrari, City and Soul, op. cit. Chapter 1, pp. 11–34. 26



and rank, denied them in the ostracism of litigious post-war Athens – an involuntary quietism imposed on them. The greatest structural problem in the democracy is the contradiction between what seems to be an absolute negative liberty for any kind of lifestyle, on the one hand, and the limitations on the virtues caused by the pressure from the majority, on the other. If democracy is the absolute rule of the majority, then those traits that are not distributed democratically are under pressure. The democracy comes into being out of an oligarchy, when the poor win “by arms or by the other’s withdrawing due to fear” (557a). The democratic city moves structurally according to the whims of the majority, but the democratic man also loses the hierarchy of ranking in his soul, and then when all desires are equal (561c), the majority, the desires for pleasures, take over there too. Equality in the state, in other words, leads to a flattening of the soul (561e). Although the negative liberty in such an order seems absolute, and excellence and hedonism are merely two in a variety of lifestyle choices, excellence as such has been put under pressure, ontologically, by the structure of the regime. The causes are both “the absence of any compulsion … from ruling and being a judge” (557e), and by the pressure exerted on the virtues within man caused by a city that no longer structurally values excellence. The injustice caused by the city to those who withdraw due to fear is its systemic injustice. The solution of the idea of justice in the best state in the Republic is to safeguard a political order, ranked socially by the hierarchy of souls. There is no possibility for anyone to be nominally a citizen, yet opt out of active citizenship. There is no quietism in the most just state because the state has systemically pre-empted its possibility; and no oligarch can buy himself out, and no aristocrat will be denied his due. So why, according to Plato, do men become what they are? The analogy between city and soul has three aspects: the mirror of the whole, the natural law of the parts, and the becoming of the individual. The third sense describes the dynamic between the possibilities of the city and the potential of the individual man, which can gradually change what he becomes. The third sense builds on the second sense of the analogy, which delineates the relationship of the ordering of social classes to the extent to which the city values the ( potential for) virtues in its citizens. The third and second senses both concern the possibility for man’s activity in the state, and build on the first sense of the analogy as mirror,



which simply teaches us what man and the state are – by virtue of their structure and ordering. These three senses of the analogy operate simultaneously in the passage of the decline of Books Eight and Nine, and if they are recognised as such, it becomes apparent that Plato has provided us with a comprehensive ontological theory about the political as such – comprehensive, because it contains both a theory of being, describing what man and the state are (analogy as mirror), describing the range and limitations of their activity and virtues (analogy as natural law), and accounting for the direct encounter of the individual within the structure of the state (analogy as theory of becoming). To fully appreciate Plato’s political ontology, its value and implications, we must fully appreciate these three senses of the analogy simultaneously. This will be carried out briefly in the following, last section. 5. CONCLUSION: PLATO’S POLITICAL ONTOLOGY If these weak products of democracy held their liberties so lightly, how would they defend the vast provinces and domains we had gained by centuries of aristocratic and oligarchic rule? For a moment, I despaired of the Empire. (Winston Churchill, My Early Life)

Given that this ontological theory of man and the state at once represents Plato’s natural law, we have gained a theory that can be used to objectively judge the absolute and relative health of a given regime, by examining its ontological structure, the extent to which it values the cardinal virtues, and the range and limitations of what a regime permits people to do, and thereby, to be. Interestingly, this philosophic scheme is generic enough that it can also be used to judge a given religion, without being limited by the ‘poetic’ standards or (ig)noble lies set by its revelation or political theology. The same standards can also be used to judge objectively the relative and absolute health of micro-regimes within a state, such as the educational institutions and the family – which are constantly under pressure, not by any active policy, but simply by the structure of the political regime to conform to it. Plato’s account in the Decline of democracy keenly illustrates this problem for the non-democratic spaces that live within it.



Political Ontology of Democracy Democracy, as a process, and Tocqueville showed this, does not abide selfishness. Within democracy, it’s hard to tolerate non-democratic spaces. Everything has to be done democratically in a democracy, but school cannot be this way. It just can’t. (Alain Finkielkraut, Ha’aretz, 22 December 2005.)

In the lead-in to the genesis of the tyrannical regime, Socrates first discusses what happens if unrestricted freedom reigns supreme in the city, and in the soul. If the radical pursuit of freedom, and the radical pursuit of the satisfaction of whim become ‘courageous’, the barriers of moderation are seen as ‘cowardliness’ (560c). The hierarchy of the soul has been flattened together with the hierarchy of the political regime. Although the political equality between citizens may not seem problematic as such, the real danger is what happens to naturally unequal relations in the micro-regimes that also exist in the city. Socrates describes the effect of the flattening of the soul and the city upon the regimes of the school and the household, where the naturally unequal relations between parents and children, between teachers and students become levelled. Plato’s political ontology is a theory about the regime as such, and these include regimes of institutions that occupy the wide middle ground of civil society between the citizen and the government. In the case of the household, the equality between parents and children will lead the father “to habituate to fear his sons, and the son habituates himself to be like his father and to have no shame or fear of his parents – that’s so he may be free” (562e). This radical ‘freedom’ of the son, and the fear that parents have of their children as a consequence of the democratisation of what is a necessary and natural inequality has been a broad social phenomenon of our own times, most strikingly portrayed in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.29 This equalisation between parents and children is also the precondition for the parricide in the tyranny, where, driven by his desires for the unnecessary, the son will steal from, deceive and eventually depose his parents (573e–574c). Concerning education, the teacher who lives in a democratic regime, and deals with the democratic souls of his students, will struggle to maintain the hierarchy that education requires. Instead, “the teacher in 29 See Theodore Dalrymple’s review of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange in City Journal, Winter 2006:



such a situation is afraid of the pupils and fawns over them, so the students make light of their teachers” (563a). It is noteworthy here for any educator that the students disrespect their teachers not because they are different, but because in his fawning the teacher seeks to be similar to them. The implication is also that these kinds of students make light of their teachers, because they also make light of themselves. And why offer respect to someone like you if you do not respect yourself ? These examples demonstrate Plato’s political ontology about man and the regime – and these concern not merely the structure of the state and the soul of the citizen, but also how these two together exert structural pressure on all intermediate regimes to become ‘like’ them. As Alain Finkielkraut notes Platonically, the paradeigma of democracy will not tolerate non-democratic spaces in its midst, and this kind of pressure can be seen as a permanent condition in democracy as such – and it can easily be recognised, though it is perhaps controversial to point out that, within modern democracies, it is the democratisation of spaces that ought to be non-democratic (such as education, the family and the armed forces) that is most increasing their vulnerability. These examples illustrate that the three senses of the analogy, when recognised, operate simultaneously – and as such, demonstrate the profound effect the structure of a regime can have on the manner in which the individual can express the potential for virtues in his soul. CONCLUSION Ontologically, this point may be generalised to apply to all kinds of political regimes, including religions, which may be seen as one of these regimes halfway between the citizen and the state. The ‘poetic’ basis of Alex’s parents (one of the things Burgess didn’t foresee is the rise of the singleparent family) are afraid of him. He comes home late and plays his music very loud, but “Pee and em [Father and Mother] … had learnt now not to knock on the wall with complaints of what they called noise. I had taught them. Now they would take sleeppills”. When Alex’s father wants to know what he does at night – Alex is only 15 – he is apologetic and deferential: “ ‘Not that I want to pry, son, but where exactly is it you go to work of evenings?’ … My dad was like humble mumble chumble. ‘Sorry, son,’ he said. ‘But I get worried sometimes’. When in a symbolic reversal of the direction of authority Alex offers his father some money (robbed, of course) so that he can buy himself a drink in the pub, his father says: “Thanks, son. … But we don’t go out much now. We daren’t go out much, the streets being what they are. Young hooligans and so on. Still, thanks.”



a given religion, with corresponding founding myths and noble lies, always operates in service of a political ontology, a structure of authority, values and virtues. It is not difficult to see that a religion of learning will produce greater excellence in men than a religion of compulsion and violence. The Platonist eye on the regime always concerns an approval or disapproval of a given political order or smaller regime, by this very criterion: the possibility for expression of virtues and the highest capacities of the human soul. Political Platonism has this dual focus, on the structure of state and soul, and the room that the soul is granted to elevate itself. It is worth analysing Greek philosophy, not out of historic interest, but because philosophers like Plato make a much better job of understanding us and the questions of our time, than we make of understanding ourselves.



APPENDIX: THE DECLINE Below is a tabulation of the narrative structure of the decline, which reveals to some extent how the three aspects of the analogy are interrelated. The first sense of the analogy as mirror is applied each time the ‘jump’ is made from city to man (e.g. 2 to 3 in timocracy), because at each of these switches the word ‘like’ (homoios) is invoked. The same part of the Republic, however, does not merely describe what men are, but also explains why they become what they are, describing change. Generally, it is the change of the city (stage 1), which is at once the change of the political structure, the change of the structure of possibility in the state, which affects which characteristics in man (which virtues, vices and parts of the soul) will become elevated politically. The table also reveals how the three senses of the analogy are interrelated, how all three operate at once. The second sense of the analogy as natural law (relating the structure of justice in the city to the virtues in man), combined with the first sense of the analogy as mirror, underlie the third sense of the analogy of a theory of becoming: a description of the city of man, an account of the change of the city, which changes human possibility, which affects human potential, what a man can do, and in that sense (by indirect causality), what he becomes. This illustrates, in a nutshell, Plato’s political ontology: Book Eight Timocracy 1. Genesis of City 2. Character of City 3. Character of Man 4. Genesis of Man

(545c – 547c) (547cd – 548c) (548d – 549b) (549c – 550c)

Oligarchy 1. Genesis of City 2. Character of City 3. Genesis of Man 4. Character of Man

(550d – 551b) (551b – 553a) (553a – 553e) (554a – 555a)

Democracy 1. Genesis of City (555b – 557a) 2. Character of City (557ab – 558c) 3. Genesis of Man (558c – 561a) Including digression on necessary and unnecessary desires (558d–559d) 4. Character of Man (561a – 562a) Tyranny 1. Genesis of City (562a – 566d) Including digressions on democracy, desires, and the rise of the tyrant 2. Character of City (566d – 569c) Book Nine 3. Genesis of Man 4. Character of Man

(571c – 573c) (573d – 576c)



BIBLIOGRAPHY Primary Texts Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. J.A.K. Thomson, London: Penguin 1955 (revised 2004). Plato, The Republic of Plato, trans. Allan Bloom, New York: Basic Books 1968. Plato, Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson, Indianapolis: Hackett 1997. Xenophon, Memorabilia, trans. Amy L. Bonnette, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1994.

Secondary Literature Berlin, Isaiah, Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1969 (2002). —, ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, in Isaiah Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1969, pp. 168–181. Churchill, Winston, My Early Life, n.p. Eland Publishing 1930 (2002). Ferrari, G.R.F., City and Soul in Plato’s Republic, Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2003. Ferrari, G.R.F. (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007. Blössner, Norbert, ‘The City-Soul Analogy’, in G.R.F. Ferrari (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007, pp. 345–387. Ferrari, G.R.F., ‘ The Three Part Soul’, in G. R. F. Ferrari (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Cambridge: Cambrige University Press 2007, pp. 165–201. Schofield, Malcolm, ‘ The Noble Lie’, in G. R. F. Ferrari (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, Cambridge: Cambrige University Press 2007, pp. 138–164. Finkielkraut, Alain, Interview in Ha’aretz, 22 December 2005. Höffe, Otfried (ed.), Platon: Politeia, Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1997. Höffe, Otfried, ‘Zur Analogie von Individuum und Polis’, in Otfried Höffe (ed.), Platon: Politeia, Berlin: Akademic verlag 1997, pp. 69–94. Irwin, Terence, ‘The Parts of the Soul and the Cardinal Virtues’, in Otfried Höffe (ed.), Platon: Politeia, Berlin: Akademic verlag 1997, pp. 119–140. Lear, Jonathan, ‘Inside and Outside the Republic’, Phronesis 37 vol. 2 (1992) pp. 182–215. Meier, Heinrich, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue, (1988) trans. J. Harvey Lomax, Chicago: Chicago University Press 1995. Pangle, Thomas L., ‘On the Epistolary Dialogue between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin’, The Review of Politics, Vol. 53, no. 1, (Winter, 1991), pp. 100–125. Pettitt, Philipp, ‘Rawls’ Political Ontology’, Politics, Philosophy & Economics, vol. 4, no. 2, (2005), pp. 157–174. Rosen, Stanley, The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry: Studies in Ancient Thought, London: Routledge 1988. —, ‘The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry’, in Stanley Rosen, The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry: Studies in Ancient Thought, London: Routledge 1988, pp. 1–26. Rosen, Stanley, Plato’s Republic: A Study, Yale: Yale University Press 2005. Strauss, Leo, Natural Right and History, Chicago: Chicago University Press 1953. Voegelin, Eric, Modernity Without Restraint (Collected Works vol. 5), Columbia: University of Missouri Press 2000. —, ‘The Political Religions’ (1938), in Eric Voegelin, Modernity Without Restraint (Collected Works vol. 5), Columbia: University of Missouri Press 2000, pp. 19–74. Williams, Bernard, ‘The Analogy Between City and Soul in Plato’s Republic’. Reprinted in Gail Fine, Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion and the Soul, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1999, pp. 255–264.



Die Religion ist der Ort, wo ein Volk sich die Definition dessen gibt, was es für das Wahre hält. (G.W.F. Hegel)1

1. INTRODUCTION The religious dimension of politics and the political dimension of religion are topics that are increasingly being (re)discovered and debated nowadays. Not since the end of the 16th and 17th century’s religious wars has religion been debated so fiercely and intensely as nowadays, especially since 9/11. Urgent questions have increasingly been posed on the relation between state and religion, as well as on the reciprocity between law and religion. These questions do not only concern how politics and religion should be kept apart, or church and state separated, but are also on how state and religion may in some way expect more of each other, or may even depend on one another. Modern, secular and liberal democracies live of preconditions that these states cannot account for themselves:2 they live of a moral and spiritual ‘infrastructure’ that forms the backbone of law and order in society. It is only from this (moral) 1 G.W.F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, Werke, Bd. 12, ed. by Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag 1970ff., p. 70. In translation: “Religion is the sphere in which a nation gives itself the definition of that which it regards as the True” in: The Philosophy of History, New York: Dover Publications 1956, p. 50. 2 This famous dictum from Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde is quoted from his essay “Die Entstehung des Staates als Vorgang der Säkularisation”, in: E.-W. Böckenförde, Recht, Staat, Freiheit. Studien zur Rechtsphilosophie, Staatstheorie und Verfassungsgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1991, p. 112, which reads as follows: “Der freiheitliche, säkularisierte Staat lebt von Voraussetzungen, die er selbst nicht garantieren kann”.



viewpoint that law, politics and the state can be experienced as and deemed legitimate. Under the present, “post-secularized”3 circumstances, characterized by an increasing religious ‘pluralisation’ and fragmentation, the modern state and the law are faced with serious legitimization deficits: the withering away of traditional religiosity, a lack of a binding and bonding common ideal or belief, an eclipse of the idea of a common good; all are more or less necessary for some kind of legitimization of political power and legal force. Modern, liberal constitutional ideals (such as the separation of powers, the rule of law, and human rights) are not unconditionally selfsupporting. They are ‘handicapped’ with a lack of articulation, that is: they cannot articulate the moral and spiritual sources from which they derive these high constitutional values.4 Is respect for human rights enough for legal-political legitimacy, or does this respect itself depend on or require something deeper and more rooted in the mindset of citizens: a certain order in the ‘soul’, or certain ‘habits of the heart’?5 How can this order be located and articulated? How can this order be analyzed and to what extent can it be made fertile for the functioning of the moral infrastructure of modern societies? Morality is not only a rational business.6 Man’s morality is rooted in his religiousness. Religion equips man with the motivation and the grounds to be moral: the ultimate ground lies in the ‘roots of his soul’, “at the navel of his soul, at the place where his soul is linked to the cosmos”.7 In the present contribution, I will try to reflect on exactly these sources of law and (public) morality, particularly within the scope of the spiritual, religious dimension of man. In order to succeed, I intend to sketch 3 Another good terminology is the ‘desecularisation of the world’. See Peter R. Berger (ed.), The Desecularisation of the World. Resurgent Religion and World Politics, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1999. 4 As brought to our attention by Charles Taylor, The Sources of the Self. The Making of Modern Identity, Cambrigde: Cambridge University Press 1989, pp. 53–90, in a chapter titled “Ethics of Inarticulacy”. 5 See Robert N. Bellah et al. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, Berkeley: University of California Press 1985. 6 Of course morality can and should be studied, systemized and its contents rationally defended in philosophical discourse, but why we should be moral at all is not just a question of rationality. See for a prominent Dutch defender of the independence of morality from religion: Paul Cliteur, “Liberal Globalism: A Defence”, in: Eva Nieuwenhuys, ed., Neo-liberal Globalism and Social Sustainable Globalisation, Leiden/Boston: Brill 2006, pp. 15–39. 7 Eric Voegelin, ‘The Political Religions’, in: Manfred Henningsen (Ed.) Modernity without restraint, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 5, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000, p. 30, originally published in 1938 (see in the present volume: the Introduction).



a philosophical analysis of the theological-political problem, for as far as it is relevant for law and morality. In fact, we should speak of the ‘theo-ethico-legal-political problem’ but I deem this string of words to be unworkable and ugly. Therefore, I will use the phrase ‘religion and order’ to denote this complex issue. It is my intention to clarify the spiritual sources of law, morality and political order, as they seem to loom deep inside man’s soul and are therewith fed by religious outlooks on the meaning of being, as well as on more specific views on man, society, moral and legal order. To start with, I would like to make a few preliminary, provisional conceptual definitions and distinctions that may, hopefully, elucidate the complex field of religion and order in society (§2). This will hopefully clear the ground for a thorough analysis of some historical and systematical basic models which have been tried and tested, both in theory and practice, and can be regarded as possible answers to the problem of religion and order (§3). Next, a concise philosophical exploration of what can be recognised as ‘strong theoretical positions’ corroborating and legitimizing these practices, will be undertaken, centring around the work of Augustine (§4) and Hegel (§5). Finally, in a concluding paragraph (§6), I will draw all the lines together into a more or less coherent picture of the meaning of this all for the – what I would propose to call – post-secularized present. Religion seems to be worldwide a more and more political and social factor, not only in the West in which Islam is increasingly on the fore, but also in the rest of the world. One of the questions to be addressed there is to what extent Islam can function as a spiritual source for legal and political order in modern, liberal democracies. Although it would be premature to answer this question definitively at present, I will draw some tentative conclusions. 2. SOME PRELIMINARY CONCEPTUAL DEFINITIONS AND DISTINCTIONS When we speak of ‘religion’, we usually refer to the way humankind deals with its ‘ultimate concern’8 or as “the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established”.9 It has a dimension both within and 8

Cf. J. Milton Yinger, The Scientific Study of Religion, London: Collier-Macmillan 1971 (first edition 1970), p. 7. 9 Peter R. Berger, The Sacred Canopy. Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, New York: Doubleday 1969, p. 25. Berger derived his definition from Rudolf Otto and Mircea Eliade.



beyond man. This dimension enables him to experience, understand and feel his place in ultimate reality; it provides him with a sense of the meaning of his life that reconciles him with it. We may call this dimension transcendent. It will always, in one way or another, be represented and explicated in symbolic forms, images, languages, etc. These are human constructions that enable man to deal with the finitude of his existence in order to conciliate him with his life. They are forms in which man answers to the transcendental dimension, these forms unavoidably take a world-immanent shape. They can be adequate in various degrees; it is the testing of these degrees of adequacy that is determining in human history.10 Important to note is that, although I spoke of man in the singular – ‘man’ as an individual – religion is also (and may be even more) a collective or communal enterprise. That is: religion is to a very large extent also a cultural phenomenon, a force that shapes cultures and civilizations. As such, it also shapes moral, legal and political reality – maybe in a more profound way than we regularly assume.11 When we concentrate on this communal and political dimension, several concepts come into focus. A widely used term to designate this dimension of religion is ‘civil religion’, a term that has caused a lot of misunderstanding and that has often been misused.12 Another concept that explicates this political dimension of religion is ‘political religion’, a term used by Voegelin in the 1930’s to identify Nazism and Communism as in essence religious movements.13 Finally, the older and more traditional way of typifying the political dimension of religion is ‘political theology’, a term that was first used by Daniel Georg Morhof in his 10 This is the main theme of Eric Voegelin’s monumental Magnum Opus: Eric Voegelin, Order and History, published between 1956 and 1987 in 5 volumes, now available in The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vols. 14–18, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000 and 2001. 11 Moral, legal and political concepts of modern Western societies were of course heavily influenced by Christianity – the question is whether these concepts can be severed at all from their Christian roots and function in radically different religious environments. 12 As it was first coined by Rousseau in his Du Contrat Social, Book IV, Chapter 8, it meant a civil confession to be formulated by the political sovereign who should be the author of its articles. J.J. Rousseau, Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique, Amsterdam: Rey 1762, in Maurice Cranston’s translation: The Social Contract, London: Pinguin 1968, pp. 176–187. In the later modern reception of this term by Robert N. Bellah, ‘Civil Religion in America’, Daedalus 96 (1), 1967, pp. 1–21, and many others, it is used in a more sociological sense, namely as an heuristic concept by which certain social phenomena can be identified as constituting the ‘horizon of meaning’ of civil society. 13 Eric Voegelin, “The Political Religions”, op. cit. p. 70.



Theologia politica gentium, published in 1662 (in fact dealing with ‘pagan’ political theology),14 but that is widely used since Baruch de Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-politicus which was published in 1670.15 Finally, some audacious efforts were made to come to terms with these concepts in their interrelated meaning, thereby reaching deeper levels of understanding what lies beneath it all.16 It is in this direction that the following reflections will try to advance in illuminating the problem of religion and order. 3. SOME BASIC MODELS IN RELIGION AND ORDER In the history of religion and order in society and man, as well as in the critical (philosophical and theological) reflection on its meaning, several phases, eo ipso theoretical positions can be discerned. First, the consubstantiality of religion and order, second: the separation between religion and order, due to the discovery of radical transcendence that questioned existing order, third: Gnosticism as an attempt to restore consubstantiality, secularism as an effort to relegate religion to the private sphere, thereby actually oppressing, estranging and strangling it, and finally: the mediation between religion and order, by way of a specific – in essence tripartite – differentiation in representation. Each of these phases and positions will now be studied in more detail. Consubstantiality Throughout the earliest history of mankind, religion and political order were seen and experienced as inseparable from each other. In the most 14 See Jan Assmann, Herrschaft und Heil. Politische Theologie in Altägypten, Israel und Europa, Frankfurt am Main: Fisher 2002 (Originally: München: Hanser, 2000), pp. 18–19. 15 The concept ‘political theology’ is still in use, employed by such differing authors as Carl Schmitt, Jürgen Moltmann, Jean-Baptiste Metz, Dorothee Sölle and Jan Assmann. 16 Besides the groundbreaking work of Eric Voegelin, mentioned erlier, we can enumerate the following works: Leroy S. Rouner (ed.), Civil Religion and Political Theology, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press 1985 (in: Boston University studies in philosophy and religion, vol. 8), Rolf Schieder (ed.), Religionspolitik und Zivilreligion, Baden Baden: Nomos Verlag 2001, Michael Ley et al. (eds.), Politische Religion? Politik, Religion und Anthropologie im Werk von Eric Voegelin, München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag 2003, and Claus-E. Bärsch et al. (eds.), “Wer Religion verkennt, erkennt Politik nicht”. Perspektiven der Religionspolitologie, Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann 2005. It seems that future scholarship in this direction will benefit immensely from the reception of Voegelin’s work.



ancient societies we know about, such as Babylon and Egypt, religion was identical with political order. The source of power, in this world, as well as in the world to come, was in the hands of pharaohs, god-kings (as in Egypt) or mediated by the gods’ stewards (as in Mesopotamia). “Through mediation of the king the order of the cosmos radiates over society”.17 This intimate relationship has been called ‘consubstantial’ by Voegelin: “The order of society emanating form the pharaoh is consubstantial with the order of the world created by the god, because in the pharaoh is present the creative divinity itself ”.18 In the words of Maureen Henry, consubstantiality designates the following: “(T)hat is, religion and political order, in so far as they could be separated, were simply different aspects or manifestations of the same reality, the same truth or cosmic order”.19 Religion as well as politics could be called ‘primeval’, because of their non-reflectivity, immediacy and the fact that their exercise was strictly confined to priest-kings who had exclusive contact with the gods or even were gods themselves. This consubstantiality has been split up or even broken, because of the discovery, or invention, of different but related notions in human history. They led to the gradual separation between religion and the legal, political order. What were the developments or notions that induced this separation? Separation This consubstantiality was broken, due to a synchronical series of discoveries, during what the philosopher Karl Jaspers called the Axial Age (starting at about 600 B.C.).20 These discoveries consisted in the vindication of radical transcendence, both in its religious form (in prophetical monotheism: the recognition of JHWH as a liberating God) and in its philosophical form (notably in ancient Greek philosophy, culminating in the work of Plato and Aristotle). Let us take a closer look at these developments.

17 Eric Voegelin, Israel and Revelation, in: Order and History, Vol. I, edited with an introduction by Maurice P. Hogan, in: The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 14, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2001, p. 114. 18 Voegelin, op. cit. p. 117. 19 Maureen Henry, The Intoxication of Power. An Analysis of Civil Religion in Relation to Ideology, Dordrecht and London: Reidel 1979, p. 1ff. 20 Karl Jaspers, Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte, Zürich: Artemis 1949.



Israel The birth of monotheism constituted a radical new answer to the problem of religion and order. The history and writings of ancient Israel shows a unique and decisive breach with Mesopotamian and Egyptian consubstantiality. In recognizing JHWH as the only god, with a will of his own and with specific intensions with his people in history, ancient Israel embarked on a – for Western civilization – decisive pattern in which the sources and criteria for earthly justice were to be found in the Devine. Israel has learned to define God as the One who loves justice, and the One who does justice. His intervention in history (in which a sacred history becomes apparent) in order to establish law and justice, makes Him incomparable: “Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things. O God, who is like you?”21 His being God is dependent on His promotion of justice: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you”.22 As divine rule is based upon justice, so must earthly, human rule: You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.23

Notably, Israel tried originally to do without a king at all. Only judges and supervisors were allowed. Only they were deemed necessary. Kingship is originally no holy office. On the contrary, a deep scepsis is shown towards kingship, as can be read in I Samuel 8: These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of 21 22 23

Psalms 71:19. (English Standard Version, Psalms 89:14. Deuteronomy 16:18–20.



your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.24

When kings were appointed, Israel tried to vest them with due authority. Kings like David and Solomon were classic examples of kings that could be loved by God. The kings of Israel always had the duty to allow priests and prophets (e.g. Zadok and Nathan)25 to play their roles in society, and – if necessary – to let them correct them.26 The king should always be the servant of justice. Neither of the three – kings, priests and prophets – were to gain absolute sovereignty, because only God is the true sovereign. The idea that societal rule can only be a qualified rule, found its first and deepest expression in these writings of ancient Israel. Greece The second crucial development in the way religion and order are mediated, was the discovery of reason: the birth of philosophy as a discipline, this first occured among Ionian and Eleatic natural philosophers27 and reached its peak in the works of Plato and Aristotle. Philosophy emancipated itself from myth, the power of reason increasingly became a power of its own; the rational word (logos) became a powerful instrument, also on the agora where in the city-states politics had been discovered as a dimension in its own right. Moreover, philosophy itself turned its attention not only to the cosmos, but more and more to man and society, this is most notable in the works of Socrates and Plato. The seeds for the separation between religion, law, ethics and politics were sown.


I Samuel 8:11–18, the words are Samuel’s. These examples are derived from I Kings 1. Zadok was the priest who anointed Solomon, accompanied by the prophet Nathan. 26 Below, in chapter 3.3, I will elaborate on this threefold representation by the priest, the king and the prophet as a fundamental one for order in society. 27 The first examples of fundamental, rational critique of religion can be found, for instance in the work of Xenophanes, who was born around 580 BC and is renowned for his criticism of the anthropomorphology of Greek religion as mere projections of men. He was also the teacher of Anaximander. See: Werner Jäger, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, (The Gifford Lectures, 1936), Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press 1980, pp. 38ff. 25



This entailed a fundamental distinction between a philosophically trained and educated elite on the one hand, and the rest of society on the other. Philosophers “know” ultimate reality, and should have the power to enforce this reality upon society, not only through education, but also by means of a noble lie about the religious origins and destiny of society, and about the position and function of each citizen, in short through a noble lie about civil religion.28 In this form, civil religion can apparently only exist at the cost of truth. Moreover, this use of civil religion sows the seeds for dangerous conflicts between religion and politics. As soon as religion and philosophy are distinguished as separate perspectives on one and the same social and political reality, concurrence and conflict between them are likely to occur. It will only be a matter of time before radical critics stand up and denounce the exploitation of the good faith of the people. On the other hand, it must be conceded that there may be viable forms of civil religion that are compatible with Platonism. It was after all Nietzsche who called Christianity “Platonism for the people”.29 Radical transcendence leads to the following problem: how does this transcendence relate to immanence? What is the meaning of the abstract idea for the ‘here and now’? What does the living God want from us? How can we bring about justice in this world? How should we understand this relation between moral-religious spirituality and legal-political reality? This problem is almost too difficult for man to handle. Several models have been tried and tested during the history of monotheistic cultures to deal with this tension, some more successful and fruitful than others. All these models have tried to deal with the difficulties of finding a balance between transcendence and immanence. Let us discuss firstly the – in my view – less fruitful schemes, in order to contrast the more valuable one, the model on which my further analyses will build. Subordination to Religion: Gnosticism After the break with consubstantiality, a constant temptation seduced man to return to consubstantial conditions, time after time. Gnosticism

28 Plato, Politeia, 414C–415D: the famous story about people’s soul mixed with either gold, silver or bronze; these metals represent the virtues wisdom, courage and temperance. See the contribution of Bilski in the present volume. 29 Friedrich Nietzsche, Preface to Beyond Good and Evil, trans. and with an introduction by Marianne Cowan (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company 1955, 1967), xii, originally published in 1885.



in its various forms, in which a consubstantial ‘knowledge’ (gnosis) of the divine was attainable, be it individually or collectively, was and still is one of the most tempting models. Be it a politization of religion (as in radical political Islam) or a ‘sacralisation’ of politics (as in totalitarian ideologies), both are evil, as evil can be. They exploit human feelings of faith and hope by offering a vision of heaven on earth, or immediate access to paradise. Any means to this holy end are allowed: they range from slaughtering infidels (or: apostates) to torturing dissidents. It can only lead to hell on earth.30 Trying to re-install consubstantiality is a recipe for disaster, not only in its collective form, but also in its more individual forms, such as postmodern hedonism, atheist consumerism and psycho-esotericism. They are all as nefarious as can be; they dream the immediate realization of mankind’s dreams. These forms of false religions – I dare to call them false religions – are to be denounced forcefully. Demons and Prophets who promise instant salvation or a paradise full of covetousness only seriously lead us astray – be it through the promise of ultimate knowledge or of a paradise of bodily pleasures. In short: the various forms of Gnosticism, ranging from Antiquity to Modernity, from Christianity to Islam, have a common denominator: instant salvation.31 Subordination of Religion: Secularism Plato solves the problem of religion and order by defending a subordination of (civil) religion under politics; he started a line of argumention that runs (quite surprisingly) through Hobbes, to Rousseau and modern defenders of Laïcité, and that basically entails: strict neutrality of the state, under strict interpretation of the notion of separation of church and state.32 Hobbes’ idea of management of the awe and fear of power – although built on radically different philosophical premises compared to Plato’s, as laid out in the Leviathan – leads us to the same conclusion, namely that 30 See on Gnosticism, as a good introduction: Eric Voegelin, ‘The New Science of Politics’, in: Manfred Henningsen (Ed.) Modernity without restraint, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 5, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000, pp. 75ff., originally published in 1952. 31 Of course, this is only an ideal-typical characterisation, in order to try to understand what happens when morality, law and politics are subordinized under religion. Another possibility is to call it theocratic, but that would eliminate forms. 32 Thereby necessarily leading to a civil religion of Laïcité itself or a kind of religious republicanism.



religion is a (subordinate) means of politics.33 Hobbes’ idea of the state as a Mortal God, who exercises power on the basis of the calculated selfinterest of man, using ultimate incentives for his motivation to pursue his self-interests peacefully, under a social compact, is comparable qua outcome to Plato’s idea of the state. The fundamental difference between them is, however, that Plato recognizes a transcendent principle that lingers behind visual reality, while Hobbes rejects metaphysics on the assumption that matter and motion are the only true realities. The deconstruction of Platonic metaphysics by Hobbes paved the way for liberalism’s basic premise, which is (to quote Rawls): Political, not metaphysical.34 Rousseau’s argument for the need of a religion civile that sanctifies the social contract continues this line of thought. What he envisaged was a public religion in service of the state, in contrast to a religion de l’homme, which is a universal religion of love, only to be exercised in private and as long as it does not conflict with the religion civile.35 In Jacobinism, during the years after the French Revolution, serious efforts were made to establish such a public creed and cult, Le Culte de la Raison, later transformed into Le Culte de l’Être Suprème during the final months of the Terror in 1794.36 Is it a mere coincidence that the terror went hand in hand with installing a secular, civil (but in fact a political) religion? In summary: there is a powerful line of thought that relegates religion to man’s private sphere, and in which religion is a subordinate, but indispensable factor for politics. Rousseau’s arguments already went far beyond metaphysics, and in a sense inaugurated the purely functional approach to religion that we can see in modern thinkers such as Durkheim and Bellah. But, in so far as this line of thought leads to concepts that envision a repression of religion or a denial of its relevance

33 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Richard Tuck (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, originally published in 1651. 34 John Rawls, “Justice as fairness: political not metaphysical”, in: Philosophy and Public Affairs, SUM 85; 14: 223–251. 35 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, London: Penguin Classics 1968, p. 181, originally published in 1762. 36 See A. Aulard, Le Culte de la Raison et le Culte de’Être Suprème (1793–1794), Esssai historique, Paris: Félix Alcan 1909. Reference by August-Hans den Boef, ‘Men verlangt geen lamp meer in het volle zonlicht’, in: Bart C. Labuschagne (ed.), Religie als bron van sociale cohesie in de democratische rechtsstaat?Godsdienst, overheid en civiele religie in een postgeseculariseerde samenleving, Nijmegen: Ars Aequi Libri 2004, p. 63.



for morality, law and politics, it can only pave the way for tyranny of a majority or (worse): ‘enlightenment fundamentalism’.37 Mediation through Differentiation in a ‘Trinitarian’ Order The only way to strike a proper balance between religion and order, transcendence and immanence, in other words between the spiritual and the temporal, is by differentiating in the representation of both these realms. To prevent falling into unbridgeable dualisms, a third sphere is necessary for reconciliation or mediation as this can only be done in an open exchange of views in pursuit of truth (institutionalised as free speech, Academia, philosophical discourse, etc.). Only a conception that expresses this tripartite or ‘trinitarian’ relation between religion, politics and the free and critical pursuit of truth, can do justice to this reality. It is my intention to investigate the sources of this mediation, in order to clarify its present meaning. I think that this model has great normative power, especially for late – or post-modern multicultural and multi-religious societies. I also maintain that this triple representation is not only a philosophical prerequisite, but also a political, religious and intellectual one. This means that in the world’s religious traditions themselves traces of this ‘trinitarian order’ should be explored, so that we can discover the extent in which these traditions contain concepts capable of mediation through such a differentiation. I contend that religions are only in so far intrinsically able to differentiate between a spiritual, a secular, and an open, scientific or philosophical sphere, they can succeed to participate fruitfully in modern liberal democracies. For as far as they do not, they pose a possible threat to a free legal and political order. The philosophical vindication of mediation which is in fact a kind of reconciliation, is meant on the one hand to civilize religions – or at least adherents of them – just like Cusanus (Nicolaus von Cusa) tried to do in his De pace fidei, written in 1454: to teach the religions a docta ignorantia, from which true insight can be attained – leaving all religious dogma’s behind.38 On the other hand this is meant to tap into the civilising 37 For example: John Gray, Enlightenment and Terror, The Thomas More Lecture 2004, Amsterdam, gray/ 38 Nikolaus von Kues, Vom Frieden zwischen den Religionen, Latin-German, translated and with an introduction by Klaus Berger and Christiane Nord, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig: Insel Verlag 2002. A comparable effort was made by Grotius, who built his version of natural and international law on upholding these truths, etiamsi daremus Deus non esse: even when we dare to say that God does not exist. Grotius, De Iure Belli ac Pacis, Paris 1625.



elements in religions themselves in order to supply liberal democracies with the spiritual preconditions that help maintain these societies, that is: they can function as a source of social cohesion in liberal democracies, thereby transcending their religious group. The historical roots of this ‘trinitarian’ order can be found in ancient Israel where the leading representatives of these differentiated realities were priests, kings and prophets. The latter never seized political power – that is, prophets never became kings – they only criticized kings and warned the nation when Gods plans were abandoned in their world. To name but a few: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos. They did not wear the robes of priests, let alone the kings’ dresses, but the camel-haired coat of the prophet who – proverbially – was never honoured in his own country.39 The value of this third sphere next to the political and religious order in society can hardly ever be overestimated. In fact, modern open society, free speech, free press, and the academic pursuit of truth live by this ‘prophetic’ sphere, in which nothing but the disinterested and upright seeking of truth is endeavoured. The trinitarian line of thought and practice, developed in ancient Israel, is continued in Christianity, where not only a deep theological basis for representative trinitarianism (Priest, King, Prophet) was laid in Trinitarianism itself (Father – Son – Holy Ghost), but where deep religious differentiation within the Devine (transcendence) enabled a differentiation on the representative (immanent) level as well. This may even signify the deep theological roots of developments and more modern theories such as the Trias Politica as formulated by Montesquieu.40 Carl Schmitt stated that “all pregnant concepts of modern theories of the state are secularized theological concepts”.41 These observations call for careful further elaboration, unfortunately there is no space to delve into them deeper here. Undeniably, trinitarian ordering has Judeo-Christian roots, which does not mean however that it is only applicable to Christianity. Several theological and philosophical endeavours have been undertaken in order to mediate religion and order along differentiated lines, with


Matthew 13:57, Luke 4:24. The differentiation of state power in legislative, executive and adjudicative powers, Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, 1748. 41 Carl Schmitt, Politische Theologie. Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souveränität, Berlin: Duncker und Humblot 1996 (7th. Printing) 1996, p. 43. (In German, here: my translation [BL]). 40



indeed universal, trans-religious meaning. Two authors stand like high mountains in the midst of all efforts to come to terms with this problem: Augustine and Hegel. To them we will turn our attention in the following paragraphs. 4. TOWARDS A THEORY OF MEDIATION BETWEEN RELIGION AND ORDER: AUGUSTINE In Book VI, chapter 5 of his City of God, Augustine criticizes Varro’s interpretation42 of the distinction (then already common) between three types of “theology, that is the systematic theory of the gods, into the types: mythical, physical and civil”.43 The mythical type is used by poets and is associated with the theatre. The physical type, or natural theology is the theology of philosophers and is associated with the world, the universe. The third type is civil or political theology, used by statesmen, and is associated with the city, the commonwealth. Varro is very critical of the first of these theologies: these so-called gods should not serve as good examples for men; but he agrees with the second type: He [scl: Varro, BCL] has no fault to find with this ‘physical’ theology, which is the special preserve of philosophers, except for the mention of the philosophical controversies, which have given rise to a multitude of dissident sects. All the same, he removes the subject from the market-place, that is, from the general public, and shuts it in between the walls of a lectureroom. But he has not removed the first type – the mythical – with all its lies and filth. What sensitive ears do ordinary people have, including the Roman people, in matters of religion! They cannot tolerate the discussions of philosophers about the immortal gods. Yet they not merely tolerate, they listen with pleasure to fictions, sung by poets and acted by players, which offend against the dignity and the nature of the gods, because such adventures are appropriate to human nature in its most contemptible


In his at the time famous, but now lost Antiquitatem Rerum Divinarum Libri. Augustine, City of God, London: Penguin Classics 1984, p. 234. In Book IV, chapter 27, p. 168 Augustine gives an explanation for the origin of this distinction “(t)hat Scaevola, a most erudite pontiff, argued that there were three kinds of gods in the Roman tradition: one strand of tradition, coming through the poets, another through the philosophers, the third through the statesmen. According to Scaevola, the first tradition was trivial nonsense (…) while the second had no value for the commonwealth, in that it introduced (…) much that was harmful to the people in general to know. (…) Thus he held that it was expedient for communities to be deceived in matters of religion (…)”. 43



state. Moreover, they have decided that such stories are pleasing to the gods, and must be employed to obtain their favour.44

Varro’s wish to separate natural from civil theology is tantamount to an admission that civil theology itself is false: If natural theology is really natural, what is found wrong with it, to cause its exclusion from the city? While, if so-called ‘civil’ theology is not natural, what merit has it to cause its admission?45

This is exactly where Augustine shows that Varro’s argument leads to the necessary conclusion that civil religion is a false religion. In keeping true theology behind walls, he is admitting that mythical and civil theologies are obviously mendacious religions. Although Varro attaches great importance to civil religion, he cannot prevent civil religion from becoming mixed with mythical religion. “For both ‘civil’ and ‘fabulous’ theologies are at the same time fabulous and civil”.46 Of course Augustine is critical of Varro with regard to the latter’s treatment of the traditional Roman religion. In a Christian commonwealth, things would, no doubt, be very different. Let us examine Augustine’s political philosophy on this point, taking into account the existence of the Christian state. In Augustine’s theory of the two cities – which are intermingled, but maintain a value of their own – the heavenly city serves as a political model for the earthly city. The heavenly city, relates the earthly peace to the heavenly peace, which is so truly peaceful that it should be regarded as the only peace deserving that name (…); for this peace is the perfectly ordered and completely harmonious fellowship in the delight in God, and in each other through God.47

Therefore, the heavenly city serves as a political Leitmotiv and model for political praxis in the earthly city. This entails a responsibility for justice, general welfare, peace-keeping and the demand for mutual benevolence between people. During their pilgrimage to the city of God, the people are obliged to strive for peace on earth, in order to make the earthly city a worthy image of the heavenly. Citizens should be educated in order to make them capable of living up to this ideal, and it is exactly in this respect that Christianity 44 45 46 47

Augustine, op. cit. p. 235. Loc. cit. Augustine, op. cit. Book VI, chapter 9, p. 243. Augustine, op. cit. Book XIX, chapter 17, p. 878.



unequivocally has a civil, religious dimension. Within Christendom there exists a positive connection between natural theology (that is: philosophy) and civil/political theology, in the sense that the earthly city should always – rationally – be measured against the heavenly ideal, and that all efforts should be directed towards attaining this ideal, through the heads and the hearts of the people: the vision of God’s City, as an empire of eternal peace, eternal justice, eternal truth and eternal bliss. In the course of the following centuries, it was this ideal that not only gained political relevance and influence, but also became the power of civil religion. It has functioned ever since as both the touchstone and justification par excellence of all political order in the West, until the age of Enlightenment, when the notion of divine power was seriously challenged and eventually broken down by revolutionary movements, for example during the French Revolution. The breach with the divine was hard to overcome, especially when – in the aftermath of the European religious wars in the 16th Century – the modern state started to define itself as independent of any particular religion. This, however, did not preclude states from recurring to a general, civil, Christian religion as a basic institution in society, represented by the Church. Tocqueville’s remarks about religion as the first of all political institutions in society are applicable here.48 Secular well-being, to be attained by political means, was the state’s responsibility; spiritual well-being, to be attained by religious means, was the church’s responsibility. The civilizing effects of religion were beneficial to society as a whole. But how this 18th and 19th century constellation between state and civil religion could be conceptualised, remained unclear until Hegel offered us a viable theory for a truly, fullscale differentiation and mediation between state and religion, to which we will turn our attention now. It will turn out that not all positive religions possess this civil dimension. 5. A THEORY OF MEDIATION BETWEEN RELIGION AND ORDER: HEGEL In Hegel’s view, state and religion are but different forms of realization of one and the same substance. This substance is Geist, ‘spirit’ (sometimes – for

48 “Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society, but it must be regarded as the first of their political institutions”. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, I, New York: Vintage Books 1956, p. 316.



modern ears not quite adequately – translated as ‘mind’),49 a central notion in Hegel’s philosophy. In Hegel’s system of philosophy, this Geist is described in the Encyclopaedia, the third and final part of it, coming after Logik and Natur, as consciousness coming to itself.50 The way in which this Geist realizes itself, is divided into three stages: subjektiver, objektiver and absoluter Geist. The latter two are the notions under which Hegel expounds his philosophy of law, morality, civil society and the state (objective spirit), and finally art, religion and philosophy (absolute spirit). In the Encyclopaedia the relations between state and religion are discussed in the final part of objective spirit, where Hegel describes the process of the self-realization of consciousness transforming itself from an objective into an absolute form. Both the question whether the absolute is already active in some foreshadowing form, or relevant within the sphere of objective spirit, as well as the question to what extent the absolute is being anticipated within this objective sphere, are very relevant for our present investigation. Having defined our problem in Hegelian terms, it is now interesting to see how Hegel treats this question in detail. We shall confine ourselves to his exposition in the Encyclopaedia, in particular §552, from the fifth subsection onwards.51 The key passages in this paragraph are quoted and analysed here: It is evident and apparent (…) that moral life is the State retracted into its inner heart and substance, while the State is the organisation and actualisation of moral life; and that religion is the very substance of the moral life itself and of the State. At this rate, the State rests on the ethical sentiment and that on the religious. If religion then is the consciousness of ‘absolute’ truth, then whatever is to rank as right and justice, as law and duty, i.e. as true in the world of free will, can be so esteemed as it is participant in that truth, as it is subsumed under it and is its sequel. But if the truly

49 See William Wallace’s translation of part III of the Encyclopaedia of the philosophical sciences, Philosophy of mind, 20%20Philosophy%20 of %20Mind.htm 50 The process through which consciousness becomes aware of this, is described in Hegel’s Phenomenology of mind (1806); a systematic overview of what this consciousness entails, is found in his Encyclopaedia of the philosophical sciences (final edition 1830). 51 In the Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1821) the relations between state and religion are discussed in §270. See for a detailed analysis (in German), B.C. Labuschagne, Hegels Verständnis des Verhältnisses zwischen Staat und Religion, nach der Anmerkung zu §270 der Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, in: Andreas Arndt e.a. (ed.) Hegel Jahrbuch 2003: Glauben und Wissen, Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2003, pp. 258–263. Additionally, in Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of History, from which I quoted the motto of the present contribution, the reader can find an easy to read discussion of this question.



moral life is to be a sequel of religion, then […] religion must [necessarily] have the genuine content; i.e. the idea of God it knows must be the true and real.52

It is absolutely clear to Hegel that order in society has a spiritual dimension, that this order has its deepest roots in man’s religiousness. “Religion is the sphere in which a nation gives itself the definition of that which it regards as the True”.53 Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for order in society to localise people’s belief, not only what they believe individually but also (and even more) collectively: The ethical life is the divine spirit as indwelling in self-consciousness, as it is actually present in a nation and its individual members. This selfconsciousness, retiring upon itself out of its empirical actuality and bringing its truth to consciousness, has in its faith and in its conscience only what it has consciously secured in its spiritual actuality. The two are inseparable: there cannot be two kinds of conscience, one religious and the other ethical, differing from the former in body and value of truth. But in point of form, i.e. for thought and knowledge – (and religion and ethical life belong to intelligence and are a thinking and a knowing) – the body of religious truth, as the pure self-subsisting and therefore supreme truth, exercises a sanction over the moral life which lies in empirical actuality. Thus for selfconsciousness, religion is the ‘basis’ of moral life and of the state. It has been the monstrous blunder of our times to try to look upon these inseparables as separable from one another, and even as mutually indifferent.54

For Hegel, only true religion can form the basis for law, morality and the state. That is, only when its adherents embrace a civil religion that is characterized by the essence of ideal typically protestant Christianity, the religion that in Hegel’s eyes comes closest to a ‘true religion’. According to Hegel, Protestantism is the religion with the strongest civil religious dimension: it is able to supply the spiritual sources of a free democracy. In short a liberal democracy is best upheld by a civility of ‘honest Protestants’. Of course we can not interpret this literally, but only ideal typically: that is, accentuating some essential traits of it. What are these ideal-typical traits in Hegel’s view? We can discover this by looking at other religions, e.g. Catholicism, and by investigating what could be their civil religious dimension. Hegel is very critical of Catholicism in this respect. In effect, he criticizes Catholicism as a religion of externality, 52

Hegel, Encyclopaedia, §552. G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, New York: Dover Publications 1956, p. 50. 54 Hegel, Encyclopaedia, §552. To improve the readability, I altered this translation slightly. 53



of spiritual bondage, not appropriate at all as the spiritual source for a liberal legal and political order. It [i.e. Catholicism] leads, generally, to justification by external works, a merit which is supposed to be gained by acts, and even capable to be transferred to others. All of these restrain the spirit under externalism, by which the very meaning of spirit is perverted and misconceived at its source, and law and justice, morality and conscience, responsibility and duty are corrupted at their roots. This idea of spiritual bondage and its applications in religious life, are necessarily accompanied by a legal and moral bondage in the legislative and constitutional system, and also by a state of lawlessness and immorality in political life.55

Such a religion is not appropriate to function as a viable source for liberal democracies. Hegel would probably have said the same about Islam, nowadays a serious possible spiritual source for liberal legal and political order. We can find some interesting passages on contemporary Islam in Hegel’s Philosophy of History, that might support this view: Abstraction swayed the minds of the Mahometans. Their object was, to establish an abstract worship, and they struggled for its accomplishment with the greatest enthusiasm. This enthusiasm was Fanaticism, that is, an enthusiasm for something abstract – for an abstract thought which sustains a negative position towards the established order of things. It is the essence of fanaticism to bear only a desolating destructive relation to the concrete; (…). La religion et la terreur was the principle in this case, as with Robespierre, la liberté et la terreur.56

In short, “external” and “fanatical” religions lack inwardness and a critical attitude towards themselves. That is exactly what is needed for the existence of a free society and a free state: It is no use to organise political laws and arrangements on principles of equity and reason, so long as in religion the principle of unfreedom is not abandoned. A free state and a slavish religion are incompatible. It is silly to suppose that we may try to allot them separate spheres, under the impression that their diverse natures will maintain an attitude of tranquillity one to another and not break out in contradiction and battle. Principles of civil freedom can be but abstract and superficial, and political institutions deduced from them must be, if taken alone, untenable, so long as those principles in their wisdom mistake religion so much as not to know that the maxims of the reason in actuality have their last and supreme sanction in the religious conscience in subsumption under the consciousness

55 56

Hegel, Encyclopaedia, §552. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, New York: Dover Publications 1956, p. 358.



of ‘absolute’ truth. (…) It is nothing but a modern folly to try to alter a corrupt moral organization by altering its political constitution and code of laws without changing the religion, – to make a revolution without having made a reformation (…).57

Hegel concludes this paragraph by stating: Only in the principle of mind (“Geist ”, spirit), which is aware of its own essence, [which] is implicitly in absolute liberty, and [which] has its actuality in the act of self-liberation, does the absolute possibility and necessity exist for political power, religion, and the principles of philosophy coinciding in one, and for accomplishing the reconciliation of actuality in general with the mind, of the state with the religious conscience as well as with the philosophical consciousness. Self-realizing subjectivity is in this case absolutely identical with substantial universality. Hence religion as such, and the state as such – both as forms in which the principle exists – both contain the absolute truth:58 so that the truth, in its philosophic phase, is after all only in one of its forms. (…) Thus ultimately, in the Protestant conscience the principles of the religious and of the ethical conscience come to be one and the same: the free spirit learning to see itself in its reasonableness and truth. In the Protestant state, the constitution and the code, as well as their different applications, embody the principle and the development of the moral life, which proceeds and can only proceed from the truth of religion, when reinstated in its original principle and in that way as such first become actual. The moral life of the state and the religious spirituality of the state are thus reciprocal guarantees of strength.59

In conclusion, what is needed for a free state and a free society to exist is that its citizens are religiously educated in a (ideal-typical) ‘protestantChristian’ religion. The reason behind this is the necessity of forming a conscience that can ‘handle’ this freedom on which state and society rest. In short: law, morality and the state presuppose a religion as this civil dimension. ‘Civil’ here means both: ‘public’ and ‘civilized’ or ‘gebildet’. Gebildet refers to being educated by true philosophy, in a critical spirit, with the corroboration of a (ideal-typical) ‘protestant-Christian’ religion. The spirit that dwells in the hearts and minds of the educated and the civilized, as well as that of the rest of the population,60 is the same as the 57

Hegel, Encyclopaedia, §552. Hence the clear mediation between state, religion and philosophical truth. These three comprise exactly the ‘trinitarian’ order mentioned earlier. (B.C.L.) 59 Hegel, Encyclopaedia, §552, last subsection. 60 Some of them more or less conscious, and others more or less conscientious…; hence the necessity of law to help people remember, and the need for criminal law to prevent some of them who have difficulty discerning wrong from right. 58



one that resides in the laws and institutions. Without this civil-religious foundation, all these institutions would be meaningless, and their political legitimacy consequently vain and void. True freedom can only be realized in a free society and in a free state, on the basis of a true and civil religion of freedom, pace Hegel. This order, as expounded by Hegel, can be considered ‘trinitarian’ in as far as the spiritual (‘priestly’) function is represented by the Church – of which each citizen is a member, if not expressly stipulated otherwise61 – the secular (‘kingly’) by the state, and finally the critical (‘prophetic’) by the free insight of philosophy, as developed in Academia but also relevant in free expression, free press etc. 6. CONCLUDING REMARKS In this brief philosophical exposition of forms of mediation between religion and order, from Augustine to Hegel, we have discovered that the key to legal and political legitimacy lies in the awakening of a critical philosophical spirit in people. This is brought about by a civil (idealtypical) ‘protestant-Christian’ religion that educates people’s conscience. The spirit that dwells in philosophy and religion is the same as the spirit of the laws and the state. When people are adequately educated in this critical spirit, it follows that such people will be governed by the administration they deserve. The scope of religious pluralism is however hedged by these very civil religious borders. They can be summarised by the notion of the ‘trinitarian’ order: a differentiation in a threefold representation in three respective, relatively independent spheres: the spiritual, the political and the critical. If there could be any chance at all for non-Christian religions to function as spiritual sources for liberal democracies, they should all stand the critical test of having a ‘trinitarian’ order, in which religion, order and truth are probably best balanced. Only under conditions of such a tripartite order, rooted and developed in man’s religiousness, we may deal positively with actual religious plurality – with all its conflicting loyalties – in our post-secularized society. As far as these notions of an adequately represented differentiation between the spiritual, the political and the ‘critical’ are either absent, seriously lacking or underdeveloped in existing religions in society, these 61

See his Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, §270 Addition.



religions are to be treated cautiously and carefully. Of course, adherents enjoy freedom of religion, but only under strict separation of ‘Church and state’ and strict neutrality of the state. Any other indulgence of that particular religion, be it subsiding education based on its conviction, or other financial benefits, is too dangerous to pursue. Maybe a system of official recognition of religions as adequately civil, based on an objective investigation as to its ‘trinitarian’ potential, will have to be worked out before any possible positive (financial or otherwise facilitating) relations could exist between state and religion. Questions can be raised as to whether Islam is to be considered as a religion that differentiates adequately between the spiritual, political and critical dimensions of order. As Islam shows itself, both in history and at present, with its founder being a religious, political and prophetical leader in one, with its serious lack of institutionalised, independent and free criticism (but instead carrying deadly consequences to infidelity and apostasy – inherently making criticism dangerous), with its inability to differentiate ultimate divine power in a trinitarian God (as is strictly forbidden in Islam) ensuing to great difficulties in understanding and accepting that legal and political order be based on the separation of powers such as in the Trias Politica,62 serious doubts can be entertained as to whether Islam in any form can contribute positively to the very ethos modern and free democracies need today. This calls for a very thorough investigation that, unfortunately, cannot be carried out here any further. The preconditions on which modern liberal democracies live, but cannot guarantee themselves, form a fragile spiritual and moral infrastructure that cannot be taken for granted but at the cost of seriously underestimating what are real gods for men. In a society in which the god of one man is the devil of another, a balance must be struck between the spiritual and the temporal, within a free and open debate on what would constitute such a balance, given the profound differences between religions. These are true differences that nevertheless tend to be neglected in politically correct dialogue between them (them being the ‘Abrahamite’ religions). When we speak of ‘religion’ in relation to legal and political order, we have to demand chapter and verse. What

62 The question whether there is some relation between Trinitarianism and the Trias Politica has not yet been properly posed, let alone convincingly elaborated and argued.



religion? Whose religion? And to what extent does it potentially or actually possess a civil dimension? Unpleasant and awkward questions for some, which makes it all the more necessary to pose them.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Assmann, Jan, Herrschaft und Heil. Politische Theologie in Altägypten, Israel und Europa, Frankfurt am Main: Fisher 2002. Augustine, City of God, London: Penguin Classics 1984, p. 234. Aulard, Le Culte de la Raison et le Culte de’Être Suprème (1793–1794), Esssai historique, Paris: Félix Alcan 1909. Bärsch, Claus-E., et al. (eds.), “Wer Religion verkennt, erkennt Politik nicht”. Perspektiven der Religionspolitologie, Würzburg, Königshausen & Neumann 2005. Bellah, Robert N., et al. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, Berkeley: University of California Press 1985. Bellah, Robert N., ‘Civil Religion in America’, Daedalus 96 (1), 1967, pp. 1–21. Berger, Peter R., (ed.), The Desecularisation of the World. Resurgent Religion and World Politics, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1999. Berger, Peter R., The Sacred Canopy. Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion, New York: Doubleday 1969. Böckenförde, E.-W., ‘Die Entstehung des Staates als Vorgang der Säkularisation’, in: E.-W. Böckenförde, Recht, Staat, Freiheit. Studien zur Rechtsphilosophie, Staatstheorie und Verfassungsgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1991, pp. 92ff. August-Hans den Boef, ‘Men verlangt geen lamp meer in het volle zonlicht’, in: Bart C. Labuschagne (ed.), Religie als bron van sociale cohesie in de democratische rechtsstaat?Godsdienst, overheid en civiele religie in een post-geseculariseerde samenleving, Nijmegen: Ars Aequi Libri 2004. Cliteur, Paul, “Liberal Globalism: A Defence”, in: Eva Nieuwenhuys, ed., Neo-liberal Globalism and Social Sustainable Globalisation, Leiden/Boston: Brill 2006, pp. 15–39. Gray, John, Enlightenment and Terror, The Thomas More Lecture, Amsterdam 2004, Hegel, G.W.F., Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, Werke, Bd. 12, ed. by Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag 1970ff., translated: The Philosophy of History, New York: Dover Publications 1956. Hegel, G.W.F., Enzyklopädie der Philosophischen Wissenschaften, (final edition 1830), translated: Encyclopaedia of the philosophical sciences, ToC/Hegel%20%20Philosophy%20 of %20Mind.htm Henry, Maureen, The Intoxication of Power. An Analysis of Civil Religion in Relation to Ideology, Dordrecht e.a.: Reidel 1979. Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, Richard Tuck (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, originally published in London, 1651. Jäger, Werner, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers, (The Gifford Lectures, 1936), Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press 1980. Jaspers, Karl, Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte, Zürich: Artemis 1949. Nikolaus von Kues, Vom Frieden zwischen den Religionen, Latin-German, translated and with an introduction by Klaus Berger and Christiane Nord, Frankfurt am Main/ Leipzig: Insel Verlag 2002, originally published in 1453. Labuschagne, B.C., Hegels Verständnis des Verhältnisses zwischen Staat und Religion, nach der Anmerkung zu §270 der Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, in: Andreas Arndt e.a. (ed.) Hegel Jahrbuch 2003: Glauben und Wissen, Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2003, pp. 258–263.



Ley, Michael, et al. (eds.), Politische Religion? Politik, Religion und Anthropologie im Werk von Eric Voegelin, München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag 2003. Milton Yinger, J. The Scientific Study of Religion, London: Collier-Macmillan 1971. Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, New York: Hafner Press 1949, originally published in Geneva, 1748. Nietzsche, Friedrich, Beyond Good and Evil, translated, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company 1955, originally published in 1886. Rawls, John, “Justice as fairness: political not metaphysical”, in: Philosophy and Public Affairs, SUM 85; 14: 223–251. Rouner, Leroy S., (ed.), Civil Religion and Political Theology, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press 1985 (in: Boston University studies in philosophy and religion, vol. 8). Rousseau, J.J., Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique, translated: The Social Contract, London: Pinguin 1968, originally published in Amsterdam 1762. Schieder, Rolf, (ed.), Religionspolitik und Zivilreligion, Baden Baden: Nomos Verlag 2001. Schmitt, Carl, Politische Theologie. Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souveränität, Berlin: Duncker und Humblot 1996 (7th. Printing) 1996, originally published in 1922. Taylor, Charles, The Sources of the Self. The Making of Modern Identity, Cambrigde: Cambridge University Press 1989. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, I, New York: Vintage Books 1956, originally published in two parts in 1835 and 1840. Voegelin, Eric, ‘The Political Religions’, in: Manfred Henningsen (Ed.) Modernity without restraint, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 5, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000, pp. 19ff., originally published in Vienna, 1938. Voegelin, Eric, Order and History, published between 1956 and 1987 in 5 volumes, now available in The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vols. 14–18, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000 and 2001. Voegelin, Eric, ‘The New Science of Politics’, in: Manfred Henningsen (Ed.) Modernity without restraint, The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 5, Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press 2000, pp. 75ff., originally published in 1952.




POLITICS AND RELIGION IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT I: HOBBES, SPINOZA, LOCKE AND ROUSSEAU Claus-E. Bärsch 1. INTRODUCTION The over-arching topic of the chapters in Part B is the good and happy life of men in the societal-political order, created by man himself. Purpose of the first two chapters in it, is clarification of the Enlightenment. Their subject matter is not Enlightenment in itself and for itself, not the entire Enlightenment, not the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times), not the prevailing mentality throughout the societal classes, not the complete philosophy of Enlightenment, neither its historical reality, but merely Enlightenment as a paradigm of the political. For the referring to Enlightenment – after a long time’s sleep – serves the function of a value and criterion, especially in public and private debates about political-religious problems and conflicts.1 Enlightenment is regarded as something positive. What is good and true, finds itself represented in Enlightenment. However, does Enlightenment deserve to be an argument just by mentioning it? The avowal to Enlightenment has become commonplace, up to its depravation as a ritual in a talk show – replacing the ‘Amen’ at church. Many have got fixed ideas about Enlightenment’s contents. Rarely explicitly perceptible, it is prevailingly claimed though, in journals and public as well as private debates, that Enlightenment means roughly the following: Priority of reason to belief and herewith rejection of all religions, especially the Christian creed; Freeing man from the ties of religion; Freeing citizens’ religion from the authority of state power and ruling; Tolerance between religions and denominations; Fundamental rights and rule of law guaranteeing someone either being or not being religious; Religion is considered to be a private matter; The separation 1 See for instance in this volume, Chapter X, The Enlightenment in Contemporary Cultural Debate, by Paul Cliteur and Geoff Gordon.



of state and church is considered to correspond with the ideal of Enlightenment outgrowing the Middle Ages; The liberal-constitutional democracies of the 20th century are regarded as postulated in and developed on Enlightenment’s basis. These claims’ truths are in need to be verified, for in the mediapolitical world of today, more is believed than known. Enlightenment about the Enlightenment means quoting a lot and interpreting little. The relation of politics and religion bears a complexity that has to be reduced. Unfortunately, this shortcoming cannot be moderated with regard to the fundamental point at issue: the political-religious problem. – It belongs to the context of belief and reason, be it among the rulers or ruled, or the powerful and powerless. It should be reminded that the problem came up through the reception of Greek philosophy at the very beginning of Christianity’s history. Hence, in the theology of the middle ages, efforts were made to solve the political-religious problem. Afterwards, this was done in a different approach within the philosophy of Enlightenment. An explanation may be in place why the enlightenment of Enlightenment with regard to the subject of politics and religion is carried out on the basis of the philosophers in question, i.e. Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke and Rousseau in this chapter and Kant in the next. The philosophy of Enlightenment is dealt with here, because we principally want to investigate the paradigm of the relation between politics and religion that is inherent in it. In particular, we want to inquire into the preconditions, the form and content, as well as the consequences of results of the social contract. It is studied as a theory of legitimization of political power and legal order, as can be extracted from the works of Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant. According to this contract theory, it is not religion that legitimates ruling but a contract between human beings who, before concluding, lived in a so-called state of nature, a state of freedom without law and religion. Only through a contract of everybody with everybody, association emerges from among mere aggregation, and rights, institutions, and a sovereign power come about. Hobbes is our starting-point here, because he is the founder of modern contract theory. Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant follow his conception, although with their own variations. Enlightenment of Enlightenment is limited to the following points. We will present the texts dealing with the relation of reason and belief, between state and church as well as religious freedom and tolerance. Our effort shall be to respond to the question whether the solution of



the political-religious problem presented by our Enlightenment philosophers can actually be found in negating or rejecting religion at all and affirmatively pointing out the citizen’s religious freedom and tolerance among all worldviews (Weltanschauungen) and religions. Only on the basis of this analysis, it is possible to conclude whether the solutions offered by Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant correspond with the paradigm of modern democracy – or are even suitable for resolving present political-religious conflicts. The subject of this chapter, as is the next chapter on Kant, is not the philosophical basis of the relation of reason and religion, political Commonwealth (state) and church as well as the citizen’s freedom of religion as such. Its subject is merely to bring back to mind the long history of the relation of politics and religion, a history that was still very much alive during the time of Enlightenment, and can be traced back as far as biblical times. Already Jesus Christ was aware of the need for religious freedom from political power, as can be illustrated by two quotations from the New Testament: My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world. ( John, 18: 36) Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (Mark, 12: 17)

Hence, mention should be made of the conception of two civitates (civitas dei and civitas terrena) in De Civitate Dei of St. Augustine, the religious politics of emperor Constantine, the medieval quality of imperium and sacerdotium or the dispute between the mundane realm (vis temporalis, emperor) and the spiritual realm (vis spiritualis, pope) and Luther’s so called doctrine of the two realms. Even Hobbes links up to the differentiation between two ‘civitates’ (imperium and ecclesia) or difference and mutual completion of vis temporalis and vis spiritualis in the middle ages. This can be already taken from the full title of his renowned book Leviathan: “Leviathan Or The Matter, Forme & Power of A Common-Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civill”.2 By describing the preconditions of the contents, the form and the consequences of the social contract in the writings of Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Rousseau in this chapter, and Kant in the next, the relationship


Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651), London: Penguin 1982.



between reason, politics, and religion or state (commonwealth) and church and freedom of religion can be summarised in short and comprehended properly. This conception consists mainly in the following elements: state of nature, the genesis of the civil commonwealth (state) by a contract of every man with every man, the loss of the original freedom and power, the quality of the ‘union of men’ (i.e. unity like in Rousseau, and Kant or ordered plurality in Locke), the origin of institutions (justice, law, jurisdiction, government), and in particular the origin and the legitimization of the ‘souveraigne power ’ as supreme, highest, and nearly unlimited power, the so-called ‘Souveraigne’ (one or more persons) or the ‘Souveraignity’. All elements enumerated here are relevant to identify the relation of religion and reason, the separation of ‘state’ or ‘commonwealth’ and ‘church’ as well as the citizen’s freedom of religion. 2. HOBBES: THE SOVEREIGNTY OF POLITICAL POWER AS ‘LEVIATHAN’ Hobbes is regarded as the founder of modern political theory. The paradigm of his axiomatic-deductive method consists of mathematics, and therefore constitutes the presupposition of his concept of the social contract. In the 10th chapter of De Homine,3 in “the science whereof is called geometry”,4 he deals with the “a priori demonstration only of those things whose generation depends on the will of men themselves”.5 In doing so, he can construct the following link between the ‘more geometrico’, politics, ethics, right, justice, law, and agreement (contract): Therefore those mathematics are pure which (like geometry and arithmetic) revolve around quantities in the abstract so that work in the subject requires no knowledge of fact; those mathematics are mixed, in truth, which in their reasoning also consider any quality of the subject, as is the case with astronomy, music, physics, and the parts of physics that can vary on account of the variety of species and the parts of the universe. (….) Finally, politics and ethics (that is, the sciences of just and unjust, of equity and inequity) can be demonstrated a priori; because we ourselves make the principles – that is, the causes of justice (namely laws and covenants) – whereby it is known what justice and equity, and their opposites injustice and inequity, are. For before covenants and laws were drawn up, neither justice


Thomas Hobbes, De Homine (1658), Man and Citizen, translated by Charles T. Wood, T.S.K. Scott-Craig, and Bernard Gert, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing 1991. 4 De Homine, op. cit. p. 41. 5 Op. cit. p. 41.



nor injustice, neither public good nor public evil, was natural among men any more than it was among beasts.6

The conditions which lead to the social contract include Thomas Hobbes’ anthropology, above all “appetite and aversion”, “pleasure and displeasure” and their causes,7 which nota bene is principally a strong point of his political theory, almost absent in nowadays’ political science. For now, it will suffice to quote Hobbes’ axiom concerning the state of nature (and how people can overcome it): Moreover, the greatest of goods for each is his own preservation. For nature is so arranged that all desire good for themselves. Insofar as it is within their capacities, it is necessary to desire life, health, and further, insofar as it can be done, security of future time. On the other hand, though death is the greatest of all evils (especially when accompanied by torture) the pains of life can be so great that, unless their quick end is foreseen, they may lead men to number death among the goods.8

The consequences of this “own preservation” as the great “good” and “goal” of human beings in the “state of men” are described in the first part of Hobbes’ book De Cive.9 That is the “state of nature”, a “state of men without civil society”. This work contains also chapters “Of Dominion” and “Of Religion”, from which follows that for Hobbes, liberty, dominion, and religion, as well as the tension between them, is an essential element in Hobbes’ theory of the ‘citizen’. The following characteristics of the state of nature can be named as follows. First: man does not strive for society by nature; he is not, as Aristotle pointed out at the beginning of his work on politics,10 a zoon politikon (a political animal): The greatest part of those men who have written aught concerning commonwealths, either suppose, or require us or beg of us to believe, that man is a creature born fit for society. The Greeks call him zoon politikon; and on this foundation they so build up the doctrine of civil society, as if for the preservation of peace, and the government of mankind, there were nothing else necessary than that men should agree to make certain covenants and conditions together, which themselves should then call laws. Which axiom, though received by most, is yet certainly false; and an error

6 7 8 9 10

Op. cit. p. 42ff. Op. cit. see chapter XI. Op. cit. p. 48ff. De Cive (1651), the first passage of the chapter “Of Liberty”. Aristotle, Politica, 1253A7.



proceeding from our too slight contemplation of human nature.11 (…) We do not therefore by nature seek society for its own sake, but that we may receive some honour or profit from it; these we desire primarily, that secondarily.12

Second: the state of nature does not know any laws, therefore not any objectively valid right. Everybody is the bearer of the subjective right to do everything possible for purposes of his self-preservation.13 The principle of homo homini lupus prevails (“man to man is an arrant wolf ”).14 Human existence is pervaded by permanent bellum omnium contra omnes, by “war of all men against all men”.15 According to Hobbes, fear is the anticipation of a future evil. Therefore, man in the natural state of war cannot expect to preserve himself for a long time. For that reason, it is a ‘dictate of reason’, the natural reason, to seek the necessary means of security and self-preservation in peace. The very first of these means is the social contract and the institutions that originate as a result of this contract, above all law that is based on the sovereign’s legislation. It is not religion that mitigates or even eliminates all evil in the state of nature. Religion or the belief in God or something Holy are not mentioned in Hobbes’ account of the state of nature, which makes the conclusion irrefutable that man in the state of nature is not religious. Nevertheless, he is a being of fear, inquiring as to the causes of happiness and misfortune: “And this Feare of things invisible, is the naturall Seed of that, which every one in himself calleth Religion”.16 In continuation, at the beginning of chapter 12 (“Of Religion”), Hobbes argues that the “seed of religion” is a specific quality of human beings: Seeing there are no signes, nor fruit of Religion, but in Man onely; there is no cause to doubt, but that the seed of Religion, is also onely in man; and consisteth in some peculiar quality, or at least in some eminent degree thereof, not to be found in other Living creatures.17

Hobbes takes a further step after showing in detail how religion develops from its seed:

11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Hobbes, De Cive, op. cit. p. 110ff. Op. cit. p. 48ff, 111. Op. cit. pp. 116, 137, 140. Op. cit. p. 89. Op. cit. p. 118. Hobbes, Leviathan, part I, chapter XI, op. cit. p. 168. Op. cit. chapter XII, p. 168.



From the propagation of Religion, it is not hard to understand the causes of the resolution of the same into its first seeds, or principles; which are only an opinion of a Deity, and Powers invisible, and supernaturall; that can never be so abolished out of humane nature, but that new Religions may againe be made to spring out of them, by the culture of such men, as for such purpose are in reputation.18

That is the reason why Hobbes, in his search of a free public order under law, treats the context of politics and religion in greater detail. Before going into form, content, and consequences of the social contract in Leviathan – according to the book Job of the Jewish Bible a bestial monster, over which only God, not man, has might – the meaning of religion in Hobbes’ work has to be verified and a definition of religion has to be given precedence. This definition of religion shall be quoted from the work De Homine (On Man), which was written after the Leviathan and De Cive (On the Citizen): Religion is the external worship (cultus) of men who sincerely honour God. Moreover, they sincerely honour God who believe not only that He exists, but also that He is the omnipotent and omniscient creator and ruler of all things, and, further, that He is by His own will the distributor of prosperity and adversity. Therefore religion as such (that is, natural) consists of two parts; whereof one is faith (or belief that God exists and that He governs all things), the other is worship. Moreover, the first part, which concerns faith in God, is usually called piety toward God. For he who believes the above cannot not endeavour to obey Him in all things; neither can he not endeavour to give thanks in prosperity nor to utter supplications in adversity; for these things are the most characteristic works of piety; in them are contained the love and fear wherewith we are commanded to love and fear God.19

Hobbes belongs to the first thinkers for whom religio, or that which can be denoted by the concept of religion, is a subject sui generis, elementarum philosophiae, detached from theology, which, in that respect, was traditionally for politics a subject of philosophy 20 – and also for political science. Hobbes did not mention the term ‘religious’ here or there as it came, nor did he more or less explicitly state something about religio; in fact, nevertheless, within his work as a whole, a systematic, coherent picture can be drawn on the basis of specific chapters and passages. 18 19 20

Op. cit. chapter XII, p. 179. De Homine, chapter XIV (On Religion), p. 71. Compare De Homine, op. cit. pp. 42ff.



A differentiation between individual (‘man’ and ‘citizen’) on the one hand and the collective on the other hand can be perceived, which means a treatment of the relation of the human being and citizen to religion on the one hand, and the treatment of religion in ‘the civil commonwealth’ and ‘the ecclesiasticall commonwealth’ on the other hand. In his writing “On Man”, religion is mainly treated in the 14th chapter. In the edition that is used here, the third part of ‘On Citizen’ bears the title “Of Religion”, but the topic of the four chapters (XV, XVI, XVII, XVIII) is mainly ‘The Kingdom of God’.21 Noticeable is the meaning of “the covenant” (which is also called “contract”) and “the government” in the sphere of the religious regarding the religious implications of politics (the political) and the political implications of religion – principally and way beyond Hobbes’ time. This holds true, even if one is not going along with Hobbes and regards ‘right reason’ the decisive criterion for judging religion and its specific contents. The relation between man and religion is also treated in the first part of Leviathan, namely “Of Man”, which has to be referred to later again. “The Kingdom of God by Nature” is the title and subject of the last chapter (XXXI) of part II in Leviathan, which deals with the relation of politics and religion from the perspective of collective existence after concluding the social contract. As the citizens have to owe obedience to the sovereign of the civil commonwealth, Hobbes pays attention to a potential conflict of obedience towards the “Right of Gods Sovereignty” and “the Sovereign of the civil commonwealth”. The citizen’s criterion is that of natural reasoning. From there on, Hobbes considers “what are the Divine Laws or Dictates of Naturall Reason”.22 This “naturall Reason” as the criterion of interpretation is resumed in part III of the Leviathan, titled “Of A Christian Common-Wealth”. The title of this part is different from the title of the entire work (which mentions “ecclesiastical commonwealth”). This difference can be understood, because Hobbes does not treat in this work the institution of the ecclesia (church) and the collective identity of the church (corpus Christi ), as well as the organisational structure or church laws. The centre of

21 See chapter XV: “Of the Kingdom of God by Nature”; chapter XVI: “Of the Kingdom of God and the Old Covenant”; chapter XVII: “Of the Kingdom of God by the Covenant”; chapter XVIII: “Concerning Those Things Which are Necessary for Our Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven”. 22 Leviathan, op. cit. footnote 2, p. 399.



Hobbes’ reflections in part III of the Leviathan consists mainly of the mediation of God’s words by the prophets of the Old Testament and the Gospels of the New Testament, therefore the ‘Holy Scripture’. Did Hobbes attempt to prove here to what extent the contents of the Bible were not inconsistent with reason? This is definitively the case in the last part (IV) of the Leviathan, with the title “Of the Kingdom of Darkness”. In this part, the doctrines, belief in miracles, and customs of the Catholic and Presbyterian churches are criticised that falsify the ‘Holy Scripture’. Hobbes affirms in the semi-final passage: To conclude, there is nothing in the whole Discourse, nor in what I write before in the same subject in Latine, as far as I can perceive, contrary either to the word of God, or to good Manners.23

Summa: One can doubt whether Hobbes believed in God. Nevertheless, no proof is possible that he was an atheist. The motives for his cognition of God, his deism and his understanding of religion can only be either invented or expounded convincingly by long and detailed arguments. He has never criticised the conviction, which is contained in his definition of religion. In accordance with the criterion of natural reason, he was not a critic of religion as such. Form, content and consequences of the social contract in view of the separation of state and church, as well as the citizens’ religious freedom can be documented now. First two long texts have to be quoted, which will only briefly be interpreted though: The only way to erect such a Common Power, as may be able to defend them from the invasion of Forraigners, and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort, as that by their owne industrie, and by the fruites of the Earth, they may nourish themselves and live contentedly; is, to conferre all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men, that may reduce all their Wills, by plurality of voices, unto one Will: which is as much as to say, to appoint one man, or Assembly of men, to beare their Person; and every one to owne, and acknowledge himselfe to be Author of whatsoever he that so beareth their Person, shall Act, or cause to be Acted, in those things which concerne the Common Peace and Safetie; and therein to submit their Wills, every one to his Will, and their Judgements, to his Judgment. This is more than Consent, or Concord; it is a reall Unitie of them all, in one and the same Person, made by Covenant of every man with every man, in such manner,


Op. cit. p. 727.



as if every man should say to every man, I Authorise and give up my Right of Governing my selfe, to this Man, or to this Assembly of men, on this condition, that thou give up thy Right to him, and Authorise all his Actions in like manner. This done, the Multitude so united in one Person, is called a COMMON-WEALTH, in latine CIVITAS. This is the Generation of that great LEVIATHAN, or rather (to speake more reverently) of that Mortall God, to which wee owe under the Immortall God, our peace and defence”.24

From this follows: Firstly: people originally free voluntarily change to the state of tempered freedom, because they obey the precept of their natural reason. Secondly: human beings no longer are, in the strict sense of the word, individuals any more. They have merged to a unity; civitas respectively ‘commonwealth’ bears this quality of unity. Their uniting into a whole carries the character of plurality. Part and the whole coincide. They form a unity of will. They have become one sole ‘person’, a macroanthropos. In this respect, a collective identity in its literal sense has arisen. All have become one and the same person. Thirdly: a new god has emerged, even if only a mortal one; but at least a god, to which Hobbes has attributed the name of ‘Leviathan’, the name of a horrifying monster that has less power than the immortal God, but more power than man.25 Political power does not come from God any more, but emanates from human beings who have entered into a bond with one another by concluding a treaty with each other. The commonwealth, which is the political-civil society, the ‘state’, is defined accordingly; its essentia is explained and settled as well as the relation of the partners of the contract and the question of power, so that peace prevails. Hobbes continues: For by this Authoritie, given him by every particular man in the CommonWealth, he hath the use of so much Power and Strength conferred on him, that by terror thereof, he is inabled to forme the wills of them all, to Peace at home, and mutuall ayd against their enemies abroad. And in him consiteth the Essence of the Common-Wealth; which (to define it), is One Person, of whose Acts a great Multitude, by mutuall Covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the Author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all, as he shall think expedient, for their Peace and Common Defence. And he that carryeth his Person, is called SOVERAIGNE, and said to have Soveraigne Power ; and every one besides, his SUBJECT.26

24 25 26

Op. cit. p. 227. Old Testament, the book Job, chapter 40ff. Op. cit. pp. 227ff.



The consequences now to be noted are: Fourthly: the accumulation of power and strength as if a physical compression had occurred, which in turn has an effect on the respective wills of the partners of the contract. Fifthly: as the commonwealth consists of ‘One Person’, which means that all partners of this contract form one person, this unity’s actions (i.e. unity of will) have to be ascribed to the people themselves, as if these actions were the people’s own actions. Sixthly: “and he that carryeth this person” possesses the highest “Soveraigne Power”, also called the “Soveraigne”(suprema potestas).27 The formerly free partners of the contract of everybody with everybody are only his subjects. The one person (or group of persons) to whom the original rights and freedoms were assigned when the agreement was concluded, is the representative of the ‘Unitie’ respectively the commonwealth as ‘One Person’. His actions are ascribed again to every ‘citizen’ as their own actions. Seventhly: if ‘the greatest of goods for each’ is one’s own preservation of life and consequently consists of the material goods of life as well as security (and by that peace) in the future, men’s natural reason compels the people to renounce their original political freedom and become subjects of a ‘soveraigne power’. In the chapters XVII, XIV and XX, it is described in detail that within the ‘rights of Soveraignes’, supreme legislative power, governmental power and jurisdictional power are comprised. Nevertheless, the citizens have the right to resistance if the ‘Soveraigne’ cannot fulfil the purposes of the social contract (protection of life, its goods, and peace).28 Now the consequences of the social contract regarding the relation between politics and religion can be ascertained: First: as all members of the commonwealth are united into one and the same person, the members of the church and commonwealth are one and the same people. A separation of commonwealth (civitas, state) and church (Christian commonwealth) is not achieved. Second: it is considered an offence of the First Commandment if the subjects want to change their government: This desire of change is like the breach of the first of Gods Commandements: for there God sayes, Non habebis Deos alienos; Thou shalt not have

27 28

Loc. cit. Compare Leviathan, chapter XXI, p. 272.



the Gods of other Nations; and in another place concerning Kings, that they are Gods.29

Third: in so far as the external worship (cultus) of God to honour him is not only according to Hobbes a central element of religion,30 Hobbes asserts in the last chapter (XXXI) of the second part (“Of CommonWealth”) of the Leviathan (“Of the Kingdom of God by Nature”) the right of the ‘Soveraigne’ to order that God has to be worshipped publicly, as well as how He should be honoured: Reason directeth not onely to worship God in Secret; but also, and especially, in Publique, and in the sight of men: For without that, (that which in honour is most acceptable) the procuring others to honour him, is lost. Lastly, Obedience to his Lawes (that is, in this case to the Lawes of Nature), is the greatest worship of all. For as Obedience is more acceptable to God than Sacrifice; so also to set light by his Commandements, is the greatest of all contumelies. And these are the Lawes of that Divine Worship, which naturall Reason dictateth to private men. But seeing a Common-wealth is but one Person, it ought also to exhibite to God but one Worship; which then it doth, when it commandeth it to be exhibited by Private men, Publiquely. And this is Publique Worship; the property whereof, is to be Uniforme: For those actions that are done differently, by different men, cannot be said to be a Publique Worship. And therefore, where many sorts of Worship be allowed, proceeding from the different Religions of Private men, it cannot be said there is any Publique Worship, nor that the Common-wealth is of any Religion at all.31

Fourth: the ‘Soveraigne’ also holds the right to order what the Christian citizen has to believe, “for a Mans Reception into the Kingdom of Heaven”.32 With regard to the social contract, Hobbes states the respective criterion in chapter 43: The Laws of God therefore are none but the Laws of Nature, whereof the principall is, that we should not violate our Faith, that is, a commandement to obey our Civill Soveraigns, which wee constituted over us, by mutuall pact one with another. And this Law of God, that commandeth Obedience to the Law Civill, commandeth by consequence Obedience to all the Precepts of the Bible, which (as I have proved in the precedent Chapter) is there onely Law, where the Civill Soveraign hath made it so; and in other places but Counsell; which a man at his own perill, may without injustice refuse to obey.33

29 30 31 32 33

Leviathan, Part II, chapter XXX, p. 380. Compare De Homine, chapter XIV. Leviathan, Part II, chapter XXXI, p. 405. Op. cit. part III, chapter XLIII, p. 609. Op. cit. Part III, chapter 43, p. 612.



Hobbes propounds on the following pages which ‘Articles of Faith’ are necessary for ‘salvation’ and which are not. However, this is something that does not matter here, and would lead us too far from the subject. The limitation of the people’s religious freedom has been argued on the basis of the ‘Soveraignty’, which has been brought about by means of the contract. In other words and to repeat it here: the wish to change the “Forme of Government”, which has come into being by the contract, would be “like the breach of the first of Gods Commandements: Non habebis Deos alienos”.34 The question whether the contractual unification of men to one person and the unity of society and the people are actually divinised – or whether the step towards is within reach – has still to be investigated yet. With this provisional conclusion, this section on Hobbes’ position will be finished; and we shall now turn to the position of Spinoza. 3. BARUCH DE SPINOZA: POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN THE TRACTATUS THEOLOGICO-POLITICUS In some respects, there is a certain resemblance between Hobbes and Spinoza. Generally spoken, this resemblance or even correspondence between them consists in the following complex: First: the geometric method (mos geometricus) or geometry as a paradigm of science; anthropology is conceived on the basis of the state of nature: self-preservation and affects. Second: the original freedom in the state of nature; no laws, no institutions; each individual holds the right to do what he wants and is able to; as far as his power suffices. Third: the establishment of institutions such as legislation, government, and jurisdiction by means of a social contract. Fourth: criticism of the biblical theology of revelation on the basis of reason; but in principle not a denial of religion. Fifth: the settlement of the religio-political question by the ‘right of the political-civil soveraign’. Spinoza’s statements on the subject of politics and religion in his main work, the Ethics – Demonstrated in Geometrical Order and Divided into Five Parts,35 which was published in 1672 very shortly after his death, are 34

Leviathan, Part II, chapter 30, p. 380. Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata, et in quinque partes destinata in quibus agitur; I. De Deo; II. De natura, et origine mentis.; III. De origine, et natura affectum; IV. De servitute humana, … de Libertate humana ; V. De potentia intellectus ; VI. De libertate humana, published anonymously in Amsterdam, 1672. 35



rather brief. He interrupted the work on his Ethics in order to write the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,36 which quickly caused sensation and was widely spread. Before going into Spinoza’s position in his Tractatus theologico-politicus, we will discuss first how the Ethics deals with God, the virtues, the civitas, as well as the relations between them. The Ethics starts with God (as substance) and an entire chapter about God, as was indicated in the title already. This chapter concludes with a statement that is still up-to-date from the perspective of the Political science of religion.37 Spinoza describes a connection between reason and virtue (mastering one’s affects), bliss, and God. In part V. of the Ethics, he describes the power of the spirit as love of God, as “amor intellectualis”.38 This ‘amor intellectualis’ is “exactly the love of God by which God loves himself”.39 In the final proposition of the entire Ethics, Spinoza states: “Bliss is not the reward for virtue, but virtue itself ”.40 Proof is produced by the introductory sentence of the proof: “Bliss is love of God”.41 The final conclusion (more geometrico) of the axiom ‘God as substance’ (causa sui) reads: Nobody enjoys or is in rapture over being blissful because he can master his affects, but rather, on the contrary; it is bliss itself which enables mastering the sensual desires (potestas coercendi; English: power to coerce).42

‘Beatitudo’ does not only consist in ‘men’s love of God’ but “at the same time in God’s love of men” – the amor intellectualis, which man has of God, is exactly “God’s love”, “by which He loves Himself ”.43 Not only the relation between man and God is treated in the Ethics but also, even though quite briefly, the subject of politics, although only in a note.44 It is stated there that a man, in so far as he wants to be virtuous, demands a good (bonum) and also demands this good equally for

36 Anonymously published in Amsterdam, 1670; the complete title will have to be referred to later. 37 Originally coined in German: ‘Religionspolitologie’. See in this volume, Chapter VI, Basic Outlines of the ‘Political Science of Religion’, by the same author. 38 Spinoza, Ethics, Part V, proposition 33. 39 “Mentis amor intellectualis erga Deum est ipse Dei amor, quo Deus se ipse amat”, op. cit. proposition 36. 40 “Beatitudo non est virtutis praemium, sed ipse virtus”, op. cit. proposition 42. 41 “Beatitudo in amore erga Deum consistit”, op. cit, proof of proposition 42. 42 “Quia humana potentia ad coervcendos affectus in solo intellectu consitit: ergo nemo beatitudine gaudel, quia affectas coerceit; sed contra potestas lop. citines coercendi et ipsa beatitudine ovitur. Q.e.d”. op. cit. proof of proposition 42, last sentence. 43 “Quo Deus se ipse amat”, according to a note on proposition 36. 44 Especially in Part IV, in a note on proposition 37.



others, the larger his recognition of God would be. In this very note, the state of nature, the emerging of civitas by means of the social contract and the obedience to law is described. This crude reduction of complexity of Spinoza’s Ethics intends to show that there is no contradiction between ethics and politics within Spinoza’s philosophy, as being two distinctive subjects of classical political theory (Plato, Aristotle), and moreover: no inconsistency with the central and essential element of Jewish-Christian religion, which is God. In the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, which consists of 20 chapters, politics are only treated in the last four chapters. The topic of the preceding 16 chapters is the separation of reason (“reason is the realm of truth and freedom”) and belief (“realm of piety and obedience”). Subject of his sharp criticism is theology on the basis of prophetic revelation. The intention of Spinoza’s theological-political tract can be taken from the entire title and the quotation underneath, which shows Spinoza’s preferred religiosity: A Treatise on Religion and Politics, containing several discussions which show that freedom to philosophise not only can be granted without detriment to piety and public peace, but cannot be destroyed without destroying them as well. “Hereby we learn that we abide in God, and God in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” ( John, Epistle I, Chapter IV, verse XIII).45

The use of the term ‘religion’ instead of ‘theology’ in the title of the issue of Spinoza (“The Political Works”) consulted here, has to be clarified terminologically; for Spinoza speaks in one context on ‘faith’, in another one about ‘religion’. With the help of this clarification, we can ascertain whether the quotation from the First Epistle of John, according to which God is in us and remains in us, because He has given us from His spirit, is in accordance with the outcome of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus as a whole. Spinoza uses the term ‘faith’ in order to distinguish between ‘faith and theology’ on the one hand and ‘philosophy’ 45 Spinoza, The Political Works, The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus in Part and the Tractatus Politicus in Full, edited and translated with an introduction and notes by A.G. Wernham, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1958. The full title in Latin reads: TRACTATUS THEOLOGICO-POLITICUS, Continens Dissertationes aliquot, Quibus ostenditur Libertatem Philosophandi non tantum salva Pietate et Reipublicae Pace posse concedi; sed eandem nisi cim Pace Reipublicae ipsaque Pietate tolli non posse. Johann. Epist. I Cap. IV vers. XIII: “Per hoc cognoscimus quod in Deo manemus, et Deus manet in nobis, quod Spiritu suo dedit nobis”.



on the other hand. ‘Faith’ is the translation of the Latin fides, which can be inferred from the title of chapter XIV: “What faith is; who the faithful are; the basis of faith is determined, and faith itself finally distinguished from philosophy”.46 It should be mentioned here in advance, that Spinoza uses the term ‘religion’ only with regard to ‘politics’. The definition of faith is contained in the following quotation: To explain the whole matter in an orderly way, I shall begin with the definition of faith; which on the basis is given must be formulated thus. Faith is simply those beliefs about God without which obedience to him cannot exist, and which necessarily exist when this obedience exists. This definition is so clear, and follows so obviously from what I have just shown, that it needs no explanation. Its corollaries, however, I shall now briefly get out.47

After discussing these corollaries, he summarizes as follows: I shall now make bold to enumerate the dogmas of the ecumenical creed, or the basic belief which Scripture as a whole aims to convey. These (as is clear from what I have shown in this chapter and the last) must all reduce to the following: that there exist a supreme being who loves justice and charity; that all men must obey him in order to be saved; and that they must worship him by practising justice and charity towards their neighbours. From these it is easy to derive them all, and the following is a complete list.48

It should be discussed whether for Spinoza the entire scripture, the Jewish as well as the Christian creed as he interprets and summarizes them, is actually the model for the whole humanity’s creed (“ fidei universalis dogmata ”, “dogmas of the ecumenical creed”).49 Anyway, it should be stressed here that obedience as essential aspect of ‘faith’, therefore not its result, is the precondition for fulfilling the only purpose, which in the context of ‘faith’ and ‘good’ does not bear a direct political-secular character, namely ‘salvation’ (English: ‘to save’; in the Latin text ‘et salvi sint ’). If people are obliged to practise “justice and charity towards their neighbours”,50 ‘faith’ is valid for the private and non-public-political life. According to this strict deduction, the foundations of the state are dealt with not before two chapters later. The term ‘religion’ cannot be found

46 47 48 49 50

Spinoza, TheTractatus Theologico-Politicus; op. cit. Op. cit. p. 115. Op. cit. p. 119. Loc. cit. Op. cit. p. 119.



in chapter XIV. Spinoza finishes chapter XIV with the conclusion: “that between faith or theology and philosophy there is no connection or relationship”.51 As a result, he explains the difference by the difference of purposes: “The sole aim of philosophy is truth; the sole aim of faith obedience”.52 In chapter XV, Spinoza concludes from the fact that there is no relationship between philosophy and theology, that those who do not separate philosophy from theology do not recognize that philosophy (reason) is not the maid of theology and theology is not the maid of reason. This is not the place to discuss the radicalism and improbability of this separation. Spinoza ensures his reader at the end of this chapter that he appreciates highly the Holy Scripture and the revelation because of its utility and necessity (“circa utilitatem et neccessitatem”); simple obedience is not a path (“via”) to salvation (“ad salutem”), and the revelation can only be grasped by mercy of God (“Dei gratia”) but not through reason (“ratione”).53 Not before chapter XVI in which “the basis of the state; the right of the individual, both natural and civil; and the right of the sovereign” are propounded, the relation between politics and religion is demonstrated. Spinoza begins with the situation (state) before the social contract in which “the natural rights of the individual” are valid, in order to inquire into “state and religion” (Latin “reipublicam et religionem”) afterwards. Spinoza therefore changes the terminology. In regard to the state, the term ‘faith’ is not used. That corresponds to the fact that in defining faith and looking at its context the term ‘religion’ is not used. In the state of nature – that should be noted immediately – human beings have no religion. Nevertheless, “the right” of men in this state of nature “extends as far as its power; the power of nature being nothing but the power of God, who has a perfect right to do everything”.54 Man does not enter into a treaty on reasonable grounds but because (I)t is a universal law of human nature that no one forgoes anything he thinks good save from hope of a greater good or fear of a greater loss, or tolerates any evil save to avoid a greater, or from hope of a greater good.55

51 52 53 54 55

Op. cit. p. 123. Op. cit. p. 123. Op. cit. Chapter XV. Op. cit. p. 125. Op. cit. p. 129.



The people transfer their rights of nature to the union that emerges as a result of this treaty and its institutions.56 Spinoza does conclude on the one hand “that a contract can have no binding force but utility; when that appears it at once becomes null and void”,57 but he also points out “that the man who has supreme power to coerce all, and to restrain them by threat of supreme penalty which is universally feared, has also supreme right over all”.58 On the other hand, he adds something apparently very realistic: Of course he will only retain this right as long as he preserves the power to do everything he wishes; otherwise he will govern by courtesy, and no one stronger will be bound to obey him unless he wants to do so.59

The question whether this actually functions, in that the citizen on the one hand is forced to do what the sovereign wants him to do and on the other hand, that he is able to breach “the supreme power of the soveraigne”, whoever holds this power, is a matter that cannot be dealt with here. It is, however, more important to notice here that Spinoza treats ‘power’ as equivalent to ‘supreme right’. Is it equivalent to ‘the power’ by which a ‘society’ comes into being after all? In this way, then, a society can be formed without any opposition from natural law, and every contract can always be kept with the greatest good faith; if, that is, everyone transfers all his power to the society. Thus it alone will have a perfect natural right to do everything, i.e. sovereign power, and everyone will be bound to obey it either in freedom of spirit or from fear of the supreme penalty. Now when the right belongs to a society so formed the state is called a democracy.60

Though interesting enough, it will not be discussed here whether the essence of democracy – according to which all power comes from the people, but has to be executed by institutions of legislation, government, and jurisdiction – is described correctly in political realistic terms by Spinoza. The legitimacy of the ‘sovereign power’ is not limited to democracy: For whoever has sovereign power, whether it be one man, or a few, or all, has undoubtedly a perfect right to command everything he wishes; furthermore, whoever has transferred his power to defend himself to another, 56 57 58 59 60

Compare op. cit. p. 129. Op. cit. p. 131. Op. cit. p. 133. Op. cit. Op. cit.



whether voluntarily or under constraint, has undoubtedly divested himself of his natural right completely, and in consequence has determined to obey the other in everything without exception; and this obedience he is bound to yield unreservedly as long as the king, aristocracy, or people preserves the supreme power which it has received, and which was the basis of the transfer of right. Nor need any more be said.61

However, not the general freedom of the ‘citizens’ is at stake here and in need of scrutiny, but it is their religious freedom, which can be inferred from several important passages in Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. In chapter XVI, Spinoza asks: “what if the sovereign commands something contrary to religion and the obedience we have expressly promised to God”?62 His answer reads as follows: “the sovereign – by divine and natural law – possesses a perfect right to make any decrees about religion”.63 Spinoza arrives at the same conclusion in chapter XVII, in the title of which can be read: “of the Jewish state as it was in Moses’ life-time” and “after his death”.64 In chapter XIX, Spinoza discusses in detail that the sovereign has full right to control religion, and that our external acts of worship must be adapted to the public peace if we wish to obey God properly.65

One conclusion that can already be drawn here, is that the concept ‘religio’ is used in the context “of the external acts of worship”,66 i.e. regarding the external side (cultus) of religious life. It is therefore not applicable to the inner moments of faith. That corresponds to the ancient, i.e. Roman-Latin meaning of the concept of ‘religio’. Consequently, the “wish to obey God properly”67 refers to “external acts”.68 In order to avoid misunderstanding, Spinoza declares some sentences later: I am speaking expressly of external acts of piety and worship; not of inward piety and the inward worship of God, i.e. of the means by which the mind is inwardly led to worship God in purity of spirit.69

61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69

Op. cit. p. 137 (chapter XVI). Op. cit. p. 145 (chapter XVI). Op. cit. p. 147 chapter XVI). Op. cit. p. 199 (chapter XVII). Op. cit. p. 205 (chapter XIX, Title). Op. cit. Op. cit. Op. cit. Op. cit.



This declaration is in keeping with the quotation taken from the Epistle of John (4:13), which is put right underneath the title “TRACTATUS THEOLOGICO-POLITICUS”, as well as with Spinoza’s view of the “Nature of the Spirit” in part II und V.70 Are the internal moments of faith contrary to the ‘right of the soveraigne’? Due to the goals of security and the maintenance of peace – Spinoza’s argumentation accordingly cannot be propounded here – Spinoza concludes (in accordance with the English translation of the Latin text): So whether we consider the truth of the matter, or the security of the state, or finally the increase of piety, we are forced to conclude that divine law, i.e. law concerning religion, also depends entirely on the will of the sovereign, and that he is its interpreter and guardian. It follows that those are the ministers of God’s word who have the authority of the sovereign to teach the people piety in the form adapted to the public welfare by this decree.71

Spinoza reiterates his views on ‘piety’ in the last chapter72 of the Tractatus, whose title demonstrates that in a free state “everyone … may think what he pleases, and say what he thinks”.73 Summarising the Tractatus, Spinoza concludes: “I have thus shown: (…) that it is impossible to deprive men of the freedom to say what they think”.74 To conclude this paragraph on Spinoza, it must be noticed that the relation between ‘state’ (civitas, commonwealth) and ‘church,’ which is actually the relation between politics and religion, regarding the relation of two collectives (two ‘union of men’ with specific qualities), is not dealt with by Spinoza. His interest lies with the individual and his existence in the political union of men, called ‘state’ (reipublica), civil society (civitas) or commonwealth, as well as the citizen’s relation to the institutions of legislation, execution, and jurisdiction under the premise of the ‘right of the soveraigne power’ (summa potestas). The Christian invention of the church as a ‘union of men’ with restricted autonomy with respect to the ‘state’ (civil society, commonwealth or civitas terrena) seems unheard of to Spinoza. What he is not unsympathetic to is (what Christians call) the New Testament and its spirit. A sharp and radical separation is demonstrated by Spinoza between faith and reason. The separation between theology, faith, and obedience

70 71 72 73 74

“intellectus amor Dei”, propositions 37, 41 and 42. Op. cit. p. 221 (chapter XIX). Compare p. 229ff. Op. cit. p. 243 (chapter XX). Op. cit. p. 241 (chapter XX).



on the one hand and philosophy, truth, and freedom on the other hand is as consistent as the separation between master and maid.75 With that, the perennial topic of mutual adaptation, balance, or even reconciliation of reason and belief is ignored. However, the purport of the citizen’s religious freedom has not been ascertained though. Spinoza makes a sharp distinction between ‘faith’ and ‘religion’. He employs the term religio, a concept derived from the old heathen Rome, in the context of the citizens’ relation to politics (i.e. the sovereign power of legislation and government). Every citizen can “think what he pleases, and say what he thinks”76 and believes; but he has no freedom to act as he pleases. The sovereign has the right to “control all actions alone”.77 As a result, freedom in the religious as well as in the secular sphere (that is: to believe and to philosophise), is restricted to the non-public, non-political and private sphere. Because of ‘the right of the soveraigne power’, the freedom to act according one’s religion is restricted only to a freedom of “piety and religion,” which “consists wholly in the practise of charity and equity”.78 The core of religiosity is consequently not to be found the external sphere of human existence, but in the internal sphere only; phenomenologically: in Innerlichkeit (innerness). We can take the reason for that, I assume, from the confession that we recognize (cognoscimus) “that we abide in God, and God in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit”.79 I doubt that Baruch de Spinoza intended to profess Christianity by these words. But I am sure, if he had spoken them out to people in Amsterdam he would have been expelled from the synagogue with good reason. However, the question as to what interpretation of Christianity would corroborate the Christians’ freedom from politics, which is the reduction of freedom to freedom of worship in the internal sphere (Innerlichkeit), with reference to e.g. the gospel of St. John (“My kingdom is not of this world”),80 the letters of St. Paul, or Luther’s writings, must be relegated to future research. Spinoza’s way to philosophise challenges


Op. cit. Compare chapter XV. Op. cit. p. 243 (chapter XX). 77 Op. cit. 78 Op. cit. 79 John, Epistle I, 4, 13 – The quotation from the New Testament is, as meantioned earlier, placed underneath the full title of the Tractatus theologico-politicus – or in the English translation: A Treatise On Religion and Politics – and repeated in chapter XIV, note p. 117. 80 John 18, 36. 76



us to take the quest for the good and happy life seriously even today. With this, one can recognize that one finds oneself right at the beginning – or rather: in the very centre – of philosophy, religion, theology; right within the epistèmè politikè, and therefore: political science of religion. 4. JOHN LOCKE: POLITICAL LIBERALISM AND THE LIMITS OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE John Locke, who starts from a different philosophical approach (which is sensualism) and whose significance for the philosophy of Enlightenment as well as his influence on the elites of the Anglo-Saxon world and even France is undisputed, arrives at a quite similar result, as did Spinoza. He has not (like his fellow countryman Hobbes) written any systematic treatise on the context of politics and religion though. In his influential work The Second Treatise of Government (1690), he deals with the state of nature and the social contract by means of which the ‘civil society’, law and the institutions of legislation and government come into being. Unlike Hobbes’ Leviathan, it does not conceive of a society or political commonwealth bearing the attribute of unity to ‘one person’. The partners of the treaty retain their original rights. People are assigned an extensive right of resistance. The relation of ‘civil society’ respectively ‘commonwealth’ towards church and religion is not dealt with in this writing. In other writings though, Locke does indeed deal with the relation of reason and religion. It is only in A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) that he deals with the relation between ‘commonwealth’ and ‘church’. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), the 10th chapter, titled “Of Knowledge and Opinions”,81 he reflects on the knowledge of God’s existence in detail and proves it in accordance with reason. He sets out from the answer of man’s question as to the cause of man’s existence. This cause must be something eternal, spiritual, almighty, and omniscient.82 The existence of God as knowledge, results in human beings having to honour, obey, and fear Him.83 Sometimes ‘faith’ is outside the limits of “human knowledge and certainty,” sometimes it is “contrary 81 John Lokce, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690, London and Melbourne: Dent 1961, Book IV, chapter 10. 82 Op. cit. Book IV, chapter 10, §§3–6. 83 Op. cit. Book IV, chapter 13.



to reason”.84 There is one form of ‘faith’, which can be approved of on the basis of the test of reason,85 which also contains the divine revelation.86 The connection between God’s existence, revelation, and politics does not form part of Locke’s treatment of knowledge, mind, opinion, or faith. Politics and government are the subject of The Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in Scripture (1695) neither. In it, Locke attempts to bring into line the Christian doctrine and revealed divine law with natural law, as can be recognised by reason. Locke treated the relation between reason and religion in Reason and Religion as well.87 Nevertheless, he did not discuss the sphere of political action in this book, nor the measure of the order of the ‘commonwealth’, nor the relation between religion (faith) and politics. Locke dealt with these questions however in the Epistola de tolerantia.88 The first sentence in the dedication formulates a limitation of the object of tolerance: Since you ask my opinion about the mutual toleration among Christians, I reply briefly that I regard it as the chief distinguishing mark of the true church.89

In what follows, Locke’s observations on the characteristical features of the commonwealth and the church will be investigated, as well as his analysis of the scope of the duty of toleration; what it requires from everyone and what the magistrate of the commonwealth ought to tolerate; the outward form and rites of worship and (in distinction from it) the speculative doctrines of faith; and finally, the limit of freedom and rights of ‘the practical articles of religion’. The essential characteristic of commonwealth can be understood from the following quote, which therefore will not be commented: The commonwealth seems to me to be a society of men constituted only for preserving, and advancing their own civil goods. Civil goods I call life,


Op. cit. Book IV, chapter 15, §2. Op. cit. Book IV, chapter 17, §24. 86 Op. cit. Book IV, chapter 16, §14, chapter 18. 87 Reason and Religion. In some Useful Reflections on the Most Eminent Hypotheses Concerning the First Principles, and Nature of Things. With Advice Suitable to the Subject, and Seasonable for these Times” (London 1694, attributed to John Locke). 88 First published in Amsterdam anonymously in Latin in 1685 and in 1689 as A Letter Concerning Toleration under his name in London. Here we shall quote from the GermanEnglish edition, translated and introduced by Julius Ebbinghaus, Hamburg: Meiner Verlag 1966. 89 Op. cit. p. 2. 85



liberty, health, and freedom from pain, and the possession of outward things, such as lands, money, houses, furniture, and the like.90

These characteristics are criteria for limiting the church’s rights, which will be referred to again. The church, for its part, is defined as: (A) free society of men, joining together of their own accord for the public worship of God in such manner as they believe acceptable to the Deity for the salvation of their souls.91

The jurisdiction of the magistrate extends only to: These civil goods, and that all the right and dominion of the civil power is bounded and confined solely to the care and advancement of these goods; and that it neither can nor ought in any way to be extended to the salvation of souls, the following considerations seem unto me to prove.92

These considerations confine the freedom of the Christian church “concerning the ‘outward worship’ and ‘the speculative articles of religion’ or ‘doctrines’ ”. In one respect, the interests of the magistrate and the church are common: A good life, in which consists not the least part of religion and true piety, concerns as the civil government: and in it lies the safety both of men’s souls and of the commonwealth. Moral actions belong therefore to the jurisdiction both of the outward and inward court; both of the civil and domestic governor; I mean, both of the magistrate and of conscience.93

We can consider these arguments sufficient here without verifying Locke’s reason for understanding the limits of religious freedom and tolerance respectively. The ‘jurisdiction of the magistrate’ of ‘their rule of law’ of the commonwealth applies to the following facts (of the case): No opinions contrary to human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the magistrate. But of those indeed examples in any church are rare.94 Another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, is when men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect, some peculiar prerogative, covered over with a specious show of deceitful words, but in effect opposite to the civil rights of the community.95

90 91 92 93 94 95

Op. cit. p. 12. Op. cit. p. 18. Op. cit. p. 12. Op. cit. p. 80. Op. cit. p. 90. Op. cit.



That church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate, which is constituted upon such a bottom, that all those who enter into it, do thereby ipso facto, deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince. For by this means the magistrate would give way to the setting of a foreign jurisdiction in his own country, and suffer his own people to be listed, as it were, for soldiers against his own government.96 Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist.97

It should be emphasized here that the ‘father’ of political liberalism and modern parliamentarianism does not recommend a separation between the members of the English Commonwealth and the Anglican Church. In turn, he differentiates with regard to the essential characteristics of the ‘civil society’ and the ‘religious society’, the purpose of the ‘civil society’ and the purpose of the ‘church’ respectively, exactly because the members of the Christian church are also members of the civil-political Commonwealth. The measure, by which the limits of freedom of the ‘civil society’ and the ‘religious society’ are determined, is inferred from the content and purpose of this ‘Union of Men’. Accordingly, the right of jurisdiction is determined on the basis of ‘the rule of law’, concerning solely “outward things, such as lands, money, houses, furniture, and the like”98; as dubious it may be to reduce the political citizens’ interests that way. Anyway, ‘citizens’ do not have the freedom to believe in whatever they want to; neither are they free whether or not they want to believe at all. Locke can finally also serve as an example to demonstrate the contrast between the Anglo-Saxon paradigm of political order and the one prevailing on the European continent, particularly in Germany. As Locke is representative of the political culture in England and the USA, Rousseau is of the continent. 5. JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU: GOD, THE ‘SANCTITY OF THE SOCIAL CONTRACT’ AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN ACCORDANCE WITH ‘CIVIL RELIGION’ For this reason, Rousseau’s views will be dealt with here briefly, not only because of his influence on Kant. What matters here, is his conception 96 97 98

Op. cit. p. 93ff. Op. cit. p. 94. Op. cit. p. 12.



of the social contract and its consequences regarding the construction of society (unity or plurality) and the legitimacy of sovereign political rule. While the difference between Hobbes and Locke is a big one, the one between Hobbes and Rousseau in view of form, content, and results of the social contract is rather small. Rousseau even praises Hobbes in the last chapter the fourth book of his Du Contrat Social ou Principes du Droit Politique (De la religion civile), published in 1762.99 Rousseau has propounded his outlook and views on religion in Les Confessions100 and above all in the fourth book of Emile ou de l’Education,101 §§943–1098, the famous La Profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard,102 which deals with spirit, body, substance, God, everlasting salvation as well as the right religious education. In the Professions of the Vicaire Savoyard, these are extensively covered (moral, philosophy, reason, fatherland, church, God, Jesus, immortality of the soul, etc.). At the end, the Vicaire advises the pupil to have courage to confess God even before the philosophers. In the last chapter of the Contrat Social, in Book IV, right before the end of the 8th chapter, titled “The Civil Religion”,103 the relation of politics and religion is briefly and clearly demonstrated, both historically and on principle. Rousseau points out that through Jesus “the separation of the theological system from the political”104 occurred. (T)he consequences of this dual power has been an endless conflict of jurisdiction, which has made any kind of good polity impossible in Christian states, where men have never known whether they ought to obey the civil ruler or the priest.105

According to Rousseau, a state can never be well governed unless both forces are unified on the basis of a political union. Though I am tempted to quote – and also comment on – Rousseau’s general ideas on the relation between politics and religion in this chapter about civil religion, it should merely be remembered that for 99

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du Contract Social ou Principes du Droit Politique (1762) Présentation, notes, bibliographie et chronologie, par Bruno Bernardi, Paris: GF Flammarion, 2001. In translation by Maurice Cranston, The Social Contract, London: Penguin 1968. We will refer to this translation. 100 Edited by A. van Bever, 3 volumes, Paris: Greorges Crès & Cie, 1913–1915. 101 Edited by F. and P. Picard, Paris 1961. 102 Jean-Jacques Rousseau, La Profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard, édition critique d’après les Mss. de Genève, Neuchâtel et Paris avec une introduction et un commentaire historique par Pierre-Maurice Masson, Paris: Hachette 1914. 103 Rousseau, The Social Contract, (in translation) op. cit. p. 176. 104 Op. cit. p. 178. 105 Op. cit. p. 179.



Rousseau, Christianity is the “religion of man”; by that, he does not refer to the Christianity of the 18th century, but to the “pure and simple religion of the Gospel”,106 in his eyes “not the Christianity of today, but that of the Gospel, which is altogether different”.107 The religion of the Gospels of Christ is the “holy, sublime and true religion.” Under this religion, “men, as children of the same God, look on all others as brothers, and the society which unites them is not even dissolved by death”.108 However, he adds, this religion does have “no specific connection with the body politic”; the political body and the Gospels of Christ have nothing in common. It is said on the one hand that a “people of true Christians” is the “perfect society”; but a “society of true Christians” would not be a society of men any more.109 For according to Rousseau, one can divide religion in two kinds: “the religion of men and the religion of the citizen,” the Christian religion is not suited to be a “religion civile ”110 For Rousseau, it is important to restore the unity of politics and religion through a “religion civile.” The basis of this is the power of the one and only sovereign; there should not be “two powers, two sovereigns” as in the Christian states.111 That was already stated by Hobbes: Of all Christian authors, the philosopher Hobbes is the only one who saw clearly both the evil and the remedy, and who dared to propose reuniting the two heads of the eagle and fully restoring that political unity without which neither the state nor the government will ever be well constituted.112

According to Rousseau, it is very “important to the state that each citizen should have a religion which makes him love his duty”,113 therefore it is the sovereign’s function to determine the articles of this civil religion. Before quoting the dogmas of the civil religion, the foundation has to be considered on which the sovereign bears the right to declare these dogmas, which is, like in Hobbes’ case, based upon the social contract. In chapter 6 of the first book of the Contrat Social, Rousseau mentions the purpose and the form of the social contract. The text reads as follows: 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113

Op. cit. p. 181. Op. cit. p. 182. Loc. cit. Loc cit. Op. cit. p. 183. Op. cit. p. 180. Op. cit. p. 180. Op. cit. p. 185.



How to find a form of association which will defend the person and goods of each member with the collective force of all, and under which each individual, while uniting himself with the others, obeys no one but himself, and remains as free as before. This is the fundamental problem to which the social contract holds the solution.114

The consequences of this contract concern the quality and attributes of the society: Each one of us puts into the community his person and all his powers under the supreme direction of the general will; and as a body, we incorporate every member as an indivisible part of the whole. Immediately, in place of the individual person of each contracting party, this act of association creates an artificial and corporate body composed of as many members as there are voters in the assembly, and by this same act that body acquires its unity, its common ego, its life and its will.115

This contract causes the sovereignty of the sovereign: The public person thus formed by the union of all other persons was once called the city, and is now known as the republic or the body politic. In its passive role, it is called the state, when it plays an active role it is the sovereign; and when it is compared to others of its own kind, it is a power. Those who are associated in it take collectively the name of a people, and call themselves individually citizens, in that they share in the sovereign power, and subjects, in that they put themselves under the laws of the state.116

Therefore, the one public person that arises from the agreement is the sovereign. The society becomes one political actor accordingly, a being that acts. The citizens are subject to this acting person and to the state’s laws. The question is of what the freedom of the single citizen consists. Following Rousseau, the citizen has not lost his original freedom for he is only his himself. He is an inseparable part of the sovereign union of will to which citizens are united as one ‘moral body’, one ‘common ego’, and one ‘political body’. In the following chapters of Book I and II of the Contrat Social, Rousseau brings forward the consequences of his conception in detail. Here it will suffice to state that the sovereign is the sole bearer of the union of legislative, executive, and legislative institutions of society. The relation of the citizen as subject (and part) of the sovereign unity of will is, of course more complicated, as should be emphasised. 114 115 116

Op. cit. p. 60. Op. cit. p. 61. Op. cit. pp. 61, 62.



Now we can go to the dogmas of the religion civile. Each subject is obliged to acknowledge these dogmas. The one who does not want to cannot be admitted to the society. If he lies, he will face capital punishment: There is thus a profession of faith which is purely civil and of which it is the sovereign’s function to determine the articles, not strictly as religious dogmas, but as expressions of social conscience, without which it is impossible to be either a good citizen or a loyal subject. Without being able to oblige anyone to believe these articles, the sovereign can banish from the state anyone who does not believe them; banish him not for impiety but as an anti-social being, as one unable sincerely to love law and justice, or to sacrifice, if need be, his life to his duty. If anyone, after having publicly acknowledged these same dogmas, behaves as if he did not believe in them, then let him be put to death, for he has committed the greatest crime, that of lying before the law.117

The dogmas of the religion civile are the following: The dogmas of the civil religions must be simple and few in number, expressed precisely and without explanations or commentaries. The existence of an omnipotent, intelligent, benevolent divinity that foresees and provides; the life to come; the happiness of the just; the punishment of the sinners; the sanctity of the social contract and the law – these are the positive dogmas. As for the negative dogmas, I would limit them to a single one: no intolerance. Intolerance is something that belongs to the religions we have rejected.118

That is according to Rousseau a purely civil creed; they are no precise dogmas of religion.119 As to the purely religious dogmas cited above, it should be noted that firstly Rousseau is not a representative of religious freedom and secondly, that the state and religious communities are not separated but coincide in one and the same unity as one sovereign will on the basis of the social contract. 6. CONCLUSION Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke and Rousseau did not criticise religion, but rather revelation theology. Religion forms according to their views such 117 118 119

Op. cit. p. 186. Op. cit. p. 186. Op. cit. p. 185.



a part and parcel of social and political life, that they deemed it unthinkable to proclaim religious freedom as a freedom from religion. Common to their understanding of social and political life is that Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Rousseau did not base the legitimacy of ruling power religiously or theologically. The origin of legitimate rule is neither God nor society that came into being naturally. It is located in every single human being, together with his fellow-beings to live in a natural state and decide together to enter into an agreement. It is only as a result thereof that society and its institutions of government, legislative power, and judiciary emerge. The notion of sovereignty and the concept of unity of society were especially stressed by Hobbes and Rousseau, and these have found remarkable expression in their works. According to Hobbes and Rousseau, not only society and political power are established by the social contract, but a new person actually comes into being: the unification of the many unto a union in one person. The name Hobbes attributed to this person or this union was “Leviathan”: a monster and mortal god at once. Beyond sovereignty and collective unity there did not exist such thing as an ius divinium. Because of the dogma of the collective union’s sovereignty, the differentiation and mutual checks and balances between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary (as in the 20th Century constitutional state) gradually withered away. Therefore, speaking in terms of a separation of state and church made less sense. As can be shown from the frontispiece Hobbes designed for the Latin edition of his Leviathan, members of the church are members of the political commonwealth as well. It would amount to an affront to the dogma of sovereignty if the church were acknowledged rights of its own. The sovereign could counteract such claims at any time. However free the contracting parties may have been before entering into the social contract, according to the conceptions of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau they nevertheless lose their political freedoms after this treaty is concluded. They are not allowed to be free from any religion, because they are bound up to believe in the existence of God. In fact, the conceptions of Hobbes and Rousseau are distinguished by a religious-magical implication. When seen from a rational perspective, the very fact that by entering into a contract the parties are united into one single person or one single general, will amounts to nothing less than a miracle. Because members of society are, according to Hobbes as well as Rousseau obliged to believe in a transcendent God, the desacralisation of political rule can only be understood as a partial secularisation. It remains to be proven whether the concept of a collective



unity – being one in one person – actually amounts to a secularisation of all Christians being united in the Corpus Christi mysticum. Also according to Spinoza, all power of the participants of the social contract is being transferred to society, which should actually be embodied only in the government. This is what Spinoza calls democracy. Actually, only a “general assembly” comes into being.120 The sovereign’s right extends itself in spiritual and temporal matters only as far as external acts of people are concerned and leaves the freedom of thought and belief unhampered. Piety is allowed in the form of practicing caritas and equity. To John Locke, the notions of sovereignty and unity of society as a society are unknown. The parties to the social contract principally do not lose their original rights and freedoms. In spite of his reservations of tolerance (e.g. towards Catholics and atheists), he is the only Enlightenment philosopher in whose work the model of liberal, pluralist, constitutional and parliamentary democracy can be traced. Challenging though it would be to consider whether the commandments of Rousseau’s religion civile or the deterrent of the “Leviathan” could be able to protect Western societies from political-religious fundamentalism, it would not do practically. However, who knows?


Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, op. cit. Chapter XVI, p. 133.


POLITICS AND RELIGION IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT II: KANT Claus-E. Bärsch 1. INTRODUCTION In the history of German political thought in the 19th and 20th centuries, no philosophers were so influential as Kant and Hegel. However, Hegel depends on the philosophy of Kant. The representatives of the various worldviews and ideologies (liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and even National Socialism) permitted themselves to refer to Kant. Among the different political regimes in the recent two hundred years (authoritarian state, constitutional monarchy, Weimar Republic, “Third Reich”, German Democratic Republic, Federal Republic of Germany) Kant was celebrated – and was misunderstood, far more than less. Kant has in fact not written a politico-philosophical monograph like Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau did, but in the third-tolast section of the Critique of Pure Reason as a whole, whereby Kant became a fortiori a Kantian, he asks questions being central to both political science and philosophy: The whole interest of reason, speculative as well as practical, in centred in the three following questions: What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope?1

There are few rulers and ruled who know Kant’s answers to these questions. Nevertheless, anybody who became powerful and remained it had to answer those questions, no matter by what purposes and practices. Kant on the other hand, within his philosophy of reason, was an author of several political works. In addition, he has dealt with subjects of political life in some of his philosophical writings – the relationship between the order of man, society, and history, practice, liberty, morality, law, war, and peace. The following works and writings of Kant should be 1 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn, New York: Amherst 1990, p. 451.



mentioned: The Metaphysics of Morals (1797), On the Common Saying: “That may be true in theory but does not work in Practice” (1793), The Conflict of the Faculties (1800), Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose (1784) Toward Perpetual Peace: a Philosophical Sketch (1795), Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History (1786), An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), and finally Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793). After the national socialist rule, it was remembered in the Federal Republic of Germany – in universities, schools, and the public opinion – that Germany had Enlightenment as well and that Kant was its most famous representative. He is regarded as a protagonist of liberty, of general emancipation (maturity), of the modern constitutional state, of the postulate of peace in the world, and religious tolerance. Too many fancy him even a friend of pluralistic democracy and a critic of religion. However, it is not as simple as that. We shall see that in due course. To start, I will dwell on Kant’s opinion about the relationship between politics and religion in the writing An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” an often quoted work of Kant (§2). Then we will discuss extensively his Critiques and his Religion within the limits of Reason alone (§3) and finally his political philosophy (§4), which is followed by a general conclusion to these two chapters on politics and religion in the philosophy of the Enlightenment (§5). 2. POLITICS AND RELIGION IN KANT’S AN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION: ‘WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT’? In the passage just before the before the last paragraph in An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” Kant takes a firm stand towards the relevance of religion: “I have portrayed matter of religions as the focal point of enlightenment” and explicates why: “because religious immaturity is the most pernicious and dishonourable variety of all”.2 His answer to the question what Enlightenment is, boils down to this famous sentence: Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity: Immaturity is the inability of use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without 2 Immanuel Kant, ‘An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” ’, in Kant: Political Writings. Edited with an introduction and notes by Hans Reiss; translated by H. B. Nisbet, second enlarged edition, Cambridge: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 58.



the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding.3

The causes of lack of maturity are laziness and cowardice, therefore not lack of understanding (in German: “Vernunft ”),4 and all that is needed for enlightenment in Kant’s view is freedom. However, Kant does not fancy freedom of opinion in modern law, which can be invoked by anyone without being obliged to reasoning or further argumentation. Typical liberal putting into perspective and insistence on one’s own private, particular opinion as an argument is not Enlightenment in Kant’s sense. Freedom in Enlightenment demands “freedom to make public use of one’s reason in all matters”.5 Kant demands that men in thinking shall gear themselves to the ethical-practical reason as is founded in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) and the Critique of Practical Reason (1788). The enlightened use of reason means firstly that everybody has to ask oneself what the reason or rule of one’s own decision is; and secondly that everybody has to ask oneself what the consequences of one’s own reasons and rules are with regard to their universal validity or as universal principles. If the reasons of one’s actions cannot be regarded as universal principles or universal laws, they are not reasonable. Therefore, being geared in thinking to morality and reason, the paradigmatic problem of Enlightenment, until this very day, is that men as they are differ from men as they should be. According to Kant, men, as a whole as well as in religious matter are not yet enlightened: “If is now asked whether we at present live in an enlightened age, the answer is: no, but we do live in an age of enlightenment”.6 Just because Kant supports the enlightenment of the public,7 he takes the shortcomings of men into consideration: “Thus it is difficult for each separate individual to walk this way out of immaturity which has become almost second nature to him”.8 Kant is convinced that the obstacles to become enlightened can be removed. His arguments and reasons bear an educational-political, legal-political, and historical-political content. Kant is not convinced that the individual members of a nation will be able to enlighten themselves at once and immediately but only a public, that is, a specific public: “There is more chance of an entire public 3 4 5 6 7 8

Op. cit. p. 54. Op. cit. p. 55. Op. cit. p. 55. Op. cit. pp. 58/59. Op. cit. p. 59. Op. cit. p. 54.



enlightening it self ”.9 This public consists, according to Kant, in scholars and their literacy. Accordingly, the public use of reason is defined as “that use which any one make of it as a man of learning addressing the entire reading public”.10 Prerequisite for this is the legally guaranteed liberty to argue and to publish. Public servants of the state (e.g. professors, officers, judges, and teachers), of the church, or public employees of civil organisations are to have this liberty. Kant calls the officials’ activity a private use of reason and defines it as follows: The private use of reason may quite often be very narrowly restricted, however, without undue hindrance to the progress of enlightenment. … What I term private use of reason is that which a person may make of it in a particular civil post of office with which he is entrusted. … It is, of course, impermissible to argue in such cases; obedience is imperative.11

The activity of the clergyman, for example, is outlined in detail. As a matter of consequence, the clergyman is bound by the doctrines of his church being a teacher or vicar. But on the other hand, as a man of learning, as a scholar addressing the real public (i.e. the world at large) through his writings, the clergyman making public use of his reason enjoys unlimited freedom to use his own reason and to speak in his own person.12

Kant’s juridical-political rationale consists in the attitude of mind of a head of state who favours freedom in the arts and sciences extends even further, for he realises that there is no danger even to his legislation if he allows his subjects to make public use of their own reason.13

It must not be overlooked that Kant legitimates the expectations towards the head of state with a synthesis between monarchy and democracy. But something which a people may not even impose it self can still less be imposed on it by a monarch; for his legislative authority depends precisely upon his uniting the collective will of the people in his own.14

Kant’s argumentation reveals an affirmation of progress, but its principle and actual phases are not described. Kant indeed disagrees to conclude 9 10 11 12 13 14

Op. cit. p. 55. Op. cit. p. 55. Op. cit. pp. 55, 66. Op. cit. p. 57. Op. cit. p. 59. Op. cit. p. 58.



an agreement on an unchangeable constitution of religion, which no one might question publicly. Kant reads: “This were a crime against human nature whose original destination is made up of just this progression”.15 At the end of Kant’s essay, a fundamental statement can be found, on the effective cause between nature in general as the fundament of the progress of liberty, as the public use of reason on the one hand, and the ensuing progress on the mentality of the people on the other hand: A high degree of civil freedoms seems advantageous to a people’s intellectual freedom, yet it also sets up insuperable barriers to it. Conversely, a lesser degree of civil freedom gives intellectual freedom enough room to expand to its fullest extent. Thus, once the germ on which nature has lavished most care – man‘s inclination and vocation to think freely – has developed within this hard shell, it gradually reacts upon the mentality of the people, who thus gradually become increasingly able to act freely.16

The addressee of the writing is neither the citizen nor the public. Kant’s concept of enlightenment contains no critique of theology and of religion as a matter of principle, neither of civil society, of the ecclesiastical society (church), of public right, of people, citizens, and men. His critique aims at the many so-called “guardians” of social institutions. Kant postulates the liberty of a public use of reason. That is the liberty of a “man of learning addressing the reading public”,17 with which is meant the literacy in the whole world. He demands from the head of state to guarantee the public use of reason by laws. The liberty of the person, however, is limited in a particular post of office. A clergyman, thus, has to obey when in activity as a teacher or a preacher, i.e. the private use of reason. However, in publications he has “unlimited reason to use his own reason.”18 Kant accounts a fundamental factor for the necessity and possibility for enlightenment, and that is nature. The activity of the “guardians” is contradictory to nature. Enlightenment of men is possible. For “nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance (naturaliter maiorennes)”.19 The inclination and vocation to think freely is based 15 Op. cit. p. 57. The translation here is altered in order to get a little closer to the original text. In German it reads: “Das wäre ein Verbrechen wider die menschliche Natur, deren ursprüngliche Bestimmung gerade in diesem Fortschreiten besteht”. The translation by Nisbet on page 57 is in our opinion a little too shallow: “For this would virtually nullify a phase in man’s upward progress”. 16 Op. cit. p. 59. 17 Op. cit. p. 55. 18 Op. cit. p. 57. 19 Op. cit. p. 54.



on a germ, which nature has lavished most care and “developed”20 (in German: ausgewickelt, literally: out-winded, out-twisted). The development to liberty is indeed clearly recognizable in Kant’s writing but progress in view of the relationship between reason, religion, state, and church is not – Kant did not dwell on the latter in An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’ This writing contains no answer to the question of Margaret to Faust: “How do you feel about religion? Tell me, pray”.21 Would the history of reason based on liberty bear an anti-religious tendency, and an irreligious purpose? Nevertheless, Kant has dealt with the relationship between reason, belief, religion, state, and church in another famous writing, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793/1794), in which he has also expounded his philosophy of history. Understanding this writing, which is no subject of scholarly debates in general, i.e. the “public use of reason” nowadays, requires us to dwell on the fact that for the crusher of the proof for God’s existence, the existence of God is a necessity for thinking, as well as for reason itself. 3. KANT’S CRITIQUES AND THE RELIGION WITHIN THE LIMITS OF REASON ALONE Progress as the Continuation of the Answer to the Question: “What May I Hope?” From “Worthiness of Being Happy” to God, Religion, and History In his first critical main work, the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant has tried indeed to refute all hitherto known proofs of God’s existence, but rather at the end of this book (in the second section of the third to last chapter), he found a way to God based on the criteria of his critique. Kant devised this approach to God by trying to answer the third of the three basic philosophical questions, already mentioned earlier: What can I know? What ought I to do? And: What may I hope?22 The point of departure of his argumentation is not a wishful hope, but a relationship between hoping and requiring, that is both theoretical and practical:


Op. cit. p. 59. J.W. von Goethe, Faust, Part One (1808, 1828–1829), in Martha’s garden. The translation can be found on: 22 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, translated by I. M. D. Meiklejohn, New York: Amherst 1990, p. 341. 21



“The third question, if I act as I ought to do, what may I then hope? – is at once practical and theoretical”.23 The next starting point leading to God as well as the immortality of the soul is valid for the majority of most men: “Happiness is the satisfaction of all our desires”.24 This is not the place to elucidate the Platonic (The Republic) and Aristotelian (Nicomachean Ethics) view of the relationship between virtue and happiness. It will suffice here that Socrates advanced his view against the opinion of the sophist Thrasymachus (injustice brings happiness in real life) that justice, as a special ability of a human being, leads to a proportionate happy life.25 It may remain to be seen if Plato-Socrates succeeded in proving this claim, though the happy and just life is a main subject of politics. Kant calls the accordance between felicity (based on the satisfaction of desires) and morality the worthiness of being happy. Morality depends on reason, and happiness as satisfaction of all our desires depends on nature, from which reason should be separated. Kant searches for a necessary connection between my hope to be happy and the moral value that permits me to be happy, i.e. the cause to be permitted to hope for the coincidence of happiness and morality as the worthiness of being happy. Kant states that only supreme reason governing according to moral laws can be such a cause and ground of nature. The connection between hope on happiness and worthiness of being happy “can be hoped for only on the assumption that the cause of nature is a supreme reason, which governs according to moral laws”.26 Kant calls the idea of an intelligence, as the cause of harmony between happiness and being worthy of happiness, the ideal of the supreme Good. Pure reason is able to discover in “the ideal of the supreme original good”27 the cause for an “intelligible, that is, moral world”28 derived from it – the bridge to God is in sight. Subsequently, Kant changes his terminology: “Thus God and future life are two hypotheses which, according to the principles of pure reason, are inseparable from the obligation which this reason imposes upon us”.29 For Kant, the proof of a “sole, perfect, and rational first cause”30

23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Op. cit. p. 452. Op. cit. p. 452. Plato, The Republic, 349–354 (Part One, Book One). Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, op. cit. p. 454. Op. cit. In German: “Ideal des höchsten ursprünglichen Gutes”. Loc. cit. Op. cit. p. 455. Op. cit. p. 457.



is decisive for the constitution of the world, in which moral actions and happiness do not exclude each other. Also by virtue of the systematic unity of ends in this world the existence of only one supreme Being must bear a supreme will, which is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (eternal).31 Kant resumes the subject of the supreme Good – “not only by the arguments of the most enlightened moralist, but by the moral judgement of every man”32 – in view of “the conception of the Divine Being”33 in his second critical main work, the Critique of Practical Reason. He gives consequent and detailed reasons that the “Immortality of the Soul”,34 the “Existence of God”35 and “Freedom”36 are nothing else than postulates of pure practical Reason. Kant’s position here is not contradictory to his earlier refutation of the ontological, cosmological, and physiotheological proofs of God’s existence, but is indeed in accordance with the principle of subjectivity as the basic principle of reason: In this manner the moral laws led through the conception of the summum bonum as the object and final end of pure practical reason to religion, that is, to the recognition of all duties as divine commands, not as sanctions, that is to say, arbitrary ordinances of a foreign will and contingent in themselves, but as essential laws of every free will in itself, which, nevertheless, must be regarded as commands of the Supreme Being, because it is only from a morally perfect (holy and good) and at the same time allpowerful will, and consequently only through harmony with this will, that we can hope to attain the summum bonum which the moral law makes it our duty to take as the object of our endeavours.37

Kant has solved a problem that is disturbing for most of the people. At least those who are convinced not to do injustice or to suffer injustice, though they want to act morally, can barely bear that the order of the world is so conditioned that non-moral acting people are triumphant, that criminal people feel happy above all, whereas they have to put up with the destruction of their goods of life in this world of sorrow and pain. If Kant’s supreme Good, Divine Being, or God bears the status of transcendence, as it is the case in the Critique of Pure Reason and in the 31

Op. cit. p. 457. Op. cit. p. 453. 33 Op. cit. p. 459. 34 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, translated by T. K. Abbott, New York: Amherst 1996, p. 147–150. 35 Op. cit. p. 150–158. 36 Op. cit. p. 159. 37 Op. cit. p. 156. 32



Critique of Practical Reason, the use of reason evokes another disturbing anxiety. The tension between the transcendent God and the empirically observable causal courses in this world cannot be tolerated, leading to what Hegel calls the “unhappy consciousness”.38 The harmony between happiness and worthiness of being happy is in doubt. The individual may strongly feel this worthiness of being happy but if the union of men in a civil society does not have the quality of an ethical commonwealth, man cannot be or remain happy. Kant’s answer is to prove that the historical process is a gradual establishment of sovereignty of the good principle on earth as an ethical commonwealth.39 Bearing in mind the paradigm of Enlightenment on the one hand and the transcendence of the Divine Being on the other hand, the question has to be answered whether and to what extent this process can be characterised as secularisation. According to Kant’s philosophical account in his Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (Book Three, Division One), men live in a state of nature, a state without ethics and religion.40 Men ought to leave this state to become member of an ethical commonwealth. The concept of an ethical commonwealth is the concept of a people of god under ethical laws.41 The course of the further development – according to Kant’s philosophical account – consists in the fact that the development can only take place in the form of a church. Progress consists in that within the visible church the invisible ethical commonwealth will arise because ecclesiastical faith is gradually being overcome by the sovereignty of pure religious faith. This is the coming of the Kingdom of God.42 Kant’s short historical account (in Division Two) shows no difference with regard to the meaning of religion, of the various shapes of faith, and the union of men.43 He makes statements about the real content of his earlier philosophical account, and he judges the history and the future of existing religious unions of men. Finally, he even makes

38 G.W.F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Mind, translated by J.B. Baillie, New York: Dover Publications 2003, p. 112. 39 Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, translated with an introduction and notes by Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson, New York: Harper & Row 1960. 40 Op. cit. p. 87. 41 Op. cit. p. 90. 42 Op. cit. pp. 105ff. 43 Op. cit. pp. 115ff.



statements about a reasonable interpretation of the Revelation of John (Chiliasm) in view of the Supreme God.44 Before expounding this concept of history, Kant – like no other philosopher in modern times did – dealt with Evil, in the previous two books. This is consequent. When the existence of God is an essential postulate, then Evil or the wicked should be judged according to reason. In Kant’s view, Evil has no ontological, metaphysical, or cosmological essence. Kant does not deny that there are ill people. However, the reason that man is inclined to evil is his propensity towards Evil.45 Men are evil if they do not want to act according to the postulates of the moralpractical reason. The little-by-little-vanishing of the propensity to Evil is presented in Book Three as the “Victory of the Good over the Evil Principle”46 now to be dealt with specifically. In a certain way Kant thinks like the devil himself if one believes in Goethe’s saying by Mephistopheles : “Free are they from the Evil One; the evil are still here”.47 Kant does not push aside that the evil have stayed, as intellectuals, engineers, and businessmen actually do. He wants to refute, contrary to Goethe, that the evil are still there. Due to the very fact that almost half of his Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone is dedicated on Evil, even before Kant’s concept of history is dealt with, the title might as well have been: The Restriction of the Power of Evil, be it Rulers or Ruled, through the Power of Reason in the prospective History of Mankind as a whole. Whether the rationale of this writing consists only in the capturing of an existential and political problem or in answering it, remains a subject of religio-political research or of a tragedy, solely to be composed by an Aeschylus or a Shakespeare. Is the longing for a future salvation from evil, as experienced through a suffering from injustice, indeed a vital motive for religiousness? Because the public use of reason does not allow believing that the devil intimated to Kant that he should prove that there will be less evil men in the future, the elements of the logical structure of his enlightened consciousness of history should be presented as clear as possible.


Op. cit. pp. 125ff. Op. cit. pp. 23ff. 46 Op. cit. pp. 85ff. 47 J.W. von Goethe, Faust, op. cit. Part One, Witch’s Kitchen. The translation is to be found on: 45



The Relationship between Religion, the Different Shapes of Belief, and the Different Shapes of the Union of Men In the present debate on politico-religious conflicts, the separation of state and church is considered a paradigm and thus an argument, often attributed to Kant and Enlightenment. However, this is imprecise. Based on his transcendental-philosophical method, Kant does not separate the two, but differentiates and connects them; he analyses and synthesises the two, like two circles interfering with each other, (using an illustration from geometry) “not like two circles external to each other, but like concentric circles”.48 Kant distinguishes between two types of union of men on the one hand, and the types of religion and belief on the other hand. Between these types, Kant sketches correlations, as well as between all types as a whole. Kant distinguishes between the types or shapes of the union of men as follows. Firstly: the political commonwealth, which he also calls the juridical-civil society or the state.49 Secondly: the church, which is distinguished as the visible church and the invisible church.50 Thirdly: the ethical commonwealth – also called the ethical-civil society.51 It is unique and inventive that Kant adds to the tradition of differentiation and supplementation of civil society and ecclesiastical society a third type of union of men, i.e. the ethical commonwealth. This is the consequence of the concept of the highest Good, applied to the existence of man in society, consisting of the harmony of happiness and morality (and the postulates set upon an existence of God): The idea of the highest Good, inseparably bound up with the purely moral disposition, cannot be realized by man himself, not only in the matter of the happiness pertaining thereto, but also in the matter of the union of men necessary for the end in its entirety.52

Genus proximum of the political commonwealth and of the ethical commonwealth is the union of men as society. The criterion of the differentia

48 See the Preface to the second edition of Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, op. cit. p. 11. 49 Op. cit. p. 86. 50 Op. cit. p. 92. 51 Op. cit. p. 86. 52 Op. cit. p. 130.



specifica consists in the difference between ethics or morality on one hand, and law or public juridical laws (which are, as a class, laws of coercion) on the other hand. The specification, however, of the ethical commonwealth consists of the presumption that men are united under non-coercive laws, which are according to Kant “laws of virtue alone”.53 The difference between laws of coercion and laws of non-coercion does not only comply with the difference in principle of law and morality in Kant’s philosophy, but also with the difference of ecclesiastical faith and pure religious faith and, above all, with the two modalities how “God as the lawgiver [is] universally to be honoured”.54 However, the political commonwealth (i.e. state) and the ethical Commonwealth will be united and can be perceived as two concentric circles. The ethical commonwealth, as Kant puts it, “can exist in the midst of a political commonwealth and may even be made up of all its members”.55 The ethical commonwealth is contained in the church, as is described further on: “An ethical Commonwealth under divine moral legislation is a church which, so far as it is not an object of possible experience, is called the church invisible”.56 The political commonwealth is thus connected through the ethical commonwealth with the invisible church. There exists no separation between the visible church and the political commonwealth for the members of the visible church are also members of the political commonwealth. In so far, they are united by the laws of coercion. They have the duty to obey the public laws.57 In view of this obedience shared by all members of a union of men, there exists no separation. The attributes of the differentiation between the visible church’s simply being (Kant is also aware of the prospective “true visible church”58) and the political (also juridical-political) commonwealth, must be seen from the law and the duty to obey in turn. In the political commonwealth men obey the public laws; in the historical and visible church, men obey God as lawgiver, i.e. of the statutory laws revealed by God which, in turn, are contradictory to the postulates of liberty and morality which are moral and non-coercive laws. It is remarkable that Kant does not deal with the case of those citizens, being religious or non-religious, who are not members of the historical and visible 53 54 55 56 57 58

Op. cit. p. 87. Op. cit. p. 95. Op. cit. p. 86. Op. cit. p. 92. Loc. cit. Op. cit. p. 99.



church. He could shoulder the atheists so strictly that he does not even mention them, e.g. as potential members of the ethical commonwealth. To sum up, the implicit content of the writing on Enlightenment: The complexity of the relationship between the political commonwealth and church cannot be reduced to a pure separation. From a religiopolitical point of view, it should be stressed that Kant, contrary to political science in general, answers the social-existential question of what the uniting consists of in the union of men, i.e. by what the people as a whole are united and connected. These are not only moral laws and laws of coercion, which presuppose liberty but also religion and faith that are being added to the definition of the union of men. Kant’s terminology in dealing with the complexity of morality, law, reason, and faith is, due to its variety, perplexing at first sight, but neither contradictory nor unsystematic. Kant uses the terms “moral religion”,59 “rational religion”,60 “religion of pure reason”,61 and “pure religion of reason”.62 The connection between moral and reason (rational) as an adjective to religion is coherent. It complies with Kant’s argumentation in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Practical Reason, which led from the harmony of happiness and worthiness of being happy over the summum bonum to the existence of God (as a postulate of reason) and finally to religion. Accordingly, religion was defined by Kant as: In the manner the moral laws lead through the conception of the summum bonum as the object and find end of pure practical reason to religion, that is, recognition of all duties as divine commands, not as sanction, that is to say arbitrary ordinances of foreign and contingent in themselves, but as essential laws of every free will in itself.63

Because of prejudices toward Enlightenment it should be emphasised with Kant that there exists no excluding antagonism between religion and reason. In his writing Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, the autonomous basis of religion is stressed, and the substantial criterion of religion is maintained: “Religion is (subjectively regarded) the recognition of all duties as divine commands.”64 This definition of religion 59 60 61 62 63

For instance in: op. cit. pp. 79, 96. Op. cit. p. 104. Op. cit. p. 100. Op. cit. p. 105. Critique of Practical Reason, op. cit. p. 156.



makes it possible for Kant to distinguish between religion and faith: “There is only one (true) religion; but there can be faiths of several kinds”.65 The latter are: “Jewish, Mohammedan, Christian, Catholic, Lutheran faith”.66 These kinds of faith Kant also calls “revealed faith”,67 “ecclesiastical faith”,68 “statutory ecclesiastical faith”,69 “historical faith”70 or “empirical faith”.71 In history one can observe the faith of men that God has revealed “statutes” to them, and Jews, Mohammedans, Christians, Catholics, Lutherans believe this in “various churches”.72 This is according to Kant’s terminology an “ecclesiastical faith”.73 He distinguishes “the pure religious faith”,74 “pure rational faith”75 or “pure moral faith”76 respectively the “universal true religious belief ”.77 The pure religious faith is also a “rational faith”.78 It is according to the postulates of practical reason, leading from the existence of God to religion, that Kant attributes to faith both the adjectives religious and rational. It cannot be dealt with here with the traditional and (until this day still not understood) characteristic of religion as obligation to worship God. This specific criterion, be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim faith, is the kind of laws that men have to obey: “Now a divine legislative will command either through laws in themselves merely statuary or through purely moral laws”.79 The commands of the statutory laws revealed to men Kant calls ecclesiastical faith. The moral laws based on reason Kant calls pure religious faith.80 The next section will show that Kant differentiates between pure religious faith as rational faith on one hand and ecclesiastical faith on the other hand, but faith is adjusted to the ideal of reason step by step. This 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80

Religion within the limits of reason alone, op. cit. p. 142. Op. cit. p. 98. Op. cit. p. 98. Op. cit. p. 100. Op. cit. p. 98. Op. cit. p. 97. Op. cit. pp. 103, 105. Op. cit. p. 100. Op. cit. p. 98. Op. cit. pp. 100, 101. Critique of Practical Reason, op. cit. pp. 96, 106, 107, 110, 191. Religion within the limits of reason alone, op. cit. p. 129. Op. cit. p. 103. Op. cit. p. 131. Op. cit. p. 94. Op. cit. p. 95. Op. cit. p. 96.



difference (faith – reason) is not abolished completely but faith is developed to pure religious faith, which occurs not beyond society but within a union of men, i.e. the church. This, in turn, is a movement that sustains the victory over the evil principle and assures the world of an eternal peace.81 God, Society, and Chiliasm: The History of the Christian Church as the Only Union of Men within the Gradual Approximation to the Kingdom of God on Earth and to the Sovereignty of the Good Principle on Earth The following exposition will show that the relationship between politics and religion is mediated by the paradigm of the future course of history. In Book Three, Kant calls it the philosophical account of it. In the shorter historical account, he proves the concordance between the philosophical account and the historical account. It is very difficult to explain what seems quite particular in the position of Kant. He expresses the opinion that the progress in consciousness will proceed in the church and not in the political commonwealth. What prima facie speaks against the progress in the historical, i.e. not yet true church, is that even in the political commonwealth (the juridical-civil society) the moral laws, based on free consent, are not in force. In both shapes of the union of men, the laws of coercion prevail. Kant’s statement that “the Idea of a People of God can be Realized (through Human Organisation) only in the Form of a church”,82 is clear, but apart from its consistency, not his reasoning. In addition, Kant answers in view of the realisation of the idea of a people of God on earth, that this question perhaps is not at all answerable: “How indeed can one expect something perfectly straight to be framed out of such crooked wood?”83 Kant’s concept bears an essential idea: another commonwealth next to the state and the church is the ethical commonwealth, which should and will be erected on the rock face of mere moral reason. In the introduction to Book Three, Kant connects to the dispute between the evil and the good principle, as expounded in Book One and Two. According to the beginning of his writing An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” he declares that “man is in this perilous state

81 82 83

Critique of Practical Reason, op. cit. p. 144. Op. cit. p. 91. Op. cit. p. 92.



through his own fault”.84 (In Kant’s own words one reads Schuld, which should better be translated with “moral guilt”) The sovereignty of the good principle could be possible, in so far as men can work toward it, only through the establishment and spread of a society. That is a “society in accordance with, and for sake of, the laws of virtue”.85 It is, in addition to and as to the spread, “a society whose task and duty it is rationally to impress these laws in all their scope upon the entire race”.86 Kant does not contrast individual and society. The criterion of comparison and connection are laws, in fact moral laws as the condition for the spread of it in the human race. The spread of the moral laws is shaped as an historical process to be discerned adequately by the structure of Book Three. Kant begins with a time without history, which he calls state of nature, hereby following this tradition in Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Rousseau. It is the description of the status (state, situation, condition) of men according to nature itself and man’s nature. Man’s history starts with man’s emergence from nature. “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity”.87 After the description of the state of nature, Kant displays a causal course being framed by a purpose (telos) defined by consciousness. The process consists both in the “Gradual Transition of Ecclesiastical Faith to the Exclusive Sovereignty of the Kingdom of God in Earth”88 and in “the Gradual Establishment of the Good Principle on Earth”.89 Kant designs no developments different from one another. The process occurs only in one union of men: the visible church. What evolves is the ethical commonwealth. Nevertheless, this is the consequence of God’s existence as postulate of reason together with the attempt to prove that the true religion and the true church comply with the postulates of reason – the supreme criteria – or that faith and reason can be harmonised. The specific characteristic of Enlightenment in Kant’s view is, firstly, his concept of history and, secondly, that progress occurs in the real visible church and not in the state as political commonwealth. The state of nature is contrasted to the juridical-civil, political state and to the ethical-civil state. In the former, the relationship of men is determined

84 85 86 87 88 89

Op. cit. p. 85. Op. cit. p. 86. Loc. cit. An Answer to the Question: “What is Enlightenment?” op. cit. p. 58. Religion within the limits of reason alone, op. cit. p. 105 Op. cit, p. 115.



by public juridical laws (laws of coercion) or laws of virtue alone (noncoercion laws).90 In the state of nature, this is not the case. According to the difference between juridical-civil laws and laws of virtue alone, Kant distinguishes with regard to the conditions of living in a state of nature, between the rightful or the juridical state of nature and the ethical state of nature. Both states of the union of men are contrasted by the difference between public juridical laws or ethical-civil laws (and moral laws respectively), but, following Hobbes, Kant writes: “In both [the juridical state and ethical state of nature], each individual prescripts the law for himself, and there is no external law to which he, along with others, recognizes himself to be subject”.91 In the juridical-political and in the ethical state of nature counts that each individual is his own judge and that there exists no power of full public authority, which provides for the enforcement of the laws.92 In short: The juridical state of nature is the battle of all against all, and the ethical state of nature is characterised by Kant as the battle against the attacks of morally evil men or evil in himself: Just as the juridical state of nature is one of war of every man against every other, so too is the ethical state of nature one in which the good principle, which resides in each man, is continually attacked by the evil which is found in him and also in everyone else.93

Whereas the juridical state of nature is resolved into the political-civil commonwealth by coercive laws, the ethical state of nature persists. “In an already existing political commonwealth all the citizens, as such, are in an ethical state of nature and are entitled to remain therein”.94 Kant does not explain how the political commonwealth came into being. Apart from the §§45 and further in The Metaphysics of Morals (1797), to be dealt with later (§4), the term social contract cannot be found. Kant merely declares that man is obliged to leave the natural state.95 One can see from the difference between the political commonwealth and the ethical commonwealth the purpose of the historical course: Because the duties of virtue apply to the entire human race, the concept of an ethical commonwealth is extended ideally to the whole 90 91 92 93 94 95

Op. cit. p. 87. Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Op. cit. p. 86. Op. cit. p. 87. Op. cit. p. 98.



mankind, and thereby distinguishes itself from the concept of a political Commonwealth.96

History aims at continuously stepping toward the ethic commonwealth of all men “as a universal republic based on laws of virtue”,97 in other words, as a unification of men under the laws of morality. Next to the obligations of the citizens of the political commonwealth, there are special duties that regard all men: “Now here we have a duty which is sui generis, not of men to men, but of the humane race toward to itself ”.98 This obligation presupposes a special idea: [This] duty will require the presupposition of another idea, namely, that of a higher moral Being through whose universal dispensation the forces of separate individuals, insufficient in themselves, are united for a common end.99

Kant will not deal immediately with this subject and he resumes: “First of all, however, we must follow up the clue of that moral need (for social union) and see whither this will lead us”.100 In the next part of Book Three,101 Kant connects the ethical commonwealth – the unification of men by ethical laws, i.e. not only by virtues – with the destination of the ‘people of God’. According to the Old Testament, the Jews are God’s people and according to the New Testament, the Christian community is the people of God. Kant invents a new, third ‘people of God’. This term is linked with the ethical law of the ethical commonwealth. The term ethical commonwealth is broadened by adding ‘people’ and ‘God’ to it. Kant starts his argumentation with the ethical laws, and the answer to the question who might be the lawgiver of the ethical laws. Kant explains that the people cannot be imagined as the highest lawgiver of an ethical commonwealth. The highest ethical lawgiver must be someone else: Hence only he can be thought of as highest law-giver of an ethical commonwealth with respect to whom all true duties, hence also the ethical, must be represented as at the same time his commands; he must therefore


Op. cit. p. 88. Op. cit. p. 89 98 Op. cit. p. 89. 99 Op. cit. p. 89. 100 Loc. cit. 101 “The concept of an Ethical Commonwealth is the concept of God under Ethical laws”; op. cit. p. 90. 97



also be ‘one who knows the heart’, in order to see into the innermost parts of the disposition of each individual (…).102

The highest lawgiver must be able to do this, for he has to decide on everybody whatever his actions are worth.103 Kant confirms the conclusion who the highest lawgiver in the ethical commonwealth might be with regard to the reasons that lead to the moral-reasonable postulate of God’s existence. “But this is the concept of God as moral ruler of the world”.104 With this, Kant relates two forms of communities (people and ethical commonwealth) with religion. This is due to a pivotal paradigm of Kant’s philosophy in general, the law.105 If men were united in the ethical commonwealth not only by virtue alone but also by moral and ethical laws, the quest for the highest lawgiver, as God, needed not to be pursued. Before we deal with the difference between ecclesiastical and religious faith it is necessary to discuss the subject church and its connection with a variety of human associations. The headline of Section IV (Book Three) reads: “The Idea of a People of God can be Realized (through Human Organisation) only in the Form of a Church”.106 Why the idea of a ‘people of God’ only can be realized through the form of a church and through a human organization as a church respectively can only be comprehended if one takes into account the difference between invisible church and visible church. The whole section does not contain any hint at all that only through the actual, empirical, historical church as visible church the Idea of a People of God can be realized. Again, the pivotal point here is the ethical commonwealth under divine moral legislation, just as the ethical commonwealth as a people of God, which is broadened by the following remark: “An ethical commonwealth under divine moral legislation is a church, so far it is not an object of possible experience, is called the church invisible”.107 It is the invisible church, this human organisation in which the idea of a ‘people of God’ can be Realized. For Kant continues: 102 103 104 105 106 107

Op. cit. pp. 90–91. Op. cit. p. 92. Loc. cit. See the maxim of the categorical imperative. Op. cit. p. 92. Loc. cit.



a mere idea of the union of all the righteous under direct and moral divine world-government, and idea serving all as the archetype of what is to be established by men.108

The invisible church is, thus, a mere idea, still to be realised, an archetype (German: Urbild ) of men inaugurating the possibility under and because of the moral divine world-government to bring about the (moral) Kingdom of God on earth, so far as it can be brought to pass by men.109 The prospective (moral) Kingdom of God on earth Kant calls the (true) visible church, which he defines in turn with the help of the category of The Critique of Pure Reason.110 It still stays open how Kant deals with the real, historical church, i.e. a visible church being an object of possible experience. He tries that in view of faith in section V. under the headline “The Constitution of every Church Originates always in some Historical (Revealed) Faith which we can Call Ecclesiastical Faith”.111 One can see already from the phrase ‘the constitution of every church,’ i.e. both the prospective invisible, true church and the visible church as object of possible experience, that the real-historical church is assigned to the historical revealed faith. Progress consists in the transition from ecclesiastical faith to pure religious faith (rational faith). It should be asked here: how justifies Kant that men start with historical-empirical faith in order to overcome it nonetheless? Why is the ecclesiastical faith necessary for reaching the rational faith? What is the difference between these two shapes of faith? Why does the great philosopher of Enlightenment Kant not claim a radical critique of ecclesiastical faith? We could recall his already cited definition of religion: “Since all religion consists in this, that all our duties we look upon God as the lawgiver universally to be honoured”.112 If Kant now distinguishes between “a divine legislative will commands either through laws in themselves merely statutory or through purely moral laws”113 the justification of the statutory laws of God as lawgiver of the historicalempirical ecclesiastical faith must be documented.


Loc. cit. Loc. cit. 110 Op. cit. p. 93: 1. Quantity (universality as numerical oneness), 2. Quality, purity, (i.e. union under no motivating force other than moral ones), 3. Relation (union of men under the principle of freedom), 4. Modality (the un-changeability of its constitution, with a definite reservation, namely that the administration may be changed according to time and circumstance). 111 Op. cit. p. 94. 112 Op. cit. p. 95. Emphasis added. 113 Loc. cit. 109



Firstly: For pure religious faith is concerned only with what constitutes the essence of reverence for God, namely, obedience, ensuing from the moral disposition, to all duties as His commands; a church, on the other hand, as the union of many men with such dispositions into a moral commonwealth, requires a public covenant, a certain ecclesiastical form dependent upon the conditions of experience.114

Secondly: In the indecision over the problem of whether God or men themselves should found a church, there is evidenced man’s propensity to a religion of divine worship (cultus) and – since such a religion rests upon arbitrary precepts – to belief in divine statutory laws, on the assumption that some divine legislation, not to be discovered through reason.115

Thirdly: in view of the development to the ethical commonwealth, the ecclesiastical faith precedes the pure religious faith: “In men’s striving towards an ethical commonwealth, ecclesiastical faith thus naturally precedes pure religious faith”.116 It is e mere “vehicle”.117 Kant repeats the relevance of experience in the section of the next chapter, which deals with the measure to judge the ecclesiastical faith: “Ecclesiastical Faith has Pure Religious Faith as the Highest Interpreter”.118 Not only is dealt with religious faith as such, but also with the meaning of interpretation of the Holy Scripture for the rational faith, i.e. the academic scholarship sounding quite Protestant: There is therefore no norm of ecclesiastical faith other than scripture, and no expositor thereof other than pure religion of reason and scriptural scholarship (which deals with the historical aspect of the religion).119

Until now, Kant’s both abstract and pure philosophical accounts of evolution were put forward. On the basis of his historical account, the question should henceforth be answered briefly in which present concrete-historical church the seed of a movement to pure religious faith is embodied. The subject of the historical account in Division Two of Book Three is the “Gradual establishment of the good principle on earth”.120 In the 114 115 116 117 118 119 120

Op. cit. p. 96. Op. cit. p. 97. Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Op. cit. p. 100. Op. cit. p. 105. Headline for Division Two; op. cit. p. 115.



first sentence, Kant already states that “we can expect no universal history of religion (in the strictest meaning of the word) among men on earth; for since it is based upon pure moral faith”.121 For me it is primarily important now to show that Kant, in spite of his concept of a universal history based upon pure moral faith, decides himself that in a real-historical view there is only one ecclesiastical faith in universalhistorical purpose (measured by the criterion of pure religious faith)122 valid for the cumulative approach to the ideal and one definite a priori not: namely the Jewish faith. The limitation with regard to the principle of unity is justified by Kant with the argument of predisposition of a development: Now this historical account can have unity only if it is confined wholly to the portion of the humane race in which the predisposition to the unity of the universal church is already approaching its (complete) development.123

As well as in the writing on Enlightenment, Kant transfers the principle of teleological processes in nature to the history of mankind and a sole union of men, i.e. a real existing church by using the term ‘seed’ (German: ‘Keim’): So we can deal only with the history of that church, which contained within it self, from first beginning, the seed and the principles of the objective unity on the true and universal religious faith, to which it is gradually brought nearer.124

Though Kant refers to the final over-shaping of prospective causal courses by the approximation paradigm and not by real consummation (which cannot be verified in any presence empirically), he passes the sentence of exclusion. Kant does not wonder if the excluded faith or the community excluded from the development will be allowed a prospective progression. In the case of exclusion, he thus assumes an unchangingly power of origin. For subsequently referring to the ‘seed,’ it is ruled: And first of all, it is evident that the Jewish faith stands in so essential connection what whatever, i.e., in no unity of concepts with this ecclesiastical faith whose history we wish to consider.125

121 122 123 124 125

Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Op. cit. p. 116. Loc. cit.



I shall not respond to his justification in detail, but name the most important statement: 1. “The Jewish faith was, in its original form, a collection of mere statutory laws”, a “political organization”.126 2. “Judaism is really not a religion at all”.127 3. “Furthermore, since no religion can be conceived of which involves no belief in a future life, Judaism, which, when taken in its purity is seen to lack this belief, is not a religious faith at all”.128 4. From the beginning, the Jewish people have considered themselves “as a special people chosen by God”. Therefore, “the requirements of a church universal”129 have been inapplicable. This is Kant’s position by which his anti-Judaism – not to be confused with anti-Semitism – can be proved based on quotations. When he describes the “euthanasia of Jewry”,130 the historical statutory laws of the ecclesiastical faith of the Jewish people are meant. The Jewish Faith is no religious faith at all, no rational faith, no moral faith, which is based on God as a lawgiver of moral laws and not statutory laws, according to Kant. When Kant emphasises at the beginning of his historical account in the development to the church universal, the conflict “between the faith of divine worship and the moral faith of religion”,131 it should be recalled that with it the conflict is meant between historical revealed faith of statutory laws and the true religion (and there is only one (true) religion). Nevertheless, “Judaism is (…) not a religion at all”.132


Loc. cit. Loc. cit. 128 Op. cit. p. 117. 129 Loc. cit. 130 Immanuel Kant, Der Streit der Fakultäten, in: Kant, Werke in zwölf Bänden, edited by Wilhelm Weischedel, Band XI, S. 321, “The euthanasia of Jewry is the pure moral religion, leaving all ancient lawful rules of which some should still be retained in Christianity (as a messianic belief): this difference in cults is to vanish at last and, thus – what is called the decision of the great drama of changing a religion on earth (the restoration of all things) – is brought about at least in Spirit, for there is only one shepherd and one flock.” The English text could not be located any more. Hence, the quotation is translated by the editor (Reinhard Sonnenschmidt). Some implications should be added in this place: Firstly: the euthanasia of the lives of the members of the Jewish people is not postulated. Secondly: the ‘beautiful death’ (euthanasia) applies to the belief of the Jews, to the principle of revelation due to statutes and regulations. Thirdly: the pure moral religion replaces the revelation of ancient lawful rules, i.e. the religious regulations as laws. Fourthly: the messianic belief of the Jews has to be retained in Christianity, that is: not the statutes revealed to Moses. Fifthly: The genesis of the pure religious belief as drama bears the messianic-eschatological content of the restoration of all things to be. Sixthly: this restoration will only take place under the condition of the universal unity of all shapes of belief (one shepherd and one flock). 131 Religion within the limits of reason alone, op. cit. p. 115. 132 Op. cit. p. 116. 127



In turn, ‘euthanasia of Jewish faith’ is the means to create a reasonable aim, to achieve the rational, moral ‘true religion’ and ‘true church’, the gradual establishment of the sovereignty of the good principle in conflict with the evil principle. When assuming Kant’s premise on the longing for salvation, one may be free to call this a ‘beautiful death’. Moreover, this should be in the interest of pious Jews. For the aim is the whole mankind to which they belong and to which they will belong. If the Jesuits were said to hold that the end justifies the means, the friends of Enlightenment would have to say in the sense of Kant that the prospective approach to the religion of reason and indeed reason itself as regulative Idea justifies the euthanasia of the faith of the Jewish people. The future conflict between the moral faith and the historical faith of divine worship in the case of the Christian faith is judged in a different way. As to the church whose history he wants to deal with (and it is to recall literally),133 he commits himself to the Christian church.134 At this very point, it is distinguishable that the revolution in doctrines of faith was evoked by Christ. It would be of interest and instructive to reconsider the detailed characterisation of the person Jesus Christ as well as the appraisal of His work135 by Kant who was well versed in the Bible. He calls Christ as “Son of God”136 (being decisively in contradiction to Jewish faith) and as “The Personified Idea of the Good Principle”137 und “Archetype”.138 (He) had given, in his own person, through precept and suffering even to unmerited yet meritorious death, an example conforming to the archetype of a humanity alone pleasing to God, he is represented as returning to heaven whence he come.139

This interpretation inspires to ask if a certain type of modern or postmodern religiousness can be discerned, because more and more people 133 “Which contained within itself, from its first beginning, the seed, and the principle of the principles of the objective unity of the true and universal religious faith”. Op. cit. p. 118. 134 “We cannot, therefore, do otherwise than begin general church history, if it is to constitute a system, with the origin of Christianity, which, completely forsaking the Judaism from which it sprang, and grounded upon a wholly new principle, effected a thoroughgoing revolution in doctrines of faith”. Lop. cit. 135 See op. cit. pp. 54ff, 65ff, 77, 79, 93, 109, 110, 119, 120, 125, 132, 146ff, 189. 136 Op. cit. pp. 54ff, 65ff, 93, 125, 132. 137 Op. cit. pp. 54–69. 138 Op. cit. pp 109ff, 119, 136, 150. 139 Op. cit. p. 120.



do not go to church or have resigned, but even confess in public to be religious. Actually, citizens with a Protestant background are not well versed in the Bible either. In turn, Kant states in this cited context that every faith, which is a historical faith is also an ecclesiastical faith based on books and needs a learned public (not existing in modern times any more). Immediately follows a sentence really worth being quoted: “The pure faith of reason, in contrast, stands in need of no such documentary authentication, but proves itself ”.140 Whether Enlightenment shall presume something to prove itself, must be deconstructed in another study. If Apocalypse is, far more than the person of Jesus Christ is, an archetype too, it should be examined as well. For Apocalypse has intrigued people both in the occidental world and in the non-Christian world enormously since thousands of years after the birth of the archetype Jesus Christ. In any case, Kant’s interpretation of the Revelation of John is to be quoted at the end of this section. This is even of interest due to a powerful process in the Germany of the 19th and 20th centuries, the process of transmogrifying of Apocalypse into the ideologies of Marxist-Leninist socialism and National Socialism (‘Third Reich,’ ‘Thousand Year Reich’). Marxism as atheism substitutes religion and National Socialism is a political religion (solely because of the confession to ‘positive Christendom’ in paragraph 24 of the party platform as well as Hitler’s confession of the ‘indestructibility of the soul’, ‘its eternal existence’, ‘the existence of a higher being’ in Mein Kampf 141). Kant’s pondering reflections on chiliasm (Revelation of John, 20) would be worth to deal with, but it is also of interest that The kingdom of heaven is represented in this historical account not only as being brought ever nearer, in an approach delayed at certain times yet never wholly interrupted, but also arriving.142

Kant ends this historical account as follows: This sketch of a history of after-ages, which themselves are not yet history, presents a beautiful ideal of the moral world-epoch, brought about by the


Loc. cit. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, 2 Bände in einem Band, ungekürzte Ausgabe, München, Eher Verlag 1932, pp. 671– 675, 417; cf. Alfred Rosenberg: Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts. Eine Wertung seelesgeistigen Gestaltenkämpfe unserer Zeit, München, Hoheneichen Verlag 1934, especially the chapter on Mystik und Tat, pp. 217–276. 142 Kant, Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der Vernunft, op. cit. pp. 124–125, emphasis added. 141



introduction of true universal religion and in faith foreseen even to its culmination – which we cannot conceive as a culmination in experience, but can merely anticipate, i.e., prepare for, in continual progress and approximation toward the highest good possible on earth (and in all of this there is nothing mystical, but everything moves quite naturally in a moral fashion). The appearance of the Antichrist, the millennium, and the news of the proximity of the end of the world – all these can take on, before reason, their right symbolic meaning; and to represent the last of these as an event not to be seen in advance (like the end of life, be it far or near) admirably expresses the necessity of standing ready at all times for the end and indeed (if one attaches the intellectual meaning to this symbol) really to consider ourselves always as chosen citizens of a divine (ethical) state. ‘When, therefore, cometh the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God cometh not in visible form. Neither shall they say, Lo here; or lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you’. (Luke XVII, 21–2)143

The following points should be stressed: firstly, the introduction of the true religious faith; secondly, to cause a moral world-epoch; thirdly, the appearance of the anti-Christ and of the millennium (‘Thousand Year Reich’, Chapter 20 of the Revelation of John) are able to receive a rightful symbolic and intellectual meaning before reason; fourthly, the necessity to be qualified and prepared to become citizens of a divine (ethical) state on earth. It is important to highlight an important ground, which Kant shifts into man’s inwardness. This is the reference to the word of Christ: “For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you”. (Luke 17:21). Whether scribes are needed to interpret this sentence or not, or whether this Kingdom may become effective on the basis of the pure rational faith alone that proves itself, is difficult to decide. Yet: the kingdom of God is after all a kingdom of God and not of human beings. Moreover, in The Contest of Faculties where (among others) the theological and philosophical faculties contend with each other, a revealing passage suggests an immanentization of God.144 This God-in-us authenticity has been an addiction of modern man ever since the 19th century up to our days. However, can it be considered as adequate to enlightened understanding and practical reason that one can only recognize the divine, if one 143 Op. cit. p. 126; Kant does not write millennium but “Chiliasm”; emphasis on Antichrist and millennium added. 144 Exegeses of Scripture are according to Kant “only then really authentic, that is, as the God in us himself the exegete, because we don’t understand anybody except him who speaks with us through our own understanding and our own reason (…) See Die Streit der Fakultäten, op. cit. p. 314. Because no English translation was available, this translation was made by the editor (Bart Labuschagne)



is divine? Anyway, the shortcomings of Kant’s position, even in his attempts to bring John’s Revelation and reason as the “highest Interpreter”145 into accordance with each other, will be discussed at the end of this contribution. For now, the following points can be enumerated, by way of conclusion of this paragraph: Firstly: Kant develops a process of progress in prospective history. Secondly: this is teleology of approximation. Thirdly: the aim, never to be achieved in full, is the ethical commonwealth or the divine (ethical) state as the Kingdom of God on earth. Fourthly: the ultimate measure and purpose is reason. Reason emerges from the transition of ecclesiastical faith to pure religious faith or rational faith. Fifthly: this process starts with man’s departure out of the natural state where everybody is the highest judge and executor of his mere subjective appraisal of judicial and moral standards. Sixthly: the progress to reason and liberty occurs only in the actual existing Christian church and not in the political commonwealth (state). Seventhly: Kant’s apocalypticism is, contrary to classical and modern forms, intrinsically tied to virtue and morality. Eighthly: Kant’s paradigm does not consist of an entire secularisation or immanentization, i.e. the transfer of the Kingdom of God entirely to the world. The difference of this life and afterlife remains preserved and can be inferred from the attributes of God as judge and executor of the moral laws.146 As to the human beings, we turn to their political rights and the freedom of religion of the citizens of a state. 4. THE LIMITS OF THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE, THE CITIZENS, AND THE CHURCH IN KANT’S THEORY OF POLITICAL RIGHTS If people have no right of resistance against the “legislative authority now in power, irrespective of its origin”,147 even if the sovereign has conquered its authority illegally,148 fact is that the citizen’s freedom of religion is limited. Kant’s position is that people are indeed free in arguing, but obliged to obey whatever the sovereign of a state has ordered. The individual right of a citizen is no subject for Kant. This all follows from the concept that 145

Op. cit. p. 108. Cf. the General Observation to book three in The Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, op cit. pp. 129ff. 147 Kant, ‘The Metaphysics of Morals,’ in: Kant, Political Writings, op. cit. p. 143. 148 Op. cit. p. 142. 146



the form of a state will be that of a state in the absolute sense, i.e. as the idea of what a state ought to be according to pure principles of right,149

and “the mere idea”, after which the legitimacy of state can be thought is “the original contract”.150 Kant’s awareness of society or people and his dogma on sovereignty are, like in Hobbes and Rousseau, a consequence of the concept of a contract of association, more precisely: of the contract of every man with every man whereupon the people and its definition emerges in the first place and leads to the dogma of sovereignty. According to the idea of what a state ought to be, Kant gives his definition: “A state (civitas) is a union of an aggregate of men under rightful laws”.151 The state, the civitas, is an aggregate (in German: Vereinigung as a union of men) and “contains three powers, i.e. the universally united will is made up of three separate persons (Trias Politica)”:152 the ruling power (or sovereignty) in the person of legislator, the executive power in the person of the individual who governs, the juridical power: the person of the judge”.153 At this point, it is useful to show the relationship between the concept of the universally united will with the people, the original contract of every man with every man and the obligation of the people to obey. Kant dealt with this relationship in The Metaphysics of Morals and quite extensively as well, drawing on Hobbes, in the writing On the Common Saying: “This may be true in Theory but it does not apply in Practice”.154 The act in which the people themselves constitute stems from the “idea” of the “original contract”. It is the contract in which “all members of the people (omnes et singuli) give up there external freedom” to become “members of a commonwealth, i.e. of the people regarded as a state (universi)”.155 The “contractus originarus” or “pactum sociale” is “merely an idea of reason”156 and is not based on historical event. However, why do the people and all “citizens” have to obey so strictly then? Kant merely states that the “origin of the supreme power” is “not discoverable”.157


Op. cit. §45, p. 138. Op. cit. §47, p. 140. 151 Op. cit. §45, p. 138. 152 Op. cit. §45, p. 138. 153 Op. cit. p. 138. 154 Here also quoted from Kant, Political Writings, op. cit. pp. 61ff. 155 Metaphysics of Morals, op. cit. p. 140. 156 On the Common Saying … op. cit. p. 79. 157 The Metaphysics of Morals, General Remarks on the Legal Consequences of the Nature of the Civil of Union, op. cit. p. 143. 150



The people as “subject” must speculate about neither the origin at all nor the origin-related right not to have to obey.158 The rationale consists in having to look upon people as united under a general legislative will.159 Kant concludes that “they cannot and may pass any judgment other than that which is willed by the current head of state (summus imperans)”.160 To be united under general legislative will is a consequence of the social contract from which the unity of all the members emerges … The basic law, which can come only from the general, united will of the people, is called the “original contract”.161 The unity of will (as result of the original contract), must therefore be characterised as “an idea of reason”.162 Both are assumptions for the obedience to the sovereign. From this follows: If every man is part of the unity of will, every man obeys primarily himself as part of the whole in case of the supreme powers of the political commonwealth whose legitimization result from the social contract. Moreover, the legislator may look upon every man as if having consented to the act of legislation.163 Kant, indeed, deals with some opportunities of the people to oppose. Nevertheless, spoken in round terms it must be hold true for the members of the people: “The only possible answer is that they can do nothing but obey”.164 They do not, however, obey directly to the persons or the particular representatives of the three powers but to the three powers contained in the state (civitas), i.e. the universally united will, implying the unity of will, which emerged from the original social contract and from which Kant deduced the legitimacy of the ruling power (or sovereignty) in the person of the legislator, of the executive power in the person of the individual who governs, and of the juridical power in the person of the judge. The collective unity that came about because of the social contract is an ‘idea of reason’. The obedience implied to the three persons of the 158 “In other words, the subject ought not to indulge in speculation (in German: vernünfteln) about its origin with a view to acting upon them, as if it’s right to be obeyed were open to doubt (ius controversum)”. Op. cit. p. 143. 159 “The people must already be considered as united under a general legislative”, Op. cit. p. 143. 160 Op. cit. p. 143. 161 On the Common Saying … op. cit. p. 77. 162 Op. cit. p. 77. 163 “It is in fact merely an idea of reason, which nonetheless has undoubted practical reality; for it can oblige every legislator to frame his laws in such a way that they could have been produced by the united will of a whole nation, and to regard each subject, in so far as he can claim citizenship, as if he had consented within the general will”. op. cit. p. 79. 164 Op. cit. p. 80.



legislative, executive, and judicative powers is therefore reasonable as well, and, in Kant’s own words, the welfare of the state should be seen as that condition in which the constitution most closely approximates to the principles of right; and reason, by a categorical imperative, obliges us to strive for its realization.165

5. SUMMARY AND PROSPECTS The method chosen in these two contributions on the Enlightenment, aimed at avoiding judgements on Enlightenment, as if everybody were a connoisseur of what had to be judged. The aim of this research was primarily to advance as far as to be able to provide an opportunity to associate Enlightenment with the terms secularisation, emancipation, and modernity. This not only applies to any favourable looking upon Enlightenment, secularisation, emancipation, and modernity but also to a critical view on these subjects. The literature on the crisis of modernity, which emerged in the context of the so-called cultural criticism (Kulturkritik) and criticism of civilisation at the end of the 19th century and a fortiori after World War I, presupposes the awareness of the sources of Enlightenment. However, this is needless when written on and talked about Enlightenment and modernity in a fashion and manner as if they owned self-consciousness and were sources of action or bore an entity (Wesen) creating itself and affecting human beings. This would be, in turn, contrary to Enlightenment. Finally, the widespread belief that the causal course of the history of politics, mentality, mind, and culture are directed purposefully, presupposes human beings’ awareness of the awareness of Enlightenment. In the following, I will summarise the relationship between belief and reason, theology and religion, civitas (state, political commonwealth, civil society) and church (ecclesiastical society) as well as the freedom of religion and tolerance. In addition, to be sure, no one of the philosophers dealt with in these two contributions is a spokesperson of atheism. When describing the natural state, religion does not occur, except when it is done for good reason. In this state, human beings have no laws to obey. Moreover, there is no hint that they are anti-religious or religious, nor why it is likely that they are a-religious in the natural state. Atheism


Op. cit. §49, p. 143.



is not mentioned, justified, nor fought against, once the social contract is finished. In the relationship between reason and belief in Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, and Kant, reason takes priority. What is criticised by those philosophers is a theology of revelation, but not religion itself. A conceptual history of religion may lead to the educated guess that this term has become generally used (in contrast to mediaeval times).166 Hobbes is the one who criticises the theology of revelation most extensively. Merely the fact that “Jesus is the Christ,167 puts mercy on belief in regard to reason. By the way, the owner of sovereign power decrees what and how the citizens have to believe. Spinoza, in turn, attempts to prove that philosophy is no form of theology, and theology should not be adapted to reason for it is useless in either case.168 Locke, however, refers the reasonability and convenience of Christian faith.169 Rousseau, as was to be expected, neither dealt with the subject belief and reason, nor claimed priority of reason over belief. It seems that he prefers a natural religion. In La Profession de foi du vicaire Savoyard his credos are not deduced from principles of a higher philosophy. The vicar finds them rather on the bottom of his heart. Kant deals with the Trias: belief – religion – reason most thoroughly, and for him, there is a contradiction between ecclesiastical faith and the theology of revelation on the one hand, and the rational faith of the pure religious faith on the other hand, but not between reason and religion. For Kant, there exists even only (one, true) religion, and that is the religion of reason. This is consistent, because only a concordance of morality and happiness leads to the recognition that the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, and freedom of the will are thinkable as inevitable, which is due to the postulates of practical reason in the first place. Moreover, Kant will demonstrate according to his critical-philosophical method, that the Christian religion alone, i.e. the protestant denomination, complies with reason as the “highest interpreter”. It even did not come in his mind to

166 Cf, Ernst Feil: Religio. Die Geschichte eines neuzeitlichen Grundbegriffes vom Frühchristentum bis zur Reformation, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1986; Religio II. Die Geschichte eines neuzeitlichen Grundbegriffes zwischen Reformation und Rationalismus, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1997; Religio III. Die Geschichte eines neuzeitlichen Grundbegriffes vom frühen Rationalismus bis zur Aufklärung, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001. 167 Cf. Hobbes, Leviathan, chap. 43, op. cit. (see previous chapter in this volume), p. 615. 168 Cf. Spinoza, Tractatus theologico-politicus, chapter 15. 169 Cf. Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures.



mention atheism or a-religiousness at all. In short: Spinoza dealt with the relationship between ethics and religion or belief, and Kant did that with the relationship between religion, ethics, and politics. The subject of the following comments is not the religious consciousness of a person but the relationship between politics and religion in view of a consciousness of society. In this context, two forms of the union of men are in force together: in the civil-juridical society (state) on one hand and the church (ecclesiastical society, religious faith) on the other hand. At first, one conclusion would be that the separation of state and church is not the postulate of the political theory of Enlightenment, for all members of a church or a sect are members of the civil-juridical union of men, also called state. The separation of state and church is not the issue, but the different assessment of the members of a church and the members of other religious associations (sects). The criterion of this differentiation can be found in public law. Members of the church as a legitimate, approved association are granted more rights than members of sects or other denominations, who have less or no rights. Only the sovereign as the legislative power decides about the acknowledgement of an association. The separation of state and church in terms of the relationship between politics and religion leads to the problem of differentiation and connection in answering the question: What is the legitimacy of political authority? In other words: the separation of politico-juridical unions of men and religious associations of men consist in the fact that the legitimacy of measures or decisions of the legislative, ruling, and juridical power shall be independent from religion and religious convictions of acting persons in legislative, ruling, and juridical institutions of society respectively. This is the pivotal concern of the philosophers of the age of enlightenment and modern times. The original and supreme form of legitimate authority does not emanate from God but from the contract of every man with every man, being naturally free and unhampered by laws, right, and religion. Nevertheless, the naturally free and unhampered persons lose this freedom instantly because of the social contract. By concluding this contract, there does not come an association into being in the sense of plurality, but of unity. Intrinsically to this notion is tied the ultimate sovereignty of this unity and the ultimate right of this sovereign power with regard to the citizens and members of this unity respectively on the one side and the mutual differentiation and connection of the legislating, ruling, and juridical institutions of society on the other hand. What emerges from the contract



is more than Consent, or concord; it is a reall Unitie of them all, in one and the same Person … This done, the Multitude so united in one Person, is called a COMMON-WEALTH, in latine CIVITAS. This is the Generation of that great LEVIATHAN.170

This construction: the inseparable connection of the unity of all men and the ultimate sovereignty, were followed both by Rousseau and by Kant. The socio-political reality is perceived not only by the category of unity but is judged even favourably, to the detriment of the plurality of society. This connection of the consciousness of men’s association into a unity with the ultimate sovereignty of this unity may be construed as secularisation that is merely partial, however. The contract of all single men from which the ultimate authority emerges, supersedes God’s covenant with the Jews according to the Jewish Bible. The mortal God Leviathan, i.e. the unity of the members of society associated in a political collectivity and their ultimate and original power, supersedes the Christian notion of the unity of all dead, living and yet unborn Christians, according to the dogma of the corpus Christi mysticum. The concepts of Hobbes and Rousseau, however, contain a religious dimension, not in evidence at first glance. To suppose that from a simple contract of every man with every man, there might emerge a unity of all in one and the same person, is a miracle and a mystery respectively, seen from the paradigmatic perspective of the geometric method or reason (Hobbes) or the natural religion (Rousseau). By the way, the perception of society as a unity is the very concept of perception and interpretation of state, people, and nation in Germany of the 19th and 20th centuries. This disturbs substantially the effort of different and unequal citizens to find again and to renew their social bonds continuously. To assume furthermore a unity of all as a sovereignty of the political Commonwealth is contradictory to the freedom of religion as everyone’s freedom from religion and to religion, because from the legitimacy of authority follows that the individual person has to obey. The owner of legitimate sovereignty can decree what and how the citizens are to believe or not. Even the liberal Locke who does not construe a unity of all men, which, despite the social contract, keep their original rights, confines the scope of tolerance considerably. The legislator may and should decide that atheists, Muslims, Catholics, and visionaries have no political rights.


Hobbes, Leviathan, op. cit. Part II, chap. 17, p. 227.



Kant has depicted the consequences of the original contract more sublime and intricate. Here are the steps of his argumentation in detail: Firstly: “Whatever a people cannot impose upon it self, cannot be imposed by the legislator either”.171 Secondly: if the legislator would declare an ecclesiastical constitution to be everlasting, “we must first ask whether a people is authorised to make a law for itself ”.172 Thirdly: “It is clear that any original contract of the people which established such a law would in it self be null and void, for it would conflict with the appointed aim and purpose of mankind”.173 Fourthly: “Thus law of this kind cannot be regarded as the actual will of monarch”.174 Fifthly: “In all cases, however, where the supreme legislator did never the less adapt such measures it would be permissible to pass general and public judgement upon then, but never to offer any verbal or active resistance”.175 This is not the place to deconstruct Kant’s argumentation. Nevertheless, it is hardly refutable that it can be characterised as follows. What is in force in theory (what the people cannot conclude for themselves, the monarch or the legislator cannot conclude either), applies in practice in a very narrow manner: The people dare not offer resistance, neither verbal nor active. It should be reminded that this matches with Kant’s legal doctrine in The Metaphysics of Morals. Even if the sovereign achieves authority unlawfully, the subjects must obey as obedient citizens.176 Due to the unity of will of all coming into being through the social contract, in the works of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant there is indeed a veritable collectivity. The extraordinary thing, if not to say something perfidious, is his construction furthermore that the each citizen obeys only himself if the representative of the sovereign power orders something. Especially in the political theory of Rousseau, many characteristics of modern totalitarianism are incorporated. Kant is still aware of what seems to be reasonable a priori, and this is a third kind of association: the ethical commonwealth. It takes centre stage in his conception of history in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, which is the aim (telos) of a development. Thus, this conception is a teleology of approximation. According to Kant not only in consciousness but also in historical reality

171 172 173 174 175 176

Kant, On the Common Saying … op. cit. p. 85. Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Loc. cit. The Metaphysics of Morals, op. cit. p. 147.



does a successive progression occur from the natural state (state without morality, law, and religion) to the approximation to the kingdom of God on earth. In short: The ethical commonwealth is the divine kingdom. Despite all anthropological scepticism (“How indeed can one expect something perfectly straight to be framed out of such crooked wood?”177), it is revealed for the future that a coming closer to God’s kingdom will take place and a gradual establishment of “Sovereignty of the Good Principle on Earth” respectively. In doing so, he presupposes an inherent reason to be realised step by step. Under which conditions a prospective causal course would be controllable by a purpose cannot be elaborated upon any further at this point. This applies especially to predications about the course of universal history of all human beings in the future as well as the quality of its condition. Henceforth, I would like to point out two issues of Kant’s conception and the role of reason in limiting religion. Firstly: Kant’s apocalyptic chiliasm in light of reason and secondly: the exclusion from participation in the ‘religion of reason’ as to the belief of the Jewish people. To start with, it is remarkable that the development towards the religion of reason and therewith reason itself is of no matter for the citizens of the political juridical commonwealth. The successive progression of the invisible ethical commonwealth takes place in the progression of the Christian church. In the historical, visible church, merely the ‘religion of reason’ emerges as the kingdom of God on earth, not any belief or denomination. Muslims and, reading book IV of the Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone properly, Catholics are excluded. Kant, however, takes care to substantiate that just in the antepenultimate chapter of the New Testament, i.e. the Revelation of John, the chiliasm and thus the millennial empire complies with reason. With regard to practical reason, one may doubt that the Christians can strive to become citizens of a divine (ethical) state, if hope is a virtue. Nevertheless, it is notably disappointing that Kant makes no effort at all to mention, to substantiate, and to justify the brute force at the war of the children of Light against the children of Darkness before and after the outbreak of the millennial empire. When subsequently Kant quotes from the Gospel of Luke (17: 21–22) that Jesus says to his disciples “the kingdom of God is within you”, this can be interpreted as the core of a prospective progression. However, is it in accordance with reason? Indeed, one may refer to as


Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, op. cit. p. 92.



immanentization of an otherworldly kingdom of God and thus as secularisation. In addition, he uses the word “the God in us.”178 Be this Gnostic or mystic, it is a divinisation of man, either in his individual or in his collective existence. It is megalomania in an anthropological sense as well, and may result in politico-religious fanaticism. At any rate, the kingdom of God or God himself within the self of the citizens is “Übermensch”. In addition, Kant’s anti-Judaism, i.e. the ‘pure moral religion as the ‘euthanasia of Jewry’, can be explained by means of his conception of history. The universal approximation to the ‘pure moral religion’ presupposes that the ‘merely statutory laws’ of the Jews are annihilated. This is “what is called the decision of the great drama of changing a religion on earth (the restoration of all things)”.179 The death of a religion is the precondition for the partly emergence of the kingdom of God. Again, the question arises why Kant does not mention or substantiate that in the future the Jewish people will avow to religion of reason? To what are the members of the Jewish people reduced if they do not believe what they believe? By the way, the notion that the Jews would not practice a religion is a feature of the anti-Semitism in the 20th century.180 It would be of interest to pursue the question whether the philosophy of Kant instead of romanticism is indicative of the fact that the Germans have dissociated themselves in the 19th and 20th centuries from the tradition of Western civilisation. An argument for this statement is Kant’s apocalypticism, which has, detached from his paradigm of the ‘ethic commonwealth’, become appealing just in Germany by not only developing historical-theological or historical-teleological reinterpretations but also by Marxism-Leninism as religious substitution and the political religion of National Socialism. An especially striking example is Kant’s obsession with obligation (Pflicht) and laws. Especially the obedience of the subjects to the collective unity and its ruling and legislative organs, is without doubt characteristic of the dominating mentality in the Germany of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, it should be emphasised nowadays that Kant should not be held responsible for this 178 Cf. ‘Der Streit der Fakultäten’, in: Kant, Werke in zwölf Bänden, Band XI, op cit. p. 315. 179 Loc. cit. 180 “Jewry has always been a nation of a definite racial character and never differentiated merely by the fact of belonging to a certain religion”. in: Adolf Hitler, My Struggle (translation of Mein Kampf ), Mumbai & Delhi: Jaico Publishing House n.d., p. 277.



development, because adopting a view of man and the world is everyone’s own responsibility. Political theory of Enlightenment is no paradigm for pluralism in society and the status of the Constitution that is closely related to it (basic rights, human rights). This applies especially to the separation, the amendment and mutual supervision of the legislating rulers and the institutions of society dispensing justice. However, this kind of political theory has the advantage to compel us to ponder and deliberate on the pathology of politics and religion before and after Enlightenment. The relationship between belief and reason, authority, power, law, and morality, as well as the conceptions of man, society, and history that are closely related with them, are still of current interest. A short enumeration of today’s pressing questions will conclude these considerations. Firstly: what does the relationship between science, philosophy, religion, and politics consist of ? Is the presumption of irrational factors in political life – independent from religion – very high per se or ever removable? What does the relationship between philosophy, politics, and religion in the history of Christianity consist of ? Secondly: What kind or what nature of religiousness of citizens is prerequisite for stabilising parliamentary democracy and the validity of human rights? Do the citizens of Europe need a civil religion? What are the consequences of religious indifference? Will Western civilisation face a religious fundamentalism? What are the anthropological and spiritual dispositions to be attracted by millenarian-messianic apocalypticism and the classification of mankind in children of Light and children of Darkness? What does the existence of evil consist in? Why does demonisation of members of a different collectivity and the personalisation of evil in the shape of a stranger work so often? What are the characteristics of a political religion? What constitutes the limits of freedom of religion? What would speak for – please note: with regard to the pure practical reason! – the concept of the Leviathan, for instance in Afghanistan or the Middle East? Thirdly: is Islam a political theology or a political religion? Or is the so-called Islamism a political religion? Is the national socialist worldview (Weltanschauung) a political religion? On what kind of political religions do we have to reckon in the future? Fourthly: is religion the root of all misery in the world? Is monotheism, contrary to polytheism, the decisive reason for religious intolerance?



Will, with regard to political ruling of men, tolerance be generated when all religions are of the same value? What are the ethical preconditions for practising tolerance? Fifthly: in what does the relationship between politics, religion, and violence consist? How is violence represented in the Bible and in Koran? What is the relationship between violence and sacrifice? In what exactly do we find an aggravation of violence based on a religious interpretation of existence? Which kind of religiousness is able to mitigate violence? Does violence have an ontological status? Does the pathology of religion emerge from the political implications of religion, or does the pathology of politics emerge from the religious implications of politics? Sixthly, last but not least: is the banishment of Eros in monotheistic religions and the discrimination against sexuality in Christianity hostile to religion? In other words: is sexuality with regard to the relationship between man and God as centre of religiousness not something marginal, and does the refutation of Eros not involve a pathology of religion? The political-religious issues just mentioned may or should require to meet with the measure of judgement (as tertium comparationis) in philosophical exercise or by philosophising itself. In the wake of Hegel – more encyclopaedic and subtler than Kant – only Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss dealt in the second third of the 20th century with the politico-religious problem and dedicated themselves to this task in their distinguished works. The politico-philosophical problem remains, however, that the rulers and the ruled do not want to philosophise or, from lack of time alone, are not able to. Thus, an oblique impact of a philosophical soul (homo philosophicus) should be considered en route of the theology of belief, morals, public opinion, and, especially, law. Be that as it may, an ethical and reasonable response to the politico-religious concern is a fascinating challenge. To put it in popular words: That is the Western way of life.


BASIC OUTLINES OF THE ‘POLITICAL SCIENCE OF RELIGION’ Claus-E. Bärsch 1. THE CONCEPT AND SUBJECT OF THE ‘POLITICAL SCIENCE OF RELIGION’ The general subject of the – what we would propose to call – political science of religion is the relationship between politics and religion as it is and as it should be. The latter need however not be the main object of this newly proposed discipline. I myself plead for casting the main object in terms of the paradigmatic relationship between politics and religion. One might even argue that it would be best if there were no relationship between politics and religion at all and that every connection between politics and religion be rejected. The straight homo religiosus can be tempted to curse every connection between politics and religion as the devil’s sorry effort. For the straight homo politicus of modernity, however, freedom of man as man starts with the critique of any religion. Meanwhile, there are only few able to liberate humankind from religion, but there are a great many more who are in a position of great power, as a result of religion. The good and happy life of human beings is a concern too serious to be kept out of scientific discourse. Because of the very question whether the object determines the method or the method the object, methodology belongs to the domain of religious-political research. However, questions pertaining to which empirical-analytical or categorical-normative method or which form of logic is suited for either method, need not to be treated in this essay. The reason for this is the plain fact that the political science of religion is not yet an established scientific discipline. Methodological considerations remain an object for further research. In the present context, it will suffice to define the method preliminary as a ‘topical-hermeneutic dialectics of viewpoints’. There is some controversy not only on the question whether religion should be defined either formally or substantially, but also whether the term religion should be defined narrowly or broadly. If the concept is



too narrow, the diversity of what should be regarded as religion cannot be included. In doing so, distinguishing between religion, religiosity and the religious is necessary. When we define religion, are we defining a universal phenomenon or are we not? Are only the Abrahamite creeds indicative for religion? Does the relationship between man and God, as it is defined by the Christian faith, encompass all moments of the religious? What significance does the difference between Christian confessions have? Is the word ‘religion’ ever suitable to express correctly the relationship between God and man in the Bible? Is God merely a concept to characterize the principle of the metaphysical, is it just a symbol for certain experiences in the tension between transcendence and immanence, or is God a person? What meaning does religious life or do experiences of the religious have? Should the predicate ‘religious’, which is derived from the word religion, contain mysticism, gnosis, and occultism, magic (Goethe: “Wonder is belief ’s favourite child”), as well as esotericism, theosophy, pansophy and all other religious enthusiasm, or what Kant called “pseudo-religion”?1 From the perspective of the Political science of religion, this question must be taken into account. Nevertheless, the predicate ‘religious’ must be sufficiently well defined for purposes of differentiation, in order to study the political implications of religion and the religious implications of politics. Implicated herein is the difference between this world and the afterlife, the world to come. One can also take the view that the basic determination of the relationship of immanence and transcendence can also be applied to phenomena that are world-immanent. However, when it is claimed that something cultic or when something is deeply revered is already a religion, e.g. the football club Schalke 04 being a religion for its followers, serious doubts can be cast on such a claim. Perhaps an abstract inquiry into the relationship between politics and religion should stand at the beginning of an essay on the aim and substance of the Political science of religion. This investigation could take place along the lines of identity and difference; unity and multitude; similarity and variation; or maybe absolute and relative equality. It would however require a lot of effort in several regards, for instance: notional, logical, empirical, phenomenological, descriptive, analytical, categorical, and criteriological regards. Quite popular is for instance the alternative between unity or separation of State and Church.


In original: ‘Afterreligion’.



Nevertheless, separation is not the only opposite category to unity; so are the notions of multitude and plurality. Which criterion would be valid to allow a correct judgement on the unity in the plurality within the state, within the church and, moreover, between state and church? Are we free to keep on using the terms State and Church in order to grasp properly the history of Europe and the Ancient world or world history at all? The hindrances are even higher, when one wants to pass identity judgements. Is it reasonable at all to be willing to pass identity judgements beyond formal logic? Does the creation of identity in reality imply a substance bringing it about? It is suggested here to replace the term State with politics and the term Church with religion and not to inquire into the identity or unity of politics and religion. For now, it will suffice to define what should or may be denoted with the terms politics and religion in order to decide what features for the assessment of the relationship between politics and religion would be feasible, taking into account the multitude of the ‘religious’ and the ‘political’ in present times and in history. The nature of their relationship, be it connexion, identicalness, distinction, or differentiation, should be determined only with respect to one or several specific aspects. Within the context of religious-political research, it is prerequisite to find categories of the political as well as characteristics of the topos Religion and then to inquire accordingly as to the religious implications of the political and the political implications of religion. The latter will be dealt with further on. Undeniable is the fact that during many periods in history people were unaware of an essential distinction, let alone a specific differentiation as to what may denote the term ‘religion’ and what may denote the term ‘politics’. The mighty could be perceived as sacred, and the sacred could be perceived as all-powerful. A defiance of religious commandments, for instance, was considered an offence against the order as a whole; and an offence against basic rules of social life was regarded as a transgression of religious rules. With exceptions and gradations, this still today pertains to the Islamic world. Consciousness of the specific difference or the essential distinction between power and salvation emerged not until the exegesis of certain verses in the New Testament (“My kingdom is not of this world”, Gospel of St. John, 18:36; “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”, Gospel of St. Matthew, 22:21). Within the Christian community, which, compared to other empires of the world, held the status of a specific organisation, the occident developed the distinction



between the civitas Dei and the civitas terrena as well as between the vis spiritualis (represented by Church, Bishops, or the Pope) and the vis temporalis (represented by the confederation of power and its head – imperator, king, or prince). Despite the model of mutual completion and dependence, precedence and predominance vis-à-vis one another were claimed as well. The representatives of the vis spiritualis intended to influence the principles of ruling, and the representatives of the vis temporalis aimed at influence upon the institutions, content, and form of the religious life. For now, we can refer to the history of the mutual completion and dependence of the vis temporalis and the vis spiritualis in the history of the occident, a history of attempts and temptations of political predominance over the religious and the religious predominance over the political, in mental and institutional respects, reaching from Constantine, the Frankish kings and the German kings to the Investiture Controversy up to Luther’s doctrine of the Two Empires, Calvin’s ‘Christianae religio institutio’. Nowadays all this finds expression in the sovereignty of state, the system of State-Churches, the granted freedom of religion under constitutional law, laicism, and the so-called separation of State and Church. This is not only important because of the alleged identity of Europe, but particularly because a historical consciousness is the presupposition of any science of politics. A systematicevolutionary conceived history of the relationship between politics and religion has not been written yet. It is a crucial object of religiouspolitical research. Researching the connection between politics and religion would be unnecessary if all human beings were irreligious or all conflicts in this world were eliminated, and humankind remained in the status of the communio sancta. God may be dead. However, in the politico-religious research – thank God or God alas! – one is obliged to assume that religion is ‘alive’; in some parts of the world tired, in other level-headed or ferocious, and again in other inert, but powerful. Atheistic world-views are ‘nothing to write home about’ for go-getters, greedy for power or good-hearted do-gooders, let alone that God could be killed by them. The more or less intensely advocated assumption, until some fifteen years ago, that the decline of religion would be history’s very own end, contains a magic-religious moment itself. This is because no human being can experience and examine the fulfilment of a goal that is intended to be achieved in future, as if political events would be determined by causal relations. Moreover, as it is often overlooked, teleology



of history is dependent on theology of history. Only in certain regards was Christian apocalypse denied and transformed. Belief in redemption was preserved, although it intrigued intellectuals to a greater extent than the proletariat. Whether the abolition of private property failed due to the means of production and the relations of production, or failed because of suppression of religion (in particular religious ethics), is an object of religious-political research. Seen from this perspective, all those who were until recently convinced that the history of the occident was in a stage of ‘late capitalism’, should critically re-examine their own history. In the outlook of political science of religion, however, it is not ruled out that the belief in the realm of freedom, as conceived by Marx, will resurrect during the next economic crisis to come. To date anyhow, the population of the USA as well as the largest parts of the world is religious. An international conflict rages nowadays between the political religion of Islam and the civil religion of the USA. The conflict between Europe and Islamism is, however, not only a foreign affair, but also a clash between Islamism and the modern constitutional state. In many European states, as in Germany for example, one can observe a tension between traditional Muslims and the pluralistic model of society. Seen from a dichotomy between religious and antireligious, it is clear that campaigns undertaken by groups opposed to religion are currently of no socio-political significance. In religious terms, the following differences can be discerned in the Federal Republic of Germany: 1. The difference between churchgoing Christians and Christians who only go to church at Easter, Pentecost, and particularly at Christmas. 2. The difference between free-floating religiosity and religiosity bound to religious groups or churches. 3. The difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. 4. The difference between Catholic and Protestant bodies in public law and the ‘Freikirchen’ (independent Christian churches). 5. The difference between large and independent churches on the one hand and the so-called new religious movements of esoteric provenance on the other. 6. The difference between all forms of tolerance on the one hand and fundamentalism on the other. Whether religious freedom also applies to enemies of religious freedom, is not just a constitutional problem; it affects all political life.



We must keep in mind that the dominance of an irreligious or antireligious mentality in Germany cannot be demonstrated. On the other hand, a religious, but also a political indifference of a large part of society cannot be denied. Hegel knew why, and he was perhaps correct when he stated: But the fact is, no man is so utterly ruined, so lost, and so bad, nor can we regard anyone as being so wretched, that he has no religion whatever in him, even if it were only that he has the fear of it, or some yearning after it, or a feeling of hatred towards it. For even in this last case, he is inwardly occupied with it, and cannot free himself from it. As man, religion is essential to him, and is not a feeling foreign to his nature.2

Yet essentially, it depends on the relationship between religion and the rest of his worldview. The political science of religion is still a domain to be established within the ‘epistèmè politikè’, i.e. political science, but also within all sciences whose object is religion, as for instance philosophy of religion, sociology of religion, history of religion, psychology of religion, and even theology itself. The name political science of religion was deliberately chosen, as it is based on the Greek word polites (citizen). This should emphasise that the principal object of religious-political research is man deciding in social existence and acting with or against others, be it the rulers or the ruled, the reigning or their subjects, the commanding or the obeying, the violent or the victims of violence. The specific object of the political science of religion is religiosity of people living in a political union (empire, union, society, community, state, race, or nation), be they members of a specifically organised religious group or not. From a traditional point of view there are good reasons to assume that when people are religious, they are also member of a church (extra ecclesiam non salus est) or member of a religious association. It cannot be denied that the form of people’s religiousness depends on the person’s being a member of a religious association – the Church as such or any independent Christian church – or not. Nevertheless, there are good reasons as well to assume that the topos ‘invisible religion’, as conceived by Thomas Luckmann,3 is a proper characterization. Therefore, the

2 G.W.F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion, Theorie-Werkausgabe, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1969, Band XVI, p. 15. See also p. 132 (this translation by the editors of this book). 3 Thomas Luckmann, The invisible religion : the problem of religion in modern society, New York: Macmillan 1967.



traditional doctrinal perspective, from which constitutional law and political science operate, subsuming the relationship between politics and religion under the relationship between State and Church, is within political science of religion of secondary importance. Using the term ‘Church’ implies the supposition of a collective person who believes, decides, and acts. In doing so, the differences between believers themselves are blurred. It will suffice here to refer to the history of schisms, heresies, splitting, and conversions. It is not a collective subject, namely the Church, who believes, doubts, decides, or acts, but always individual people who by adhering to the specific content and form of a religion adhere to a church. The fact that people unite and are united does not mean that the ensuing union itself (that is: the collective, or the ‘collectivity’) has a spiritual, cognitive, and ethical quality, an identity, a ‘Self ’, or an ‘I’. Being united does not imply that the union (for instance: society, state, or nation) is itself a person or an actor who thinks and acts. When that should happen, it would be a mystery or a marvel. Nevertheless – and this is an important object of religious-political research – it is possible that people believe that the collective is a political actor. All statements in which is assumed that the state is an actor and in which this assumption performs the task of an axiom, bear a good amount of superstition. In religious-political research, the preliminary question is what is general for people, what is common or usual for them. The common consciousness or conviction concerning a bond, in other words the common belief in the bond, or the common opinion on what constitutes the bond, is a condition for people, in spite of all conflicts, belonging to a collective. Customs, conventions, ethics, morals, and law are clearly the outcome of a tie between people acting together with or against others. Instead of the plain word ‘bond’, the term ‘coherence’ can also be applied. In religious-political research, it is assumed that social coherence does not create itself nor make itself what it is for and of itself. It could be, yet need not be, that ‘religion’ is the bond of social life or that it constitutes the correlation between religion, morals, and law. Yet, law is the bond par excellence of society (Lex vinculum societatis). However, laws are created by men and changed by men. In other words: seen from a political perspective, the concern of the political science of religion regards the coherence of social existence. Social coherence is neither constituted by itself, nor will it make itself to that what it is in itself. The specific topic of the political science of religion is therefore:



a) To what extent and how people interpret their existence religiously, b) To what measure they have a religious consciousness of social order, c) The degree to which their decisions on social order are unconsciously influenced by their religiosity, and d) To what amount they interpret the relationship of past, present, and future. For representatives of the political scientists’ guild the most uncomfortable and difficult question is that of understanding religion, i.e. the concept or definition of religion. Defining religion is principally the privilege of theology, philosophy, and religious studies. The number of definitions is possibly so great that the layperson fears to have to proceed to infinity. Although it is not that bad, but it is bad enough. In religiouspolitical research, one has at least to start to identify sufficiently the topos religion by identifying some features of religion. The purpose of the political science of religion consists in finding out how people perceive, construe, and interpret themselves, their social existence and the relationship between past, present, and future. What is specifically religious about the object of the political science of religion can, for the time being, be regarded as what the dominating and the dominated, the rulers and the ruled, as well as the commanding and obeying together or separately believe. Moreover, what is believed in, is articulated by the differentiation between afterlife and this life; or what is believed inheres the quality ‘transcendent’. One can argue whether this is sufficient. For the relationship between afterlife and this life or transcendence and immanence can meet many relationships. Firstly, one has to take into account that belief in the afterlife status, regardless the content of belief in it, presupposes a relationship between the believer and something what is believed in. The transcendent status of what is believed in inheres the meaning of a tertium comparationis by which relations are to be constituted. If that what is believed in acquires a transcendent status, a priori or as a result of cognitive-reflexive processes difficult to be described, that is to say: a posteriori, a human being is empowered to emancipate himself from his first-person-centred perception and evaluation of the world, into that of the others, the realm of becoming and nature. As a consequence, the possibility is opened to perceive oneself not any longer as the centre of the cosmos, around which everything revolves and moreover, to no longer take one’s Ego as the measure of social existence. This implies



that in religious-political research, one can argue about the question to what the relationship between after-world and this world or transcendence and immanence should refer to. My suggestion with regard to the Greek, Latin, Jewish, and Christian tradition of occidental peoples – this is, to be sure, meant as a confession – would be that the essential feature of religion, in differentiating it from philosophy, science, and ideology, is belief, whereas what people believe in – be it God, a deity, the numen, the gods, the cosmos, or world spirit – has such a transcendent status that it leads to an articulation of this belief in which a differentiation is reached between a superterrestrial and a terrestrial world, as well as between a superterrestrial and a terrestrial power, in any case between the subject and a trans-subjective, that is extraordinarily worshipped and adored as divine, sacred and superior to the subject. One has to argue, too, to what extent belief adds up to the phenomenology of spirit in the Hegelian sense, be it objective or absolute spirit, in virtue of which believers are enabled to participate in the superterrestrial and terrestrial powers or transcendence and immanence respectively. On the other hand, it can be denied altogether that the spirit of belief can be subject or can be subject and object together. For religious-political research however, plain sentences, i.e. doctrines, are relevant, to which is referred to in a catechism (I believe in …, I believe that …) and are connected with commandments (Thou shalt! Thou shalt not!) and virtues (faith, charity, hope, piety, mercy), as can be understood outright by anyone before starting to study the connection between politics and religion. Content and form of ritual acts – especially its aesthetics – in churches, synagogues, and temples should be taken into account, as well as the integration of religion in everyday life. Belief is necessarily established by these means, because the tension between the hereafter and this life cannot be endured and the connection between heaven and earth cannot be bridged by a ladder piled with a closepacked succession of thick rungs. From the perspective of politics all attempts to mediate between this life and the hereafter are of primary significance, as well as the presence of the divine, the representation of God as spirit, the incarnation and personification of God, and hence of evil in man, society, and history, too. The immanentization of God’s transcendence and that of evil, too, led in particular to the pathology of the connection between politics and religion. Redemption and immolation are, religious-politically seen, not beyond the superterrestrial and terrestrial world, as well as beyond the sacred and the secular. With regard to the much-debated



connection between immolation and salvation, it must be kept in mind that there is a distinction between immolation in terms of sacrificium and immolation in terms of being object of brute force. Furthermore, a distinction should be made between self-immolation, giving up one’s own goods, even one’s own life on the one hand and immolation of strangers on the other hand. Within religious-political research, the huge problem remains to be debated whether religion comes into being as a result of someone’s becoming an object of force or whether immolation in terms of sacrificium/victima presupposes certain forms of social life. Also, how death is interpreted, as conveyed by religious belief, is the object of religious-political research. In this case, it depends on a real understanding of the way human beings perceive their existence in the tension between life and death. Insofar as the conscious anticipation of the future is an essential capability of all human beings, confidence in things as they befall on us is an essential moment both of the religious and the political. This is recognisable in the manifold meaning of the Latin verb credere (credo, credidi, creditum). Since, furthermore, many people are in search of an answer to the questions ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Who are we?’ and think that this depends on the answer to questions such as ‘Where do we come from?’ and ‘Where do we go?’ (i.e. time and again drawn by the search for the origin and the aim of existence, and therefore repeatedly moved by the search, being really obsessed to find out what beginning and end are), it would be foolish to deny the apperception of this phenomenon. Max Weber showed already that there is not merely a semantic connection between the religious ‘credo’ and the economical ‘credit’. At this point it should be explicitly emphasised that religious-political research should be open for all paradigms of science and for any attitude towards religion. This means that it should be considered irrelevant whether religion is defended or offended. Any ban on questioning should be denied. Due to the interdisciplinary approach of political science of religion, a common term needed to be found which is not only conventional in everyday speech but also capable of rendering different scientific approaches compatible. This is the term ‘Sinn’ (sense, mind, feeling, spirit, point, meaning, consciousness) for ‘Sinn’ is quite a very old German word.4 It was coined in the middle of the 19th century as a

4 See: Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm, München 1984, Band 16, S. 1103–1152.



technical term in the German arts, humanities and social sciences.5 ‘Sinn’ is in particular the subject of philosophy, theology, religious studies, sociology, and psychology. The word ‘Sinn’ is employed in the following as a topos, indicating that an aim is judged as good and right. Political science is no princess promenading at the bank of a river being met halfway by the political science of religion well tied up in a basket. Insofar as the political, corresponding to human nature, is something composite and neither substance nor subject, the inquiry for the religious implications of the political as well as the political implications of the religious requires a differentiated depiction of those spheres which encompass politics in a narrower sense or rather precede and exceed politics in a narrower sense. At this point, it is to remember that the initial quest of religious-political research aims at the presuppositions of the decisions and actions of human beings. Because the research until now on the relation between politics and religion cannot yet be assigned to an independent discipline (e.g. the sociology of religion), the outlines of the political science of religion should be split up into the following levels: I. The spheres of existence. II. The categories of cognition. III. The order of man, society, and history – the political in a narrower sense. IV. The meaning of existence and the quest for a good and happy life. All four levels are also objects of political science as such. Who can argue with good reasons the relationship between the spheres of existence and the question of good life on one hand and political action on the other? The categories of cognition are therefore emphasised as a special sphere, because exactly the constitution and permanence of social order are dependent on the relevant apperceptive patterns of people, social existence and world. That, in turn, categories of cognition, such as substance and identity, can be influenced by religious content, is obvious. Four different spheres have to be subdivided according to the levels above within the object of political science of religion: 5 Volker Gerhardt, Article ‘Sinn’, in: Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie, Edited by Joachim Ritter and Karlfried Gründer, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1995.



Level I: The Spheres of Being These concern the reality of human existence, in particular the tension between life and death. 1. The physic-biological and material-economical foundations and bases of life. 2. The physic-psychic contexts and the corresponding categories. Not only the anthropological-psychological doctrines count among these, but also the citizens’ convictions and opinions about the essence of human being, independent from science and philosophy. 3. The psychic-existential sphere. This consists of: a) Desires, motives, emotions, moods, passions. This includes especially the following phenomena: Sexuality; lust; despair; fury; anger; envy; hatred; greed; idleness; revenge; pride; void; scare; struggle and obsession for victory. We have to add the will, especially the will to lie and cheat, to dominate and to survive; but also: Eros, love, trust, and hope. b) The phenomenology of the ‘metaxy’6 (zetein, helkein, anthelkein, pathe, periagoge, athanatizein, and metalepsis) with regard to the experience of the tension between being and the ground of being. 4. The spiritual-cognitive sphere: Intellect, reason, spirit, illumination, but also fiction, illusion, and utopia. Voegelin’s principle of ‘metaxyreality’ (cosmos, symbol, aitia, nous, logos, pneuma, epekeina, apeiron, kinesis, taxis, methexis, metalepsis, alethes logos, pan to pleroma).7

6 Eric Voegelin has turned the literal meaning of the Greek word for ‘between’ (‘metaxy’) into a symbol. This symbol ‘metaxy’ refers to the sphere in which man experiences a movement from God as well as towards God. This sphere is an ‘in-between’, to the extent that the divine ground of being reaches into human existence, but God Himself remains outside the tension that man experiences in the ‘metaxy’. See E. Voegelin, Anamnesis, Zur Theorie der Geschichte und Politik. München: Piper 1966, S. 278ff; compare also his: ‘Vernunft: Die Erfahrung der klassischen Philosophen’ as well as: ‘Äquivalenz von Erfahrung und Symbolen in der Geschichte’, in: E. Voegelin: Ordnung, Bewußtsein, Geschichte. Späte Schriften – eine Auswahl, edited by P. J. Opitz, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1988; finally: E. Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age. Order and History. Vol. IV, Baton Rouge:Louisiana State University Press 1974, pp. 7ff, 14, 28, 36, 39, 172, 181, 228, 232; E. Voegelin, In Search of Order. Order and History, Vol. V, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1987, pp. 13ff, 27ff. 7 See also the aforementioned references in the previous footnote.



Voegelin’s terms, topoi, and symbols could also be assigned to the level II as follows. Level II: The Categories of Cognition Because man is a thinking being, politics depend on the nature of perceiving, of thinking, assuming, discerning, and conceiving, within certain formal as well as material categories such as: Being; non-being; finiteness; infiniteness; affirmation; negation; rest; motion; identity; difference; unity; multitude; homogeneity; heterogeneity; substance; causality; potentiality; actuality; coherence; structure; process; inclusion; exclusion; period; past; presence; origin; aim; transcendence; immanence; symbolon and diabolon.

Level III: The Order of Man, Society and History – Politics in a Narrower Sense 1. The consciousness of man, society, and history. 2. The processes taking place in society and political institutions. This sphere refers to the pragmatic aims of political acting, as well as power, dominion, organizations, administration, laws, and other norms. 3. Paradigms of social-political existence. This sphere refers to the action of human beings with regard to morals, ethics, rights, constitution and justice as well as values like work (employment), freedom, equality, and dignity. Level IV: The Sense of Existence and the Quest for a Good and Happy Life This sphere consists of the traditional concerns of philosophy as the good, the true, beauty (fair), bliss (fortune, happiness), utility (benefit), estrangement (alienation), the self, the other, the others – independent of theoretical ‘schools’ and trends – as well as the interpretation of being and becoming in theology, within the positive religions and ideologies. Political science of religion most notably deals with God, the Holy, the saviour, redemption (liberation), incarnation, immortality, sacrifice, evil, Satan as well as the relations between God and nature. The relationship between politics and religion must, therefore, be determined with respect to each of the multi-faceted relations of the politico-religious complex.





In accordance with the anthropological principle discussed already, man – the individual, the subject, the person – is the starting-point, the middle and the result of all reflections on the political. However, what must be explored is not only the consciousness of the order of man, the order of society and history (therefore, not only knowledge), but rather the opinions, assumptions, the illusions, and utopias that are cherished by man. In brief: man believing something to be true. This ‘holding true’ is a significant moment in the phenomenology of the political, as the causal course of social-political life is not ultimately controlled by natural laws and God. People rarely obey the rules of formal logic in their psyche, society, and politics. To date, no physical laws have been found from which all actions of social-political life can be derived. This also applies with regard to molecular-biological genetics. However, the misapprehension of the biological-genetic truth can be definitive for lawmakers’ decisions. To the mode of causality in mental-social life, the simple sentence applies: maybe, but maybe not. The relationship between conditions and consequences, or cause and effect, is here not one of necessity; it is contingent. What people believe to be true and what they believe in, can be determined by their actions. In the political world, there is no pure fact, but rather this ‘holding true’ can become factual, it can be made or created: credo et factum convertuntur holds more truth than verum et factum convertuntur. From this does not follow that a correct paradigm of political order from the religious implications of the political is precluded. A reasonable notion of the political can also be found through reflection upon the relationship of God, man, society, and history. Viewed in a religious-political way, this requires that the relationship of man to God must first be understood. Political science of religion’s research aim consists in finding out whether people perceive themselves through a religious interpretation of existence and interpret whether and how they behave towards the mental-inorganic and physical-biological bases of life through ‘religion’, especially how they imagine death, whether and how they judge others and strangers through ‘religion’, which opinions and convictions they have regarding the nature of man. Tenets contained in religions regarding the mental-existential sphere of human life – desire and its



corresponding passions, such as avarice, envy, anger, and revenge – are extremely important to the political. People’s political decisions are doubtless dependent on moods and feelings such as emptiness, doubt, terror, fear, and dread. These can be tempered or intensified by religious principles and cult actions. A dissociation that provides partial freedom from feelings of horror, doubt, dread, and fear is the object of most religions. The ability to believe, to love, and to hope is attuned to this, particularly in the Christian religion. To what extent political virtues, e.g. fairness, wisdom, courage, prudence and even intelligence are still comprehended and alive, whether it should be the problem of contemporary politics, and to what extent all this depends on the religiosity of the people, is therefore the object of religious-political research. Man’s consciousness of himself on the one hand and the relationship between all components and complexes of the political ensemble on the other hand depend on the relationship of man to religion, primarily to God and how this relationship is shaped. But even in this respect, and that should be emphasized again at this point, the relationship between the respective moments within the political ensemble can of course (albeit insufficient) be conceived without taking notice of religious consciousness. However, in view of modern mentality, it is a matter of plausibly arguing that religious consciousness can indeed be the basis for better understanding the relationship between all moments of politics, and indeed paramount to understanding the structure of politics, to conceive in what way order in society arises and is maintained, out of man’s association. In this context, the term ‘society’ is used as an umbrella-term for people, nation, state, church, and all kinds of religious communities or communities of believers.8 The experience of the religious community as a society can be definitive for the model of society as such or the political society of politically active citizens. The essential object of religious-political research is religion as a bond between people, respectively the basis of coherence between citizens. A specific political – and a powerful – problem results from the belief in the presence, the incarnation, the personification, the representation and the immanence of God or the holy in society itself, be it a religious community or the people at large. 8 At this point, it should be noticed that the limited but still present autonomy of the church and religious communities is a characteristic of Western civilisation.



Consequently, the mediation between this life and the life beyond is the political-religious problem of all differentiation between this world and the world beyond. That touches upon, in other words, the answer to the question: who are God’s people? Even if the answer to the question ‘Who is God’s people?’ is not relevant for the paradigm of the modern constitutional state, then homo religiosus cannot be prevented from transferring his specific understanding of religious community consciously or unconsciously to the order of society and making both it both the internal and external measure of the political. Thereby, it is necessary to take notice of yet another problem, namely to what extent talk of collective identity, the identity as a predicate of the collective, the aim of creating collective identity and the complaint about the lack of collective identity depend on religious or crypto-religious conditions within the category of identity. Because, from an empirical-rational perspective, it cannot be demonstrated that all members of a society are, were or will be one and the same. Nonetheless, the axiom of collective identity is contained in the assumption that the state, the people, the nation or the church is an actor. Under the axiom of the identity of political actors remaining the same, political actions are subsumed or legitimized by it. One could maliciously claim that the assumption of the identity of a collective actor has a crypto-religious dimension, because all people being a political collective that thinks and acts as one, can only be based on a miracle. A topic of religious-political research is whether belief in the collective identity in the modern consciousness of society requires the assumption of a religiously determined substance of the political. That is to say: it should be investigated in religiouspolitical research whether the assumption that identity is a predicate of social actors does not require something existing which is both subject and substance, which causes that society is not plurality but unity. The same applies with regard to the sovereignty of the common will, the state, the people, or the nation, which cannot be explained in more detail here. The idea to have a collective identity or to install it in the future is connected with religious implications that are often neglected. Firstly: The assumption of a substance granting the potentiality for the realisation of an identity – for instance to have as a nation at one’s disposal one and the same volition or as a people becoming one and the same. This is a consequence from the self-evident empirical experience of the differences between persons, groups, and their individual interests respectively. Those who strive for collective identity or think it to be



substantial are – unfortunately – not positive about this being a utopian illusion. Secondly: The capacity of a charismatic ‘leader’ creating an identity. The belief in the charisma of a human being presupposes the differentiation between this life and afterlife. If many people believe that a human being is a mediator between them and God (or sacred powers,) they will be united by identification with him (or them). Inclusion or exclusion of people in society results from the belief in collective identity. Furthermore, people’s willingness to suffer, to immolate and to die, as well as to make members of other collectives suffer and even kill them, is encouraged by identifying with the collective which remains identical.9 With regard to the assumption of the historically unchangeable identity of a collective (state, people, and nation), a reference should be made to the religious implications of secularisation. For example, we can bring to mind the catholic-ecclesiastic consciousness of community according to the doctrine of the ‘corpus Christi mysticum’. All Christians, living, dead, or still unborn, are joined together in Christ into a unity due to the impact of the Holy Spirit.10 Secularisation means that the doctrine of the ‘corpus Christi mysticum’ is transferred to the conception of mere political associations in the form of collective identity and subjectivity of the identity of political collectives (state, people, and nation) which remains identical.11 To add: According to Jean-Jacques Rousseau a contract between people, a contract of association, brings about an ‘ethical total corporation’. Each member of contract receives by contracting with each other ‘their unity’ and a ‘common Ego’.12 The contract generates a volitional unity, the volonté générale. It is a mystery when this really happens. Rousseau did not explicitly deal with this religious-magical implication, but actually did conceptualise a ‘religion civile’. All citizens are compelled to believe in the sanctity of the social contract and the law, as well as in 9 Compare for example Peter Berghoff, Der Tod des politischen Kollektivs. Politische Religion und das Sterben und Töten für Volk, Nation und Rasse, Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1997. 10 See Henry de Lubac, Corpus Mysticum: l’Eucharistie et l’Église au Moyen Âge : étude historique, Paris: Aubier 1994, G.F.W. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, Werke in zwanzig Bänden, hrsg. von Eva Moldenhauer und Karl Markus Michel, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1969ff, Band XII, p. 30. 11 Vgl. Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: a study in Mediaeval Political Theology, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press 1957, in German translation: Die zwei Körper des Königs. Eine Studie zur politischen Theologie des Mittelalters, München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag 1990, p. 208. 12 vgl. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du Contrat Social (1762), Book I, Chapter VI.



The existence if an omnipotent, intelligent, benevolent divinity that foresees and provides; the life to come; the happiness of the just; the punishment of sinners; (…). As for the negative dogmas, I would limit them to a single one: no intolerance.13

Human consciousness of the relationship between man, history, and religion, especially God, is one of the essential moments of the religious spirit by which political and social actions can be determined. Man is committed to the anticipation of the future. Providing and caring for existence urge man to prudence. It is a small step from foresight and the immediate future to providence. The delighting being with one’s self in here, now, and then works only for the few. Friedrich Nietzsche, it appears, succeeded: Here I sat, waiting – not for anything – Beyond Good and Evil, fancying Now light, now shadows, all a game, All lake, all noon, all time without aim.14

Nevertheless, this state of mind did not last long. The prophet aroused in Nietzsche. For the last verses, interestingly aimed at a woman, are: Then suddenly, woman-friend, one turned into two – And Zarathustra walked into my view.15

The Greek thought to know that Prometheus was a fool (stultus, amathes). In the monotheistic religions, the existential and crucial problem of the relationship between man and future is solved by trusting in what has been revealed to the prophets by God and by believing that they will be saved. Christian eschatology – the doctrine of ultimate things, the end of the world, the resurrection of the dead, Last Judgement, and the salvation in the otherworldly realm of God – was transformed into a concept of history as a whole (as opposite to things just happening in history), that is into a teleology of history. Causal sequences in history are supposed to be determined by a prospective end in itself. Although only few believe in it now, one cannot exclude that the teleological 13 dem, Book IV, Chapter 8, quoted in the English translation by Maurice Cranston, Jean-Jacques The Social Contract, London: Pinguin Classics 1968, p. 186. 14 Sils-Maria, in: Die fröhliche Wissenschaft, 5. Buch, Anhang: Lieder des Prinzen Vogelfrei; Friedrich Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke, edited by Giorgio Colli und Mazzino Montinari, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter 1980, p. 649, translation quoted from Paul Bishop and R.H. Stevenson, Friedrich Nietzsche and Weimar Classicism, Rochester NY: Camden House 2004, p. 84. 15 Loc. cit.



consciousness of history will become en vogue again. With regard to the order of experience – following Eric Voegelin16 – the danger exists that consciousness of the future of history determines the consciousness of society (as the consciousness of a collective identity) and this in turn determines the consciousness of man. Being tempted to perceive the relationship between present and future apocalyptically is, from a religious-political perspective, psychogenic. It has not yet been clarified why and under what conditions the diametric dualism of ‘light’ and ‘dark’ and the ensuing division of human beings in the children of ‘light’ and those of ‘darkness’ as well as the fundamental criterion of differentiation between ‘Freund ’ and ‘Feind ’ (protagonist and antagonist) are working so well. Without consideration of psycho-cognitive structures and processes – of course, economical, social, and political conditions are to be taken into account – the attraction of apocalyptic visions cannot be elucidated. In addition, I like to refer to the following moments. Firstly: Obviously many people are firmly convinced to have experienced God or the Divine in their psyche and to be united with God or have felt that their true ‘Self ’ is perfect. Others in turn believe plainly in a divine core within their ‘Self ’. If they do not contend with this inwardly state of mind (for reasons not to be debated here), they transfer this experience outwardly to the level of time (origin, present, and future). They state that other people do not share their experience or are not ‘divine’ or have no extraordinary relation to God. They are then to be cursed as ‘children of darkness’ or as the incarnation of Evil. Secondly: The striving for victory, which is owned by nearly all people and the striving for salvation coincide. Thirdly: The lack of virtues – in particular wisdom, courage, prudence, self-consideration, and justice – is a condition not to be underestimated for the development of religious-political pathologies. Be it as it is, the cognition of psycho-religious pathologies as a dimension of politics belongs to the tasks of religious-political research, too. People’s behaviour and their attitude towards the written constitution and constitutional institutions are definitively influenced by the manner in which the relationship between man, society, and history, whether religious or not, is determined. Therefore, what should be included in the canon of political science is now to be discussed in short, from the angle of religious implications. 16 Eric Voegelin, Anamnesis. Zur Theorie der Geschichte und Politik, München: Piper 1966, Chapter: Was ist politische Realität?, pp. 283ff.



Law, Morality, Ethics and Religion The supreme basic norms and values of the constitution function as the ultimate measure of judgement of the decisions of the executive powers (government and administration), legislation and jurisdiction. As the constitution, however, cannot itself guarantee its enforcement (to quote a well-known dictum of Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde),17 the continuity of constitutional order depends on the democratic society’s members’ ethics and morals. Ethics and morals in turn, can depend on and be strengthened by religions, religious consciousness, religiosity, and religious dispositions, in short religious belief. What significance religiosity and religion have for public virtues and whether they enable better compliance with moral and social duties – particularly with regard to the hedonistic and private-economic Zeitgeist of the pure every-man-forhimself – is something still to be discussed. In addition, the recognition or non-recognition of constitutional order as such, is something that can be determined by religion. To put it provocatively, Christians can invoke the letter of Paul to the Romans (13:1): “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities”, to legitimate the democratic constitutional state as ‘authority’. Political-religious fanatics can in turn disturb or destroy the constitutional order. This should not be discussed here. In the following, however, attention shall be paid to some religious dimensions of the constitutional norms. From the wording of Article 79, §3 of the German Constitution (also referred to as the Basic Law), a religious implication is evident: An amendment of this Basic Law affecting the division of the Federation into Lander, the participation in principle of the Lander in legislation, or the basic principles laid down in Articles 1 and 20, is inadmissible.18

This implies that the set of norms mentioned in this article should be valid eternally. Whatever is considered valid forever is something one should believe in. In Article 79 §3, a religious consciousness is articulated. Eternity or the eternal is a symbol of religious interpretation of 17 Quoted from his essay “Die Entstehung des Staates als Vorgang der Säkularisation”, in: E.-W. Böckenförde, Recht, Staat, Freiheit. Studien zur Rechtsphilosophie, Staatstheorie und Verfassungsgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1991, p. 112, which reads as follows: “Der freiheitliche, säkularisierte Staat lebt von Voraussetzungen, die er selbst nicht garantieren kann”. 18 In translation: .php



existence. Following the prevailing opinion in jurisprudence, the basic rights mentioned in Article 1 belong to the principles laid down in Article 1. This Article 1, §1 reads as follows: “The dignity of man is inviolable. To respect and protect it is the duty of all state authority”. Inviolability is an element of any religion. If it was only the “duty of all state authority” to respect and protect human dignity, and not the moral obligation of all human beings, protection of human dignity would become weaker and weaker. Religious articles of faith can strengthen the protection of human dignity, political-religious fanaticism leads to a loss of protection. The outcome of this is a conflict regarding §§. 1 and 2 of Article 4 of the German Basic Law that should not be neglected. They read: 1. Freedom of faith and of conscience, and freedom of creed religious or ideological, are inviolable. 2. The undisturbed practice of religion is guaranteed.19 It is questionable whether members of certain religious groups or groups who claim to have religious contents and ends, can invoke Article 4 successfully. Consequently, it is necessary to understand the political implications of the teachings of these religious groups and to determine by analytical judgement whether any group who defines itself as religious, can invoke freedom of faith and undisturbed practice of religion. The relationship between politics and religion is still being understood as the relationship between state and church. To what extent this is obsolete, should be examined in the following. According to Article 140 of the German Basic Law “the provisions of Articles 136, 137, 138, 139 and 141 of the German Constitution”, i.e. the Weimar Constitution, “shall be integral parts of this Basic Law”. Article 137 of the Weimar Constitution reads: “There shall be no state church”. A system of an established state church consists of a state determining by virtue of his sovereignty what should be believed and how religion should be practiced. Article 137 of the Weimar Constitution enabled the churches the right of self-determination in religious affairs. It has to be reminded that all members of a church are also members of the state. The separation of church and state cannot be carried out with regard to deciding who is member of the state and who of a church. That would mean the 19


In translation:



exclusion of members of a church from the state. Due to the constitutional order of the Basic Law, the members of a church can, as citizens of the republic, make their decision, e.g. at elections, following their religious conscience. Yet, it is possible and not forbidden, too, to transfer the experience of religious determined collectively to the model of being a member of a state. Therefore, it is not adequate to reality to subsume the relationship between politics and religion under the relationship between state and church. Regarding the model of separation of state and church, it is even more serious that according to Article 20 §2, which should have eternal validity, the state has no priority or sovereignty: All state authority emanates from the people. It is exercised by the people by means of elections and voting and by separate legislative, executive and judicial organs.20

The term ‘state’ is substituted by the term ‘state authority’, which derives from the people. ‘State’ in the sense of Article 20 §2 of the German Basic Law is not a corporate body, but a term to denote the specific, legislative, executive, and judicial bodies. These are the one pole of a separation. The other pole is not the church. Nevertheless, the members of a church cannot be excluded from the people. With regard to Article 4 German Basic Law (freedom of faith, conscience, and creed), the other pole of separation is the freedom of religion for all members of the people or – one may call it – of the state. In case of conflict, the German Constitutional Court adjudicates on the grant or protection of religious freedom, in conformity with Article 20 §1 and 3, in connection with Article 98 and further of the German Basic Law, not the people. On the one hand, the state and the legislative, executive and judicial bodies of the constitution have to grant the “undisturbed practice of religion”; on the other hand, they should not oblige their citizens to a religion or ideology. Some basic norms of the constitution, decisive for legal life, have religious implications. With regard to the difference between written the constitution and constitutional reality, the continuous stability of the constitutional order depends on the religiosity of its citizens. How this has to be specified requires public discourse and further research. Nevertheless, we can ascertain that political-religious fundamentalism is 20


In translation:



capable of damaging the liberal-democratic Basic Law – and what society is immune to that? Currently, I tend to a more or less liberal interpretation of the Hegelian dictum: A people who has a bad concept of God, has therefore a bad state, a bad government and bad laws.21

But what is the case, if the majority of a people is addicted to atheistic materialism? Power and Religion A clue to the connection between politics and religion can be that the term ‘religion’ refers to power and that religions in which God, gods, or the holy have no power whatsoever, occur only rarely. This is not a place in which the nature of power should be characterised, but what could asked here, is what can be denoted with the term power. As shall be pointed out, power can be gained as well as preserved with the help of religion. 1. With the term ‘power’, the pure possibility (potentiality) of acts and processes can be denoted that are independent from reality and real causal sequences respectively.22 2. Power is defined as the possibility and ability at the same time to become effective within societal-human relations.23 Moreover, power can be understood as a phenomenon that arises when human beings act together, whereas the potential of power lies not in the hands of a single person.24 3. The notion of power can be understood within the genus proximum ability, namely the general ability to generate effects, and the specific ability to govern the will of human beings.25

21 In original: “Das Volk, das einen schlechten Begriff von Gott hat, hat auch einen schlechten Staat, schlechte Regierung, schlechte Gesetze”. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion, Theorie-Werkausgabe, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1989, Band XVI, p. 237 (this translation by the editors of this book). 22 See especially Kurt Röttgers, Spuren der Macht. Begriffsgeschichte und Systematik, Freiburg: Alber 1990. 23 Max Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, Tübingen: Mohr 1980, p. 28. 24 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1998. 25 Helmut Kuhn, Der Staat. Eine Philosophische Darstellung, München: Kösel 1967, pp. 109, 112.



4. Power can also be perceived as implying that action and interaction only have decisive meaning with regard to the effects (result, aim).26 5. Power can also be described as an apparition of a constellation of causes and forces, which is inherent to all human relationships. According to that, power is something from which emanate effects and even constitutes subjects and is, as a result, understood as the causa efficiens of acting people.27 This corresponds to the approach of Bertrand Russell, that power would be energy.28 6. Finally, the approach of Luhmann’s system theory has to be mentioned. Luhmann sees that what is called power in the old European tradition and in common language and what he calls power as a medium of communication, whereas power has auto-poetic quality.29 My proposition would be that one should start in political science to understand power first and for all from the perspective of concrete causal sequences of human beings acting in society. With regard to persons acting in society or to actions assigned to an association of power, these acts should be understood as stemming from the ability to realise causal sequences that are notional. It is recommended to take the category of causality as a starting point for the understanding of power. For all human beings think in terms of the relation between cause and effect, of effecting and the effected, of condition and consequence. The interpretation, perception, and definition of causal connections in the mode of relations, are a constitutional element of a society’s order that is always to be gained and renewed. With that, I also mean that the difference and the correlation between possibility and reality, potentiality and actuality or dynamis and energeia should be considered in the sphere of politics. Because in the sphere of human affairs, the correlation between cause and effect or condition and consequence cannot be understood with the model of physics or mathematics alone. Potentiality 26 Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society. Outline of the Theory of Structuration, Berkeley: University of California Press 1984. Anthony Giddens, ‘ ‘Macht’ in den Schriften von Talcott Parsons’, in: Peter Imbusch, (ed.), Macht und Herrschaft. Sozialwissenschaftliche Konzeptionen und Theorien, Opladen: Leske und Budrich 1998, pp.131–147. Robert A. Dahl, The Concept of Power, Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company 1959. 27 See for example Michel Foucault, Dispositive der Macht. Über Sexualität, Wissen und Wahrheit, Berlin : Merve-Verlag 1978, pp. 82, 83 and 113, 114. 28 Bertrand Russell, Power. A New Social Analysis, London: Routledge 2004. 29 Niklas Luhmann, Macht, Stuttgart: Enke 1988, pp. 8, 9 and 90.



and actuality are useful perceptual patterns in order to recognise a given practice. However, who sees possibility as the pure potentiality, if one does not ask: What can we know? Therefore, potentiality should be related to the person acting, to the effects that are a result of it, and so to reality as such. The real process, or the complex of actions, or a single action in the political sphere, is dependent on how the possibility to generate effects was estimated before it even started. Whether the use of language allows the reduction of the term of power to political power or not – whatever is denoted, described, or paraphrased with ‘power’ – it is always referred to a relation. Relations should always be considered or, if possible, articulated in the reflection on power. If the notion of power has crucial significance for an argumentation, explanation, or reasoning, it should be analysed down to the relation and its terms. For political science, the decisive relation is the one between human beings and for human beings themselves the one between their own manifold attributes and actions. What so-called ‘power’ is based upon is often termed ‘source’. The interpretation of the relation and its terms (‘sources’) could already be denoted as power or could be added to the conditions of power, but is definitely part of the nexus of the phenomenon of power itself. The noun ‘power’ should be primarily understood from the active and passive moments of consciousness and psyche, from doing and failure as well as from acting. If the noun ‘power’ is subject of a sentence, it has to be questioned, whether it is really meant that power would be a subject in modern sense or even hypokeimenon of an activity, of a process or of an action. If only the wording of a sentence and the context allow such an interpretation, it has to be verified, whether human abilities are substantiated. In case of using ‘power’ abstracting from concrete activity or action it has to be differentiated between process and event on the one hand and structure, position, constellation, and situation on the other hand. If in the use of the notion of power activity cannot be distinguished immediately, a distinction should be made between conditions and their consequences. The capability to change reality is inherent to the notion of power. That is to say, a reasonable denotation of behaviour with a, or of a phenomenon with a suggestion to power presupposes that a change of reality is possible. This follows from the necessity that the political order of a society has always to be constituted and does not work like the so-called colony of ants. In other words: the recognised changes of reality happened in the past and the changes in future assumed as being possible, are crucial



perspectives for talking about what is denoted with ‘power’ or what power is. Consequentially, in the sphere of politics, power has to be understood from the relation between possibility and reality. There may be arguments that possibility and reality do not belong to the conception of what has to be summarised with the term of power, it is anyway essential: The judgement on what is possible or what is real belongs to the sphere of political action. If the term ‘power’ is used within an argumentation or speech, one should ask whether the statement concerning ‘power’ only refers to the pure possibility, to the transition from ‘non-being’ to ‘being’, or to ‘being effective’ and ‘becoming’ respectively. Because that what belongs to the formation of a concept (Begriffsbildung), that what is possible and impossible respectively, real or unreal, necessary or coincidental to recognise or to perceive, is subject of statements on political practice and are often considered in statements on ‘power’ or on what is described with ‘power’. Whenever ‘power’ is understood as process, event, or action, cause and effect are always implicated. This in turn presupposes that the effect as a result and a purpose, which have been attained respectively, can be ascertained. Real actions or real processes have to be finished before we can ascertain whether the aimed effect had taken place. If there is an effect, or if something is caused, it can only be judged in hindsight, a posteriori. From the point of view of human beings acting with or against each other, wielding of ‘power’ can be considered as ‘working’. Viewed from the possibilities of subjects acting in social existence, ‘power’ can be characterized as capability, competency as well as ability to achieve something. When reference is made to trans-subjective processes and structures that have meaning within political reality one may not only ask about individual but also about objective conditions of intended impacts being successful. The will to be in power, as it is usually said, depends in this respect particularly on the interactions of the other members of society and furthermore on the unchangeable conditions of being and becoming. Who, as Max Weber stated, is pursuing politics, is in fact striving for power and is as a result dependent in a not insignificant extent.30 If the concept of power is intended to denote a specific action within political practice, one has to respect the

30 Max Weber, ‘Politik als Beruf ’, in: Max Weber, Gesammelte politische Schriften, Johannes Winckelmann (ed.), Tübingen: Mohr 1988, p. 507.



given situation of human beings acting and working together. The capability of human beings to bring about something in social existence, results from the conditions of life and death as well as the apperception and interpretation of life and death. Someone who has the skill in the co-action of human beings within social relations to cause common action could be awarded to acquire power. One exerts it, as said in common speech, or it adheres to him or her in power. Power is ascribed or awarded to the one who is able to bring about mutuality, which can be referred to as a condition of power or is already ‘power’ itself. Speaking more precisely it is indeed a matter of ‘assignment’ by delegation, choice, or direct or indirect agreement. From the point of view of political science and taking into account acting and deciding human beings or institutions, political power consequently consists in acting in a unifying, allying, integrating and joining manner within the public sphere. Nevertheless, in the same manner one should not neglect counteractions like separating, disuniting and disintegrating. Political power is thus to be understood as acting, both ‘synthetically’ and ‘analytically’,31 in social existence and in consideration of conditions and interpretation of existence. If power is consequentially characterized as a phenomenon, this is a result of the fact that human beings have different physical, psychical, cognitive and spiritual competencies and depend in their actions on unequal objective structures, combinations and conditions. This means that the physical, psychical, cognitive, and spiritual abilities of human beings can be both cause and purpose of effects that are both ‘synthesizing’ and ‘analyzing’. To explain what is meant with these two last notions: To the synthesizing factors of behaviour and action belong capabilities like the ones to be able to unify people, to ally people, and make people join, as well as some other activities that serve these capabilities. The activity of mediation is of particular importance. One could say that if one is able to mediate, ‘power’ falls upon him or her. To the ‘analytical’, i.e. decomposing competencies and actions belong not only activities of cognition that are positive and value-free, but also activities that restrict or cut short life as such or the good life – varying from the deprivation of freedom of action and intellectual isolation to torture, sacrifice and even death. Since for most of humankind the good or successful life is a good, morality, ethics, law, and justice belong to the


These two notions will be explained below, in the next paragraph.



phenomenology of inter-human spheres of relationships. In any case, socio-public action in terms of communicare (to unify, to join forces) can be specified as communicative action. All unreasonable, immoral, and criminal qualities that humankind has shown in history can be relevant in the process of communication, mediation, and unification; they are, even if they are not compelling, nevertheless conditions or sources of ‘power’. The so-called sources or resources – or rather the amount of conditions and reasons – by which one, some, or many can attain power or become powerful within a society or in a society in relation to other societies consist of the following elements: Physical vigour, material force, space, the number of people, economic wealth (economic and financial potential, technical development status, circulation etc.). Also armed forces, institutional order and organisation (law, administration), and finally apprenticeship and educational system. However, it must not be ruled out that for the one who in terms of Max Weber pursues politics and strives for power, human beings themselves have to become an instrument of power. Human beings themselves, whether alive or threatened by death, are in first instance ‘resources’ or ‘sources’ of what is characterized by power. This is the reason why it belongs to the conditions of power what human beings anticipate to be a good or seems to them to be evil. A human being, an assembly of human beings, a gang, an alliance, a people, a state or a church complying with the conditions of life and death can and will act politically or has the possibility to act. In terms of Max Weber’s definition, there is a chance to carry one’s point even against the reluctance of others. To repeat it once more, political power is not ‘dependent’ on only the conditions of existence but also on the conditions of the interpretation of existence. The reflexive structure of interpretation of existence is a moment that is of vital interest and in need of serious discussion, whenever power itself is discussed. This is an essential starting point for understanding the relationship between power and religion. Religion has no power because it is no subject and power is no thing. Nevertheless, with the help of religion – if it might be allowed to use the term here symbolically or hypostatized – human beings can become and remain powerful. The primary question of religious-political research is not whether religion is an instrument of power or power is an instrument of religion but the religious-political research starts asking questions by which behaviour certain persons become and remain powerful. How can this behaviour be described? As follows and as plain



as possible: people perceive, they interpret, they understand, they comprehend, and they judge, rate, persuade, and convince. In the first instance, it is important to notice whether voluntary acceptance or agreement is achieved. Violence and coercion are of interest only in second instance. Subsequently, it should be asked whether the attitudes mentioned above could succeed in allying, associating, unifying people. In order to describe the purpose of the behaviour in question, one may also use the verbs: integrate, contract, assemble, close ranks, merge, and belong together. In religious-political research, the religious implications or assumptions of perceiving, interpreting, understanding, comprehending, judging, rating, persuading, and convincing behaviour are object of inquiry. However, one should keep in mind that no matter how extremely and intensely people are associated, allied and unified by ‘religion’, they can even so be extremely and intensely divided up to radical enmity. Due to the ‘synthetical’ nature of man in terms of his capability of association, of making alliances, and of unification, there will be five theses put up for discussion: 1. Within religion, tenets are included on inorganic-physical, organicbiological, physio-psychic, psychic-existential, cognitive-spiritual, intellectual-rational structures, and processes of the ‘synthetical’ nature of man. The relationship and the combination between these structures and processes are enabled by the belief in God, because God (or the Holy) is outside of and beyond this sphere, respectively it is believed that He is, or He is merely acknowledged as a postulate of practical reason. Because of this, however, the axiom of the immanence-relationship in which the ‘self ’ is transcended beyond ‘itself ’ by ‘itself ’, falls away. 2. The tagging together of the spheres of existence (level I) and the categories of cognition (level II) are enabled by religion. 3. The connection between the aspects of politics in a narrower sense (level III) is enabled by religion. Therefore, one can inquire into the religious implications of politics and the political implications of religion. 4. Because the order of society does not operate as an ant colony and people can always change it deliberately, the following should be kept in mind with regard to the answer to the question of the meaning of existence and life (level IV). Neither God nor nature can prevent that non-sense, superstition, pathology of religiousness; all varieties of manmade derailments, even idiocy can be constitutive for the



structure of the social-political reality. Examples from the history of the world, the history of Europe, in particular the recent German history need not be mentioned. 5. From the perspective of political science of religion that is represented here, ‘Power’ is a priori neither good nor evil, nor reasonable or unreasonable. 3.


In this contribution, it was assumed that the question of the meaning of existence is one of the spheres of the political. Due to the fact that the order of society is constituted and its prevailing form is perpetuated, renewed and changed, the intellectual interest of political science of religion is directed at the question how the citizens in a society perceive and interpret themselves, social relations and their entire existence. Religions contain tenets about all spheres of being. The term ‘religion’ should not be understood too narrowly, because the meaning of existence can even be interpreted by a certain religiousness, religious consciousness or maybe even only religious mentality. Furthermore, it was attempted to sum up the features of the topos ‘political science of religion’. Political science of religion is the discipline in which the religious implications of the political and the political implications of religion are inquired. Insofar as the political as such, in correspondence with human nature, has a compounded nature, and is neither substance, nor subject, the study of the religious implications of the political requires the elaboration of the spheres that compose the political. Therefore, a plan sketching the basic outlines of political science of religion was developed in this chapter. With regard to the plan, many relations between politics and religion can be an object for research. The relationship between politics and religion pertains at first to the complex factors that inhere in levels III and IV. I have tried to prove that a religious interpretation of existence can indeed influence consciousness of man, society, and history. No matter how the meaning of the relation between man and god or between man and religion is interpreted, this interpretation can indeed be essential for self-consciousness (that is: the consciousness of the self of a person). However, the consciousness of society can therefore already depend on religious consciousness, because the experience of the religious community can be decisive for the model of the political society. Furthermore, it was pointed out that the consciousness of history, the relationship of past, present, and future can unquestionably be



defined by religious consciousness or by religiousness in a broader sense. The relationship between past, present, and future is the genuine object of all religions and religiousness. When all state authority is derived from the people and is exercised by the legislative, judicial, and executive institutions of society, laws, and norms of a severe religious society will bear a different content, compared to the situation in which the majority of society abounds a diffuse-religious or irreligious mentality. Ethical virtues, moral opinions, and one’s lifestyle as such, and consequently all political decisions and actions can indeed be influenced by the nature and the intensity of religious life. The tenets contained in all religions regarding life and death and the biological bases of being, the psychicexistential sphere (motives, emotions, moods, passions, and sexuality, lust, despair, fury, envy, hatred, fear, dread, but also love, trust, and hope), as listed on level I of the plan, are possibly the most important for understanding the relationship between religiousness and political decisions, when viewed from a phenomenological perspective. However, given the fact that politics depend at least for a shorter or longer term on the structure of reality, the influence of religious consciousness on the categories of cognition as listed on level II, cannot be neglected. In this contribution, certainly many aspects, objects, and problems of substantial, historical, and current significance were not or not soundly enough elaborated. A couple of subjects should however be mentioned with regard to prospective religious-political research. One of the problems that need to be discussed consists in how the concept ‘religion’ should be defined, be it broadly or narrowly, occidentally, or universally, in terms of form and function or category and substance. In this contribution, certain forms of religiousness were not sufficiently considered, as for instance Gnosticism,32 and mysticism,33 the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism, the difference between the so-called independent Christian churches and sects, the diffuse religiousness of a mere individual consciousness of religion as well as the so-called occultesoteric movements and last but not least the gender ratio.34 The features 32 See Reinhard Sonnenschmidt, Politische Gnosis. Entfremdungsglaube und Unsterblichkeitsillusion in spätantiker Religion und politischer Philosophie, München: Fink 2001, Linus Hauser, Kritik der neomythische Vernunft. Menschen als Götter der Erde 1800–1945, Band 1, Paderborn: Schöningh 2004. 33 See Peter Koslowski, Gnosis und Mystik in der Geschichte der Philosophie, Zürich: Artemis 1988. 34 Compare Ursula Berretz, ‘Dem Eros fehlt also Wahrheit …’. Geschlechterverhältnis und die Aporie des Begehrens in Platons Symposion, (unpublished thesis), Duisburg: University of Duisburg 2000.



and topoi of ‘political religion’35 and ‘civil religion’36 could not be treated as well in this chapter. Many social phenomena – terror, violence, xenophobia, hostility to foreigners and racial anti-Semitism, unjustified unequal treatment of women, and the ecological movement – are in need of inquiry from the perspective of the relationship between politics and religion. Questionable is, however, whether a solution of theses phenomena can succeed in some degree, without basing morality and ethics upon religiousness. It remains to question, for instance, to what extent violence can be mitigated or aggravated by ‘religion’, or whether the integration of foreigners by means of ‘religion’ fails or presupposes a common religiousness. Furthermore, it should be questioned, whether the flourishing of economy can be encouraged by a religiously articulated ethics, as is done in the famous study of Max Weber on the origin of capitalism from the spirit of Protestantism, or whether the depravation of morality within capitalism can be counteracted by ‘religion’. How long will the value of work prevail? What does the morality of corporate management consist of ? Do civil servants need a rock bottom foundation in order to act obligatorily? The quest fort the relationship between politics and religion refers also to the international relations: of the Federal Republic of Germany to Europe, of Europe to the USA, of Europe to the ‘rest’ of the world. Is Islam a political theology? What is the case in East Asia, Africa, as well as Central America and the Caribbean and South America? The question whether the representatives of foreign policy are at all able to understand the position and situation of different nations, unless they quest for religious dimensions of social relations of these different nations, can be answered negatively with good reasons. Once again: religious-political research is an interdisciplinary enterprise. With regard to the quest for the relationship between politics and religion, religious-political research is dependent on sociology of religion, psychology of religion, and religious studies. The intellectual more challenging and for political reality more vital subject, that is: to

35 Compare Claus-E. Bärsch, ‘Die politische Religion des Nationalsozialismus und der Topos der politischen Religion aus der Perspektive der Religionspolitologie’, in: Michael Ley, Heinrich Neisser, Gilbert Weiß (eds.), Politische Religion? Politik, Religion und Anthropologie im Werk von Eric Voegelin, München: Fink 2003. 36 See Rolf Schieder, Civil religion. Die religiösen Dimensionen der politischen Kultur, Gütersloh: Mohn 1987, Klaus Kodalle (ed.) Gott und Politik in den USA. Über den Einfluß des Religiösen. Eine Bestandsaufnahme, Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum 1988; Hermann Lübbe, Religion nach der Aufklärung, Graz: Styria 1986.



determine what the relationship between politics and religion ought to be, is a philosophical-theological issue. The philosophical, theological, religious, and political issue has not been dealt with since Spinoza, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Hegel. In the 20th century, only Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss have confronted themselves with the relationship between philosophy, theology, religion, and politics. As the object of religious-political research is the religiousness or irreligiousness of the citizens and because it is first of all necessary to understand these, one of the most important challenges will be to analyse empirically what the people of our republic believe, in what they believe and how they believe. I would like to conclude this contribution, as is right and proper for an upright German, with a hint to Goethe. Though Faust was to fall in the hands of evil, he is redeemed in the end, happily ever after. Angels, hovering in higher spheres, while carrying Faust’s immortality, herald the message: Who strives always to the utmost, For him there is salvation.37

It is not the purpose of the political science of religion to save the ‘polites’. Since almost all human beings want to be saved, the motto shall be: ‘Whoever does not Recognize Religion, Can not Take Account of Politics’. BIBLIOGRAPHY Aristotle, Metaphysics ed. J. Bywater, O.C.T., Oxford: Oxford University Press, n.d. Assmann, Jan, Herrschaft und Heil. Politische Theologie in Ägypten, Israel und Europa, München: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag 2000. Bärsch, Claus-E., Die politische Religion des Nationalsozialismus, München: Fink 2002. Bärsch, Claus-E., Erlösung und Vernichtung – Dr. phil. Joseph Goebbels. Zur Psyche und Ideologie eines jungen Nationalsozialisten, München: Fink 1986; second and third editions under the title: Der junge Goebbels. Erlösung und Vernichtung, München: Fink 1996, 2004. Barth, Ullrich, Religion in der Moderne, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2003. Bataille, George, Theorie der Religion, München: Matthes & Seitz 1997. Balthasar, Hans Urs von, Apokalypse der deutschen Seele. Studien zu einer Lehre von den letzen Haltungen, 3. Bde., Salzburg: Anton Pustet 1937. Baur, Jörg, Luther und seine klassischen Erben, Tübingen: Mohr 1994. Berghoff, Peter, Der Tod des politischen Kollektivs. Politische Religion und das Sterben und Töten für Volk, Nation und Rasse, Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1997. Fromm, Erich, Psychoanalyse und Religion, Konstanz: Diana Verlag 1985.

37 Wer immer strebend sich bemüht/den können wir erlösen. Goethe, Faust, Part Two, Act V,



Gebhardt, Jürgen, Die Krise des Amerikanismus. Revolutionäre Ordnung und gesellschaftliches Selbstverständnis in der amerikanischen Republik, Stuttgart: Klett 1976. Girard, René, Das Heilige und die Gewalt, Zürich: Benzinger 1987. Graf, Friedrich Wilhelm, Die Wiederkehr der Götter. Religion in der modernen Kultur, München: Fink 2004. Hauser, Linus, Kritik der neomythischen Vernunft. Menschen als Götter der Erde 1800–1945, Band 1, Paderborn: Schöningh 2004. Hegel, G.W.F., Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse, Theorie-Werkausgabe in 20 Bänden, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1969. Hegel, G.W.F., Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion, Theorie-Werkausgabe in 20 Bänden, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1969. Hübner, Kurt, Glaube und Denken. Die Dimensionen der Wirklichkeit, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2001. Jung, Carl-Gustav, Über die Psychoanalyse des Unbewußten, Gesammelte Werke, Bd. VII, Zürich: Rascher 1981. Kant, Immanuel, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Werke in 12 Bd., Wilhelm Weischedel (ed.), Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1964. Kant, Immanuel, Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, Werke in 12 Bd., Wilhelm Weischedel (ed.), Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1964. Kant, Immanuel, Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloßen Vernunft, Werke in 12 Bd., Wilhelm Weischedel (ed.), Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1964. Koslowski, Peter (ed.), Die religiösen Dimensionen der Gesellschaft. Religion und ihre Theorien, Tübingen: Mohr 1985. Kodalle, Klaus-Michael (ed.), Gott und Politik in den USA. Über den Einfluß des Religiöses, Frankfurt: Athenäum 1988. Leidhold, Wolfgang, Politische Philosophie, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2002. Lütgert, Wilhelm, Die Religion des deutschen Idealismus und ihr Ende, Gütersloh: Bertelsmann 1923. Luhmann, Niklas, Soziale Systeme. Grundriß einer allgemeinen Theorie, Franfurt: Suhrkamp 1984. Luhmann, Niklas, Die Funktion der Religion, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1999. Luhmann, Niklas, Die Religion der Gesellschaft, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 2002. Maier, Hans, Politische Religionen. Die totalitäre Regime und das Christentum, Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder 1995. Maier, Hans, “Totalitarismus” und “Politische Religionen: Konzepte des Diktaturvergleichs, 3 Bd, Paderborn:Ferdinand Schöngh 1996 ff. Metz, Johann Baptist, Glaube in Geschichte und Gesellschaft. Studien zu einer praktischen Fundamentaltheologie, Mainz: Grünewald 1978. Miggelbrink, Ralf, Der Zorn Gottes. Geschichte und Aktualität einer ungeliebten biblischen Tradition, Freiburg: Herder 2000. Moltmann, Jürgen, Theologie der Hoffnung: Untersuchungen zu Begründung und zu den Konsequenzen einer christlichen Eschatologie, München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag 1964. Mohn, Jürgen, Mythostheorien. Eine religionswissenschaftliche Untersuchung zu Mythos und Interkulturalität, München: Fink 1998. Otto, Rudolf, Das Heilige. Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen, Breslau: Trewendt & Granier 1917, München: Beck 2004. Pannenberg, Wolfhart, Systematische Theologie, 3 Bd, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1988–1993. Peterson, Eric, Der Monotheismus als politisches Problem. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der politischen Theologie im Imperium Romanum, Leipzig: Hegner 1935. Pfleiderer, Georg, Stegemann, Ekkehard W. (Eds.), Politische Religion. Geschichte und Gegenwart eines Problemfeldes, Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich 2004 Plato, Republic, transl. Allan Bloom, New York: Basic Books, 2nd ed. 1991. Rahner, Karl, Schriften zur Theologie, Einsiedeln: Benzinger 1954.



Ratzinger, Joseph, Einführung in das Christentum Vorlesungen über das Apostolische Glaubensbekenntnis, München: Kösel 1968 Rohls, Jan, Philosophie und Theologie in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2002. Ruff, Wilfried (ed.): Religiöses Erleben verstehen, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 2002. Schlette, Heinz-Robert, Mit der Aporie leben. Zur Grundlegung einer Philosophie der Religion, Frankfurt: Verlag J. Knecht 1997. Schmitt, Carl, Politische Theologie. Vier Kapitel zur Lehre von der Souveränität, München/ Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot 1922. Schmitt, Carl, Der Begriff des Politischen, Hamburg : Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt 1933. Stolz, Fritz, Grundzüge der Religionswissenschaft, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1997. Stolz, Fritz (ed.), Homo naturaliter religiosus. Gehört Religion notwendig zum Mensch-Sein? Bern/ New York: P. Lang 1997. Sonnenschmidt, Reinhard W., Politische Gnosis. Entfremdungsglaube und Unsterblichkeitsillusion in spätantiker Religion und politischer Philosophie, München: Fink 2001. Strauss, Leo, What is political philosophy? Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press 1959. Strauss, Leo, The city and man, Chicago: Rand McNally 1964. Taubes, Jacob (ed.), Religionstheorie und politische Theologie, München: Fink-Schöningh 1984–1987. Voegelin, Eric: Die politischen Religionen, Wien: Bermann-Fischer 1938, ed. with a new preface, Stockholm: Bermann-Fischer 1939, latest edition: München: Fink 1996. Voegelin, Eric, Die neue Wissenschaft der Politik, München: Pustet 1959. Voegelin, Eric, Anamnesis. Zur Theorie der Geschichte und Politik, München: Piper 1966. Voegelin, Eric, Order and History, Vol. I: Israel and Revelation, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1956; Vol. II: The World of the Polis, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1957; Vol. III: Plato and Aristotle, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1957; Vol. IV: The Ecumenic Age, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1974; Vol. V: In Search of Order, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1987. Weber, Max, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft; Grundriß der verstehenden Soziologie, edited by Johannes Winckelmann, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 1980. Weber, Max, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Religionssoziologie, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 1986. Weischedel, Wilhelm, Der Gott der Philosophen. Grundlegung einer philosophischen Theologie im Zeitalter des Nihilismus, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1983. Vondung; Klaus: Die Apokalypse in Deutschland, München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag 1988.




THE DIABOLICAL DIMENSIONS IN THE SHAPES OF POLITICAL REALITY Peter Berghoff Inasmuch as modern Enlightenment aimed at a critique of religion, not only faith in god has been put in question, but also the belief in something, that works against the divine. The common belief in daemons, witches and the devil became bad belief; last but not least, due to the thereby generated evil such as persecution, torture and murder, and such belief should lose ground in the light of an enlightened reason. By virtue of human reason, the figures of evil had been taken to pieces of human imagination. Where the final overcoming of evil in human history became political program, that aim seemed to justify the worst crimes. Nationalism, National Socialism, Communism have been attractive for many people just because saving purification of evil in society, history and the world was promised by those ideologies. The transfiguring promises, that always accompanied the politicization of the enlightenment, let many a contemporary philosopher of Enlightenment smell sulphur, when evil is mentioned. Be it the Islamist’s condemnation of the West, the ‘axis of evil’ or other ‘satanification’ in the field of politics, in the light of enlightened reason, the political speech of evil seems to be the announcement of the ‘real evil’. If we cannot remain silent concerning evil, we have to speak of it. Nevertheless, are we able to speak reasonable of evil or is evil the limit for our sense-generating reason which cannot be crossed, even not by philosophical or theological attempts concerning a theodicy? Thinking about evil always provokes a certain uneasiness because a concluding, systematic, rational classification of the experiences, put into words through it, is similar to the attempt to bring up the irrationality of the past, present and future back from the historicity of human existence by present reason. Irrationality, which occurs in human time, could at last only be finally surmounted by a timeless, absolute reason, which is the idea of divine reason. Any systematic explanation that aims finality, which is only possible from a final point of view, would be



suspected to cover up a not realised or suppressed adverseness in the experience of human existence. Every academic-philosophical discussion of evil has to deal with the fact that evil is not experienced as something that can be identified; it is, on the contrary, experienced in the different forms and horizons of consciousness. Evil is not necessarily the same as pain, destruction, violence, betrayal, hostility or the deprivation of physical or mental goods. Therefore, evil is not simply that what produces the human experience of suffering, because all forms of suffering can be related to horizons of meaning, which are symbolised and can justify suffering as something necessary concerning a purpose considered as good. Only when experiences of suffering shatter those horizons of meaning, and therewith threaten or destroy the corresponding construction of reality, evil remains an experience of meaningless suffering. Against this background, I want to speak in the following of ‘diabolic’, which has always specific relations to the symbolic. What we are concerned with here, is the question where evil in the symbolised forms of consciousness of political reality has its explicit or implicit place. Human consciousness bears no direct relation to political reality. Therefore, the thinking, speaking and acting with reference to political reality has to be comprehended by way of the symbols with which the political is perceived, imagined, thought and constituted. The actual composition of visible and invisible, real and fictitious elements of which the whole of politics are constituted respectively, can only be produced and reproduced by symbols. In this context, I will define symbols as linguistic and non-linguistic signs of an established relation between ideas and their sensorial objectivations. The signs themselves are also established artefacts and refer to concrete things and facts of nature and culture as well as to abstract objects or ideals like freedom, dignity, justice, social coherence etc. on the one hand. On the other hand, processes of symbolising are processes of synthesising a constitution of reality, which are expressed, presented and ordered in relation to others through symbols. Processes of symbolising aim at a symbolic order, in which the varying experiences, affects, sensual experiences, imaginations and thoughts can be represented in an expressible unity of consciousness. Because symbolic horizons can be transcended by symbols that have a further reach, symbolisation could on the other hand be an act of transcending. That terminates only if human consciousness assumes a symbol that cannot be exceeded.



The process, in which a meaningless suffering is connected to the endangering or destroying of the symbolic representation of reality in consciousness, is to be denoted by the term diabolising. The ‘Diabolic’ is the expression of an experienced or anticipated sorrowful distortion of the currently accepted meaning, which endangers that symbolical unity, in which human beings essentially orient their existence and in which they order their scopes of experiences. The ‘Diabolic’ directs its threat against the reference of the unity of reality that stands in the centre of symbolic order. This symbolic, utmost reference in the centre of human life could be God, idea, spirit, reason, history, life support, staying physically and mentally unscathed, wealth, freedom, justice, autonomy, dignity etc. These are not only the conditions of the different qualities of integration, but with these also the shapes of diabolic danger are drawn, which seem to be meaningless, conflicting or destructive within the symbolic order. In so far as the devil, daemons, heretics, stranger, betrayer, insurgents, class-enemies, counter revolutionist, public enemies, criminals etc. are seen as powers that pose a threat to the fundamental order of political reality, I would like to speak of the political Diabolic. The heretic, the public enemy, the counter revolutionist are diabolic expressions, which refer to different unities; notably the unity of dogma, the public, or the revolution. The Diabolic is only put into concrete shapes in reference to the particular symbolic unity that orders and orients life in society. Because the tension between symbolisation and ‘diabolisation’ in political processes cannot be shown in a one-dimensional way, I want to distinguish in the following the analytic types of symbolisation and ‘diabolisation’ that are significant for a political science of evil. Because forms and contents of human consciousness of evil are connected with the particular constitutions of reality, I want to speak in the following of the diabolic that is to be understood in its dialectical relations to the symbolic. Although the occurrence of the contents in the types, which are to be identified, are subject to psychic-cognitive, cultural and historical conditions, historic-political real types in chronological order are of no concern here. What is to be done in my view is the distinction of typological levels of analysis that correspond to the distinguished dimensions of consciousness of reality and horizons of meaning. These types arise in the field of politics in overlapping forms, which is why the analytical distinction is primarily made in order to provide a sharper consideration. For the analytical distinction and assignment, I propose six levels, which will be discussed in the following.



Level 6: Symbolic and diabolic transcendence

Level 5: Institution, diabolic subversion and outer hostility

Level 1: Symbolic reality of individual/ particular desire and the diabolisation of means Process of symbolising and diabolising of realities in human consciousness Level 2: The Diabolic with regard to connecting goods

Level 4: The communication of symbolic reality and diabolic dissociation

Level 3: Symbolism and Diabolism of cognition

LEVEL 1: THE SYMBOLIC REALITY OF INDIVIDUAL/PARTICULAR DESIRE AND THE DIABOLISATION OF MEANS Anyone who acts politically is confronted with the use of power, betrayal, force, and violence and is not only concerned with conjoint desire for good ends but also with reluctance and incalculable consequences of one’s acts. However, does that mean that politics imply a diabolical pact?1

1 “Wer Politik überhaupt und wer vollends Politik als Beruf betreiben will, […] lässt sich […] mit den diabolischen Mächten ein, die in jeder Gewaltsamkeit lauern”. Max Weber, Politik als Beruf, 7. Aufl., Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1982, p. 64.



On the one hand a naive ‘demonisation’ of power and force as a mean for action in politics leads to the verge of powerlessness, defencelessness and ineffectiveness, or may even – when the mental trauma becomes unbearable – turn into a helpless rage. On the other hand, sanctification of means for pursuing particular interests creates a situation of permanent threat, where one’s particular aims are directed in contravention against one another in struggle. This leads to the presentation of the field of political action as a battlefield of particular interests, on which it is necessary to hold one’s ground by all means. In this representation of reality, which is called “the natural condition of mankind” by Thomas Hobbes, good and evil is bound on human passions. But whatever is the object of any man’s appetite or desire, that is which he for his part calleth good; and the object of his hate and aversion, evil; and of his contempt, vile and inconsiderable. For these words of good, evil, and contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them; there being nothing simply and absolutely so.2

Against the background of a symbolised unity of desire/passions, the means employed and the particular aim of fulfilling success, the diabolic appears as something negative on the one hand. It is constituted by the sorrowful consequences of the means (violence, betrayal, power) employed for fulfilling one’s intentions, wishes, hopes or for defending the threatened. On the other hand the diabolic appears as something that hinders and resists someone on his way to fulfilling his particular desire, as a cause for failure. Something that can be felt as a negative consequence for the inferior like injury, bondage or death, could mean success in getting the desired good for the superior. Particular competing desires mark the horizons of the symbolic and the diabolic here. The first level laid out here should bring to focus that particular symbolic horizon, with which the diabolic appears as resistance or sorrowful consequence of the means that are used in order to fulfil individual or particular desire. Insofar as the concern here is always the undivided success of individuals or particular collectives, who do not care what means they employ, there are always ‘others’, who suffer from the means used. In this way, the means themselves may appear as the cause of evil. By understanding the diabolic this way, it could lead to the conclusion that restriction of evil is only possible by restricting of the means. Then

2 The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, Now first collected and edited by Sir William Molesworth, Vol. III, London: John Bohn 1839, p. 41.



force, betrayal, war or even power and domination can be regarded as the political origins of evil that have to be controlled or even abolished. If desire for fulfilling one’s particular aims stands in the centre of the symbolic construction of reality, the diabolic may be either articulated as one’s experience of what hinders on the road to success or – from the perspective of those who suffer from the means – the diabolic may be articulated based on the experience of the sorrowful consequences of means employed. The diabolic of this type denotes the suffering, defeats and resistances, caused by the means used by others. LEVEL 2: THE DIABOLIC WITH REGARD TO THE SYMBOLIC OF THE UNIFYING GOODS. If the division into those who are successful and those who are suffering becomes conscious as a common problem, broader horizon can be constituted. If difference in judging something good or bad in reference to the means of action used, leads to a search of a shared measure and binding norms, then – through an analysing qualification of the differences – a common relation to a shared third entity of desire and opposition has to be made. The qualification of what can rule desire and opposition in form of a third entity – like the symbols of justice or public good – can be made in accordance with myths, moral traditions, religious teachings or with plausible, rational grounds. From that a tension emerges between (firstly) the aims that are strived for, (secondly) the means employed and (thirdly) the qualifying measure of action. When acting based upon a measure, a tension in human practice will arise between immediate, particular goals and desires on one side and those ends deemed good by an applied measure on the other side. This tension that stands in the centre of political ethics differentiates between what meets the measure and what does not. In doing so, it simultaneously constitutes a distinguishable horizon of consciousness of political reality. The consciousness of the practical possibility of choice allows the experience that the decision for limitlessness desires, what is called pleonexia by Plato, is one against the good unifying measure. This kind of experience of consciousness is it, which allows the appearance of diabolic not only as a consequence of the application of evil means, but as contempt, slandering, indolence or closed-mindedness to the normative measure of a good and just practice. Through this symbolic differentiation, evil is



presented as a matter of human practice, i.e. the possibility to make decisions that guide human life. The consciousness of man’s possibility to change the particular reality of action by his own decisions is a prerequisite for entering the field of ethics and morals. Ethics result from reflected, critical experience of evil and the knowledge that human practice has a decisive impact on reality of experience. The term ‘reality of experience’ here not only means realising possibilities in the outer world but also in the inner reality of a human being, that is in his character, the inner habit of the actor himself. The experience of human being in this ethical respect stands in the tension of current representation of reality in consciousness on the one hand, and the particular recognised potentiality of what ought to be on the other. This tension may allow articulating a further dimension of political reality, which can be found on the level of cognition. This horizon of reality could be articulated, if unquestionable agreement on the ends and measures based on myths or religion no longer exists, because it turns out to be a problem of cognition. However, developing this level is not inevitable. The experience of an unachievable and no longer existing unity in belief in the common good, respectively evil, could either be struggled out with the available particular potentialities of action in violent battles or it could become a question of cognition and communication.

LEVEL 3: SYMBOLISM AND DIABOLISM OF COGNITION If reality, in which human life is lead, is coming to be perceived as a dynamic between actuality and potentiality, the limits of this field of movement have to be consistently recognised and clarified. Even if an exactly ascertainable cognition of reality and possibility cannot be of any concern here, but more or less good reasoned estimations, the poles of reality can be found – in a better or worse manner – in thought. The diabolic then appears in that differentiation as a lack of knowledge, from which arise under – or overestimations of the practical field of acting abilities. When this is underestimated, people are considered to have acted worse than they were able to. In a situation of overestimation however, reality that is not properly recognized provides resistance that either leads to the amendment of cognition or to stimulation of the imagination of a reality-endangering, i.e. diabolic cause-effect.



Because an adequate definition of the practical field of movement is not only a matter of accurate insight in human abilities of action, but has also to do with the cognition of the world’s realities, that have to be treated. The issue here is the human ability of cognition in general. Subject of theories of cognition and their critics is last but not least the problem of the limits of the human ability of cognition; limits that constitute a forbidden zone of ‘irrecognizability’. When someone crosses these limits and returns from the forbidden zone of ‘irrecognizability’ with certain answers, a particular phenotype of the diabolic becomes apparent. This process takes precedence on the harm that is the result of the forbidden fruits. Wherever the limit of human cognition is drawn, a zone of something forbidden is generated; as is known, such a state of affairs is a real temptation for the limited spirit of human being. The limits are either drawn by sensual empiricism, logical experience, or the limits of pure reason, maybe even communicative or pragmatic reason. The harm results from neglecting these limits, which are drawn either too narrow or too wide. From this general perspective of human cognition, the diabolic appears either as a lack of cognition or as a desire for the unity of human knowledge, that is doomed to failure, which nevertheless is assumed to go beyond the limits of cognition. Another distinction in symbolism and diabolism of cognition can be drawn by either expounding the problems concerning the order of reality from an ontological perspective, or if we make the symbolic form of the recognising consciousness the subject matter from a Copernicanturned perspective, based on a theory of consciousness. Regarding the ontological perspective of cognition, reality can be divided into fields that correspond to essential dimensions of human existence. Such fields are for instance human being, society, history, nature/ culture, world and God.3 From that perspective it is not only the question to find adequate symbols for the existential dimensions of human

3 Eric Voegelin proposed a ‘quaternarian’ structure of the symbolic reality. “God and man, world and society form a primordial community of being. The community with its ‘quaternarian’ structure is, and is not, a datum of human experience. It is a datum of experience in so far as it is known to man by virtue of his participation in the mystery of its being. It is not a datum of experience in so far as it is not given in the manner of an object of the external world but is knowable only from the perspective of participation in it”. Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Vol. I, Israel and Revelation, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1994, p. 1.



existence but also to reflect those dimensions in an adequate order within which the relations of the fields to each another as well as with the concerns of the particular fields can be coped with. No matter how the fields of reality and the forms of expression are symbolised, the problem persists how the particular fields are related to each other. In other words: the concern is the question of an adequate symbolical order of the fields of reality and the order of being that corresponds to a representation of unity of reality in human consciousness. Meaning, nonsense or meaninglessness are experiential states of consciousness, which depend on successful or unsuccessful symbolic representation of order of reality. If we consider fields of reality such as human being, society, history, nature, culture, world and transcendence, from the position of ordering consciousness, demands, concerns and entitlements could be attributed to or refused to those fields of reality. Not only is the cognition of an adequate differentiation of reality at issue, but also the representation of the relation those distinguished realities have to each other. Finally, the differences in the forms of political thought emerge from the different relations of order that the particular fields of reality have to each other. On the one hand, it is possible to differentiate between the variations of order in regard to the degree of importance the particular parts have. In the imagined constructions of the whole reality, some parts could be put more in the centre, others on the periphery. From that evolve also different degrees of importance or different hierarchies to meet the demands, which are given by the distinguished fields of reality. If for instance the single human being moves into the centre of an egocentred reality, the concerns of society, history or the world could get peripheral. When society is represented too dominantly in consciousness, the concerns of particular individuals could get marginalised. If the fulfilment in reality of bliss of individuals and of society becomes a telos of earthly history, the real concerns of the actual individuals and the requirements for living together in society suffers a lack of representation in mind. No matter how the fields of reality are differentiated and ordered, the limits drawn through mistakes of cognition are not the limits of experience. This means that these realities can break into human experience that are not recognised or blinded out in represented order of the mind. If a particular individual closes his mind to the realities of society, history and world, it does not mean, that the sphere



of experience in his consciousness remains untroubled by those excluded realities, but only that those experiences cannot be arranged in an adequate order. To suffer such a break-in of reality leads to a diabolic phenotype, that is caused by a mistaken representation of order. From the position of a mind closing itself, the breaking in of a reality, which is not represented in consciousness, is a threatening, evil occurrence; from the position of the fields of reality blinded out, it is the closure to other fields of reality, which could equal a dangerous negation. Another type of the diabolic is the result of the perspective of a theory of consciousness. Here the subject of cognition is no longer the objective reality, but the symbolic forms of the experiencing, recognisable mind. According to Ernst Cassirer’s Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, the different symbolic forms of consciousness can be revealed here.4 The point here is, so to speak, the intellectual glasses, through which individuals consider and form reality. Language, myth, religion, art, technology, science and philosophy are symbolic forms of consciousness here, with which not only different kinds of arrangement of views on reality are developed, but also concern distinguishable relations between subjective consciousness on the one hand and particular symbolic representations on the other hand. This includes not only the generation of basic differentiations between what is subjective and what is objective, but also between the ego and reality and, last but not least, between the symbol and the denoted facts. From this perspective the phenotype of the diabolic appears not simply as a breaking in of, for instance scientific or philosophical thought in mythical or religious consciousness or vice versa. It is the threatening negation of a form of mind, which from its own point of view cannot understand and integrate other symbolic forms but regard them as potentially disintegrating. This is not only the case, where science and philosophy are rejected as destroying ‘evil’, but also where the enlightened scientist no longer understands the return of myth and religion and perceives it only as a diabolic threat for his own construction of enlightenment. A symbolic form that is incomprehensible and incapable of being integrated can thus become diabolic.

4. Ernst Cassirer, Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, 4 volumes, Yale: Yale University Press 1955–1998.



LEVEL 4: THE COMMUNICATION OF SYMBOLIC REALITY AND DIABOLIC DISSOCIATION Communication, on the one hand, aims at common participation in contents of consciousness and on the other hand presupposes that there already exists something common. Preconditions like, for instance: reason, consciousness, language, symbols, meanings and thoughts define particular coherences that can be made actual between the persons communicating with each other, which make communication possible. This kind of coherence could be denoted as source coherence. This source coherence is the actual condition, which makes a communicated coherence possible. If we distinguish the field in which no participation takes place, but in which participation is possible from source coherence, we have what I want to denote with aim coherence. Source coherence and aim coherence are poles of tension, which limits the symbolic reality of communication. The field of what is communicated and what can be communicated emerge by the limits and is a varying symbolic reality. It is varying between actual and potential symbolised dimensions of reality. This reality is symbolic, because participation of mind in another mind is not directly possible, but only indirectly by symbols. The phenotype of diabolic that may appear in the process of communication, consists not only of those differences that cannot be understood or shared, but they are comprised by the particular differences, which stand beyond the by source and aim coherence limited reality of communication. Moreover, they endanger it in its actual and potential coherency. The endangering arises here from the connection of dissociated differences and power. This means here: the real or presumed ability to cause the disintegration of communication’s reality. What is diabolic here, are disgrace, hindrance and the tearing apart of real and possible common ground, in which the individuals can participate consciously. It is the inversion of communication into dissociation. The diabolic dissociation aims at last at a seclusion of the mind and the hindrance of possible communicative coherences with other minds. Against this background, it can be said that the diabolic appears in communication as dissociation and poses a threat to the communicable reality and to the coherence of the communication community. In order to become diabolic, expressed differences have to be tied to something (quasi)personal, one who is ascribed to have intentional



effectiveness: Daemons, devils, heretics or the enemies of belief, class, race, and nation. The diabolic emerges in the process of communication, if symbolic representation of reality is endangered, threatened and attacked at common contents, which is essential for enduring collective coherence. While communication exceeds the limits of individual consciousness and, moreover, symbolically expresses and extends participation in and coherence with other consciousnesses, dissociation leads to splitting, isolation and the closure of human consciousness. On the one hand, dominant coherence of communicated realities is the condition that a field of common relation of action, a public cause, a field of politics can arise. On the other hand, no dominance of symbolic ordering patterns stays safe from diabolic dissociation. The dynamic in processes of power, with which only erratic dominations in communication can be established, can achieve constancy by instituting political domination and enforcing binding law, without which political order cannot be enduring. LEVEL 5: INSTITUTION, DIABOLIC SUBVERSION AND OUTER HOSTILITY Institutions are the condition for the possibility to limit dynamics in the political sphere and order, as well as to organise a political area in a binding manner. This binding nature and the enforceability of an institutional order are bound to the ability to use force in a superior manner in order to enforce legal norms. Without this ability, institutions and the law established by them along with their workability for society would stay in a permanent crisis. From this perspective, institutions can be understood as limitations on the diabolic dynamics of communication and dissociation. Within the scope of institutions, there emerges a perceptible form and an order established for permanence, which occupies a certain area and thereby defines and enforces the limits of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. The institutional form and order of society within an enforceable legal order is a binding specification of conditions for and possibilities of living for the individuals belonging to it. Against the background of an instituted order of society, the diabolic appears on the one hand as interior subversion, which denies the symbolic order of political reality as well as the essential condition of making assertive institutions possible, which is: the instituted monopoly in the use of force. On the other hand, the diabolic



of institutions appears as an outer enemy with regard to the perspective directed outwards to the endangering. The subversive insurgent, the terrorist and the warlike outer enemy are the ‘devils’ for instituted society. If the institutionalised political order is no longer based on a communicative supremacy in society and is only based on monopolised use of force, then in the perception of the people this order appears as evil tyranny. Differences in means that can be articulated, as well as aims, forms of cognition and of order on the one hand and differences in processes of communication on the other hand, could be more or less permanently defused by institutions, but cannot be neutralized into an everlasting higher symbolical unity. This is because every human symbolical unity remains at last a part of human history which future is always unknown. The everlasting symbolical unity refers beyond history and cannot been controlled by human power at last. The potential of an enforceable power, which always has to side rigorously with the instituted symbolism of society, so that a binding order of good and evil can take shape, such force cannot establish a true unity, but only order by disregarding differences. LEVEL 6: SYMBOLIC AND DIABOLIC TRANSCENDENCE Because everlasting symbolic integration of diabolic differences refers at last on something beyond history, human history remains in tension to transcendence. As soon as symbols that aim at a unity of consciousness and being in the world are confronted with a threatening danger that cannot be integrated, there emerges either a comprehensive, transcending symbolism or a solidification of the diabolic. Not until an opening exceeding reality’s horizon within a completed symbolical order is out of sight, the relation between symbols and ‘diabols’ will be solidified, because the actual symbolic is understood as something that cannot be exceeded. What remains is a (last) dualism between either good and evil full of tension or the symbolisation of a transcendent unity that integrates everything at last in another (higher) dimension. If the symbolic and diabolic are transcended as a dualism, it initially just means that the principles of good and evil that can be traced back to it, point beyond the human world and human being is left between. Good as well as evil then could appear as a transcendent break in human



world. Here good as well as evil are superhuman entities and the human being is interwoven in a cosmic or salvation-historical battle of the opposites. Against the background of a transcended dualism, the diabolic can be imagined as a power, that has an effect on the fortune of human being, society, history and world or that demands their decision or assignment. For a political science of the diabolic, it is crucial, how human beings should passively or actively take part in the battle of antagonistic, transcendent opposites. Where the attention has to be turned to, is the question to what extent it is believed that history is be connected with salvation history and whether political-historical artefacts in the consciousness of the acting persons should replace a transcendental god as subject of salvation history. If this is the case, the battle against evil must appear as something necessary for the success of an everlasting salvation even in world history. If the purification from evil in history becomes a political intension, the acting persons seemed to be legitimated to fight all human beings, by all means, which appears as a part of evil. The symbol of divine unity refers to a last transcendent unit that even integrates or overcomes the diabolical at last. Certainly each integrating excess of a symbolic order’s potential of integration is a transcending, but only there, where God is the symbol for the ultimate transcendent reality, the process of symbolisation in consciousness comes to the last imaginary respectively believed reference. Insofar, God is the symbol of symbols, with which at last all diabolic can be integrated through belief. From the position of the mind that remains attached to the differences of the world, this is a possibility represented by the symbol, which cannot be caught up with in the reality of a historical world. The truth of a symbolic instance that responds to the experienced diabolic challenges can only be found in the process of consciousness, that neither closes itself in its timely and spatially limited and conditioned symbolism, nor remains in the stream of infinite transcending. No matter how the truth of a highest symbolic instance is articulated, it is never a necessary and undoubted object for another mind. A highest symbolically articulated instance for integration can only be experienced by different, asking individuals just in the attitude asking for it, it cannot be experienced as objective content. Although it remains constantly threatened by inconsistencies, man’s consciousness is able to reflect that its own limit of integration is different from what the symbol ‘God’ represents. To deny the fundamental difference between human and divine consciousness would mean that in consciousness of a human being, not only all past and present



diabolic differences are neutralized but also the future’s. This implies that human consciousness, which is something temporal, could repeal time and could exist in the identity of the past, present and future, therefore in eternity – in short terms: be divine. This overdrawing divinisation of human consciousness can be considered simply as madness or as end point of human diabolism. In the symbolic representation of the difference between man and God that is full of tension, reservations about each political symbolic unity that aims at finality arise as well as reservations about the related final identifications of the evil. The last instance, from which the diabolic can be defined and judged, exceeds human consciousness, which is then able to create the human symbol for a transcending instance, like the ‘Last Judgement’. Against this background, there cannot be conclusive scientific and philosophical definitions of evil. Though keeping this tension open is essential for the search of corrections of the man made units, but this cannot be a permanent status for consciousness. No political order of human beings can do without an at least temporal binding reference of unity, be it even the unity’s reference of freedom and tolerance that could be demanded from everybody in a liberal order. Every political shape, how far it may extend and how long it may persist, has to relate differences that exist in it to something common like ideas, norms, power of government, constitution, contract, law, public welfare, etc. Not only the tension between a symbolic order and a symbol of symbols has to be kept open for critical reflection, but the necessity exists also for political thought and action, which aim at a constitution and stabilisation of political order to temporally and spatially establishing and enforcing references of unity. In perspective to politics the diabolic needs to be defined in obligatory manner, in perspective to the ‘transcendental symbolical unity’ the diabolical remains at last as insoluble tension in human existence. Permanent openness would prevent the idea of obligation as a condition of possibility of politics, while the immanentization of the highest unity creates a nightmare of realisable purification of diabolic differences, the mania of salvation from evil through politics, which at last compensate the lost sense of reality through terrorism, violence and annihilation. The apocalyptic dream of the end of evil in human history remains a fertile source of ‘evil acting’ in politics, because at last it becomes the dream of the end of all evil persons.



However, if we ignore the problem of the diabolical dimensions in the constructions of political reality, we will not stop suffering but we lose a part of reality in consciousness, which represents a condition of human existence. Therefore, it may be helpful if we divide the diabolical into different levels. For political thinking and acting, it could be easier if we do not talk about the diabolical in all but the diabolical in view of particular desires, ethic measures, human cognition, communication, institution and transcendence. The distinction of these levels is also important for the question which dimension of ‘evil’ we can fight with which methods and which dimension of ‘evil’ exceeds all human power. The consideration of the last symbolical transcendence can make clear that the ‘evil’ in the different diabolical shapes is not only a result of human thinking and acting. The used means of human desire, ethics, cognition, communication and institution are marking important symbolical and diabolical dimensions. Finally, there remains a dimension of the diabolical, which consists of the permanent possibilities for meaningless suffering of man in this world. We cannot choose and we cannot make a world purified from ‘evil’. The last remaining dimension of the diabolical exceeds human abilities and provokes a transcendental integration in the symbol of god or the question of theodicy. BIBLIOGRAPHY Bennedetti, Gaetano/Rauchfleisch, Odo (eds.), Welt der Symbole, Interdisziplinäre Aspekte des Symbolverständnisses, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1988. Berghoff, Peter, Politodizee, oder: Die verfehlte Politologie des Bösen in der Moderne, in: Bärsch, Claus-E./Berghoff, Peter/Sonnenschmidt Reinhard (Hg.): Wer Religion verkennt, erkennt Politik nicht. Perspektiven der Religionspolitologie, Würzburg: Könighausen & Neumann 2005, pp. 140–158. Billicsich, Friedrich, Das Problem des Übels in der Philosophie des Abendlandes, Wien: Verlag A. Sexl 1952–1959. Cassirer, Ernst, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, Yale: Yale University Press 1955–1998. Cassirer, Ernst, An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture, Yale: Yale University Press 1992. Cassirer, Ernst, Wesen und Wirkung des Symbolbegriffs, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1994. Colpe, Carsten/Schmidt-Biggemann, Wilhelm (eds.), Das Böse. Eine historische Phänomenologie des Unerklärlichen, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1993. Geyer, Carl Friedrich, Leid und Böses in philosophischen Deutungen, Freiburg: Alber Verlag 1983. Häring, Hermann, Das Problem des Bösen in der Theologie, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1985. Hermanni, Friedrich/Koslowski, Peter (ed.), Die Wirklichkeit des Bösen. Systematischtheologische und philosophische Annäherungen, München: Fink 1998.



Hobbes, Thomas, The English Works of Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury, Now first collected and edited by Sir William Molesworth, London: John Bohn 1839. Laube, Johannes, Das Böse in den Weltreligionen, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2003. Mensching, Gustav, Gut und Böse im Glauben der Völker, Stuttgart: Ehrenfried Klotz Verlag 1950. Neiman, Susan, Evil in Modern Thought. An Alternative History of Philosophy, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2002. Pagels, Elaine, The Origin of Satan, New York: Random House 1995. Pieper, Annemarie, Gut und Böse, München: Beck 1997. Rahden, Wolfert v./Schuller, Alexander (eds.), Die andere Kraft. Zur Renaissance des Bösen, Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1993. Ricoeur, Paul, The Symbolism of Evil, Boston: Beacon Press 1986. Ritter, Gerhard, Die Dämonie der Macht. Betrachtungen über Geschichte und Wesen des Machtproblems im politischen Denken der Neuzeit, Stuttgart: Heinrich F.C. Hannsmann 1940. Schulte, Christoph, Radikal Böse. Die Karriere des Bösen von Kant bis Nietzsche, München: Fink 1991. Simonis, Walter, Schmerz und Menschenwürde. Das Böse in der abendländischen Philosophie, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2001. Voegelin, Eric, Order and History, 5 volumes, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1956–1987. Voegelin, Eric, Ordnung, Bewußtsein, Geschichte. Späte Schriften – eine Auswahl, Peter J. Opitz (ed.), Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1988. Voegelin, Anamnesis, Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Columbia: University of Missouri Press 1990. Weber, Max, The Profession of Politics, Washington DC: Plutarch Press 1989.

Albrecht Dürer, Ritter, Tod und Teufel. Copper engraving. 1513



A little taste of philosophy perhaps moves one to atheism, but more of it leads back to religion. (Francis Bacon)1 The one knight of faith simply cannot help the other. Either the single individual becomes a knight of faith himself by putting on the paradox, or he never becomes one. (Søren Kierkegaard)2

1. INTRODUCTION The subject of the crusade is one that speaks strongly to our imagination and it has proved to be a rewarding and inspiring subject for all sorts of artistic creativity. I would like to introduce my thoughts on this phenomenon by first drawing the reader’s attention to a famous copperplate made by Albrecht Dürer in 1513. It is called Ritter, Tod und Teufel and represents a solitary knight of faith on his way to the holy Jerusalem, on the hills of Zion, driven by the love of God. He is accompanied only by death and devil, maybe urging him to move even faster, maybe trying to withhold him from his cause. However, whatever their intentions are, he is not distracted and he looks sternly ahead of him, determined to free at all costs the holy places from the hands of the infidels. The crusade is an extraordinary political-religious phenomenon. Before starting my philosophical investigations, let me give some examples, just to whet the appetite. Of course we immediately think of the 1 Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, Works I ed. Spedding, Ellis and Heath, London: Longman 1857–1874, p. 436. 2 Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling. Dialectical Lyric by Johannes de silentio, translated by Alistair Hannay, London: Penguin Books 1985, p. 99.



bloody crusades of the twelfth century. Nevertheless, all sorts of modern and postmodern religious violence for the sake of any holy place may be compared to these ‘icons’ of the Middle Ages. Indeed, one might think of the battle for Jerusalem (the holy capital of three different religions), as well as of the recent holy wars in former Yugoslavia and Ireland. However, in the relatively short time that it ‘rules’, atheism also has been responsible for a fair share of mass murders. For their holy grail of realism, and in order to create an entirely rational society, atheists like Stalin and Mao planned and executed the murder of their own pagans. Crusades are still an important item in contemporary public discourse. They are for most people the best proof that politics and religion do not mix and should stay separate, as the ideal of Enlightenment propagates. Claims to religious authority breed intolerance and bloody wars. This is why today’s religion is sometimes somewhat violently restricted to the private sphere. Now ‘the final truth’ of reason itself becomes a ground of oppression and violence; politics should cherish rational neutrality and be wary of any ‘absolute’, theological claims of truth and power. Therefore, contemporary Enlightenment fundamentalism too puts up many a crusade against the religious ‘non-believer’. And maybe, who knows, just as our knight of faith in the picture of Dürer, it is bound to stumble upon an empty grave; if not the empty grave of Jesus, then maybe the empty grave of democracy; which has its own fair share in transcendence, as we will come to see. Before I continue, there is one more modern appearance of the crusade that I would like to mention here, just to point out that the phenomenon is almost omnipresent, in our days no less than it was in history. In the western world of today, we seem to witness a fanatical revitalization of religion. And we also witness a neoconservative call for a ‘civil religion’ that has lately inspired the US to start its wars against the axis of evil; wars that were understood (by friends and foes) as crusades; and these crusades were in their turn a response to the opposing religious terrorism that threatened and attacked the homeland of America – ‘Gods own country’ (Bush). Again, I will not go into this multifaceted historical material any further. This rather superficial exploration is only a preliminary demarcation of our subject of investigation with respect to the violent relation between politics and religion. Before I go on, let me add that all parties of the crusade I just mentioned are united in their firm conviction that they have God on their side, and that it could be suggested that their



religious certitude in this respect might be responsible for their negligence in not trying to shift to the side of God (which is of course an entirely different matter). The phenomenon of the crusade (and of religious violence in general) confronts us with a serious problem and – what Hegel calls – ‘an awe inspiring contrast’ (‘ein ungeheure Kontrast’). Especially from a Christian perspective, but not exclusively so, the crusade must generate at the very least an uneasy feeling. Does religion not remind us of mankind’s common destination; of a freedom in the positive sense? Does religion not remind us to see and be oneself ‘as another’? Can we simply think of the other in a Gnostic way: as a dark force of evil; as a ‘damned infidel’, destined to be crushed and eliminated? To acquire the necessary depth of analysis, I have chosen to start with Hegel’s phenomenology of the crusade; in particular with his dwelling on the subject in the Phänomenologie des Geistes 3 and also in his Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte.4 Secondly, I will give an exposition of Hegel’s own relentless crusade, in his early Geist des Christentums und sein Schicksal 5 in relation to the spirit of the Jewish faith, the law of the Jewish religion and the importance of the law in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, ‘the Jew of Königsberg’, as Hegel referred to him. For Hegel, the Jewish obsession with the law must be lifted (aufgehoben) in the name of Christian love. Through love the law must be made ‘superfluous’ and must be ‘annihilated’. In the third place, I will show, in reference to Jacques Derrida’s more Jewish reading of the importance of the law, in what alternative way it can be thought of, not just as an institution that is bound to limit our freedom, our justice and love, but (on the contrary) as an absolutely essential, quasi-transcendental precondition for love. Law in this sense concurs very strongly with the all too ‘natural’ and mystical love of the Christian Geist as Hegel interprets it. In connection with this, I will – in the fourth section – make a few general remarks on the concept of incarnation and on the ‘idea’ of the empty grave. The treasures and promises of this grave bring me to consider Kierkegaard’s challenging ethic of love, associated as it is, with the divine command

3 G.W.F. Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag 1988; from here on referred to as PhdG. 4 G.W.F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, Werke 12, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1986; from here on referred to as VPG. 5 G.W.F. Hegel, ‘Der Geist des Christentums und sein Schicksal’ in Frühe Schriften – Werke 1, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1986, pp. 274–418.



and the way this command connects with his autonomous ethics of love. I will conclude my essay with a philosophical investigation concerning the problematic nature of the relation between religion and politics, which is the subject of this book. Let us first have a look at Hegel’s analysis of the crusade though. 2. HEGEL’S UNDERSTANDING OF THE PHENOMENON OF THE CRUSADE For Hegel, the crusades of the Middle Ages play an absolutely crucial role in the dialectic of the spirit and its science of the experience of consciousness. To complete its search for identity and self-consciousness within the unity of life (Leben), the individual must first be religiously confronted with the thought of being (in essence) related to something general, eternal and absolute. Man, as long as he is not reconciled with this ‘God’ (as this ‘Other’ is known), remains in a situation of disintegration and estrangement; not just to himself but also to his ‘other-self’ (this allos autos as Aristotle called it6) that is his neighbour. In this sense, religion is our fate; it is the fate of civilization that it has (by necessity) to go through the religious experience of an absolute ‘Beyond’. It is also our fate because the religious, transcendent ‘projection’ of unity and infinity is in fact a perfect reflection of our disintegrated status. And because Bildung never just surpasses and leaves behind any of the many stages it encompasses, religion is there to stay, even when in certain respect it has to make room for critical thought and science. For Hegel in a sense, the thought of God comes ‘naturally’, as a longing for a long lost integrity. However, although man feels his acquaintance with ‘God’ is natural and necessary, it cannot but pose a problem for our experience. This ‘Other’ has in the first place a strangeness or ‘positivity’ that precludes a living, humane and free relation. The Jewish religion of the Old Testament testifies to this positivism and the ‘old’ Roman Catholic religion still harbours many of its ‘primitive’ remainders. Eventually the German Reformation will help religion to a further evolution whereby it loses, in a more definite sense, its rather superficial character through a process of Verinnerlichung. In an earlier stage, it is through the experience of violent crusades that man begins to understand this God, not as a completely transcendent Being – which is what Hegel calls ‘bad infinity’ (slechte Unendlichkeit) – but as the living object of 6

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1166 a32.



an actual self-consciousness. Eventually, the meaning of God is to be revealed through our reconciliation not with the personality of Jesus Christ, but with the spirit of Jesus; he is to be found in the objective world, the ‘konkrete-Algemeinheit’ (‘concrete universal’) of the ‘Sittliche Gemeinschaft’ (‘ethical community’). According to Hegel, this is what the knight of faith is beginning to understand. His violence has something of a meaning, a necessity, although finally of course, religion will have nothing to do with violence; nothing to do with the oppressive force of a strange and cruel sovereign to which the interests and inclinations of oneself and ones neighbours should be sacrificed! Now, let us return to the beginning of this story. Before the tragedy of the crusade, mankind must have been confronted with another, preliminary religious experience. At first, the individual only has the ‘feeling’ of being in one way or another united with God. Hegel calls this aesthetic, mystical religious experience, this unio mystica: Andacht (attention). ‘Andacht’ is not yet thinking. It only approaches thought; it is only just moving towards a more conceptual relationship (“es geht, so zu sagen, nur an das Denken hin”; PhdG, 148). ‘Andacht’ is, as Hegel formulates it not without cynicism: [D]as gestaltlose Sausen des Glockengeläutes oder eine warme Nebelerfüllung, ein musikalisches Denken [curs.T.S.], das nicht zum Begriffe, der die einzige immanente gegenständliche Weise wäre, kommt. Es wird diesem unendlichen reinen innern Fühlen wohl sein Gegenstand; aber so eintretend, das er nicht als begriffner, und darum als ein Fremdes eintritt. Es ist hierdurch die innerliche Bewegung des reinen Gemüts vorhanden… (PhdG, 148)

For Hegel ‘Andacht ’ is a form of unhappy consciousness. The hope of becoming one with God in this way must remain a mere feeling, and because of that, it must remain an unfulfilled longing; that is, there is no hope of it ever becoming a reality. Nevertheless, this does not only apply to ‘Andacht’ but also to the consciousness of another religious experience, namely that of the martyr; the Christian soldier and the battle he as to fight. His way of reconciliation with God is through self-sacrifice. This sacrifice takes the form of the inner, ascetic life of contemplation – in a convent or through celibacy – but it can also take the form of the ‘outer’, physical self-sacrifice in the setting of a dangerous and violent holy war. Let us now concentrate on the paradoxical figure of the knight of faith as we see him in the Dürer-picture; striving towards faith, freedom



and justice through the force of his sword. Let us try to comprehend what the misunderstanding is that, according to Hegel, drives the night of faith. Again, we see the longing for completion through reconciliation with the Absolute as he is represented by his son Jesus Christ. Indeed, through his son Jesus, God once had a foothold in reality. Nevertheless, of course, this is long ago, and in a sense, as a historical fact, we have to leave it to history, which is exactly what the soldier does not really understand. The Absolute remains strange and far away, because it cannot be found where the Christian martyr looks for it. It cannot be found in the ‘outward’ remains of Jesus as a finite and historical person. Instead, mankind has to have an immediate relation with God and Christ, ‘in spirit’! The consciousness thereof originates from the holy grave as it is liberated from the hands of the damned infidels. Hegel’s extraordinarily passionate commentary on what must have taken place says it all: In der Ganzen Begebenheit, in allen Handlungen der Christen erschien dieser ungeheure Kontrast, daß von den größten Ausschweifungen und Gewalttätigkeiten das Christenheer wieder zur höchsten Zerknirschung und Niederwerfung überging. Noch triefend vom Blute der gemordeten Einwohnerschaft Jerusalems fielen die Christen am Graben des Erlösers auf ihr Angesicht und richteten inbrünstige Gebete an ihn. (VPG, 471)

By use of force, Christianity has discovered the holy grave. The grave refers to the ‘complexio oppositorum’ of the immanent and the transcendent. The grave is empty. However, this negativity of the grave has a positive meaning that is liberated through the idle battle of our knight of faith. The grave’s emptiness refers to the message of Good Friday that the martyr seems to have misunderstood. If he does not understand this message correctly, Jesus has suffered and died in vain. The grave is not appropriately fit to contain such a lasting and ‘alleviated’ content as the Spirit. The absolute is not to be found in Jesus as this godlike person, arisen from the dead. In addition, it is certainly not to be found in the outward, idle and sensible world, that is: in the grave with the dead. On the contrary, it is only to be found in the living spirit of the subject itself; that is, in the way the subject gives itself away to the other and only thus manages to find itself. Or, as Hegel puts it: So gewinnt die Welt das Bewußtsein, daß der Mensch das Dieses, welches göttlicher Art ist, in sich selbst suchen müsse; dadurch wird die Subjektivität absolut berechtigt und hat an sich selbst die Bestimmung des Verhältnisses zum Göttlichen. (VPG, 472)



In this way, through the ‘work’ of the crusades, the presence of God on earth is absolved from the abstract, mere ‘positive’ character that withheld it from becoming a reality (an infinity in the proper sense of word). It is only through love and recognition between people, through ‘Selbsttätigkeit’ (‘the doing on his own’) of the complete and ‘fulfilled’ subject, through the objective spirit and its institutions, and ultimately, through the absolute science that mankind can find reconciliation with himself in relation to the other, which was just what Jesus wanted us to feel and understand.

3. HEGEL’S OWN CRUSADES What Augustine tells us about time, may apply to love as well. As long as we do not ask ourselves what they are, everyone seems to know what they are. From the moment on that we dare to question them, we seem to lose our innocence, and time and love reveal their unfathomable character. In this precarious situation in which the success of our task is at the very least not solely within our own rational power and seems to depend on some kind of grace, a philosopher, in his attempts to write about love, might be best off doing his work both actually ‘out of love’ as well as ‘in the name of love’. For Hegel, religious violence is an important sign that the (meaning of the) incarnation of God in mankind, has not yet fully penetrated the heart of human dignity. Violence reflects estrangement. Violence is the morbid reflection of a deficient mode of religious consciousness that projects its longing for a lost universality – for the unity of life itself – unto a completely transcendent, divine entity. Violence is in flagrant opposition to Christ’s spiritual example of compassion and charity through which mankind works itself towards universal recognition and community. Nevertheless, as we will come to see, Hegel is not completely free of religious violence himself. Moreover (what is worse), this violence is not incidental, it is in itself a consequence of Hegelian dialectic that logically necessitates the sublime fulfilment of a merely ‘schlechte Unendlichkeit’ (a ‘mere’ or ‘bad infinity’). For Hegel, transcendence is immanent in the ‘konkrete-Allgemeinheit’ (‘concrete universality’) of the objective spirit and in absolute science. But whoever looks for ‘das Jenseitige’ (‘the Beyond’) on this side of life, runs the risk of rendering eternal value to some kind of presence that belongs to the sphere of the temporary; to what is only



a historical representation of the eternal. In addition, this would not only degrade the holiness of God – who is Love, but with that, the soul – as an image of God – would become damaged and violated as well. That this is exactly what happens in Hegelian dialectics becomes clear as soon as we see that what really binds the soul to eternity – to love, hope and faith – is in fact sacrificed to the illusory certainty of the Hegelian Geist. As long as its God is distant and strange, the soul remains in a state of unhappy consciousness. Ultimately the divine and absolute subject, its knowledge of good and evil, and last but not least, its ‘work’ will take their due and proper place in the centre of the universe. Hegel’s philosophical God comes to prevail over the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the end, faith has done its job as a mere ‘Vorstellung’ (‘conception’) of the immanent-transcendence that Hegel points out in purely reasonable terms. Religion is true only, ‘up to a certain point’. And after going through Hegel’s reasonable interpretation, faith and religion can be left behind, although of course they remain in order to fulfil some instrumental, political and pedagogical purposes in the service of the ethical disposition (the ‘Gesinnung’) of the State and its people. Religion integrates the state at the deepest level. That is why the state ought to require all its citizens to belong to a religious community. Nevertheless, in the Philosophy of Right Hegel clearly states that, although the content of religion relates to the absolute, it differs from it in form. The form of religion – religious feeling – destroys everything that is objective. Through religion the objective spirit, the determinate laws and institutions of the state are all dissolved into the muddle of subjectivity and undifferentiated inwardness: Those who seek the Lord, and assure themselves, in their uneducated opinion, that they possess everything immediately instead of undertaking the work of raising their subjectivity to cognition of the truth and knowledge of objective right and duty, can produce nothing but folly, outrage, and the destruction of all ethical relations.7

Here we may already see foreshadowed what is happening nowadays under the influence of the Enlightenment: religion is being expelled as the fanatical, the irrational and unreasonable that, after having done its

7 Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, ed. A.W. Wood Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, §270R, pp. 292–294. See also Hegels Enzyklopädie der Philosophischen Wissenschaften Berlin, 1830, §552 where he makes the same point.



necessary work is exorcised from the sanctity of democracy, to the private sphere. In addition, politics, once divorced from religion in this (proper) subjective sense tends to fossilize to ‘closure’; to immanent transcendence, self-righteousness and indifference. I will soon come back to this more general argument, but for now, let us elaborate somewhat more on Hegel’s crusade against the transcendent surplus of religion. I would like to refer to the brilliant essay Der Geist des Christentums und sein Schicksal (1799) that Hegel wrote when he was only twenty-nine years old. Jacques Derrida has called this essay, quite rightly, ‘la matrice conceptuelle’, ‘the conceptual womb’,8 of Hegel’s mature system, and indeed, it serves as a good introduction to his later thoughts. It is quite telling that Hegel is only able to develop his interpretation of love as the spirit of Christianity in flagrant contradiction to the ‘loveless’ spirit of Judaism. According to Hegel, Christianity arose out of the nothingness and emptiness of the Jewish faith. Although it was a necessary stage in the development of the spirit, the Jewish faith is only the ‘nullity’ and the deserted barrenness that preceded the birth of Christianity; which is why Jesus had to start completely from scratch. The Jews brought to mankind nothing but the ugly law and a senseless obedience without joy. Beauty, truth and goodness came from Christ only. According to Hegel, the faith of the Old Testament was born from the experience of a terrible flood. This flood must have breached the original mode of living in harmony with nature. The victims and witnesses must have interpreted this flood as a cruel instrument of a purely transcendental God who uses nature just to punish mankind for its disobedience to him. This God does not ‘participate’ in his creation, and nature has no intrinsic meaning to him. This divine indifference is mirrored in the way his people experience nature – their own personal nature as well as their neighbours’ nature – as signifying absolutely nothing, which explains their urge to independence, exclusiveness and disengagement. The first act through which Abraham became the progenitor of the nation was through a brutal act of disseverance (Trennung) that snapped the bonds of communal life and love.9 Later on, this terrible 8

J. Derrida, Glas. Que reste-t-il du savoir absolu?, Vol. I, Paris: Denöel/Gonthier 1981, p. 78. 9 G.W.F. Hegel, ‘The spirit of Christianity’ in Early Theological Writings translated by T.M. Knox Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1948, p. 185.



God demanded further proof of Abraham’s slavish faith and obedience when he asked him to sacrifice his son and, through this, his natural, fatherly love for him. According to Hegel, the Jewish need of independence explains their contemporary wretchedness, which is the consequence of their stubborn rejection of the spirit of truth, beauty and reconciliation. Hegel compares the fate of the Jewish people with the fate of Macbeth who divorced himself from nature just by clinging to these strange and unnatural voices. Because they brought their sufferings on themselves, Jewish history is not in the least comparable to a Greek tragedy. The Jews share the fate of Macbeth who, in the service of alien ‘beings’ trampled and slaughtered others, as well as (finally) himself.10 Much of what Hegel says about the fate of Jewish faith has to do with the restrictions of the Mosaic Law in comparison and in contradistinction with the ‘free’ moral teaching of Christ in his Sermon on the Mount.11 The pure law as Hegel sees it is not our salvation but our prison. The rule of law represents the state, which is particular to fallen man. Law is in fact the product of the destruction of the original, friendly unity of life. Through this destruction, life is transformed into an enemy that presents itself only in the form of the law. If we are not able to transcend this lifeless law and to surrender our rights through love, grace and mercy we are cursed and lost forever. Through the installation of the divine law, justice is reduced to this formalistic righteousness in front of the law, that is, to simply doing what the law says must be done. Even so, one can indeed try to be righteous in this way, but one cannot possibly expect to be able to reconcile oneself with the law as law. In penal law for instance, the administration of punishment does not lead to an internal atonement and it cannot really mend the gap between the law and its subject; that is: between the universal and the individual. Punishment only installs a feeling of impotence in the face of a Lord with whom one has nothing in common and with whom one cannot possibly reconcile oneself. On the other hand, only from the moment that the trespasser understands that he has not simply broken the law (this alien being), but that he has in fact disrupted his own life, this feeling will become a longing for what has been lost, and remorse


Op. cit. p. 205. See for Hegel’s interpretation of (what he sees as) the purely moral teachings of Christ: op. cit. pp. 205–224. 11



and reconciliation with life will be set to work. The trespass reveals the totality that it has injured, and shows what the trespasser is lacking now. The law is universal and it is, as such real. It is nothing more than a mere duty (a Sollen), which means that it is the downright contradiction of being (Sein). Love on the other hand is the fulfilment of the law. Without this love, law is just an unnatural and artificial command that comes from an external force. Through love, law and duty (Pflicht) are potentially reconciled with our natural inclinations (Neigungen). Moreover, through this fulfilment the law as law is in fact annihilated and made superfluous. The love of Christ liberates mankind from a ‘jealous’ and ruthless Master who only ‘presents’ himself through the ‘positivity’ of his universal commandments. Man is liberated from a purely transcendent God who keeps everything to himself and so only enslaves his people. Charity, giving love between people (friends and foes indiscriminately) is the true embodiment of the eternal love of God on a temporary scale. It is not this strange and violent force that moves the individual towards eternity. Instead, it is its nature and destination. Through the love of Christ at last one can learn to do good without being coerced; to conform freely and internally motivated, that is: instinctively and emphatically – to the law. Thus, love promises to restore man’s dismembered life to its original (paradisiacal) integrity. Because of their iconoclasm and their negative theology the ‘Jews’ who stand witness to his message must remain blind for its symbolic, eternal content. To the ‘typical Jew’ the grave is nothing but an empty grave and the message thereof cannot penetrate his hard heart and soul. To dry Jewish rationalism, an individual is nothing more than just an individual, equal in value with every other individual. For him, the Word cannot become Flesh and consequently, Jesus cannot have been the son of God, nor can anyone else ever be. According to Hegel, a Jew is not able to value empathy for his fellow man as a finite embodiment of the infinite. The spirit of the love of Christ cannot possibly be at home in the dungeon of the Jewish soul (‘in dem Kerker einer Judenseele’),12 nor

12 “How were they to recognize divinity in a man, poor things that they were, possessing only a consciousness of their misery, of the depth of their servitude, of their opposition to the divine, of an impassable gulf between the being of God and the being of men? Spirit alone recognizes spirit. They saw in Jesus only the man, the Nazarene, the carpenter’s son whose brothers and kinfolk lived among them; so much he was, and



can it be at home in any philosophy that breathes an equally violent, Jewish atmosphere. After the appearance of Christ, it is evil simply to continue to labour under the law. In the philosophy of Kant especially, the ugliness of Jewish religion returns in slightly different form. In Kant, mankind is free and autonomous only in the sense that he now is a dead slave to the transcendental rules of his own autonomous reasoning. This (in essence) ‘Jewish’ juridical thinking represents only a metamorphosis of the aforementioned ‘unfulfilled eternity’ of the Old Testament. It is a ‘bad infinity’ as the later Hegel would call it, that is, an eternity that is cut off from reality. According to Hegel, Kant’s conception of abstract law and ‘pure’ duty is a mere repetition of the law of the Pharisees. These are an incomplete, merely idealistic internalization (‘Verinnerlichung ’) of the very same law that has judged and killed Jesus.13 Of course, Hegel’s criticism stands in a long tradition of anti-Semitic hatred. In addition, when we look at it closely, one cannot but see that the problem here is not necessarily located in the object of hatred, but in the narrow perspective of the subject of the hate. When one reads Der Geist des Christentums, and I think everyone should, because the essay is (as Wilhelm Dilthey said)14 the finest text Hegel ever wrote in his entire life, it is almost unbelievable that Hegel did not see the bloody paradox in his own representation of the incarnation. Moreover, it is likewise unbelievable that he did not see the possible dangers of the internalization and annihilation of the law, as he would have it. Is not one of the dangers of this view that one is almost invited to exclusively reserve one’s charity to those neighbours that fall within one’s horizon, that is, with whom one can indeed easily, that is emphatically, identify oneself as ‘another self’? Should not we at least try to extend our love to those who cannot simply be recognized as ‘other selves’, to those who cannot be

more he could not be, for he was only one like themselves, and they felt themselves to be nothing. The Jewish multitude was bound to wreck his attempt to give them the consciousness of something divine, for faith in something divine, something great, cannot make its home in a dunghill. The lion has no room in a nest, the infinite spirit none in the prison of a Jewish soul, the whole of life none in a withered leaf ”. Op. cit. p. 265. 13 The mature Hegel remained with this early evaluation of ‘the Jews’, all though later on, we often find a more ‘sublime’ anti-Semitism. In the Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte and also in the Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion the Jewish religion (‘die Religion der Erhabenheit’) represents a mere ‘nothingness’, from which Christianity is born as the absolute negation of this negation. 14 Wilhelm Dilthey, Die Jugendgeschichte Hegels, GS Bd. IV, Stuttgart/Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1974, p. 68.



seen to belong to our unity of life and who are thus to remain (in this respect) somewhat strange and even ‘opposed’ to us? In respect to the dangers of this possible trade-off (this ‘bad’ incarnation), Jewish ethics and the importance of the law for the Jewish faith should deserve the benefit of the doubt, at the very least. They cannot simply be ruled out as hateful and unloving for trying to cultivate a radical hospitality within the soul – a certain emptiness that is – for something and someone wholly strange and unexpected; something or someone that cannot possibly be reduced to and reconciled with ‘the sphere of the same’. Hegel’s obsession with the unity of life and the reconciliation of the law with nature can be said to rest on an erotic form of love, that desires and ‘takes’ more than it is prepared to give. The immanent-transcendence of his spirit of Christianity is an expression of a political kind of selflove, through which eternity proper and real love are being corrupted and betrayed. Reflexivity and recognition (Anerkennung) both lead to the destruction of this radical love; a love that intends (in the form of our duty) to break with every kind of economical reciprocity (do ut des) through which the more I give, the more I have. Love is not an economical investment. Love as it is, or better still, love as it should be, needs to break with the idea of a bonum commune that gathers together me and the other in the ‘concrete-universality’ (konkrete Algemeinheit) of a genuine society (Gemeinschaft ). To be able to love, is to be able to transcend oneself, without restraint. To learn to love is to ‘break up’ and estrange oneself without (unconsciously) trying to return from this exitus, and without trying to economically ‘survive’ one’s gift and sacrifice. Need we say, that this loving exitus is not unlike the exodus that Hegel detested so intensely; the exodus of Abraham when his God commanded him to this brutal act of disseverance that (indeed) snapped the bonds of his communal life and erotic love? There is a possible Jewish reading of the law according to which the law is a privileged, although impossible instance of transgression, instead of being merely an expression of indifference towards the other, and (in this sense) as a restriction to the sublimity of love. Seen from a Jewish perspective, love in the Hegelian-Christian sense runs the risk of being a ‘fulfoulment’ rather than a fulfilment ( pleroma) of the law. In this respect, ‘Hegel’ stands for a pollution of love that limits the intrinsically transgressive effect of law itself.15 The other, towards whom justice is to 15 Kant also, is very much conscious of this transcendent dimension of the law. Laws need to be applied, and this application necessitates an Urteilskraft (a force of judgment)



be shown, is an absolute other. As such, the other is never ‘present’ and cannot (as such) be enclosed within the loving embrace of any form of Gemeinschaft. Recognition and harmonization threaten the (originally) ‘open’ and hospitable existence of mankind, in juxtaposition (that is) to laws and duties that seem to interminably postpone the longed for reconciliation of the self in relation to the other and in relation to the unity of life. From this alternative perspective, the spirit of the Jewish-Christian tradition is a messianic spirit. Its spirit is to aspire interminably to something that cannot possibly become apparent and present. It is an unlimited waiting for justice without any forgone expectation or ‘horizon’; it is an absolute hospitality that keeps watch over its own quasitranscendental universality.16 4. VIOLENCE AND THE EMPTY GRAVE A nowadays often-heard lamentation about the rude, banal and uncivilized character of modern life and the immoral social behaviour of post-modern man speaks of the so-called ‘juridification of morals’. It is rather tempting to think and express oneself in these words. Indeed, mankind seems to have lost its recourse to a prejudicial, ‘natural’ source of the law; a source without which one cannot possibly expect the rule of law to function properly. More specifically, mankind seems to be estranged from its original, religious recourse to a certain ‘giving love’; a love that must have been present in some paradisiacal times immemorial, in mythical times before man ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When Adam and Eve sinned, the knowledge they consumed, was knowledge of ethics and jurisprudence, and through eating them, they became moralists and jurists. From this religious perspective, the growing importance of the law can barely be regarded as the almost godlike triumph of a liberating Enlightenment over a godless and brutal state of nature (cf. Thomas Hobbes). On the contrary, this historical phenomenon merely reflects our fallen status. Moreover, the more we

that cannot possibly be reduced to rules, because these, in their turn, would have to be interpreted, ad infinitum. Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft, B171f. For this Kantian line of thought, see also J. Derrida, Force de loi. Le « fondement mystique de l’autorité », Paris: Galilée 1994. 16 For this alternative, messianic spirit, see for instance J. Derrida, in Specters of Marx, New York: Routledge 1994, and my dissertation: Timo Slootweg, Geschiedenis en Ethiek. Historisch besef in de traditie van Hegel, Heidegger en Derrida Budel: Damon 2000.



permit ourselves to dream the dream of eternal life – of love and recognition beyond the law – the more the blessings of law and jurisdiction are shown as being nothing more than devils in disguise. Law is really nothing more than a necessary evil.17 The law is not an effective instrument for defeating forces of evil. Instead, it foreshadows hell, which will contain nothing but rules and regulations. Although I certainly do not wish to dismiss this idea instantly and completely, one immediately understands what possible dangers hide within this interesting point of view. In fact, in the context of the above, this powerful and attractive interpretation seems to be begging the question of the nature of love as being absolutely incompatible with laws and commands. Let me now try to draw together the three threads of the phenomenon of the crusade: violence, incarnation and the empty grave. For the moment, I will stay within the Christian perspective. For Christianity there is no other way to God other than through his son Jesus Christ who died and resurrected. Through the incarnation, eternity has a certain foothold in our changeable and finite world. Indeed: the word has become flesh. The incarnation stands for the ‘work’ of the spirit of Christ in the spirit of Christianity. From the Sermon on the Mount we know that Jesus did not intend to abolish the law as law. He merely aimed at its fulfilment. In addition, the fulfilment of the law through love means that our representations of the transcendent always have a merely temporary, never an absolute justification. Through the spirit of Jesus, we are taken hostage by the universality of the absolute Other that transgresses every possible concrete incarnation and immanency. In this sense as well, Jesus was more of a Jew than Hegel wants us to believe. The kenosis (the emptying out) of God points towards the immanent investment of the Deus Absconditus, which is the divine investment of the Secret in the secret of reality (the incarnation transforms reality to a place of wonder). The empty grave seems to mark the investment of this Secret. We cannot escape this grave without promoting one specific representation of the transcendent to the thing itself – with the devastating consequence of disqualifying something or someone other – and what is worse, without (in fact) doing away with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 17 For instance, this is how the law is seen by Paul: “My brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ” (Rom. 7:4) and: “For all who rely on works of law are under a curse” (Gal. 3:10).



Incarnation is not static but dynamic. Every instantiation of the word of God in someone or other person – every singular attestation of the divine command to love one another – eventuates a new apparition of Christ. Incarnation is a continuous process of transfiguration and reformation; it is both to reveal and to conceal. ‘The word has become flesh’ implies that the flesh has become word. Through incarnation, the flesh has come to participate in the ambiguity and ‘displacement’ (Derrida) of the logos of this Absolute Other. In addition, in this sense, incarnation not only in-corporates, but also des-incorporates, liquidates and de-constructs. The spirit of incarnation makes al kinds of things become ‘fluid’, invisible and untouchable. In itself, the reincarnated spirit never fully represents itself and is always in the process of revelation, with every new representation always pointing beyond itself. If some of this indeed belongs to the meaning of the spirit of incarnation, what could we do to prevent violence; religious violence as well as the violence of religion against itself ? To what ethos does the religious phenomenon of incarnation direct us? Well, one way of looking at it is to wait and bear unwearyingly and attentively – that is with Andacht – with these emptied places: to wait patiently for this revelation, this Lichtung (‘glare’) or Unverborgenheit (‘uncovering’) of something that, in revealing itself, also always withdraws itself. This ‘musikalisches Denken’ (this ‘musical thinking’), that Hegel scorned so hatefully, has been further developed by Martin Heidegger through what he says (in his writings on Hölderlin) about ‘das dichterliche Denken’ (‘poetic thinking’), ‘das Andenken’ (‘remembrance’). Although this indeed is an important perspective, I will not elaborate on it here.18 Instead of following these attractive Holzwege, I chose to pursue a few other traces, one of which is that of Kierkegaard’s, or better still, Johannes de Silentio’s ‘dialectical lyric’. Religion is an unending source of incarnations which, in themselves (that is, as temporary representations) also always ‘decompose’. Therefore, Hegel is right in his advice to the crusaders (and with this, he refers to the Psalm 16:10): “Du laesset nicht zu das dein Heiliger verwese”.19 In plain English: ‘do not let your Holy treasures rot away’. Hegel was absolutely right with this allusion to the holy grave, although 18

For a comparison of Heidegger’s Andenken in relation to Hegel’s Andacht, see the ‘Excurs’ (chapter 3.7) in my aforementioned dissertation: op. cit. pp. 150–161. 19 G.W.F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, Werke 12, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1986 p. 471.



he seemed to have forgotten what that could have meant for the tenability of Absolute Science. However, can we honestly expect Christianity to be able to live in peace with other religions (with the Islam for instance), if Christianity is not able to find peace within itself – that is with Judaism underneath its skin?20 5. KIERKEGAARD’S ETHIC OF LOVE AND INCARNATION Before I go into Kierkegaard’s vision on the imperative of love, I would like to make a few loose and rather unpractical remarks on the subject of the ‘relation’ between religion and politics, which is the subject of this book. We cannot define what religion is. Religion in the Jewish-Christian tradition changes through al kinds of metamorphoses of love and incarnation. This intangible character of religion is in a way congruent with what atheism says about religion being irrational, and not actually founded on the existence of God. God does not exist in the way that things exist.21 He is not present: we cannot see him, touch him etc. In addition, because of this uncertain existence of God we cannot callously attribute to ‘Him’ all kinds of qualities and properties (almighty, omniscient and omnipresent). Atheists’ statement that God does not exist, is in a sense a confirmation of what faith and theology have been trying to say from the beginning.22 Religion is not the Truth about an 20 The Islam is a religion of the law, similar to Judaism. And just like Judaism, it is not, or at least not typically, a religion of immanent transcendence and participation. Judged from the perspective of a certain narrow-minded Christianity, Islam, like Judaism is evil in its rejection of incarnation and participation, and in its miserable stubbornness to continue labouring under the law in the face of divine salvation. In his Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion Hegel even goes so far as to interpret the Islam as a Jewish heresy (as an outgrowth of post-Christian Judaism). 21 The Enlightenment criticism of the intelligibility of religious language in fact echoes the religious experience of the ineffable nature of God. For an interesting introduction to this line of thinking, see: Anthony Kenny, The unknown God. Agnostic Essays, London: Continuum, 2004. 22 See for instance Blaise Pascal, Pensées et Opuscles, ed. Brunschvicg Paris: n.p. 1951, section III, p. 194: “Let them at least learn what is the religion they attack, before attacking it. If this religion boasted of having a clear view of God, and of possessing it open and unveiled, it would be attacking it to say that we see nothing in the world, which shows it with this clearness. But since, on the contrary, it says that men are in darkness and estranged from God, that He has hidden Himself from their knowledge, that this is in fact the name which He gives Himself in the Scriptures, Deus absconditus; and finally, if it endeavours equally to establish these two things: that God has set up in the Church visible signs to make Himself known to those who should seek Him sincerely, and that



existing Thing. Indeed, if we have to recognize that the Truth about God as this one or other existing thing has died (as I think we should), this does not in the slightest imply the death of God Himself. Faith does not suffer from the death of this God. On the contrary: the death of this God does not deny theism and is in fact very much conducive to faith. The atheism of people like Dawkins (like so many other ‘lesser Gods’) involuntarily collaborates with religion in this more applicable (‘practical’) – not superstitious – sense. ‘War’ indeed, ‘is the father of all things’, as the famous words of Heraclites declare. The morbid relevancy of this declaration is revealed through the religious wars that are currently going on. The so – called ‘clash of civilizations’ arms and mobilizes the truth, until it represents nothing more than a faint shadow of reality. By a simple reduction of faith to this or that ‘positive’ interpretation, the critics, instead of really discrediting religion, only manage to disqualify themselves and the philosophical integrity of their analyses. In fact, their analysis is nothing more than a rather superficial study within the sphere of social science; a study of matters of fact as such, unable to reach beyond the surface to the underlying values, experiences and practices of faith. That this discussion would only be relevant amongst (overeducated) intellectuals is a misconception informed only by the rather banal perception of the fact that not every believer describes his or her religious experience in negative-theological formulae. But of course this fact alone does not deny that these intellectuals might be trying to say something intelligible about something that indeed originates in ‘ordinary’, non-intellectual religious experience (a religious experience that is, that scholastic thinkers of the past might have misinterpreted).23 He has nevertheless so disguised them that He will only be perceived by those who seek Him with all their heart; what advantage can they obtain, when, in the negligence with which they make profession of being in search of the truth, they cry out that nothing reveals it to them; and since that darkness in which they are, and with which they upbraid the Church, establishes only one of the things which she affirms, without touching the other, and, very far from destroying, proves her doctrine?” 23 If you look at it closely, the whole discussion is quite silly: in his overzealous enthusiasm to the inquisition and condemnation of theism, the atheist simply denies the believer to come up with the ‘argument’ of this nonexistent God on the ground that this ‘smart move’ is definitely not in conformity with faith. To be able to cut it off, and not to let it get away with it, he takes the liberty of kindly informing religion what it really and essentially means to have faith, namely to believe in the existence of God; that is: to believe in what God really is and means. What more proof do we need to show that this fanatical atheist is in fact the true heir to the authoritarian scholastic theology he detests so much?



Pleads to clear politics of all kinds of religious elements that are not in conformity with the liberal-democratic principles of the rule of law are often based on badly informed and superficial reductions of religion. Faith is not ‘imprisoned’ in the Word of God. On the contrary: the revelation of God, for instance in laws and commands, installs a neverending interpretative search for its meaning. Revelations are a ‘gift’ (they are ‘given’) in the sense that, for these gifts to be true (as such), they are to be ‘received as a gift’. The gift implies the work of hermeneutics that encompasses our entire existence and the whole of history. Surely, the ‘explanation’ of the secret of this gift is the means through which we try to save it for posterity, to hand it over to our children. However, this handing-over of the secret-as-such implies that the clarification of its message does not only un-veil and un-ravel, but that it also always hides and covers. The reductionist illumination of the secret by means of a definitive rational explanation (sec), can produce only the end of the secret as such (as a secret)! We are dealing with a widespread misconception. When atheism reduces religion to the divine command and (for this reason) decides on the incommensurability of religion and politics, then this is nothing more than a reflection of its violent indifference to the very rich and ‘deep’ phenomenon of religion. It simply becomes a caricature that forgets about the very long and widespread tradition of mysticism and negative theology. According to a widespread atheist viewpoint, religion is bound to divine commands, to faithful fanaticism and terror, whilst ‘open’ politics would imply free choice, dialogue and negotiation. Modern moraldecision-making is made impossible by the divine command theory, which infantilizes the human subject. In a pluralistic society, moral justification has to appeal to ‘public reasons’ that are not grounded in sectarian religious beliefs.24 Again, this criticism limits religion simply and unscrupulously to what is only a rather primitive understanding of it; it also fails to identify the reality of religious experience. Religion is not just slave-like submission and ‘blind’ obedience, and it does not necessarily deny subjectivity. One

24 See, for instance, James Rachels, The Elements of Moral Philosophy New York: McGraw Hill 1993, pp. 9–14 and 44–50. For Rachels, moral beliefs must be based on reasons independent of religious knowledge and divine commands. See also Richard Rorty, for whom religion is a ‘conversation stopper’ that is out of place in the public sphere. R. Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope, New York: Penguin 1999, pp. 168–174.



could even state the contrary: religion implies subjectivity and it even seeks to enforce this subjectivity against the quietist complacency of liberalism. The subjectivity that rests in the heart of liberal democracy is founded on religious grounds. When this religious source dries up, this will eventually mean the end of it. The Lutheran Kierkegaard for instance pleads for a radical autonomous ethics, not by denying the religious tradition, but (on the contrary) by appealing very strongly to the Scriptures and especially to the divine commands in the OT.25 Kierkegaard seems to have realized that liberty, when left to itself, feeds into a certain conventionality, a certain selfrighteousness and contentment that threatens the autonomy on which it rests. Freedom is defined by the ability to make a chose freely. However, a free choice is only really free if it is a radical choice in which hidden preconceptions and prejudices are open to suspicion as important topics to decide on. Now, Kierkegaard has made it very clear that our love of freedom implies that we must in a sense be free of ratio, because it hinders us in making choices. Indeed, to be able to choose, we must (in a sense) be prepared to lose our wits. One has to have the courage to embrace a divine madness to be able to make this radical leap.26 Everywhere modernity shows the excavation of free and subjective decision-making. More and more, our intellectual abilities are restricted by all sorts of structures, by symbols and conventions, by the media, by language and by relations of power (etc). Subjectivity is endangered by the wear and tear of, what Heidegger called, das Gerede and die Neugier of Man-selbst (the ‘chit-chat’ and the curiosity of man himself ). People are willingly or unwillingly determined and ‘taken’ by the anonymous world they inhabit. Language and rationality are not simply ‘neutral’. They are always a reflection of (all kinds of) contexts and structures that (as such) fall outside of our horizon. Consequently, freedom, subjectivity and ethics all tend to evaporate to what is no more than an abstract 25 See for instance his famous Fear and Trembling, about Gods terrible command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. For a systematic approach to Kierkegaard’s divine command theory: C.S. Evans, Kierkegaard’s Ethic of Love: Devine Commands and Moral Obligations, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006. 26 In the preface to his Philosophy of Right Hegel had made fun of this enthusiastic leap of faith so typical for all these ‘sentimental theologians’ (‘Schwärmer’ like Fries) by sarcastically referring to the famous fable of Aesop: “Hic Rhodus, hic saltus”. See Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, op. cit. p.xxi. I do not know if Kierkegaard has ever commented on this specific ‘locus’ in Hegel’s writings. What is evident though is that these two thinkers have an entirely different reading of the Lutheran heritage (‘sola fides’) to which both refer.



autonomy. Experiences have become more and more independent of the person that experiences them; they receive their meaning from countless nameless structures. Because of these anonymous machinations of the world, and also because of our existential fear of the unknown, our understandings of reality and of our own existence have lost their originality and ‘resourcefulness’. The ‘fall’ of consciousness and our intellect make us prisoners to the world we live in. We loose our receptivity to anything that could possibly still be a source of wonder. Because of the numbing common sense of public life and the objective spirit, we are not receptive anymore to what deserves our serious attention; our responsibility as well as our love. Of course, we cannot let our responsibilities be reduced to the all too human and all too reasonable conceptions and deliberations of the anonymous ‘They’. Our intelligence is too corruptible to be able to do justice to our freedom and responsibilities. Ultimately, it cannot pave the way to a just decision. To decide for love is not just a matter of meeting or failing to meet the demands of reason; it is a matter of faith. Knowledge – theoretical as well as practical knowledge – is the principle problem of the human condition. According to Genesis I, the acquisition of knowledge – the eating from the Tree of Good and Evil – is what drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.27 Classical pagan thought and modern, secular liberalism are united in their rationalistic orientation towards the Good. However, ratio is the whore of the will, as Luther already noticed. Reason is the slave of the passions. The right decision is grounded in ‘the unknown’, in fundamental insecurity and in not-knowing. Again, in order to be able to make a free decision in the name of love and justice, we need to be prepared to lose some of our wits, and to accept a touch of this ‘divine madness’,28 and this is the place (the empty space) where religion and politics seem to correspond and coincide. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Good – Love – is not a thing. Love is not an entity with an intelligible and determinable identity. This

27 Cf. Karl Barth: “Als der Mensch sündigte wurde er Ethiker”, in Kirchliche Dogmatik IV/1, 497, Zürich: Verlag der Evangelischen Buchhandlung Zollikon 1939–1970. 28 Socrates already spoke of this holy madness or theia mania as a gift from the Gods. The highest goods arise out of the sacrifice of mere reason. Moreover, the surrender to this divine madness is a source of great blessings, one of which is the good of love. See Plato, Pheadrus 244–245. “[T]he madness of love is the greatest of heaven’s blessings, and the proof shall be one which the wise will receive, and the witling disbelieve”. (245c)



is why, the Good – as this non-identity – does not ontologically precede a moral decision. This applies to God as well as to the individual believer. Love is something that exists only through practice and through a free and personal decision. This freedom cannot possibly be the product of a dialectically developed science (which it is according to Hegel). Now we can perceive how the decision, by way of the unknown, corresponds to religion, and (in addition to that) how religion has a symbiotic relation with atheist liberalism. A proper decision is born out of the deep and wide gap between the natural and the transcendental; a gap that cannot be transgressed by knowledge alone. This is where faith comes in. Faith says: ‘Here am I’, in the way Abraham did when God asked him to sacrifice his son. Faith is a paradox: a paradox capable of making a murder into a holy act well pleasing to God, a paradox which gives Isaac back to Abraham, which no thought can grasp because faith begins precisely where thinking leaves off.29

According to Kierkegaard, to have faith inherently means, not to know for sure. Faith however is something more than mere uncertainty, which is still a cognitive category. There is no possible direct relation to God other than through our personal and faithful decision because in these matters, the one knight of faith simply cannot help the other: Partnership in these regions is quite unthinkable. If there is any more precise explanation of the idea behind the sacrifice of Isaac, it is one that the individual can give only to himself. So even if someone were so cowardly and base as to want to be a knight of faith on someone else’s responsibility, he would never become one, as the single individual […].30

In Plato’s dialog Euthyphro, Socrates confronts us with a famous dilemma. Does God command this particular action because it is morally right, or (alternatively) is it only morally right because God commands it? It is very clear that Kierkegaard would defend the divine command by affirming the last option. God – Love – is autonomous and this means that His just decisions do not reflect a pre-existing moral right. For us to respect love implies that we have to respect this unfathomable and decisionist character of love. In the interpretation of Kierkegaard, the terrible and absurd divine command does not mean to undermine our personal autonomy, as too many interpreters seem to think. On the contrary: it means precisely to strengthen our decisiveness, and it does 29 30

S. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, op. cit. p. 82. Op. cit. p. 99.



this by means of a fear and trembling that resists every possible (erotic-dialectical) reduction of our responsibilities.31 The command ‘inaugurates’ an alterity within ourselves, that is, within our subjectivity; an alterity within us that commissions us to respect an alterity without. The command means to free our decision from the ‘heretic’ schema of an intelligible and dialectical ‘stairway to heaven’ (there is no such ordo amoris!). It also means to destroy the idea of a pre-existent and underlying moral essence.32 In addition, it means to liberate us from any ‘reasonable’ and ‘natural’ conception of the Good as something that could possibly exist in any (ontological) way, independent of and prior to our decision. An individual should determine his relation to the universal by his relation to the absolute, not the other way around; he should not determine his relation to the absolute by his relation to the universal (by simply fulfilling his social duties). Faith is receptivity; a radical readiness to answer to what, from a common ‘universalistic perspective’, appears to be an impossible and absurd appeal; an appeal to a sacrifice that does not have a general purpose, and that is nothing like the terrible sacrifice of Agamemnon, which Hegel so greatly admired; a sacrifice that is supposedly for the good of the polis. This appeal is absurd in its content and in its form. It is absurd in the sense that it addresses (potentially) an absolutely unique and singular moral obligation. In its discontinuity the absurd cannot in any way be made to coincide with a normal or immanent morality, that is, a (Kantian) morality that looks viable and intelligible from the perspective of our (all too human) ‘universal’ conscience.33 31 Evans explains that for Kierkegaard faith cannot be reduced to ‘Sittlichkeit’, which is exactly what the commands are able to communicate. Commands may enforce the individual to oppose conventional laws and moral views, and to rethink what is good and loving: “A respect and reverence for transcendent divine commands […] fosters genuine autonomy; an individual who hears the call of God is an individual who may break with the established social norms for the sake of the good”. Evans, Kierkegaard’s Ethic of Love, op. cit. p. 304. 32 Like the Socratic ‘Idea’ of the Good, although this idea is said to ‘exist’ on the other side of Being (epekeina tes ousias) and thus, beyond any metaphysical structure (which seems more in conformity with Kierkegaard). Cf. Plato’s Republic 509b. 33 This is where Kierkegaard seems to differ from Kant. Kant does not allow a teleological suspension of the ethical as Kierkegaard would have it. For Kant revealed (heteronomous) truths and divine commands must be compatible with the immanent will of the autonomous subject; if not then they will have to be dismissed as expressions of ignorance or superstition. In Kant’s view, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac must be dismissed as false; religion merely recognizes all rational duties as being in conformity to divine commands. For Kierkegaard on the other hand, the Kantian subordination to the requirements of the autonomous universal law surrenders the holy absurdities of religion to the immanent, egotistic goal of self-realization.



To Kierkegaard, Christianity demands a ‘crucifixion’ of the security of understanding and a radical breach with any objective or subjective immanence that might soil our possible reconciliation with the Absolute. All you have to do is to obey in love. God’s wisdom is beyond all comparison, and his governance has no obligation of responsibility in relation to our sagacity. Kierkegaard’s divine command theory resists the fundamental objection posed against a religiously grounded ethic, namely that it cannot really accommodate what we have come to see as our modern values: it cannot accommodate for truth, (political) freedom and personal responsibility. As has been stated before, to Hegel the spirit of love is the truth of life (Empfindung des Ganzen; ‘the experience of the whole’) and as such, it cannot possibly be commanded. The command to love God and one’s neighbour is an insoluble paradox to reason. Love can only freely emanate from a natural disposition or inclination of someone who manages to recognize himself in the tangible other.34 To Kierkegaard these objections are based on a fundamental misconception. Again, the divine command does not undermine human autonomy. In fact, it safeguards and enhances the flourishing of love in a free world, and in the (more than often) complex and changing circumstances that we come across. Proper Love must be commanded (‘You shall love!’). It does not arise naturally and spontaneously in any human being’s heart.35 Natural love aims at happiness. I am only required to care for the other because and insofar as he is in fact an extension of the self (as he is like me). This is why natural love is ‘preferential love’. Christian love by contrast concentrates on the otherness of the neighbour. My neighbour is not this ‘other I’, and the command is not grounded in self-love and reciprocity (these ‘principles’ make me dependent and unfree). On the contrary, my neighbour is the ‘first you’ that demands my love and self-denial. This is why genuine autonomy requires divine authority. Every love relationship – like the relationship of a father to his son – requires God

34 According to Hegel, real love is freedom and freedom is truth. “Truth is something free which we neither master nor are mastered by; hence the existence of God appears to the Jews not as a truth but as a command”. There is no truth in the commands of the Old Testament. “Truth is beauty intellectually represented; the negative character of truth is freedom. But how could they [the Jews; T.S.] have an inkling of beauty who saw in everything only matter?” Hegel, Early Theological Writing, op. cit. p. 196. 35 Cf. Paul I Corinthians 2:9: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him”.



as ‘intermediary’. To remain pure, love needs to be purified via the grace of God out of whose hands we gratefully receive our love. The divine command, this ‘Law of laws’ frees us from our inclinations: “Only when it is a duty to love, only then is love eternally secured against every change, eternally made free in blessed independence, eternally and happily secured against despair”.36 Without this command, this ‘thorn in the flesh’, this eternal source of fear and trembling, our individual freedom remains to be no more than an empty concept, and biblical love – agape – withers away in the form of objective truth and eros.37 After what has been said, it is clear that Kierkegaard is firmly against any sort of theocratic society that deifies an established order and its objective ethic; a civil religion betrays faith and seeks only to deify itself. Nevertheless, although for him, the notion of a ‘Christian Nation’ is in fact the greatest perversion of faith,38 Kierkegaard draws our attention to another strong ‘analogy’ between the secular and the religious. Sacrifice is a universal ‘existential’ phenomenon. We must act out of love, which means that we must be ready to act on the basis of decisions

36 Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, ed. and transl. Howard Long and Edna H. Hong, Princeton: Princeton University Press 1997, p. 29 (SV IX, 33). 37 In ‘Hegel’, subjectivity is ‘fulfilled’ to an economic and ‘erotic sovereignty’ that sacrifices the other (as other) as a part of itself. The dialectical exitus der Entfremdung is always clearly in the service of coming home (bei sich selbst sein im Anderssein; ‘being at home with himself in another being’). This erotic ‘Odyssey’ not only corrupts subjectivity-proper, but it also does not acknowledge the other (as other). In fact, the Hegelian reconciliation of identity and difference destroys both the subject and the other. This implies (as we have already seen) that the science of the experience of consciousness leads to the sale of love as love. Neighbour-love is not reducible to romantic love or friendship. These ‘human’ loves are to be transformed by neighbourlove if they are to ‘survive’, and to remain free of selfishness. Love is on sale when transcendence is thought of as a means to becoming oneself-as-another (Ich, das Wir, Wir, das Ich ist; ‘the I that We, the We that I am’). Love (agapè) is a radical subjective love that respects the other by a kenotic giving that does not take anything in return. As we have seen, this Love resists Hegel’s erotic reduction of Law as Objective Spirit. On the other hand, by inviting a readiness to a decision that cannot possibly be in conformity to the universal laws of ones own reasoning, it purports to go even further than the ‘ego-logy’ of Kant. In respect to the absurd, Kant’s ‘Achtung’ (‘respect’) for the Law is still merely a form of self-love and self justification; here as elsewhere Christian love yields, scales down and slackens the tension or ‘antithesis’ of eternity. 38 The state and its social organizations cannot be seen as divinely ordained institutions in which one necessarily has to participate. Every identification of the divine with the temporal is a falsification: “[Kierkegaard’s] divine command theory of moral obligation is therefore in no way a step along the road towards privileging Christianity or any other religion in the political sphere”. Evans, Kierkegaard’s Ethic of Love, op. cit. p. 327.



that ultimately cannot be legitimated.39 Our secular readiness to justice refers to (and appeals for) a teleological suspension of the ethical, which is analogous to what religion does. Religion sets us free from the ‘herds’ and from the familiar world we are living in. It places us before the abyss of having to act responsibly, without the accommodation of a firm and secure point of reference. According to Kierkegaard, democracy is in danger of giving way to anarchy (on the one hand) and political indifference and quietism (on the other). The consequence is that the binding force between people will deteriorate to what is nothing more than a jealousy that is so obsessed with equality that it does not tolerate any difference at all. Religion is a necessary, quasi-transcendental precondition to circumvent this disintegration of the community. It enhances the necessary commitment and freedom of choice, because the possibility of social cohesion in a genuine society (in short: humanity) is founded on the possibility of a personal and religious self.40 Against this background, we can see that the wheel has turned full circle. Faith draws from a source (a source of insecurity) that is contested and rejected by modern-liberal thinking. Religion is its ‘mauvaise foi’ (as Sartre would call it, ‘bad faith’). In its rejection of faith as the ultimate existential motivation of acting, atheism shows itself to be rather reactionary and fundamentalist. By restricting the phenomenon of faith to anti-modernist fundamentalism, to terrorism and fanaticism, it finds itself in fact violently opposed to the most basic interests of a healthy democracy, which – knowingly or unknowingly – implies the transcendental preconditions of free decision.

39 Compare Augustin: “Dilige et quod vis fac” – “Love and do what you will” (Ep. Joh. Hom. 7:8). 40 The problem of modern individualism is that people lack the courage for a profound and authentic innerness. They hide their cowardice and lack of responsibility behind a transparent veil of uniqueness and cherish a romantic ideal of a merely selfish love and a sentimental sense of belonging. Unnecessary to say that this kind of individualism also stands in the way of liberal democracy (cf. Tocqueville). However, the proper answer to this problem of ‘levelling’ is not the reactionary recovery of this or that non(pre– or post-) individualistic bonum commune (a substantial subjectivity or an artificial Gemeinschaft in the objective sense), but the revitalization of the religious self. This implies that one has to support the individual in his own personal movement towards the decision. One should not stand in their way by directly and authoritatively teaching the other what to do (in ethical sense). Paradoxically, social service (caritas) implies a certain ‘indirectness’, a particular reticence, passiveness and even ‘indifference’ (sloth; acedia). One should not keep one’s neighbour away from the love of God! Or, to use a more current expression: “Ein jeder soll nach seiner Fasson selig werden”. (Frederick II of Prussia)



6. WHAT RELIGION – WHOSE POLITICS? Objectivity focuses on what is said, subjective truth stresses the how it is said and who said it. Kierkegaard’s definition of the truth of love is as follows: “An objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual”.41 Subjective truth is an existential and testimonial truth; one testifies to the truth in a practical sense, by acting in accordance with an absurd paradox that cannot be upheld as objective truth. Christianity contains a seemingly logical contradiction that can only be held subjectively in a personal attestation, not by reason or Vernunft. A paradox cannot be caught in a concept, as such it cannot be thought through without eliminating it as a paradox (without reducing one of its poles to its counterpart). The incarnation of Christ is the decisive paradox here, because there can be no ‘positive’ and theoretical verification of the truth that Jesus was both finite and infinite: The absurd is – that the eternal truth has come into being in time, that God has come into being, has been born, has grown up, and so forth, precisely like any other individual human being, quite indistinguishable from other individuals.42

This human being – Jesus – is also God. But how do I know that? Well, I cannot know it; it requires a leap of faith. The incarnation rejects the reasonable and speculative appreciation (in fact: a ‘neutralization’) of its paradoxical nature in the form of an objective ‘Geist der Sittlichkeit’ (‘spirit of ethical life’). Objectification is indifference; it is to remove the truth from the freedom of subjectivity. To know the truth is to have to do it. The incarnation appeals to an authentically existential, that is, a subjective, practical and decisive answer to the meaning of love in the diverse concrete and momentary situations that lie ahead of us. In this sense, Kierkegaard agrees with Kant, in his care to make room for faith by stressing the limits of reason. Thus, the ‘spirit of incarnation’ is a subjective spirit in a radical sense. It is the never-ending proliferation of subjective answers to the existential question mark – or better still ‘placeholder’ – of incarnation that commands us to an infinite discovery. Like Kant, Kierkegaard liberates religious faith from the requirements of Enlightenment to defend its truths before the sceptical court 41 Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, David Swenson, Walter Lowrie translation, Third Edition Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1974, p. 182. 42 Kierkegaard, Postscript, op. cit. p. 188.



of theoretical reasoning. These truths are practical and subjective and in this sense immune to the aggressive attacks of atheist rationalism. That is why the appropriate question about the truth is not what but who: “who is truth”. Moreover, this is why Jesus said he was the truth,43 why he did not say he had the truth or merely knew it. Indeed, had not Pilate asked objectively what truth is ( John 18; 38), he would not have condemned Jesus to the cross. If Pilate had dared to ask about truth in this subjective and personal sense – if he had not merely informed about the truth – his passionate enthusiasm would have withheld him from doing injustice. Now, let us return (finally) to the phenomenon of the modern crusade. I mean the crusades of modernity against the remaining knights of faith – the damned infidels who will not buy in to today’s enlightened ‘civil religion’ of atheism. Religion is a non-identity; it is in fact a neverending ‘repetition’ as Kierkegaard has pointed out. Maybe this is especially the case with Christianity because of its rich and (in many respects) paradoxical tradition that encompasses both Law and Love; Jerusalem and Athens; Faith and Reason. Modern secularization can be seen (and experienced) as a phenomenon that is (in essence) a ‘religious’ one. As we acknowledged, it seems to confirm just what the Bible says of God, that he is in fact ‘not present’ (Deus Absconditus). If this is feasible, if religion is not a simple and objective truth, maybe it is not incompatible with and in flagrant opposition to democracy and science, as many critics nowadays suggest. In addition, maybe we do not really need religion proper as an additional dimension, as an external instrument for the secular powers to deal with the imminent deficiencies of liberal politics, as many other contemporary commentators suggest.44 The return of religion might take another turn. Religion is not a ‘thing’ that we can easily juxtapose to some other ‘thing’ – to politics for instance (although politics, like religion, is 43 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. ( John 14; 6) 44 Conservative confessionals have difficulty respecting the non-instrumental ‘logic’ of religion because this logic might indeed lead them to unexpected and unwelcome conclusions (this logic might even force them to sacrifice their virtues and etiquettes, which they tried to safeguard with the help of religion). However, of course, one cannot have one’s cake and eat it; religion is not a ‘decent drapery’ (Burke). It all seems to come down to the question whether one is thoroughly (and without any restraints) prepared to lose oneself in the other. For instance: is not, in respect to this absurd logic, the absence of Christianity in the preamble of the European Union even more inspiring and promising than its all too prominent presence has ever been in the past?



a non-entity). Religion is neither inside nor outside of politics. It is not above politics and it is not beside or beneath it (whatever this would entail). In fact, we do not know what religion is, except through the way in which it is revealed in diverse incarnations: yesterday’s incarnations, contemporary and future ones; the religious and the non-religious ones. It is needless to say that this idea of love has nothing to do with relativism, although that truth is quite unsettling and disquieting. Love, logos incorporates in every possible corpus. Every possible corpus, every ‘hard body’ can ‘decompose’ and ‘sublimate’ by being invaded by the religious. Religious transcendence always returns in one way or another; and sometimes it even returns clothed in very unexpected and unrealistic forms like science, politics and law. To Jacques Derrida (very much a Kierkegaard-reader) holiness is conditioned by disenchantment. The spirit of religion urges one to acknowledge a certain dialectic of faith, through which the religious testimony of the Absolute Other must endure – what Derrida rightly calls – an atheistic ‘hypersanctification’: L’hypersanctification de ce non-rapport ou de cette transcendance passerait là encore par la désacralisation, ne disons pas la sécularisation ou la laïcisation, concepts trop chrétiens; peut-être même par un certain « athéisme », en tout cas par une expérience radicale des ressources de la « théologie négative » – et au-delà même de sa tradition.45

We sometimes believe that we know what religion is. It is, however, a non-identity that interminably forces itself upon us and forces us to answer and acknowledge it. “Il fault répondre! ” (Derrida) – One must answer! Religion is nothing but a collective noun for the ‘dispersed graves on this non-identified graveyard’: “cryptes dispersées dans un champ non-identifié”.46 The groundless grounds of these graves engender incalculable supplements.47 The treasures of the grave confront us with a paradox: the spirit is there and not there at the same time. It is not possible to ‘clear’ the Holy Grave once and for all: one cannot ‘dig up’ and identify finally and ultimately the Spirit of Christianity (Love) in this or that determinable corpus or incarnation. By identifying a spirit that as such cannot be

45 J. Derrida, ‘Foi et savoir: les deux sources de la religion aux limites de la simple raison’ in La Religion, ed. Derrida/Vattimo, Paris: Editions du Seuil 1996, p. 85. 46 Op. cit. p. 54. 47 This is why, according to Derrida: “Rien ne paraît donc plus risqué, plus difficile à tenir, rien ne paraît ici ou là plus imprudent qu’un discours assuré sur l’époque du désenchantement, l’ère de la sécularisation, le temps de la laïcité, etc”. Op. cit. p. 85.



identified, one lets one’s Holy treasures (the spirit of incarnation) rot away. By doing so, one ‘arrests’ the spirit which can be said to be there, only if it can actually and actively bring itself back to life and ‘resurrect’ in all these very diverse phenomena. This means that one cannot do away with the grave and leave it behind by simply arresting the spirit. On the other hand, one cannot simply do away with the spirit in the way as our Enlightened but blinded atheist would have it. Religion cannot stay; its death or disappearance is ‘endemic’. Religion can only perpetually return from the grave without ever fully presenting itself. In forever returning, religion proposes – what Derrida calls – ‘a religion without religion’: “un doublet non dogmatique du dogme […], un doublet qui répète sans religion la possibilité de la religion” (italics T.S.),48 ‘a non dogmatic doublet […] a doublet that repeats, without religion, the possibility of religion’. Nevertheless, this religious absence of a clear horizon of what to expect here, does not only ‘condition’ religion in the strict sense; it also characterizes the responsibilities of politics and law. Both politics and law are just like religion proper, related to something of a transcendent dimension that can never be simply and definitively ‘dug up’ and integrated. This ‘incarnatory structure’ potentially transgresses or deconstructs every historical fixation of the Gnostic dividing line between friend and foe. In this way, it should inspire us to pacify some of the furious wars between religion on the one hand, and science and politics on the other. The religious coincidentia oppositorum of transcendence and immanence is to be found not only in religion, but in the political sphere as well.49 Politics too is involved in a temporary and transitory representation of the transcendent – that is, in a continuing hermeneutics of its own identity. A definitive, mere immanent political incorporation seems unthinkable. Much to the distress of totalitarian thinkers (of left-winged as well right-winged), who have no patience for this unsettling ambiguity and alterity within the ‘body political,’ democracy should always question its


J. Derrida, ‘Donner la Mort’ in L’étique du don, Jacques Derrida et la pensée du don, by Métailié-Transition Paris: Transition 1992, p. 53. 49 In this respect, my ideas are inspired by the political philosophy of Marcel Gauchet, La Religion dans la democratie. Parcours de la Laïcité, Paris: Gallimard 1998, and Claude Lefort, Democracy and Political Theory, Cambridge: Polity Press 1988, a translation of his Essais sur le politique XIXe – XXe siècle, Paris: Editions du Seuil 1986, of which ‘Permanence du théologico-politique?’ is especially important for our discussion here. For an excellent introduction to Lefort, I refer to: Donald Loose, Democratie zonder blauwdruk. De politieke filosofie van Claude Lefort, Best: Damon, 1997.



own identity. This continuous investigation is fundamental for its meaning and survival; once this question finds a definitive answer, democracy ceases to exist and gives way to totalitarianism. There is no absolute, substantial incorporation or incarnation of political power. Power seems to be everybody’s and nobody’s property at the same time. Surely, the will of the people is represented and ‘incorporated’ by the political, but only symbolically (never as a mirror and a final objectification). Political power seems to be an illusive thing – an empty space – always begging the question of its own legitimacy, never completely safeguarded by procedural rules and rights alone, and always referring beyond, to an ideal and impossible resolution. There is a sense of transcendence within the experience of democracy; a religious indeterminacy that cannot be confined to the private sphere, as many would have it.50 For democracy, possibility rates higher than the ‘golden calf’ of reality. It seems impossible for a people ever to be completely with itself, that is – to be fully present to itself as a society. What it means to be oneself as a people is the subject of an institutionalized interpretation in the form of public debate; this debate is always conditioned by history and tradition. As Tocqueville already saw, the totalitarian temptation of total immanence is a grave danger for democracy. Freedom in a negative sense – the freedom not to participate in the intersubjective interpretation of democracy succumbs to the slavish ‘consent to be ruled’. But as long as democracy prevails, the locus of power cannot ‘obviously’ belong to some one or other ‘natural leader’ (a divine king), or some one or other privileged party, but it should be ordered according to the dialectics of intensive dialogue. 7. CONCLUSION I would like to begin this conclusion with a famous sighing by Saint Augustine: “What do I love when I love thee, my Lord”.51 Fundamentalism erroneously tries to give a definitive answer to this question. However, through their love of God, lovers should become a problem to

50 As we have seen, this is the customary ideal of a ‘neutral’ politics for which religion survives the secularization of the political order only in the periphery of the private. In this view, the (once) very important religious contribution to the development of modern politics, today is merely a fact of history, leaving the religious background of this development to the ‘marginal’ interests of historians and other ‘Bildungs Fillisters’. 51 Augustin, Confessions X: 6.8.



themselves.52 Surely, ‘God is love’, but Gods purposes are kept in secret and no one should presume to be able to know them, or to take up arms in his name – in the name of Love. For reason of its God given nature, the holy corpus (the church of faith, not the organization or institution) is veiled and no one can tell definitively who belongs to it and who not. That is why it is not unproblematic to think in terms of a ‘relation’ between religion and politics. To avoid untruthful and violent interpretations, the concepts with which we try to distinguish politics must remain religious. Just as the conceptual demarcation of religion spontaneously progresses towards a ‘religion without religion’ and towards an atheistic ‘hypersanctification’ of politics. The immanent legitimacy of democracy that the Enlightenment crusade has finally liberated (out of the hands of the theistic infidels) seems to correspond to the religious alterity symbolised by the empty grave. The paradoxical liberation of this grave seems to emulate the one accomplished by this awe-inspiring knight of faith in the picture of Albrecht Dürer. Justice and power point beyond their momentary symbolic incorporations to the numinous promise and spirit of democracy. And like religion proper, they refer to a mystical, messianic ‘body’ that must always remain yet to arrive and to appear. Therefore, we have seen that it requires a very cheap interpretation of faith to think that it is simply an immaturity of life (a children’s disease; a child calling for its mother) that, for the sake of peace, is bound to be overcome. As Francis Bacon said: “A little taste of philosophy perhaps moves one to atheism, but more of it leads back to religion”.53 Like irony, faith is not this merely ‘aesthetic stage’, where one begins in life, but it is instead where one must aim to end. In a world of violence and war, nobody will stop with faith, and all urge to surpass it. But as Kierkegaard says: “Faith is the highest passion in a human being. Many in every generation may not come so far, but no one comes further”.54

52 Augustine: “Thou, in whose presence I have become a problem to myself ” (mihi questio factus sum). Op. cit. X: 33.50. Cf. Rom. 7:15. 53 The modern ‘secularization of science’ was initiated by Luther and the reformation; science was finally emancipated from ‘heretic’ rationalism. This was also the purpose of Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft, by which he intended to make room for faith (proper). But this religious task of the emancipation of science in fact never ends. It is part of the ethos of faith to ‘acknowledge’ the limitations of reason, that its meaning does not transcend the worldly and temporal. This also explains much of the ‘postsecular’ portée of deconstruction and postmodernity. 54 Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, op. cit. p. 146.



So let us end this polemic in silence. In faith, the individual stands in an absolute relation to the absolute and in a relative relation to the relative. In as much as the sinful self identifies itself with the merely relative, faith demands sacrifice. Resignation in relation to ‘the world’, suffering and martyrdom are essential for Christ and Christianity. It is not acceptable for a Christian to be concerned too much about ‘the future of Christianity’; to be too much involved in these clamorous holy wars. However fierce and violent contemporary attacks on religion may be, one should refrain from trying to defend Christianity. To defend it, that is: to give arguments in order to secure its so-called truths and purposes – to ethics, to the community, to law and to politics – is like driving out the devil with the help of Beelzebub. To defend Christianity is to betray it with a kiss; it is to succumb to the demonic temptations of a spiritual materialism. To defend Christianity is to prove one does not really believe; that the paradoxes of love and incarnation are simply not enough; or that they are simply ‘too much’.55 Does not Christ himself warn us against all too human qualms and fears? “First seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and the rest will be added to you”. (Matt. 6; 33) Why should you worry so much? “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these”. (Matt. 6; 27–29). BIBLIOGRAPHY Bacon, Francis, The Advancement of Learning, Works Ed. Spedding, Ellis and Heath, London: Longman 1857–1874. Derrida, J., Glas. Que reste-t-il du savoir absolu?, Vol. I, Paris: Denöel/Gonthier 1981. Derrida, J., ‘Donner la Mort’ in L’étique du don, Jacques Derrida et la pensée du don, by Métailié-Transition, Paris: Transition 1992. Derrida, J., Force de loi. Le « fondement mystique de l’autorité », Paris: Galilée 1994. Derrida, J., ‘Foi et savoir: les deux sources de la religion aux limites de la simple raison’ in La Religion, ed. Derrida/Vattimo, Paris: Editions du Seuil 1996. Derrida, J., Specters of Marx, transl. Peggy Kamuf, New York: Routledge 1994. Dilthey, Wilhelm, Die Jugendgeschichte Hegels, GS Bd. IV, Stuttgart/Göttingen: Van den Hoeck & Ruprecht 1974.

55 Cf. Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death. A Christian Psychological Exposition for Edification and Awakening by Anti-Climacus London: Penguin Books, 1989, p. 119: “To defend something is to discredit it. (…) But now for Christianity. Yes, the person who defends that has never believed in it. If he does believe, then the enthusiasm of faith is not a defence, no it is the assault and the victory; a believer is a victor”.



Evans, C.S., Kierkegaard’s Ethic of Love: Devine Commands and Moral Obligations, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006. Gauchet, Marcel, La Religion dans la democratie. Parcours de la laïcité, Paris: Gallimard 1998. Hegel, G.W.F. ‘The spirit of Christianity’ in Early Theological Writings, transl. T.M. Knox, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1948. Hegel, G.W.F., Werke in zwanzig Bänden, Suhrkamp taschenbuch Wissenschaft, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1970. Hegel, G.W.F., Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Ed. A.W. Wood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991. Kenny, Anthony, The unknown God. Agnostic Essays, London: Continuum 2004. Kierkegaard, Søren, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, David Swenson, Walter Lowrie trans., Third Edition, Princeton: Princeton University Press 1974. Kierkegaard, Søren, Fear and Trembling. Dialectical Lyric by Johannes de silentio, transl. Alistair Hannay, London: Penguin 1985. Kierkegaard, Søren, The Sickness unto Death. A Christian Psychological Exposition for Edification and Awakening by Anti-Climacus, transl. Alistair Hannay, London: Penguin 1989. Lefort, Claude, Democracy and Political Theory, Cambridge: Polity Press 1988. Loose, Donald, Democratie zonder blauwdruk. De politieke filosofie van Claude Lefort, Best: Damon 1997. Pascal, Blaise, Pensées et Opuscles, ed. Brunschvicg, Paris: n.p. 1951. Rachels, James, The Elements of Moral Philosophy, New York: McGraw Hill 1993. Slootweg, Timo, Geschiedenis en Ethiek. Historisch besef in de traditie van Hegel, Heidegger en Derrida, Budel: Damon 2000. Slootweg, Timo, ‘In defense of Christianity. Elements of Kierkegaard’s ethos of Armed Neutrality’ in: Bijdragen. International Journal in Philosophy and Theology, 2008/4, Leuven: Peeters 2008.



That whoever refuses to obey the general will shall be compelled to do so by the whole body. This means nothing less than that he will be forced to be free. ( J.J. R ousseau, The Social Contract, 1762) The government in a revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny. Terror is nothing else than swift, severe, indomitable justice. (Maximilien Robespierre, On the Principles of Political Morality, February 1794) If we insist on calling Islamic Jihad a defensive movement, then we must change the meaning of the word ‘defence’ and mean by it ‘the defence of man’ against all those elements which limit his freedom. (Sayyid Qutb, Milestones, 1964) We believe that the accused essentially does not have to be tried. He or she must just be killed… The lives of people must be secured through punishment, because the protection of the masses lies beneath these very punitive executions. (Khomeini, Speech on the day of celebration of the birth of Muhammad, 1981)

1. INTRODUCTION It is the unique quality of mankind that he is able to consciously adapt his surroundings in order to fit his needs. Unlike animals, which remain indivisible of their natural surroundings, human history can, amongst others, be seen as the progressive transcendence of nature1. Mankind’s 1 Due to limitations on the length of this chapter, I will refrain from elaborating on this statement. What is meant is that most animals do not possess the ability, as far as we know, to make conscious and well thought out choices in regard to their natural surroundings. Perhaps an exception should be made for certain types of primates but most animals act on instinct, their actions being a result of natural selection rather than a process of deliberation. The cognitive abilities of the human race in that respect set it apart from the bulk of animal life.



adaptation of his surroundings did not remain limited to nature itself; wherever one lives in the company of others, the particular needs of the many need to be in some sort of harmony if social disorder is to be prevented. This question of social harmony touches upon one of the central issues of political philosophy namely the concept of freedom. In the Hobbesian state of nature for example, a free man is he who “is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do”,2 as such this unlimited freedom can only lead to discord, since scarcity will always lead to a competition of wills in which all are free to do as they see fit, thereby ensuring a brutal existence in which all are equally wolves and thus slaves to each other. In order to escape the brutality of this existence, one should be willing, when others are so too, as far-forth as for peace and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other people, as he would allow other people against himself.3

Comparable to the conquest of nature, the conquest of man in the sense of regulating his behaviour aims to create a social order in which man can survive and live together in a more desirable, peaceful way. This conquest of mankind, whether it be founded on principles of reason, morality or divine commandments, is thus at its core about a balancing act between individual freedom and the rather abstract concept of ‘the greater good’. To what degree the individual freedom of man “to do what he hath the will to do”4 needs to be adapted or modified, in order to fit into this idea of ‘the greater good’, is a question that has resulted in a multitude of theories regarding the legal and political order, ranging from the libertarian to the totalitarian, the religious to the secular. In the next paragraphs, I shall attempt to demonstrate how certain developments in society led to the formulation of a peculiar strand of political thought known as totalitarianism. The precise dynamic relation between the history of ideas and the history of changes in society, however, remains one of reciprocity. Untangling this intricate web of relations is clearly beyond the scope of this chapter. I will therefore limit myself to the description of some elements that all totalitarian movements seem to have in common.5 2

Hobbes, Leviathan, London 1651, II, xxi. Op. cit. 4 Op. cit. 5 This model is devised through the study of totalitarianism in the following countries: Germany, Russia, China, North Korea and Cambodia. Although all these countries 3



2. THEORIES ON TOTALITARIANISM As a starting point, I will begin with a brief overview of the existing theories on totalitarianism and a word of warning. The term ‘totalitarianism’ incontestably carries a grave negative connotation. Whereas prior to the Second World War a number of writers had great hopes for the totalitarian model,6 the actual practice of National-socialism and Stalinism has shattered all noble illusions these writers may have had. Consequently, ‘totalitarianism’ has become synonymous with evil incarnate and thus has acquired a symbolic meaning, which often times undermines its use as a political-analytical concept. Since this research is primarily interested in ascertaining the validity of the application of the totalitarian paradigm to radical Islam, we should first of all come to grips with the legal and political typology of totalitarian movements. Difficulties Surrounding the Use of the Totalitarian Paradigm Within the academic and political use of the term ‘totalitarianism’, two problems exist which should be pointed out before we begin our inquiry into the applicability of totalitarianism to radical Islam. Emotive Use and Misunderstanding The first problem is the perceived lack of a clear definition and of clear boundaries of the totalitarian paradigm. The problem, as I see it, is that whenever someone feels the need to indicate that a certain system of government is particularly oppressive in its nature, the term ‘totalitarianism’ is applied. This is not because of its inherent constituting unique legal and political components but because of its presupposed meaning of being a super-dictatorship, i.e. to set it apart from other more ‘normal’ dictatorships, therewith the term is not used on its own merits. Moreover, this misuse of political typology is not restricted to the term totalitarianism alone; the casual use of such terms as totalitarianism, fascism or dictatorship is evident in today’s description of radical Islamic movements. These movements are often times referred to as

have a number of unique elements that led to their specific brand of totalitarianism they do share a number of similarities in the most important fields that warrant this simplification. 6 The book Roger Griffin, Fascism, Oxford Readers, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1995, offers a truly insightful collection of pre – and post-second world war thinkers, reflecting the differing attitudes towards the fascist and totalitarian mindset.



‘Islamofascist’, ‘Islamic totalitarianism’, ‘Islamic dictatorship’, ‘clerical fascism’ or ‘fascist theocracy’ without consideration for the precise meaning of such definitions in political, legal and most importantly ideological sense. Whilst all of these typologies might be accurate, depending on the specifics of any particular radical Islamic movement, they are often times used as a generalization doing a service neither to our understanding of the movement in question nor to the advancement of our knowledge of political and legal typology in general. It is my contention that the underlying reason for this problem is a common lack of appreciation for the progression from authoritarian, dictatorial, fascist to totalitarian systems of government, all of which are systems with their own specific set of aims, means and strategic strengths and weaknesses. For instance, historically fascism frequently played an important part in paving the way for totalitarian movements. Unfortunately, this has often lead to the conclusion that totalitarianism is an exaggerated form of fascism. If however one pays close attention to the intricacies of both systems one would find that totalitarianism is diametrically opposed to fascism in its constituting ideological foundations7, its means and ultimately its long term goals and that it should thus be categorized as an entirely different system of governance. To complicate matters even further, dictatorial, fascist and totalitarian movements often times appear to use very similar institutions and practices such as a single leader, propaganda and repression, while in fact the similarity is merely skin-deep. The rationale behind the use of similar institutions and practices might be radically different depending on which system one is studying. It is only when one looks closely to these different types of systems that one notices that although these similarities exist, their mere occurrence does not automatically make them defining hallmarks of the political system in question. For example; the leadership principle, which is the founding stone of dictatorships, is adopted by fascism but takes on a completely different nature. It transforms it into a leadership cult and a sacralisation of the state, which is alien to the more opportunistic dictatorship. In turn, totalitarianism 7 Whereas National socialism as a totalitarian movement aimed to create a thousand year Reich and transform reality into utopia, fascism is “….opposed to all individualistic abstractions based on eighteenth century materialism and it is opposed to all Jacobin utopias and innovations … it therefore rejects the teleological notion that at some future in time the human family will secure a final settlement of all its difficulties”. Mussolini, fundamental ideas in Stephen Eric Bronner, Twentieth Century Political Theory: A Reader, 2nd ed. London: Routledge 2006, p. 206.



adopts both the leadership principle and the sacralisation of the state but adds to it an ideologically motivated ambition for total domination, which is fundamentally lacking in fascist and dictatorial systems. Moreover, both fascist and totalitarian systems often times follow the same path to power only to develop their relative differences once such a position of power has been assumed. Without a proper understanding of the differing constituting elements and genealogies of these types of government, one cannot be expected to fully grasp the implications of such a definition as ‘totalitarianism’. Indicative of this problem is the speech the UN weapons inspector Hans Blix gave at a Security Council hearing in 2003 where he dubbed Saddam Hussein’s regime totalitarian.8 In cases like these it appears that the use of the term ‘totalitarian’ is motivated by an emotive evaluation rather than an attempt to objectively describe the political typology of a regime. It seems fair to say that Hans Blix acted bona fides and did not intend to depict the reign of Saddam Hussein as totalitarian because of his own political motives. Rather, it seems his depiction suffers from the aforementioned diffuse use of the term ‘totalitarianism’. Deliberate Misuse The second problem however is of more concern in the current debate on radical Islam. It is quite understandable that the mere idea of equating radical Islam with totalitarianism will upset some people. To accuse a religious movement of having the same characteristics as murderous secular movements such as Nazism and Stalinism is sure to lead to heated debate. We should therefore be wary of using the term ‘totalitarianism’ mala fides, that is to say that the term is not used to make an accurate statement about the typology of a regime or ideological movement, but rather to use or refuse to use the term ‘totalitarianism’ because of its extremely negative symbolic connotation, in short, as a means of propaganda. There are two possible scenarios, which should be taken into account. In the first scenario, the term is used to accuse a political opponent of 8 Press briefing of: Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and Mohamed El-Baradei, Director General of IAEA (unofficial transcript), 9 January 2003, United Nations, New York. Although a case can be made that the reign of Saddam Hussein was extremely oppressive and adopted some totalitarian characteristics (see for instance Kanan Makiya, Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq, Berkeley: University of California Press 1989). I hope to show that it does not meet the requirements needed to identify it as totalitarianism.



totalitarianism in order to rally public sentiment against him. One example of this is the tendency of anti-American political activists to describe the polices of the Bush administration as being ‘totalitarian’. Anyone familiar with totalitarianism theories should know that America’s policies do not meet the minimum requirement of totalitarianism, yet the use of the term for propagandistic value is not uncommon in islamist and far-left circles.9,10 The same applies to radical Islam. When one wishes to label the Taliban or a movement like Hizb-Ut-Tahrir as totalitarian, one should be mindful of the difficulties regarding that typology lest one be accused of propaganda.11 The second scenario is the reluctance to define something as totalitarian when it clearly deserves that label. This problem existed within the academic debate on totalitarianism where it concerned communism. The Nazi’s themselves already defined themselves as being totalitarian so there was no discussion on that issue.12 The communists however portrayed themselves as being anti-fascist and ant-Nazi. It was therefore hard for their defenders and fellow travellers to accept that communism and National Socialism are in fact two varieties of the same species instead of diametrically opposed opponents. This resulted in a widespread reluctance amongst authors, academia and politicians to label communism as being totalitarian due to their own political standpoints and the negative connotation the term ‘totalitarian’ carried with it.13

9 Harvey Wasserman Bob Fitrakis, ‘The New Totalitarianism Defines Desperate Neo-Con End Game’, review of Reviewed Item, Columbuss Free Press, May 1st 2006, 10 Sheldon Wolin, ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’, review of Reviewed Item, The Nation, no. may 19, 2003 (2003), 11 For an example of such a counter-strategy see: The Khilafah Is Not a Totalitarian State. See: 12 To indicate the often times frustrating taxonomic difficulties associated with this research field, the Italian fascist often times referred to themselves as being totalitarian while in fact their aspirations never attained such a totalist character. 13 One example is the prominent Dutch politician Paul Rosenmöller, member of parliament from 1989–2003 and chairman of the green-left party from 1994–2002. In the period preceding his entry to parliament he was a member of the ‘group MarxistsLeninists’ who during the period 1976–1979 openly collected money and conducted propaganda for Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime which killed over two million Cambodians in the name of communism. What is shocking is that the crimes and totalitarian nature of this regime were well known to the western audience. If a politician had performed the same services for a national socialist party, his entry into the parliament would no doubt have sparked national and international outrage. Astonishingly this did not occur with Paul Rosenmöller. Roelof Bouwman, “Van Bloedrood Tot Groenlinks”, HP de tijd January 2004.



The same danger lurks with respect to radical Islam. Be it due to political correctness, fear of being labelled islamophobic or the sheer threat of violence, the deliberate reluctance to use the term ‘totalitarian’ when in fact it potentially should apply, constitutes propaganda in the same way as the deliberate misuse. In summary, probably more than with any other typology, the term ‘totalitarianism’ is vulnerable to misuse due to limited understanding or misinterpretation of its constituting elements and its susceptibility to propagandistic use. When we proceed to examine the applicability of the totalitarian paradigm to radical Islam this should be kept in mind. Totalitarianism is a very specific form of government that can only arise under extraordinary circumstances. The fact that it has succeeded in a number of countries is actually quite surprising seeing the enormity of the challenges posed to such movements.14 A Short Overview of Existing Theories According to research done in 1971, there were around 660 works on the subject of totalitarianism at that time.15 Since the fall of the Soviet Union, a multitude of new theories have been devised that can be added to these 660 works. Needless to say, an inquiry into all of these theories and their respective differences is outside the scope of this chapter. There are however, a few authors whose works have defined the framework of the totalitarian paradigm. Just as with any other political philosophy, the exact point of origin of totalitarian thought is hard, if at all possible, to identify. Some writers see it predominantly as a phenomenon closely related to modernity (Arendt,16 Linz,17 Friedrich,18 14 The book by Robert O. Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism, London: Allen Lane 2004, offers an overview of the fascist movements in Europe that never reached a level of maturity that could match that of Mussolini. Since, at least in Europe, fascism has been the springboard for totalitarian movements it offers an insight in the variables that needed to be accommodated if the totalitarian experiment were even to be given the opportunity to begin. 15 Ernst Nolte “The three versions of the theory of totalitarianism and the significance of the historical genetic version” in Achim Siegel, ed., The Totalitarian Paradigm after the End of Communism : Towards a Theoretical Reassessment, Poznaân Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities, V. 65, Atlanta: Rodopi 1998, p. 109 referring to Martin Janicke, Totalitäre Herrschaft, Anatomie eines politisches Begriffs, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1971. 16 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company 1951. 17 Juan J. Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers 2000. 18 Carl J. Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, 2nd ed. New York: Praeger 1966.



Brzezinski,19 Hayek,20 Bauman,21 Griffin22) whilst others trace its origin back to certain aspects of the French revolution and the Jacobins (Talmon,23 van Ree24), aspects of medieval theology (Voegelin,25 Versluis26) or even as far back as Plato (Popper27). Of course, this list is far from exhaustive and serves merely to indicate the multitude of theories regarding the totalitarian phenomenon. Furthermore, these theories oftentimes do not contradict each other but rather emphasize different elements in the genealogy of totalitarian thinking. Among the most authoritative theories on totalitarianism, we can discern a division line, which I, for the use of this chapter, shall call the two schools of totalitarian theories. On the one hand, we have the normative theories of Arendt, Talmon, Hayek and Voegelin and on the other, we find the empirical theories of Friedrich, Brzezinski and Linz. The focus of the normative school is on concepts such as freedom, individuality, collectivism and chiliastic-utopian thinking and as such tries to describe the intellectual essence of totalitarianism. The empirical school offers concrete political, economical and legal criteria to which a totalitarian regime ought to comply and as such complements the normative school, which for the greater part lacks such criteria. In the next few paragraphs, I will be looking at two points emphasized by the normative school and one main point, which is emphasized by the empirical school. The reason for this seeming disparity is not favouritism but the fact that the empirical school deals mainly with established totalitarian states. It is my opinion, which I will elaborate later on, that such a state has not been achieved in the Islamic world and that thus the empirical approach is of limited use. The points I will discuss are the following: 19

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ideology and Power in Soviet Politics, New York: Praeger 1967. Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, Routledge Classics, London: Routledge 2001. 21 Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity 1989. 22 Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2007. 23 J.L. Talmon, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy, London: Sphere Books 1970. 24 Erik van Ree, The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin: A Study in Twentieth-Century Revolutionary Patriotism, London: Routledge 2002. 25 Eric Voegelin and Manfred Henningsen, Modernity without Restraint, Columbia: University of Missouri Press 2000. 26 Arthur Versluis, The New Inquisitions: Heretic-Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006. 27 Karl Raimund Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Routledge Classics, London: Routledge 2003. 20



1. Total submission of the individual’s freedom to the greater good; 2. The rise of the masses and anomie as a conditio sine qua non for totalitarianism; 3. Totalitarian ideology and law. Following this description of totalitarian thought, we will examine whether or not this model is applicable to radical Islamic movements. 3. INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM AND THE GREATER GOOD The 17th and 18th century breakdown of the legal and political dominance of divine revelation in Western societies stems to a degree from divine revelation’s inability to deal with the problems abundant in society at that time and the rise of the scientific method as a means of explaining phenomena formally explained by religion. The rise of rational models as the basis for legal and political theories was consequential to this process. Coinciding with the development of scientific methods that explained natural phenomena, this scientific approach was applied to the organization of mankind. Social contract theories shifted sovereignty from divinely sanctioned absolutist rule, which functioned as the intermediate between the transcendent and the immanent, to rule by and for ‘the people’, not on the basis of revelation but on the basis of reason. This shift opened the possibility of exploring radically new methods of political organization. Alongside the possibility for new political forms, the appearance of industrialism, urbanization and the rise of the mass man introduced the need for new modes of social organization. These two developments raised a profound question: if nature could be manipulated to conform to the needs of man, could not man themselves be manipulated to conform to the needs of mankind? This question can be divided into two sub-question which, when answered, can help us understand how this type of thinking can lead to the emergence of totalitarian thought. New Models for Society First of all the very idea that man needs to be transformed indicates a negative conception of the existing human condition. Whereas formerly religion would be the source of inspiration and legitimacy for a sociopolitical model that could ensure a positive human condition, this was



now sought in reason.28 Generally speaking, two mutually exclusive modes of thought can be identified that tried to give an answer to this problem of the human condition. The first one is based on the premise that our knowledge of past and present events is inherently limited, that the actors in a society interact in complex and unpredictable ways and that thus any model for society should be based on the principle of uncertainty. Since this uncertainty principle inherently prohibits any exclusive claims to truth and reality, it a priori excludes any possibility for a secular teleology, let alone eschatology.29 These main emphases of these models therefore lies on what society can agree about and as such is usually limited to present day problems. Instead of some ultimate truth, its principle of action is agreement. From this basis one can safely claim that the greater the number of participants in a society is, the greater the need for a compromise becomes. The resulting model is a framework of laws that reflect these compromises and because of this, the laws are by definition incapable of reflecting some ultimate teleological truth. Human plurality will not allow it. By shifting sovereignty from the divine to the worldly and by supplanting ‘truth’ by uncertainty, the freedom of the individual can only be limited by what the majority of a society can agree upon. In its ultimate form, no one can be forced to obey rules he or she did not agree upon, i.e. the anarchic-libertarian society. Quite the opposite of the ‘uncertainty principle’ based liberal line of thinking is the ideological model of socio-political organization. Whereas the former line of thinking is increasingly emptied of religious concepts, the ideological model adopts much of the principles and concepts of religion but replaces God with itself as the “original sacral 28 This does however not mean that religion as a whole became redundant. From the starting point of reason as a basis for the ‘new man’, any number of theories can be developed which incorporate religious ideas, values and concepts in varying degrees in the lives of the individuals or society as a whole. The mere fact that reason becomes the basis or emphasis of a new socio-political order does not automatically prohibit or exclude religion. The modern democratic liberal state being an obvious example of neither an exclusively religious nor anti-religious form of social and political order. 29 See for instance: Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, op. cit. p. 60 “The point which is so important is the basic fact that it is impossible for any man to survey more than a limited field, to be aware of the urgency of more than a limited number of needs. Whether his interests centre round his own physical needs, or whether he takes a warm interest in the welfare of every human being he knows, the ends about which he can be concerned will always be only an infinitesimal fraction of the needs of all men”.



substance”.30,31 In sharp contrast to the uncertainty of liberalism, ideological thinking starts form the premise that past and present are completely knowable, that the advancement of human history proceeds according to understandable and predictable deterministic events. If knowledge would rise to such an extent that the historic processes could be understood, which Voegelin called the Gnostic speculation, then by applying logical deduction, the ultimate end state of mankind would reveal itself. In this line of thinking knowledge of the world and the subsequent application of reason to this knowledge becomes the new God and the new (secularized) religion. (W)hen god is invisible behind the world, the contents of the world will become new gods, when the symbols of transcendent religiosity are banned, new symbols develop from the inner-worldly language of science to take their place.32

This secularized religion gains a political dimension when it actively engages in transforming society towards the presupposed utopian end of history. The negative state of the human condition is therefore first of all a result of a lack of this knowledge. The second reason for the negative state of mankind is the plurality of man, who because of their free will can act in opposition to their and societies best interest. Inevitably, the laws that govern such a society would not be based on agreement, which is trivial to the ‘truth’, but on the envisaged path to utopia. In other words, the principal of action is not agreement amongst individuals but the forceful fabrication of utopia. Therefore, the freedom to act on one’s own accord can only stall the inevitable arrival of utopia. It therefore becomes necessary to “force man to be free” (Rousseau). Whether or not the individual agrees that this is actually in his best interest is inconsequential. The deterministic forces of history have decided this for him, the individual need only to comply with the edicts of the ideological movement, which functions as the accelerator of this process. As such, these secular movements adopt much of the 30 Eric Voegelin and Manfred Henningsen, Modernity without Restraint, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000, p. 59. 31 See for instance Carl Schmidt, Politische Theologie, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1922, p. 1: “all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts”. 32 Voegelin, Modernity without Restraint. op. cit. p. 60 Voegelin uses the terms “innerworldly religion”, “ersatz-religions” and “political-religions” to indicate this process. Interestingly enough when one reads the works of early fascists and especially totalitarian ideologues, the similarity between their language and religious language is striking.



concepts and vocabulary of religion effectively making them political religions. In their most extreme form, these political-religions would become known as totalitarian movements. These two modes of thinking, the liberal and the ideological, both have their roots in the replacement of religion with reason as a model for ‘the good society’. The liberal model, which applies reason to the premise that our knowledge is always limited, arrives at the conclusion that only individuals themselves can discover what is good for them at any given time. The greater good is therefore a product of the competing individual conceptions of the good; always in a state of flux, always susceptible to change. While this model has been prevalent in European societies in the last few centuries, it is the ideological model, which would put its bloodstained signature on the twentieth century. Before that could happen, drastic changes in the fabric of society were needed to allow the ideological model to gather momentum. 4. ANOMIE AND THE RISE OF THE MASSES The next question deals with some of the events that can ultimately lead a society to embrace the ideological model. Whilst the advent of the scientific age and the ensuing rationalism was hoped to bring about an improvement in the human condition, things did not turn out the way many would have liked. Between the advent of the industrial age in the late 18th and 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century a number of events occurred which transformed European societies in such a way that it enabled the rise of totalitarian thought.33 The relevance of this paragraph lies in the fact that the same general pattern appears to have taken place in the Islamic world over the last few decades. These similarities will be discussed in the concluding paragraph. The Rise of the Mass Man The transformation from the traditional agricultural and rural society, with all its social institutions and certainties, into an industrial society was accompanied by a transformation of the individual in community into the mass man. There were of course always individuals who had no 33 Similar events occurred in Russia and Asia but, for reasons of brevity, I have excluded them from this summary.



specific qualities, no specific talents or anything that differentiated them from others, but these individuals existed as a ‘multitude’, an undefined majority, scattered throughout society and absorbed in their respective communities. It is exactly this capacity for being absorbed into a social order, which created a sense of ‘worldliness’. Unaware of their numerical superiority the multitude was a mere quantitative concept. What was new however was that the industrial age removed these individuals from their respective communities and brought them to the cities, which led to the self-realization of their numerical superiority and the realisation that they were no longer an integrated part of society but a vast anonymous mass of interchangeable, undifferentiated individuals. What was first merely an undefined integrated multitude became a social phenomenon with formidable political potential: the qualitative concept of the mass man.34 The masses in this sense did not bestow a sense of identity upon the individual; they are the masses precisely because they lack the unique features that distinguish man from each other. As such, the shapeless mass does not in any way have a link to pre-existing class distinction.35 Anomie and the Search for Order Whilst to some reason was the founding stone of liberal freedom, to others reason did not bring salvation, but the tyranny of cold


See for a more elaborate description of this process: Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses. Authorized Translation from the Spanish, New York: Norton 1993. 35 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, op. cit. pp. 319–326. “The term masses applies only where we deal with people who either because of sheer numbers or indifference, or a combination of both, cannot be integrated into any organization based on common interest (….) The truth is that the masses grew out of the fragments of a highly atomized society whose competitive structure and concomitant loneliness of the individual had been held in check only through membership in a class”. According to Arendt, the problems described here caused the break down of the old class society and aided in the creation of the masses. Precisely because the existing social-economic, religious and political institutions were failing these masses were no longer interested in or felt represented by the traditional political party structure. Their disinterest and feeling of loneliness thus created a host of opportunities for new radical alternatives. It is interesting to see how in Germany these conditions were created due to the crisis of the Weimar republic and the economic depression whereas in Russia, Cambodia and China, these conditions had to be artificially forced upon the population. The partial or complete extermination of certain classes of people in these countries was not the hallmark of totalitarian terror but merely the destruction of the old society and the forced transformation of the population into the mass man without whom the totalitarian movement could not begin its march towards political power.



calculating industrialism in which people were all mere cogs in a giant unfamiliar machine. Freedom does not bestow any sense of purpose on an individual let alone on the masses and for these masses, who were increasingly devoid of any sense of order, freedom quickly became a burden. Their sense of alienation, of being alone in a strange inhuman and harsh environment created a renewed longing for spiritual salvation and for a unity of men, something practical science could not provide for.36 Compounding the sense of anomie that plagued the masses, the political, social and economic establishments were increasingly confronted with problems that they were unable to overcome. The first problem exists on the social plain; the aforementioned sense of superfluousness created by industrialization and urbanization and a perceived loss of purpose or destiny. The second problem was the decline of faith in the political order. When the masses realized that the existing political order did not act on their behalf but on behalf of a privileged elite and was furthermore unable to deal with the social disorder, politics as a whole lost its credibility. Although the masses at that time were still too fragmented, too undefined to be able to found a party based on common interest, some radicals would soon find out that these masses represented a previously untapped source of political power. The failure of politics reached its pinnacle in the first few decades of the twentieth century. One need only think of the First World War, the enormous amount of stateless refugees, mass poverty in eastern Europe, the economic crisis of 1929, mass unemployment and the failure of the few existing young democracies to cope with these issues. Partly because of these calamities, the masses were becoming increasingly ready to be mobilized by forces who did not appeal to freedom, reason or conventional political systems but by entirely new modes of political organization. The rallying call of these movements is exemplified by Mussolini who stated: “Men grow tired of freedom”. Traditional politics and social institutions had failed the masses, what would be the masses salvation was the total negation of the concept of the political. Instead of reason came faith, instead of the individual came the sacralisation of the collective, instead of freedom, total submission.

36 This concept is also know as palingenesis or rebirth and is a central theme in both fascist and totalitarian thought. Palingenesis often refers to the resurrection (another religious concept) of a glorious past that is now lost.



5. TOTALITARIAN IDEOLOGY AND LAW In the preceding paragraphs, I have attempted to illustrate some of the events in social-economic, political and intellectual history that paved the way towards the rise of totalitarian thought and its mass appeal. When one reads the works of radical Islamic ideologues, one cannot escape the impression that there seem to be a lot of resemblances between their ideas and some of the notions and socio-political developments discussed above. The transformation of rural society into an urbanized society, the confrontation with modernity and the inability of the current social-political establishment to deal with the problems of society37 seem to provoke much of the same response as it did in 18th, 19th and early 20th century Europe. The most worrisome of these resemblances are those between the legal and political philosophical ideas pertaining to the pre-eminence of the collective, the need to force man to be free and the wilful fabrication of an imagined future or past utopia. As such, the hypothesis of my research is that radical Islam is a form of Western totalitarianism but with significant novel features. If this hypothesis holds true, the consequences for Western multicultural democracies and the Islamic world alike would be far different from the situation in which we would be dealing with a movement primarily concerned with practical instead of ideological objectives. In short, if the objectives of movements like Al-Qaeda are restricted to ousting western troops from Islamic lands, as their propaganda aimed at the West often states, then we could compare them to European terrorist groups such as the ETA. If however their aim is to submit all of mankind to Islam and force ‘all to be free’, as their propaganda directed towards the Islamic world states, we would have to compare them to movements such as the Nazi’s or communists. Both types function in radically different ways, have different goals and means and call for different counter-strategies. Before labelling a radical Islamic movement as being totalitarian, we will need to find a working definition of the concept of totalitarianism. The Normative Political Analytical Theory of Hannah Arendt The research material available on the subject of totalitarianism is so vast that any singular definition presented here will necessarily be 37 United Nations, ‘Freedom and Good Governance’, in Arab Human Development Report, New York: United Nations 2004).



a crude one. Notwithstanding the importance of empirical institutional theories, such as those of Linz,38 Brzezinski39 and Friedrich,40 I will focus my attention on the normative political theory of Hannah Arendt.41 Hannah Arendt defines totalitarianism as follows: A system of government whose essence is terror and whose principal of action is the logicality of ideological thinking.42

What Arendt means by ‘the logicality of ideological thinking’ is the following: Ideological thinking orders facts into an absolutely logical procedure which starts from an axiomatically accepted premise, deducing everything else from it; that is, it proceeds with a consistency that exists nowhere in the realm of reality.43

In the thought of the Nazis, the purification of the race was the answer to the disorder in the world, imbedded in the very fabric of history and nature.44 Likewise, the Communists substituted race for class45 and proceeded to deduce from this premise all the steps necessary to fabricate utopia. This all-explaining premise, which forms the basis of the totalitarian movements’ ideology, is what Arendt calls ‘the law of nature or

38 Juan J. Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers 2000. 39 Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ideology and Power in Soviet Politics, New York: Praeger 1967. 40 Carl J. Friedrich and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, New York: Praeger 1966. 41 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, op. cit. 42 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, op. cit. p. 398; Arendt defines an ideology as follows on p. 469: “An ideology is quite literally what its name indicates: it is the logic of an idea. Its subject matter is history, to which the ‘idea’ is applied; the result of this application is not a body of statements about something that is but the unfolding of a process which is in constant change. The ideology treats the course of events as though it followed the same ‘law’ as the logical exposition of its ‘idea’. Ideologies pretend to know the mysteries of the whole historical process – the secrets of the past, the intricacies of the present, the uncertainties of the future – because of the logic inherent in their respective ideas”. 43 Op. cit. p. 471. 44 Alfred Rosenberg deputized by Hitler with responsibility for the spiritual and philosophical education of the Party stated: “The meaning of world history has radiated out from the north over the whole world, borne by a blue-eyed blond race which in several great waves determined the spiritual face of the world”. United States. Office of Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality. et al., Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, 8 vols. Washington, D.C: U.S. G.P.O. 1946. 45 “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”. Karl Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party, by K. Marx and F. Engels, Authorized tr. by S. Moore ed. London: n.p. 1888.



history’. The mechanism by which this premise transforms the world towards some ultimate end-state is called ‘the law of movement’. The Nazis understood the biological movements within nature and the social movement within history as an unfolding historicist and deterministic process that preordained the Aryan race as the true inheritor of the earth, thereby signing the death warrant of all other races. The only truly significant difference between Nazism and communism is that the latter substituted race by class, but apart from that difference the communist operated along the very same ideological line of thinking. The problem was that it could take millennia for this deterministic process to reach its end. The Nazis and communists drew the only possible conclusion from this axiomatic premise: the accelerated execution of nature’s death sentence as a necessary and logical step towards speeding up the process inherent to the fabric of nature. This line of ideological thinking dictates a new morality namely that the killing of those ‘unsuited for survival’ is necessary and morally right; a new moral standard that was ultimately reflected in its laws as well. From their ruthless application of this logic to the premise, an infinite number of decrees could be deduced that dictated every human action. Every human action can be viewed in light of this new morality, thereby dividing man in absolute Manichean categories of good and evil.46 When this moral view is combined with a radically positive conception of freedom, it becomes clear that once discovered, these laws need to be applied to all in order for them to become truly free. It follows that the space between the private and the public has to be completely obliterated and that all public and even private life has to be monopolized by the totalitarian movement. Although these regimes are often described as being immoral or even a-moral, they are in fact highly moralistic. Instead of being subordinate to the whimsical desires of man, they are exclusively preoccupied with bringing mankind in line with the highest moral dictum from which all legitimacy and authority emanates. Therefore, totalitarian movements in principle do not differ from any other movement that claims to strive towards universal salvation through the purification of mankind. It is through the ruthless application of logic to the axiomatic premise, 46 Friedrich A. von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, op. cit. p. 62: “To direct all our activities according to a single plan presupposes that every one of our needs is given its rank in an order of values which must be complete enough to make it possible to decide between all the different courses between which the planner has to choose, it presupposes, in short, the existence of a complete ethical code in which all the different human values are allotted their due place”.



and through the modern means of social engineering on a previously impossible scale, that totalitarian movements set themselves apart from any other experiment aimed at fabricating utopia. Rationalizing Terror Within the academic discussion on the nature of totalitarian movements, a point of disagreement is the function of terror. Following the death of Stalin and the transformation of the Soviet system of governance to a more bureaucratic Moloch, authors like Linz,47 Friedrich48 and Brzezinski49 adapted the totalitarian paradigm to such a degree that terror was excluded from its defining characteristics. The reasoning behind this was the idea that terror was mainly a means of suppressing opposition and, since opposition was already nearly impossible, the movement could do without it. Although my research suggests that there are numerous reasons to assume that such a system would lose its defining characteristic, namely the forceful fabrication of utopia in favour of the stability of the regime in question,50,51 this discussion is mainly of interest when it regards full-fledged totalitarian party-states in which no political plurality exists. Radical Islamic movements however, are predominantly movements without a monopoly on power or even a single national base of operations; instead, they are most often transnational movements of opposition.52 There are two dimensions to totalitarian terror. The first dimension is practical terror and is common to all authoritarian regimes. Its main focus is the elimination of opposition, intimidation and the display of power for propagandistic use. Practical terror occurs in totalitarian regimes in the earlier stages of the development, which is before its position of power is undisputed. Only after this stage does totalitarian terror


Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, op. cit. Friedrich and Brzezinski, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, op. cit. 49 Brzezinski, Ideology and Power in Soviet Politics, op. cit. 50 N. Khrushchev, “On the Personality Cult and Its Consequences” ( paper presented at the twentieth party congress, 1956). “Stalin (…) used extreme methods and mass repressions at a time when the Revolution was already victorious, when the Soviet state was strengthened, (…) when our Party was politically consolidated and had strengthened itself both numerically and ideologically”. 51 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, op. cit. p. 464 “What totalitarianism assumes is not power nor enrichment nor even political survival”. 52 Johannes J. G. Jansen, The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1997. 48



begin to differentiate from terror in other forms of authoritarianism. I will explain this by example of Trotsky’s concept of permanent revolution. Tyranny, dictatorship and fascism all strive to political power for worldly ends. Although of these three fascisms has the highest claim to an ethical state, it lacks the ambition to ‘immanentize the Eschaton’. Fascism according to Mussolini: ….rejects the teleological notion that at some future in time the human family will secure a final settlement of all its difficulties.53

When the monopoly on power has been attained, the need for practical terror takes a backseat to the forced fabrication of utopia. It is this forced fabrication of utopia that is unique to totalitarianism and which I shall call ideological terror. I shall briefly discuss three points, which are central to this type of terror. First of all, the idea that the totalitarian revolution will create heaven or utopia on earth is based on abstract reasoning and logical deduction from an axiomatic premise, not from a real world experience gained from or susceptible to trial and error. If divine revelation, due to its emanation from God, is raised beyond all doubt so is the Gnostic speculation, as an inner-worldly religion,54 an untouchable emanation of a perceived historicist and deterministic process. The system is justified by the fact of its construction; the possibility of calling into question the construction of systems, as such, is not acknowledged. That the form of science is the system must be assumed as beyond all question.55

This leads to a prohibition on questions and on unbelief. Since totalitarianism is concerned with transforming reality into the image of their ideology, its main focus is not the will of man but the execution of the law of nature and history: Terror is the realization of the law of movement; its chief aim is to make it possible for the force of nature or history to race freely through mankind, unhindered by any spontaneous action.56

As such, not only those who question or deny the totalitarian ideology become enemies, but in fact everyone who is not the perfect embodiment 53 Mussolini, ‘Fundamental ideas’, in Stephen Eric Bronner, Twentieth Century Political Theory : A Reader, London: Routledge 2006, p. 206. 54 Voegelin, Modernity without Restraint, op. cit. p. 33. 55 Op. cit. p. 274. 56 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, op. cit. p. 465.



of the ideology. The mere act of thinking for oneself becomes an act of treason. In reality, this means that practically all are enemies, all are sinners. The only way to prove ones loyalty, and save ones existence, is ever increasing fanaticism. It is for this reason, that it is common in totalitarian societies that children betray their parents or parents kill their children for the sole reason that the movement has dictated its ideological necessity. Secondly, the mere existence of a world outside of the totalitarian universe contests its claim to truth. Nothing is feared more by the totalitarian regimes than a non-totalitarian reality that could prove its flaws.57 It is only in isolation that the totalitarian reality cannot be falsified. For this reason the totalitarian revolution will always be de facto under threat from the non-totalitarian world and it is because of this that its quest for domination is truly universal. The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable. The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and broader sense of the word; it attains completion, only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet.58

Totalitarian terror therefore extends to both the non-totalitarian world and to those who are not yet fully indoctrinated enough to act out the movements edicts without thinking. It is clear that both do not form a true enemy in the sense of opposition, but are enemies because of ideological necessity. Thirdly, any possible failure of the revolution cannot be explained by any fault inherent in the ideology but can only be attributed to some outside force, i.e. sabotage, conspiracy and counter-revolutionary activity.59 Since it is unlikely that either heaven or utopia will be created, the revolution will constantly have to identify or invent new categories of enemies who impede the revolution, for if there were no enemies left


In my view, this is the reason why totalitarian regimes such as the USSR and North-Korea painstakingly shield their subjects from any contact with the outside world. 58 Leon Trotsky. ‘The Permanent Revolution’, Place Published 1929, http://www 59 Linz, Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, op. cit. p. 112: “The more a regime attempts to transform the social order to create the “new man”, to change the values of the people, and the greater the speed with which it attempts to achieve those ends, the greater the perception of the resistance to those changes, the more the terror”.



to blame it would become apparent that the ideology is flawed.60 Whilst the totalitarian raison d’être is to be found in the future utopia, its principal connection to the present is located in the identification and subsequent extermination of the enemy that impedes the movement towards utopia, whether they be Jews, capitalists or bourgeoisie. Every single totalitarian movement in history has gone through this process of identification and extermination precisely because it is a logical necessity of the totalitarian paradigm. It was the very existence of the gas chambers, the Gulag and the killing fields in which killing was indiscriminate of particular guilt or innocence that proved that ideological terror was solely conceived for the purpose of releasing the forces of nature.61 In conclusion, the totalitarian revolution is a state of permanent war on three fronts: 1. Totalitarianism does not conform itself to reality but transform reality into its own image. As such it is at war with reality until utopia is manufactured; 2. Since the movement is the embodiment of freedom, all those who are not under its reign cannot be free. As its goal is freedom for all, all must be submitted to its reign; 3. Any disparity between reality and the ideological utopia is due to enemies of the movement, not due to any inherent logical failure. Because of this, even enemies that only exist within the logical framework of the system become objective enemies. Totalitarian ideological terror is comparable to what Robespierre called ‘swift, severe, indomitable justice’. If the just society is an Aryan society, all non-Aryans should be exterminated without restraint. It would be morally wrong not to do so. Arendt’s definition of totalitarianism as “a system of government who’s essence is terror and whose principal of 60 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, op. cit. p. 464: “Totalitarian politics which proceed to follow the recipes of ideologies has unmasked the true nature of these movements insofar as it clearly showed that there could be no end to this process. If it is the law of nature to eliminate everything that is harmful and unfit to live, it would mean the end of nature itself if new categories of the harmful and unfit could not be found (….). In other words, the law of killing by which totalitarian movements seize and exercise power would remain a law of movement even if they succeeded in making all of humanity subject to their rule”. 61 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, op. cit. p. 449: “This principle was most fully realized in the gas chambers which, if only because of their enormous capacity, could not be intended for individual cases but only for people in general”.



action is the logicality of ideological thinking”,62 however, seems somewhat surreal. Arendt herself stressed that fully developed ideological terror was only witnessed in the extermination camps and Gulags, because it was there that these experiments in total domination could take place, unhindered by outside interference. The scale on which these experiments in total domination have succeeded depends on the movement in question. Nazism, due to the ongoing war, succeeded in creating this totalitarian universe only in the other-worldly reality of the extermination camps. The perfect isolation of North Korea on the other hand, has allowed its communist rulers to turn a whole country into a laboratory of totalitarian domination.63 Summary In summary, totalitarian ideological thinking creates a paradigm, which operates well outside of the parameters of ‘normal’ politics. For politics to exist, human interaction is a necessity, one cannot become a zoon politikon in isolation. Furthermore, before one can even begin to formulate political thoughts, let alone communicate them to others, the capacity for thought itself has to be possible. It is exactly this capacity for spontaneous, unobstructed thought that totalitarianism wishes to eradicate, for it can only frustrate the fabrication of utopia. The formulation of totalitarian ideologies has always been based on the application of reason and science to the history of mankind. Claiming to have discovered the definite law underlying all human history, the act of formulating this Gnostic speculation immediately elevates the ideology beyond the realm of reason and falsification and thus acquires much of the characteristics of faith. The only role that the individual has to play in light of the totalitarian eschatology is his complete submission to the edicts of the law of nature and the law of motion. As I have tried to show, totalitarianism shares many of the components one would normally associate with religion: a totalistic eschatological ideology, a messianic leader, the concepts of rebirth, purification and salvation, the 62

Op. cit. p. 398. I cannot fail to mention that sixty-three years after the liberation of Auschwitz, which sparked the formulation of international humanitarian law, human rights treaties and the repeated slogan of “never again”, the international community has utterly and willingly failed to address the horrors of the North-Korean totalitarian regime. The inability of the international community to say “wir haben es nicht gewusst” and idly stand by as these horrors continue to unfold creates an unbearable burden of guilt and makes one wonder, if this is possible, then what is impossible? 63



creation of a new man in the image of the ideology, the complete integration of the individual into the community of believers and the existential struggle against a Manichean enemy. Whilst the totalitarian movements of the past have always founded their ideologies on (pseudo-) scientific analyses of human history, a new breed of totalitarianism may be found in what we call radical Islamic movements.

6. RADICAL ISLAMIC IDEOLOGIES The tapestry of Islamic political thought, which has developed since the seventh century, is a wide and varied one. Whilst one could conclude that Islamic rule since Muhammad has relied on some sort of divinely sanctioned authoritarianism, the intricacies of each successive period make it well nigh impossible to determine accurately to what degree the demands of religion interacted with the demands of real-world politics. As is the case with its Christian counterparts, Islamic rule has always been a balancing act between these two demands. Furthermore, in the same way the answer to the question “what is Christianity” could only have been answered by Jesus Christ himself, the question “what is Islam” was only fully known to its founder, Muhammad. The rest of us are forced to interpret, evaluate or even speculate as to what Christianity or Islam actually stands for. The ensuing debates have resulted in a multitude of theories, sects and religious schisms that simply will not allow for any overt generalisation of ‘Islam’. This concept of uncertainty is not unfamiliar to Islamic theology and the limit of what one can know about the essence of God and Islam is acknowledged within the rational tradition of Islamic thought (Mu’tazilite). In the same way as the uncertainty principle of Hayek prevents the adoption of an enforceable secular totalistic ethical code, so the basic assumption of uncertainty about the nature of the transcendent ought to prevent any attempt at its immanentization. This tradition of rationalism however was one of many traditions and certainly not one of Islam’s most long lived. For the purpose of this chapter, I will be looking at a relatively modern tradition that stands in stark contrast to the rationalist tradition of uncertainty and that attempts to forcefully create a society in which all are the perfect embodiment of what they see as Islam. The best-known example today of such a radical Islamic movement is without doubt Al-Qaeda. The next paragraphs intend to illustrate the religious and intellectual taxonomy on which Al-Qaeda is built.



Religious Ideology and Terror The Muslim Brotherhood The Muslim brotherhood (henceforward MB) is an organization that was created by Hassan al-Banna (1906–1949) in Egypt in March 1928. Originally created to combat social injustice, colonialism and western influences in Muslim societies it aimed at the resurgence of a great Islamic past, Palingenesis, and the exclusive role of the Quran and Sunnah as a totalist model for society. The MB over the years has become the largest voice of opposition within Egypt and large parts of the Arab world and has served as a model for other political Islamic movements around the world. The doctrine of the MB in the words of its founder is as follows: Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader, Qur’an is our law, Jihad is our way, Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.64,65

One of its main goals is plainly titled “Mastering the world with Islam”.66 Although the MB in the last few decades claims to have rejected violence and embraced inter-faith dialogue, this seems at best unreliable67 judging by its members and associates: 64

MB homepage: It should be explained that the concept of jihad has two forms: The first being the large jihad, which is a life-long obligatory struggle against one’s inner-evil, and the small jihad, which is actual armed warfare against unbelievers and those who actively oppose Islam. In this credo, Hassan al-Banna is also directly referring to the small jihad: Jamal Banna, Al-Jihad, al-Qahirah: Dar al-Fikr al-Islami 2002, p. 4 “Refer to the verses (4:71–81) in the Noble book to understand how Allah urges the Muslims to remain alert and to acquire experience in warfare, in armies and troops, as individuals, as circumstances may dictate. (…) Notice how Allah associates warfare with prayer and fasting, establishing it as one of the pillars of Islam”. The book Al-jihad by Hassan al-Banna was written to prove to his fellow Muslims that the small jihad was an integral part of Islam. In this book, one can find versus from the Quran, the hadith and the legal opinion of authoritative theologians on this subject and as such provides tremendous insight into the theological foundation of modern day terrorism. 66 objective number 6. 67 Interestingly enough, since 9/11 the MB has changed its homepage at least two times. The first change was the omission of Zawahiri and Bin-Laden as its disciples ( The second change to its current homepage http://www longer lists any famous adherents, but contains in its library the writings of contemporary influential scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who became notorious for issuing a fatwa legalizing suicide bombings against innocent Israeli civilians. The message of peace, pacifism and inter-faith dialogue appears to be mainly directed at the west, not necessarily at its own constituents. Indicative of this is that Qaradawi has been accused of using and distributing the now infamous anti-Semitic “protocols of the elders of Zion” in his teachings. material/Wall_Street_BG.pdf 65



• SayyidQut b; • Amin Al-Husseini, chief Mufti of Jerusalem and associate of Eichmann; • Sheikh Ahmad Yaseen, founder of Hamas; • Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, influential ideologue and patron of Osama bin laden; • Ayman al-Zawahiri, second in command and ideologue of Al-Qaeda. In the next paragraphs, I will be discussing some of the ideologues and movements that were closely associated to the MB and that ultimately led to the creation of Al-Qaeda. Of course, their history is far more complex than I can describe here but the ideological pattern that runs through this history and inspired numerous terrorist organizations to action appears to coincide with a number of elements exclusive to totalitarianism. Sayyid Qutb The Egyptian Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966) is widely regarded as one of the founders of radical political Islamic thought. Although his ideological and theological68 ancestry can be traced back to other Islamic 68 Sayyid Qutb can be placed, albeit in a broad scope, within the Salafi School of theological thought. The central tenet of this theology is that the generation of the companions (Salafi) of Muhammad and the following two generations represented Islam at its finest. After these generations, Islam became increasingly ‘polluted’ by un-Islamic influences and innovations and thus gradually diminished the perfection of Islam. The aim of the Salafi theology is to purify contemporary Islam of these influences and to restore (Palingenesis) the Islam of the days of the Salafi. The Salafi theology is often at odds with other forms of Islam especially because of their insistence on the exclusivity of the Quran and Hadith. According to Salafi theology, a number of dogma’s and conventions that have evolved throughout the history of Islam are deemed un-Islamic innovations or bid’a. One of these innovations is the strict reliance for the explanation of Islam on one of the four schools of religious jurisprudence or Madh’hab. From the beginning of Islam, scholars have, throughout the course of centuries, made legal decision based on the Quran and hadith, decision that over time attained the status of doctrine, and ultimately formed and defined the four schools of jurisprudence. With the formation of these schools of jurisprudence and the establishment of doctrine the ability for independent judgment, itjihad, became supplanted with the concept of imitation, Taqlid. This is a far too complex subject to be discussed here but the main point from the Salafi point of view is that imitation has ‘closed the gates of itjihad’ and caused man to imitate other man instead of relying primarily on the Quran and hadith. As such, imitation can take the form of worship of one of these schools which borders on polytheism, Shrik, and is considered blasphemous and opposed to the concept of the oneness of Allah, Tawheed. Although the Salafi do not oppose the schools of jurisprudence as such, they deny these schools any claim of exclusivity. By comparing these schools with one another and cross referencing them with literal interpretations of the



thinkers such as Ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328),69 Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab70 (1703–1792), Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi (1903–1979)71 and Hassan al-Banna. Qutb is widely seen as one of the founders of modern radical Islamism. Qutb studied in the United States between 1948 and 1950 and was shocked by what he saw as the moral depravity of that society, in particular its individualism, materialism, open sexuality,72 racism and economic system. Upon his return to Egypt in 1950 Qutb joined the MB and quickly rose to their highest ranks. In 1952, the free officers’ movement, headed by Gamal Nasser, instigated a coup aimed at overthrowing Egypt’s monarchy with the help of the MB. The reason for the Brotherhood’s assistance was the commonly held view that the monarchy was subservient to British colonial interest and generally un-Islamic. Although they hoped that the revolution would lead to an Islamic state, encompassing the implementation of Shari’ a law, this did not happen. Nasser’s policies of secular pan-Arabism alienated his former Islamist allies and ultimately led to an attempt on his life in 1954. The assassination failed, but the regime of Nasser did use it as a pretext for a crackdown on the Brotherhood. Together with many other

Quran and hadith the Salafi have ‘reopened the gates of itjihad’, something that sets them apart from other theological schools of Islamic thought. This process of purifying Islam from innovations and un-Islamic influences poses in some respects a threat to traditional religious authority and the political authority that is legitimized by the latter. As such, the Salafi’s can be seen as reformers and to a degree as modernists due to their defiance of tradition and of political and theological authority. However, the idea of opening the gates of itjihad to the common believer may sound liberal and democratic, it often times simply means that the believer in question has to take the text of the Quran and hadith literally, allowing for no discretion form the wording of the texts. See: Joseph Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1982. Ira M. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2002. 69 A Syrian Sunni scholar often credited with being a major influence on what was to become the Salafi and in particular Wahhabi theology. 70 Saudi Sunni scholar whose teachings would form the Wahhabi movement, a puritanical creed of Salafi theology. Following the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah, the Wahhabi movement took it upon itself the cleanse the Saudi peninsula of all innovations it deemed un-Islamic and fought a violent jihad against non-Muslims and Muslims who did not agree with its theological premises. Today the Wahhabi movement is regarded to have inspired radical jihadist networks like Al-Qaeda. 71 Pakistani born theologian Maududi is known for coining the term theo-democracy, which he regarded as the anti-thesis for western democratic concepts. A theo-democracy in his view was a democracy in which the sovereignty lay not with the people, as in western democracies, but exclusively with god. These two concepts of sovereignty are mutually exclusive and the government of a country should base its law solely on the laws of god, as they can be known through revelation. 72 Compared to the more strictly regulated sexual practices of his own culture.



figureheads of the Brotherhood, Qutb was jailed and not released until 1964. During his stay in prison he wrote two books, a commentary on the Quran, ‘In the shades of the Quran’, and his main political work ‘Milestones’. Released in 1964, he was quickly arrested again in 1965 and put to death on account of an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the regime. Qutb’s thought is exemplary to some of the basic characteristics that can be seen in totalitarian thought. Let’s start with Qutb’ observation that the world is no longer pure, that it in fact is in moral decline: Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice, not because of the danger of complete annihilation which is hanging over its head – this being just a symptom and not the real disease – but because humanity is devoid of those vital values which are necessary not only for its healthy development but also for its real progress. Even the Western world realizes that Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind.73

The disease that has crippled mankind and threatens it with total annihilation is the lack of healthy values that will guide it towards the perfectly just society. This is reminiscent of the Counter-Enlightenment argument, which I mentioned earlier, that blamed the advent of liberalism, materialism and rationalism for the decline of those values that gave man a sense of identity and destiny. If there are no absolute truths, what is to prevent man from becoming utter hedonists? How does one create order in a society in which all truths are ‘absolutely relative’? Qutb views Islam as being the only system that can provide for these values. If mankind is to be saved, it needs to turn towards Islam for guidance, submit itself to the laws of Islam. So whereas in totalitarianism man themselves need to discover the laws of history or nature, Voegelin’s Gnostic speculation, in Islam, as is the case in any other religion, these laws are already given by God himself. Qutb observes how Islam was revealed to humanity but how humanity eventually turned its back on Islam and reverted to a state known as jahiliyyah, very roughly translatable as ignorance. At some point in time, man no longer relied on Allah and his commandments but instead they relied on mankind itself.74 Man created institutions that were not ordained by Allah and they relied on them. Man created systems of governance such as 73

Sayyid Qutb, Milestones (1964). Translated in Andrew G. Bostom, ed., The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, Amherst: Prometheus Books 2005. 74 Sayed Khatab, The Political Thought of Sayyid Qutb : The Theory of Jahiliyyah, Routledge Studies in Political Islam, London: Routledge 2006.



democracy, which were tyrannical because now some man ruled over others thereby enslaving them. Man-made laws are a particularly malicious form of jahiliyyah because what they actually represent is the fact that men trust each other more than they trust Allah. It is blasphemy of the worst sort because it ascribes partners to God. Since God is one, a concept known as Tawheed ,75 you cannot worship anything besides him. Certainly not anything man-made. In short, what we today call the modern world, with its institutes, its laws and its secular systems of government, all of which have no basis in Sharia, is a form of tyranny bound to enslave man and keep them from realizing that their true freedom lies in the religion of Allah and submitting to its commandments. All those who do not submit, oppose. Those who oppose obstruct the freedom of all and are thus inevitably enemies. In this way Qutb demonstrates how by applying the logicality of ideological thinking to the axiom that only Islam can truly guarantee freedom for all, the world is divided into the Manichean forces of good and evil. We must ask ourselves a number of questions: • How does Qutb want to liberate mankind? • Does he intend to liberate by force or merely by preaching? • How does he intend to act on those who oppose this process of liberation? • How does he view the freedom of people who do not oppose but do not convert either? Qutb summarizes the process of universal liberation as follows: Islam is a universal message, which the whole of mankind should accept or make peace with. No political system or material power should put hindrances in the way of preaching Islam.…If someone does this, then it is the duty of Islam to fight him until he is either killed or until he declares his submission.76

In order to free men and to establish the rule of Allah, Muslims should be able to preach to non-Muslims and convince them that the only way out of slavery is by submission to the laws and commandments of Allah, a concept known as jihad by word ( jihad bil lisan) or Da’wa. 75

Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Kitab at-Tauhid, trans. compilation and research department dar-us-salam, Riyadh: Darussalam 1996. 76 Qutb, Milestones, op. cit. It should be noted that one of the meanings of the word Islam is submission.



The way to establish God’s rule on earth means that His laws be enforced and the final decision in all affairs be according to these laws.77

Anything or anyone that opposes this ability to preach and that keeps the system of servitude intact is deemed an enemy of the freedom of man, an enemy of Islam. Therefore, opposition needs to be fought until it either declares its submission or is killed. Classical Islamic law allows a Jihad to be fought under certain circumstances:78 • against those who attack Muslims or Muslim lands also known as the defensive Jihad • secondly Jihad is ordained against the polytheists, unbelievers and the people of the book ( Jews and Christians) who show open animosity against Islam79 For the people of the book three options were open: • conversion • agree to pay the jizaah, a form of taxation, in exchange for protection and thus attain the status of Dhimmi • bekil led For the polytheist and unbelievers two options were open: • conversion • be killed Qutb argues that any system that enables servitude of men is inimical to Islam, opposes it and is therefore its enemy. Any law that, for instance, separates religion and state is inimical to the Sharia and therefore to the freedom of man. The logical consequence of this ideology is that the 77

Loc. cit. Bostom, (ed.), ‘The Legacy of Jihad’, Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, From Dawa to Jihad, 2004. It should be noted that there are two concepts of jihad, the greater and smaller jihad. The greater jihad is an inner struggle against one’s own shortcomings. The smaller jihad is armed warfare. 79 Loc. cit. Animosity is a term open to wide interpretation and historically could mean anything from open hostility to a rejection of the ‘invitation’ to conversion or criticism of Islam. 78



Jihad is necessary until everything that contravenes Islam has been vanquished. Jihad, according to Qutb, is explicitly not fought because of any threat of aggression against Islamic lands or against the Muslims residing in them. The reason for jihad exists in the nature of its message and in the actual conditions, it finds in human societies, and not merely in the necessity for defence.80

So what happens when all the institutions and laws that enslaved man have been vanquished? What happens to the freedom of those who do not oppose Islam but do not wish to convert either? The answer is that, although they remain free to adopt Islam, they lose their freedom to live in a system that is not Islamic. Whatever system is to be established in the world ought to be on the authority of God, deriving its laws from Him alone.81

Qutb goes through great lengths to underpin that Islam does not force its beliefs on anyone. Jews remain free to be Jewish and Christians can remain Christian. There is however ample historic documentation available, especially from Islamic sources themselves, to prove that this freedom actually entailed a sever limiting of their ability to have an active religious community.82 It was forbidden for them to build or restore places of worship, to openly practice their faith, to preach their faith or to vent criticism of Islam. Any transgression, even if it was done by an individual, could annul the Dhimmi treaty for the whole group thus putting them all at risk of being killed. Therefore, although violent conversions were not allowed, it is clear that a system of legal discrimination was enacted in order to ‘help’ the people of the book to convert. Qutb is most clear about the fate of non-Muslims in his description of the end of history, which is reminiscent of Trotsky’s permanent revolution: Thus, this struggle ( Jihad) is not a temporary phase but an eternal state… as truth and falsehood cannot co-exist on this earth. The eternal struggle for the freedom of man will continue until the religion is purified for God.83


Qutb, Milestones, op. cit. Loc. cit. 82 Bostom, ed., ‘The Legacy of Jihad’, op. cit. This book offers a great number of primary documents by Muslim historians and theologians of that age themselves and eyewitness accounts many of which have been translated into English for the first time. They offer an intriguing look on the realities of Muslim rule over non-Muslims. 83 Qutb, Milestones, op. cit. 81



This all culminates in the familiar sounding Robespierrian credo: If we insist on calling Islamic Jihad a defensive movement, then we must change the meaning of the word ‘defence’ and mean by it ‘the defence of man’ against all those elements which limit his freedom.84

The great caliphate that was formed during the first 150 years of Islamic expansion eventually broke up into smaller territories and the predominance of the violent offensive Jihad took a backseat to a time of mutual, and often times opportunistic, tolerance between Muslim and nonMuslim states. The ideological thoughts of Sayyid Qutb may have given it new life but they certainly were not the only ones. His thoughts would merge with the work of an earlier Islamic thinker and would eventually form the basis of today’s violent extremism. Whereas the reach of the violent Jihad in Qutb’s ideology meets its limits in the temporary boundaries set in place by the protected status of the Dhimmi’s, there is another school of ideology that extends it to include the Jews and Christians and even Muslims who don’t follow their puritanical creed. Muhammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab like Sayyid Qutb, Muhammad Ibn Abd-Al-Wahhab (1703–1792), belongs to the same Sunni form of Islamic theology known as Salafism. Without going into too much detail, Salafism claims to advocate the tradition of itjihad, interpretation but in practice often times amounts to taqlid, imitation of the time of the prophet and his companions, the salafi. As such, it sees the long standing and rich tradition of Islamic legal argumentation and interpretation as bid’a, an unlawful innovation. In practice, this means that the followers of Salafism opt to take the sources of Islam literally, allowing very little room, if any, for interpretation and reasoning. The creed of Wahhab however, aptly named Wahhabism although the followers prefer to call themselves Muwahhidun or Unitarians, goes a step further. Those who fail to abide by their literal interpretation stand the risk of falling under takfir, meaning to be denounced as apostates, a crime punishable by death.85 Following the 84

Loc. cit. Dr. Abou El Fad, Islamic jurist and scholar, Professor of Law at UCLA school of Law quotes Wahhab as saying: “All those who use opinion or reason in legal interpretation are apostates”. He furthermore describes Wahhab’ religious creed as follows: “Ibn Abd al-Wahhab doesn’t teach love and peace. He gives permission to kill”. In John Kearney, “The Real Wahhab”, review of Reviewed Item, The Boston Globe, no. August 8, 2004, globe/ideas/articles/2004/08/08/the_real_wahhab%3Fpg%3Dfull+quote+wahhab& hl=nl&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=nl 85



teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah, a highly influential salafi theologian who advocated a literal interpretation of the Quran and hadith, Wahhab declared: The ways of the people of the book are condemned as those of the polytheists.86

By this declaration, he reinterpreted the already existing commandment to fight the polytheist and unbelievers until all religion is for Allah. By describing the people of the book as polytheists, he actually declared that it was legally obligatory to fight them until they were either killed or converted. To Wahhab, Jihad was the ultimate manifestation of Islam, a furnace in which Muslims are melted out, that allows the separation of the bad Muslim from the good one and that grants its fighters instant access to paradise. The Jihad of Wahhab had little to do with the noble notion of inner struggle; instead, it was focused on purifying the world through the murder of the unbelievers, the infidels, the Christians, the Jews and those Muslims who did not conform to his puritanical version of Islam. In the ideal Wahhabi society, the freedom of the believer is reduced to following the instructions of the faith to the letter. Any diversion, dissent or innovation is in their eyes an act of polytheism, or even worse, apostasy, and thus punishable by death. The extent to which this puritanical creed has influenced Saudi society is disquieting. Religious freedom is nonexistent and all Saudi citizens are by law required to be Muslim. Furthermore, non-Sunni Muslims and non-Muslims are not permitted to publicly practice their faith and their right to do so privately is not always respected. Informers monitor classrooms to prevent western philosophy or non-Sunni religions from being taught. Proselytizing by non Sunni Muslims and the distribution of likeminded materials is also illegal.87,88 The constitution 86 Dore Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, Washington, DC: Regnery Publishers 2003. 87 Freedomhouse, ‘Saudi Arabia’, review of Reviewed Item, 2007, http://www 88 U.S. Department of State, International Religious Freedom Report 2006, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor 2006. “There is no legal recognition or protection of religious freedom, and it is severely restricted in practice. Although millions of Muslims and non-Muslims did practice their faith on a daily basis, both Muslims whose beliefs do not conform to the Hanbali School of Islamic jurisprudence and non-Muslims must practice their religion in private and are vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and sometimes detention. Islam is the official religion, and all citizens must be Muslims. Religious freedom is not recognized or protected under the Government’s interpretations of Islamic laws, and basic religious freedoms are denied to all but those



of Saudi-Arabia is based solely on the Quran and the hadith and the strict appliance of what Saudi-Arabia considers to be Sharia law has led to the institutionalization of religious and gender based discrimination.89 In Saudi-Arabia the enforcement of the Sharia extends to most spheres of public and, to an extent, private life. The task of ensuring adherence to the obligatory prayers, separation of the sexes and wearing of correct Islamic garments for women is entrusted to the ‘Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice’. This semi-autonomous religious authority has its own police force called the mutaawi’ah.90 An example of its activities is the following: On the 15th of March 2002, the mutaawi’ah tried to prevent young girls from fleeing their burning school building. Their crime was that they were not wearing the proper Islamic attire for women namely the headscarf and black robe.91 As a result, the religious police beat them back into the flaming building. Those who tried to help the girls were warned of the consequences, since helping these obviously sinful girls was in itself a sinful act and, in addition, the mixing of the sexes was in such a fashion that it was deemed in defiance of Islamic law. Fifteen girls burned to death because of the puritanical fervour of the religious police. Although this incident sparked outrage in Saudi-Arabia itself, and certain steps aimed at moderation of the mutaawi’ah have since been taken, its mere existence and the fact that this was possible is indicative of the influence of Wahhabism on Saudi-Arabia’s society. More alarmingly however is the fact that the greatest threat from Wahhabism is not directed at Saudi Arabia itself. In the formative years who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam. Citizens are denied the freedom to choose or change their religion. The Government limits the practice of all but the officially sanctioned version of Islam and prohibits the public practice of other religions”. 89 Loc. cit. “Islamic law considers Hindus to be polytheists; identification with polytheism is used to justify discrimination against Hindus, inter alia, in calculating accidental death or injury compensation. Christians and Jews, who are classified as “People of the Book”, are also discriminated against, but to a lesser extent than Hindus. For example, according to the country’s “Hanbali” interpretation of Shari’a, once fault is determined by a court, a Muslim male receives 100 percent of the amount of compensation determined, a male Jew or Christian receives 50 percent, and all others (including Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs) receive 1/16 of the amount a male Muslim may receive. Women’s testimony is worth only half that of men, and a non-Muslim woman’s testimony is worth less than that of a Muslim woman”. 90 Cyril Glasse, The New Encyclopedia of Islam: Revised Edition of the Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Rev. ed., Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press 2001, p. 333 “those who enforce obedience”. 91 RAND Corporation, The Muslim World after 9/11, Santa Monica: 2004.



of the Saudi kingdom, Muhammad ibn Saud, then the ruler of the small town Diriyah, entered into an alliance with Wahhab. Both Saud and Wahhab endeavoured to enlarge their sphere of influence although Saud was mainly interested in territory whilst Wahhab was looking to impose his version of Islam upon neighbouring Muslim tribes. Saud was to provide Wahhab with the military means to conduct their ideological and religious warfare, thereby eliminating Saud’s competitors for political power, in return for which Wahhab would offer his reign religious legitimacy. This covenant was solidified by the marriage of Wahhab’s daughter to King Saud. Following this alliance, Wahhab unleashed a campaign of terror in the Arabian Peninsula and for the first time in Islamic history legitimized jihad against fellow Muslims.92 In accordance with the basic tenets of Salafism, Wahhab declared that since the formation of the schools of jurisprudence, the Muslim community had lived in a state of unbelief. According to Wahhab, true Islam was the Islam of the prophet and his companions. Their example of how to live an Islamic life, together with the text of the Quran, had to be taken literally and any diversion from it was an act of kufr, disbelief. As a result, all those who did not adhere to his version of Islam gave evidence to their unbelief and therefore became apostates. When the terror of the ikhwan, the brotherhood of Wahhabi Muslims, grew too large for Saud to contain, he made a deal with them: they were given sanctuary by the Saudi kingdom but were not to intervene with the affairs of the kingdom too much, much less be allowed to continue their campaign of terror within the kingdom. In return for religious legitimacy, the kingdom provided them with all the funds necessary to spread their radical Islamic ideology to the outside world.93 This money eventually laid the foundation for what was later to become Al-Qaeda, the Taliban regime and countless so-called relief or charity funds, which under the banner of benevolence promote religious hatred and intolerance around the world in Wahhabi schools and mosques, including in the Netherlands, and funded numerous terror organizations such as Hamas.94,95 It is ferociously anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and anti-Shiite, 92 Dore Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism, op. cit. p. 22. 93 Loc. cit. 94 Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, Saudi Influences in the Netherlands – Links between the Salafist Mission, Radicalisation Processes and Islamic Terrorism, 2004. 95 Loretta Napoleoni, Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks, London: Pluto 2003.



inciting genocide of these groups irrespective of their individuality and employing much of the same rhetoric as the Nazis, a rhetoric that it integrates in its school curriculum.96,97,98 To give an idea of the enormity of this operation: over the last 27 years Saudi-Arabia has spent over 70 billion dollars, that is 2.5 billion dollars a year, in spreading the Wahhabi ideology. In comparison, the USSR at the height of its power spent only 1 billion dollars a year on propaganda.99 Just two of its many ‘charitable’ institutions, the al-Haramain foundation and the international Islamic relief foundation have printed over 13 million books, trained and sent out over 9000 preachers and founded more than 5000 mosques.100 Both organizations operate from Saudi embassies or have their own office buildings in Western countries. Both are implicated by US authorities in terrorist activities. A document called “the golden chain” was obtained by Bosnian police in a raid on the Saudi ‘charitable’ fund “Benevolence International Foundation” in 2002. The document lists the names of sponsors of Al-Qaeda. The list consists of more than twenty top Saudi and Gulf state financial sponsors including bankers, businessmen, and former ministers.101 The aim is to spread Wahhabism into every corner of the world and undermine the nonIslamic and non-Wahhabi societies in which they reside by violent or non-violent means, whichever is more opportune. Whereas jihad in classical Islam is limited to the polytheists, unbelievers and active opponents of Islam, Wahhabism also legitimizes jihad against all those Muslims who do not subscribe to their views. In this sense, Wahhabism is a deviation, or ironically bid’a, from classical Islam. In addition, although it can be said the well known credo of “no forced conversion” is lacking in credibility, one is hesitant to decline an 96

Hans Janssen, Van Jodenhaat Naar Zelfmoordterrorisme, Heerenveen: Groen 2006. Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Return of Anti-Semitism, London: Politico’s 2005. 98 Centre for Religious Freedom of Freedom House and Institute for Gulf Affairs, Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance, 2006, p. 11: “As demonstrated by excerpts from the dozen current Islamic studies textbooks analyzed in this report, the Saudi public school religious curriculum continues to propagate an ideology of hate toward the ‘unbeliever’, that is, Christians, Jews, Shiites, Sufis, Sunni Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine”. 99 David E. Kaplan; Monica Ekman; Aamir Latif, ‘The Saudi Connection: How Billions in Oil Money Spawned a Global Terror Network’, U.S. News & World Report, December 15 (2003). 100 United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Wahhabism: State-Sponsored Extremism Worldwide, 2003. 101 Library of Congress, ‘Saudi Arabia: Terrorist Financing Issues’, in Congressional research service, 2004. 97



‘invitation to Islam’ when heavily outnumbered or faced with legal discrimination, forced conversions are not the rule in the long and varied history or Islam.102 Wahhab’s unrestricted jihad explicitly allows for forced conversions and as such introduces an amount of religious terror, which came as a shock even to contemporary Muslims. Whilst the alliance with Saud limits the amount of influence of Wahhabism within Saudi-Arabia, it also allowed for an enormous amount of money to go into exporting Wahhabism to the world. One of the consequences of this policy was the financing of numerous religious schools or madrassa’s in almost every continent. These schools were to become well known when their Pakistani students, also known as talibs, entered into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Afghani mujahedeen in order to rid the country of tyranny of the warlords. Initially welcomed by the population, the talibs, who were organized under the leadership of Muhammad Omar (born ca. 1959), came to establish the Taliban regime that lasted from 1994–2001. Omar, who was an ardent follower of Sheikh Abdullah Azzam (1941–1989), mentor of Osama bin laden, endeavoured to create an Islamic state that would be the embodiment of Sharia and was heavily influenced by the Wahhabi conception of Islam. The Taliban regime would come to function as a training ground and as a base of operations for an organization that was until then stateless, Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda and Al-Zawahiri Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri, born in Egypt in 1951, is the second in command and chief ideologue of Al-Qaeda.103

102 Bernhard Lewis in Gold, Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism op. cit. p. 24 “While the universal Caliphate broke up into smaller states, the irresistible and permanent jihad came to an end, and a relationship of mutual tolerance was established between the Muslim world and the rest (…). Jihad was postponed from historic to messianic times”. 103 Zawahiri joined the MB at the age of fourteen and would later become one of the chief organizers and recruiters of the Egyptian Islamic jihad (EIJ), a radical offshoot of the MB. The EIJ was a terrorist organization, which like the MB, was heavily influenced by the writings of Al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and the Salafi creed. Its main goal was the overthrow of the Egyptian government and the establishment of an Islamic state. Following the assassination of Anwar Sadat in October, 1981 by a cell of EIJ, Zawahiri and hundreds of other members of EIJ were arrested, tortured and subsequently imprisoned. Released in 1984, Zawahiri travelled to Saudi-Arabia, Pakistan and Sudan. In Pakistan, he met the founders of the Maktab al-khadamat (MAK), an organization which funneled money, arms and fighters from the Arab world to Afghanistan in order to wage a jihad against the soviets. The founders were Abdullah Azzam, a member of



With firm roots in the ideology of Sayyid Qutb, Al-Banna’s MB and the theology of Ibn Taymiyyah, Zawahiri’s organization, the Egyptian Islamic jihad (EIJ) attempted to replace the Egyptian secular government with an Islamic state based on the Sharia. As such, Zawahiri’s political ideology adopted a top-down approach, believing that the rebirth of the Islamic state should be organized form above. After a number of setbacks, failed assassination attempts and numerous crackdowns on the EIJ by consecutive Egyptian governments, the EIJ in 2001 merged with Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda (founded in 1988). Disillusioned by the failure of the top-down approach, Zawahiri would come to abandon his policy of overthrowing the Egyptian government and instead aim at mobilization of the Muslim masses at large. Operating from Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda was not to be the instrument of revolution but rather function as the spiritual, ideological and in part, operational headquarters of a much larger Islamic Palingenetic movement aimed at awakening the Muslim masses. The conditions of the Islamic world, according to Zawahiri, overlap to a great degree with those of the masses in pre-communist Russia, China, Cambodia and pre-Nazi Germany. The masses face material poverty, have no political representation, suffer greatly from a lack of civil and political freedom and are in a search for order and destiny now that their traditional ways are increasingly confronted with modernity. Numerous reports by human rights organizations, the UN and the rise of Islamic revivalist movements across the Islamic world tend to agree with this observation.

the Palestinian branch of the MB who was already acquainted with Zawahiri, and Osama bin Laden. During his stay in Pakistan, Zawahiri endeavored to reestablish the EIJ and subsequently found refuge in Sudan where he could once again set up a base of operations. It was during this period in 1991 that Zawahiri assumed leadership of the EIJ. During this stay in Sudan, the Egyptian government was able to get their hands on a list of the majority of the members of the EIJ, which resulted in a major crackdown on the organization in Egypt, during which more than 800 members of the organization were arrested. In a reaction to this crackdown, the EIJ in Sudan attempted a number of unsuccessful attempts at destabilizing the Egyptian government, most notably on the leader of the crackdown, Egyptian Interior Minister, Hasan al-Alfi and Prime Minister Aref Sidqi in 1993. In 1995 the EIJ together with another Egyptian radical islamists group, al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, and the Sudanese government plotted to assassinate Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. This attempt also failed and resulted yet again in a crackdown by the Egyptian authorities against radical islamists groups. To complicate matters even more, the Sudanese government, under pressure from the international community, forced the EIJ and bin Laden to leave Sudan. Finally, in 2001, the EIJ merged with bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda, its official name being jamaa’at Qa’idat al-Jihad.



Propaganda and Indoctrination Within the body of literature and statements of any radical ideological movement, a clear distinction should be made between propaganda and indoctrination. Propaganda is intended for those who are not a member of the inner circle of believers i.e. those who still need to be persuaded or those who need to be appeased by false information. Indoctrination on the other hand is strictly aimed at those who already subscribe to the movements ideology and are deemed ready to be exposed to the true aims of the movement.104 When reading the statements made by Zawahiri or bin Laden it should therefore be kept in mind to which audience they are addressed. Their statements to the west, when compared to statements directed to Islamic audiences, fall under the category of taqiyya105 and propaganda. These statements have as their main theme an accusation of colonialism, occupation and the support of dictatorship and wish to transmit the message that if only the west would end their transgressions against the Islamic world, peace would be at hand. In other words, in their propaganda Al-Qaeda portrays itself as a pragmatic opponent that merely wishes to retaliate injustices incurred upon the Muslim world by the west. If the western hostilities would cease, so would Al-Qaeda’s self-defined defensive jihad. Al-Qaeda however leaves no illusion as to the validity of these messages. What they state in their messages directed to the west is directly contradicted in their statements directed to the Islamic world. In “why we are fighting you”, a statement addressed to Americans, bin Laden describes Islam as: the religion of showing kindness to others, establishing justice between them, granting them their rights, and defending the oppressed (…) and

104 For example, the propaganda of the soviet-union would emphasize the happiness of the workers, the equal distribution of wealth and the improvement of the standard of living in the USSR. Indoctrination on the other hand would emphasize the need for an ongoing battle against the enemies of the people, within society and even within one’s own family, eventually making the Gulag an obvious and necessary institution of soviet society. 105 Taqiyya means that Muslims may under certain circumstances openly deceive infidels by feigning friendship or goodwill – even apostasy – provided that their heart remains true to Islam”. Zawahiri elevates the concept of Taqiyya to a doctrine, something that should be part and parcel of the Muslims attitude towards the non-Muslim, and legitimizes its use by a Quranic verse that states: “Let the believers not take for friends and allies infidels rather than believers: whoever does this shall have no relationship with Allah – unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions”, Quran 3:28. Raymond Ibrahim, Ayman Zawahiri, and Osama Bin Laden, The Al Qaeda Reader, New York: Doubleday 2007, pp. 64–65.



total equality between all people, without regard to their color, sex, or language”.106

In a statement directed at the Islamic world, more specifically SaudiArabia which was already familiar with the puritanical Wahhabi creed of Islam, the emphasis is shifted from toleration, peace and kindness to a more threatening: convert, submit or die. There are only three choices in Islam: either willing submission; or payment of the jizaah, thereby physical not spiritual submission to the authority of Islam; or the sword-for it is not right to let him [an infidel] live. The matter is summed up for every person alive: either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam or die.107

What this suggests, if not proves, is that in stark contrast to what some may hope and what Al-Qaeda’s propaganda may proclaim, the aim of Al-Qaeda is not practical, temporal, limited or defensive. If such claims are made, they serve to confuse, appease or blind the opponent and as such merely serve a strategic function. As Muhammad himself said: “war is deceit”.108 This of course is nothing new, it happens in every conflict, nor is it unique to Islam. The ideology of Al-Qaeda focuses on two main concepts, the doctrines of ‘loyalty and enmity’, and offensive jihad. These concepts, according to Al-Qaeda, are nothing new or invented but are dictated by Islam itself. The statements made by Al-Qaeda concerning these doctrines all refer to the basic founding stones of Islamic theology, and in terms of structure, can be compared to that of a legal document. The texts are rife with references to the Quran, to the life of the prophet and his companions and to the corresponding views of Islamic scholars. All in all the texts give the impression that Al-Qaeda is not inventing a new doctrine but merely reviving a lost tradition. Loyalty and Enmity The central theme of the doctrine of loyalty and enmity is that a Muslim is obliged to love his fellow-Muslim and hate the non-Muslim. In the 106 Osama bin Laden: Why we are fighting you, October 2002, translated in op. cit. p. 202. 107 Op. cit. p. 19, italics by me. It should be noted that jizaah is only possible for people of the book, not for Hindu’s, atheist or other categories not expressly mentioned in the Quran as having the rights of the Dhimmi. Furthermore, if the people of the book are found to be in opposition to the Muslims, as Wahhab mentioned, then the possibility for physical submission to Islam is no longer valid. 108 Bukhari, ‘Sahih Al-Bukhari’, (864) Volume 4, Book 52, Number 267, Riyadh: Darussalam 1997.



texts “Loyalty and enmity, an inherited doctrine and a lost reality” and “Modern Islam is a Prostration to the West”, Zawahiri and respectively bin Laden explain the content of this doctrine. For the purpose of this paragraph, I shall quote extensively form the Quran and the hadith since this in the end is the foundation of Al-Qaeda’s ideology. Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred – directed from the Muslim to the infidel – is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them. The west perceives fighting, enmity and hatred all for the sake of religion as unjust, hostile and evil. But who’s understanding is right – our notions of justice and righteousness, or theirs?109

The basis for this hatred is twofold. First of all, Allah stipulates in the Quran that the infidel hates the Muslim. O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: Rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: What their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made plain to you the Signs, if ye have wisdom. (Q. 3:118)110 They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper”. (Q. 4:89)

Secondly, and far more important and numerous, are the number of versus in the Quran that obligate the Muslim to hate and fight the nonMuslim. I shall name but a few that Al-Qaeda repeats ad nauseum: Infidels are those who say: ‘Allah is one of three’ [trinity] (Q. 5:73) Infidels are those who say: ‘Allah is the messiah, son of Mary’ (Q. 5:17) Let believers not take for friends and allies infidels rather than believers: whoever does this shall have no relationship left with Allah (Q. 3:28) O prophet! Wage war against the infidels and hypocrites and be ruthless. Their abode is hell-an evil fate! (Q. 9:73)

109 ‘Moderate Islam is a prostration to the West’, translated in Raymond Ibrahim, Ayman Zawahiri, and Osama Bin Laden, The Al Qaeda Reader, op. cit. p. 43. 110 The translation from the Quran is either the one given by Al-Qaeda in their own texts or from not derived from Al-Qaeda’s texts.



When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you; therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore, strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them. (Q. 8:12)

For Al-Qaeda, these verses transmit an eternal truth.111 Accordingly, in their view Islam is radical, moderate Islam is considered a ‘prostration to the west’ and something that deviates from the commandments of the Quran and the example of the prophet.112 Concepts such as tolerance, interfaith dialogue and mutual respect appear to Zawahiri as laughable: “as if one of the foundations of our religions is how to coexist with infidels!!”113 Islam to Zawahiri follows the same principle that guided Muhammad when he stated: I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshipped – Allah who put my livelihood under the shadow of my spear and who inflicts humiliation and scorn on those who disobey my commandments.114 111 It should be mentioned that the way in which these verses are interpreted is subject of discussion within the Islamic world itself. Some claim that these versus refer to specific circumstances at specific points in Islamic history and should only been seen in that respect. Others, such as Al-Qaeda, would insist that the validity of these verses is on the contrary universal and timeless. When one reads these verses, and the context in which they are situated within the text from which they are derived, one does not get the impression that the definition and fate of infidels and hypocrites is susceptible to change. If the Quran is the timeless word of Allah it would not seem correct to assume that these commandments could lose their validity over time. However that may be, and this is not the place for such a discussion, for Al-Qaeda it is clear that Allah has spoken to the community of believers and has informed them of the existential hatred of the unbeliever towards the Muslim, and the Muslims eternal duty to hate and fight the unbeliever. 112 This is exemplified in their reaction to a statement by the Saudis entitled “How we can coexist”. The latter was written by the Saudi’s in reaction to an American statement: “What we are fighting for” and attempts to formulate a platform of interfaith dialogue. Upset with this deviation from what they see as true Islamic teachings, Al-Qaeda responded as follows: op. cit. p. 17 “The Islam preached by the advocates of interreligious dialogue does not contain loyalty and enmity; nor does it contain offensive jihad; nor boundaries established by Sharia – since it is these very doctrines that worry the west most (…) indeed the very essence of our problem with the west revolves around these principles”. 113 Bin Laden in ‘Moderate Islam is a prostration to the west’, The Al Qaeda Reader, op. cit. p. 23. 114 Bin Laden in ‘Al-Qaeda’s declaration of war against Americans’, The Al Qaeda Reader, op. cit. p. 11. Although no one verse could be found that described this statement it is probably a contraction of Bukhari, ‘Sahih Al-Bukhari’, volume 1 book 8 number 378, op. cit.: “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah”. And if they say so, pray like our



The language of the Quran and hadith, as used here by Al-Qaeda and likeminded scholars, indicates that the establishment of Islam automatically created a world divided into two, namely the world of the believer and that of the unbeliever. In this worldview the Quran, which is the word of Allah himself, stipulates that the unbeliever is by definition a constant threat to the Muslim, and the Muslim is obliged to hate and fight the unbelievers until all submit either physically or spiritually to Islam. Whether or not it is true that the unbelievers are a threat to the Muslims is irrelevant, the Quran states it, therefore it is true. The ideological danger of this position is of course evident. When no fact derived from reality is allowed to interfere with the reality described by the doctrine, the only option left is to view the world from within the limited confines of the paradigm created by that doctrine. In other words, since the doctrine cannot be rewritten in order to conform to reality, reality has to be transformed in order to coincide with the doctrine. Either the doctrine is false, in which Allah himself would be false, or our understanding of reality is incorrect. For the true believer this should be an easy choice. This paradigm is essentially the same as the totalitarian and Gnostic speculative paradigm as described by Voegelin when he stated: The system is justified by the fact of its construction; the possibility of calling into question the construction of systems, as such, is not acknowledged. That the form of science is the system must be assumed as beyond all question.115

Offensive Jihad The doctrine of loyalty and enmity automatically raises the question: how should the hatred toward the unbelievers be materialized? Al-Qaeda in this respect follows the same line of, amongst others, Sayyid Qutb and Wahhab who argued that it is in the very nature of Islam to wage an offensive jihad against the unbelievers. This position does not seem strange since it was Muhammed himself who proclaimed that he was ordered to fight until all religion was for Allah.116 The basic position

prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah’ ”. And Volume 4, Book 52, Number 73”Allah’s Apostle said: “Know that Paradise is under the shades of swords”. 115 Voegelin, Modernity without Restraint op. cit. p. 274. 116 It should be noted that Islamic jurisprudence allows for a jihad to be fought under the leadership of a Caliph or Islamic ruler. Both Qutb and Zawahiri find that such a ruler is absent from the Islamic world and that thus jihad becomes an individual



seems to be twofold; on the one hand all religion needs to be purified for Allah, meaning that the object of the struggle is Allah and the supreme reign of his word. On the other hand, the content of Islam is seen as being man’s ultimate destiny and freedom, and the propagation of Islam is essentially to man’s benefit. Both goals can be achieved, as we have seen earlier, by jihad bil lisan or Da’wa (preaching, good example) or other non-violent means, provided that the Muslims do not encounter violence or obstruction from the non-Muslims. Again, the definition of violence in this context is a very flexible one, Qutb already argued that No political system or material power should put hindrances in the way of preaching Islam. … If someone does this, then it is the duty of Islam to fight him until he is either killed or until he declares his submission117.

So the question arises: what qualifies as a hindrance? Does Qutb demand a monopoly in the terrain of preaching the ‘truth’? Or would he agree to a position of competition? Is a schoolteacher that teaches that Islam has no greater claim to truth than any other religion, inadvertently proclaiming war against Islam? Would a university that did not allow an Islamic prayer room to be used for Da’wa make the same mistake? Well, in a way, as a matter of logical deduction, they would be. Since Islam is seen as the epitome of freedom and the only true religion, anything contravening that message would amount to the promotion of tyranny.118 Moreover, it would hamper the goal of purifying religion for Allah. The principle underlying Da’wa therefore is ultimately one of monopoly since: “truth and falsehood cannot coexist on this earth”.119 Anything contravening that monopoly would qualify as a hindrance and thus open the way to offensive jihad. It is easy to see how a society built upon the ideas of the enlightenment, secularity, Darwinism or even another religion than Islam can fulfill the criterion of ‘hindrance obligation. The theological and legal difficulties of this intricate discussion within Islam itself have been left out of this overview for reasons of brevity. 117 Qutb, Milestones. It should be noted – once again – that one of the meanings of the word Islam is submission. 118 Bassam Tibi, ‘War and peace in Islam’, in Andrew G. Bostom, ed., The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, Amherst: Prometheus Books 2005, p. 328: “Relations between dar al-Islam, the home of peace (territory where Islam is the sovereign) and dar al-Harb, the world of the unbelievers, nevertheless take place in a state of war, according to the Quran and to the authoritative commentaries of Islamic jurists. Unbelievers who stand in the way, creating obstacles for the Da’wa, are blamed for this state of war, for the Da’wa can be pursued if others submit to it. In other words, those who resist Islam cause wars and are responsible for them”. 119 Op. cit. p. 52.



in the way of preaching Islam’. In this view, the act of construction of Islam automatically creates the conditions in which offensive jihad becomes the norm. The only way to escape from this destiny is to submit willfully to the demands of Islam. In addition it should be remembered that classical Islamic laws regarding the jihad clearly state that those who have ‘been invited to Islam’ are left with only two choices, submit or be killed (or pay the jizaah in the case of Christians and Jews). This in not an invention of Qutb, but an example of the prophet Muhammad himself.120 Thus the offensive jihad, the quest to liberate mankind and purify religion for Allah, seems logically inescapable. The only real way in which this permanent state of war can be avoided, and has been avoided in a great part of the Islamic history, is if this logical rigidity is put aside. If one, in contrary to Islamic prescripts, would accept the idea that Islam should only be allowed to ‘conquer the world’ in a truly free and open market place of ideas, in which all forms of intellectual and physical forms of pressure, such as dhimmitude and jihad, were eliminated, then the doctrine of offensive jihad would become void. The doctrine of loyalty and enmity would have no recourse to materialization. The question however is to what degree such a philosophy would remain consistent with Islam’s basic tenets. This depends highly on the way in which the sources are judged. Are they specifically aimed at the circumstances at that time or are they universal and timeless?121 The great expansion of the early Islam seems to indicate that jihad was offensive regardless of the peculiarity of the enemy it confronted and thus can serve as an example of timeless and universal interpretation. In addition, the decline of offensive jihad of later times appears to be caused by internal strife, disintegration, a lack of military might, loss of religious fervor and leadership or other real-world political demands, rather than any doctrinal change. The concept of offensive jihad is explained in numerous statements by Al-Qaeda. The following quotation is of particular interest: 120

See for instance the Battle at Khaybar in 628. The four madhab’s of Sunni Islam, Hanbali, Shafi, Hanafi and Maliki, all seem to agree that jihad is permissible either in defense or when the call to invitation to Islam has been extended and been refused. Modern interpreters, such as Pakistani Javed Ghamidi claim that the jihad as it was fought in the time of Muhammed should only be seen to apply to the enemies of those times. After that only the defensive jihad was permissible and only if it was fought by an Islamic state. In Shi’a Islam, the jihad is postponed until the return of the Mahdi. See also the authoritative compendium of orthodox Sunni Islamic law: Ahmad Ibn Naqib Al-Misri and Noah Ha Min Keller, Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ‘Umdat As-Salik’. Rev. ed. (Chicago, IL: Kazi Publications, 1994), p. 599ff. 121



This point in Islamic history is witness to a furious struggle between the powers of the infidels, tyrants and haughtiness, on the one hand and the Islamic Ummah and its mujahid vanguard on the other.122

With this simple sentence, the stage is set. The symbolism of the concepts used should not go unnoticed to those familiar with the history of totalitarian movements and Gnostic movements. First of all the current period in history is described in almost apocalyptical terms. The depiction of society as being in turmoil, depression and oppression is never truly questioned, for that would only bring to light inconvenient nuances, but just stated. In addition, the way in which Zawahiri describes the present condition of the Islamic world is almost a mirror image of the language used by the Nazi’s and the communists when they tried to convey their raison d’être to their respective audiences. Secondly, the enemy is defined in existentialist terms according to the doctrine of loyalty and enmity. Thirdly; the group of believers, those who God, history or nature has designated as its ‘chosen’ people, comparable to Volk or class, and its enemies are all referred to as a collective and not as a collection of individuals.123 This act of mass collectivization, which is based on the Quran itself, enables Zawahiri to circumvent the complexities of the socio-political reality that affects billions, i.e. the Hayekian uncertainty principle, and instead reduces all the intricacies of the human experience to a simple ‘us versus them’ equation which exists nowhere in reality. Again, the same can be seen in the Marxian124 and the Nazi’s125 reduction of world history to simple axiomatic premises. Fourthly, the struggle at hand is in the first place fought by a ‘mujahid vanguard’. The idea of a vanguard that fights in the front line and consists of those who are pure of heart is again nothing new. It can be seen


“loyalty and enmity” translated in op. cit. p. 66. The Ummah in Islamic vocabulary is the whole body of Muslims. Whether or not Muslims around the world agree with this generalization of themselves is not put into question, rather, those who disagree automatically become unbelievers. 124 Karl Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party, loc. cit. “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles”. 125 United States. Office of Chief of Counsel for the Prosecution of Axis Criminality. et al., Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume 1 chapter 7 3/55: “We stand today before a definitive decision. Either through a new experience and cultivation of the old blood, coupled with an enhanced fighting will, we will rise to a purificatory action, or the last Germanic-western values of morality and state-culture shall sink away in the filthy human masses of the big cities, become stunted on the sterile burning asphalt of a bestialized inhumanity, or trickle away as a horrific agent in the form of emigrants bastardizing themselves in South America, China, Dutch East India, Africa”. 123



in Mussolini’s combatinmenti, Hitler’s SS and Lenin’s Avant-garde. The idea behind this symbolic term is always the same, to serve as a role model of the perfect fascist, Aryan, communist or, as in this case, Muslim. Whereas in secular totalitarian and fascist movements the desire to sacrifice oneself for the greater good had to be skillfully created through indoctrination, the divine origin of Islam and its promise of paradise make this task a lot easier.126 Lastly, the quote from Zawahiri is interesting because it truly underlines the essence of loyalty and enmity. The world outside of Islam is a world of ‘infidels, tyrants and haughtiness’ which the Muslim world must strive to overcome. If Zawahiri had intended jihad to be only defensive, the unbelievers would have to be fought only if they would enter Muslim lands. This however is not the case. In accordance with Muhammad’s self-proclaimed mission, “I have been sent with the sword between my hands to ensure that no one but Allah is worshipped”, the ultimate mission of jihad is to cleanse the world of unbelief. This can never be purely defensive for as long as unbelief remains, the goal of Muhammad, and perhaps even the ultimate end of creation, cannot be fulfilled. Unbelief, as Qutb has also argued, is the negation of freedom. Since those who have heard the invitation to Islam will go to hell if they refuse to submit.127 Muslims are in fact acting in the best interests of the unbelievers when they force them to submit to Islam. Only in submission, either physically or spiritually, can one be saved from hell fire. Furthermore, Zawahiri emphasizes that it is not primarily love for ones fellow man, but more importantly love for Allah and Islam that drives the offensive jihad. befriending believers and battling infidels are critical pillars in a Muslim’s faith. His faith is incomplete without it. ….Any Muslim zealous over the

126 Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, ‘Sahih Muslim’. Book 020, Number 4645 “It has been narrated on the authority of Abu Sa’id Khudri that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said (to him): Abu Sa’id, whoever cheerfully accepts Allah as his Lord, Islam as his religion and Muhammad as his Apostle is necessarily entitled to enter Paradise. He (Abu Sa’id) wondered at it and said: Messenger of Allah, repeat it for me. He (the Messenger of Allah) did that and said: There is another act which elevates the position of a man in Paradise to a grade one hundred (higher), and the elevation between one grade and the other is equal to the height of the heaven from the earth. He (Abu Sa’id) said: What is that act? He replied: Jihad in the way of Allah! Jihad in the way of Allah!” 127 Quran 33:64–66 “Verily Allah has cursed the Unbelievers and prepared for them a Blazing Fire, – To dwell therein for ever: no protector will they find, nor helper. The Day that their faces will be turned upside down in the Fire, they will say: “Woe to us! Would that we had obeyed Allah and obeyed the Messenger!”



triumph of Islam cannot accept any call to halt or postpone jihad or turn the Ummah away from it.128

As long as unbelief exists, jihad is proscribed. This brings us to the point raised by Arendt namely that the plurality of man, its most basic capacity for spontaneity, and the fact that each birth is a new beginning, in essence entails the possibility for unbelief.129 The jihad is therefore not only directed at all current unbelievers, but also at the potential future unbelievers. The only way to avoid unbelief in the future is to install upon society such a system of indoctrination that any attempt at spontaneous, and thus possibly divergent, thought concerning religion would a priori become impossible. Jihad in that sense is a permanent institution. The Quran and hadith provide evidence that this jihad is to be extended to the inner circle of the family as well.130,131 Lastly, secular totalitarianism have always promised the fabrication of utopia to those whom they had submitted to their reign. If utopia was not reached, or if in fact the opposite became reality, there were always classes of enemies who could be identified and held responsible for ‘sabotaging’ the revolution. The eschatology of Islam however places the ‘end of history’ firmly in the hands of Allah; it cannot be immanentized by man. There is therefore no concrete image of utopia by which the progress of the revolution can be judged. There is however an earthly Eschaton that can be immanentized and that is the status in which Islam rules supreme

128 Loyalty and enmity translated in Ibrahim, Zawahiri, and Bin Laden, The Al Qaeda Reader, op. cit. p. 113. 129 Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, op. cit. p. 398: “This movement, proceeding according to its own law, cannot in the long run be hindered; eventually its force will always prove more powerful than the most powerful forces engendered by the actions and the will of men. But it can be slowed down and is slowed down almost inevitably by the freedom of man, which even totalitarian rulers cannot deny, for this freedom – irrelevant and arbitrary as they may deem it – is identical with the fact that men are born and die and that therefore each of them is a new beginning, begins in a sense the world anew”. 130 Quran 58:22 “Thou wilt not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein (for ever). Allah will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah. Truly it is the Party of Allah that will achieve Felicity”. 131 Ibn Kathir, the authoritative commentator on the hadith describes how the companions and successors of the prophet would kill their fathers, brothers and cousins if they found them in opposition to Allah or his messenger. See Ibrahim, Zawahiri, and Bin Laden, The Al Qaeda Reader, op. cit. p. 76.



over earth and when ‘all religion is purified for Allah’. In which case we turn back to the previous argument of the problem of plurality, spontaneity and the necessary permanence of jihad. Summary and Conclusion I have described the criteria that form the basis of totalitarianism as follows: 1. The formation of an exclusive eschatological ideology through logical deduction from an axiomatic premise; 2. An existential enemy; 3. Terror as the driving force behind the immanentization of the Eschaton; 4. The threefold permanence of war. The axiomatic premise, as in any religion, is the exclusive character of the Quran and the hadith itself. The degree to which one is free to debate the contents of its commandments depends on which form of Islam one follows. For the Salafists, Wahhabis, Qutb and Al-Qaeda, the Quran and hadith are to be taken as literally as possible, in which case these sources take on an obligatory totalist ethical character which eliminates the capacity for spontaneous thought and where a failure to comply amounts to apostasy, punishable by death. This totalistic ethical code is deemed able to give a causal explanation and normative evaluation of the entire world’s past, present and future events, and is thereby the exact opposite of the Hayekian uncertainty principle. As a result, all human actions that have taken and can take place in the world are evaluated in the light of this ethical code and in the light of the path towards an eschatology that is, in the long run, inescapable. The freedom to act spontaneously and the ensuing plurality of man are a temporal hindrance in the fulfilment of this movement towards the end of history. The purification of religion for Allah and the supremacy of Islam over the earth is something that, in the end, is bound to happen, for it is Allah’s will. As such, it is comparable to the secular totalitarian notion of the law of history or nature. The human journey towards that end goal is, however, delayed by those who fail to submit themselves to Islam. The founding act of Islam therefore automatically created a class of enemies who are, by their very essence, existential enemies. Their existence stands between the present state of disorder and the eschatological vision of world perfection. In Islam, this is the position of the unbeliever.



In the Salafist and Wahhabi vision of Islam, the application of logical deduction to the axiomatic premise of Quran and hadith means that this disparity has to be resolved through Da’wa and offensive Jihad. The essential totalitarian connection between ideology (law of nature or history), logic and terror (law of motion) translates to the Islamist doctrines of loyalty and enmity and offensive jihad. The hatred for the nonMuslim is prescribed by Islam in the Quran and hadith, and is not susceptible to change. Failure to convert when invited to Islam (the obligation for Da’wa) is deemed an act of war in itself, for it prolongs the state of imperfection in the world and inhibits the purification of religion for Allah. The consequence thereof is conversion under the threat of the sword or the payment of jizaah, which amounts to legal discrimination and purposeful humiliation aimed at enticing conversion. The institute of jihad also shares the three aspects of the permanence of totalitarian war. First of all, the doctrine of loyalty and enmity is not based on reality but only on the logicality inherent in the paradigm of Islam. Where reality deviates from the ideology, the ideology is to transform reality until it conforms to the ideology. If the unbelievers were to live with Muslims in a state of total peace, then the ideology would still insist that a state of war was reality. The only way to accomplish this is to reason that the mere act of refusing to submit to Islam is a declaration of war in itself. Reality is thereby made to conform to the picture of permanent war as depicted by the ideology. Secondly, the aim of Islam is to free all mankind from oppression and falsehood and to purify religion for Allah. Its war against the unbelievers is therefore necessity not bound by limits of territory or time, but rather universal and permanent. Thirdly, if in those areas in which Islam rules supreme and in which the Islamic model of life has been imposed on its subjects, the expected utopia does not emerge, the fault can never be attributed to the ideology itself. By logical necessity, any failure to live up to expectations is due to an external enemy or lack of religious fervour, not to any failure inherent in the system itself. Since it is safe to say that utopia will never be reached on earth, new classes of enemies will have to be invented and identified, lest the ideology lose its credibility. As such, the ideology is permanently and ever increasingly at war with mankind and reality itself. In conclusion, it is my contention that the doctrine of loyalty and enmity and offensive jihad, combined with a strict adherence to the sources of Islam as expounded by Qutb, Wahhab, Zawahiri and bin Laden, amounts to totalitarianism.



Although still in the phase of a grass-roots movement, it shares the essential link between ideology and terror that is only found in totalitarian movements. How these movements will behave should they evolve to a position of a monopoly on power is hard to say; but the regime of the Taliban already indicated that a softening of doctrine is not to be expected. What differentiates Islamic totalitarianism, as I have described it here, from the secular types of totalitarianism is worrisome. Unlike secular totalitarian movements, Islamic totalitarianism appears to be leaderless. There are certain figures, such as Wahhab, Qutb or Zawahiri and bin Laden, who act as its spokespeople, but they do not have the amount of control that leaders such as Hitler or Stalin had. In addition, there is no specific territory or hierarchical organization from which they can operate or recruit their followers. Instead, the movements increase their following and mobilize believers into action by virtue of the highly decentralized dissemination of information amongst the worldwide community of believers, through the internet and countless Da’wa institutions, funded by enormous amounts of money from Saudi and Gulf state benefactors. In the end, the success of the movement is highly dependent on its ability to persuade the Ummah of the correctness of its viewpoints. The main focal point of this ideological struggle for religious leadership therefore appears to be Muhammed and Allah themselves. If these movements succeed in winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim masses, then their authority will derive from Muhammed and Allah themselves. The greatest threat that is emanating from this totalitarian danger is, therefore, in the first place directed towards the Ummah itself. The Muslim world, even if it were unified under the banner of radical Islam is in no position to engage in open warfare with the world of the unbelievers. Instead, I would argue that they would follow the path that has been taken by previous totalitarian movements in the same predicament: the subjugation of their own population to ever increasing ideological terror, in order to shape ‘the new man’ on the one hand, and ever increasing agitation in the domain of the unbelievers on the other hand. Even if the world would submit to Islam, utopia will not be fabricated and the permanence of war would lead to ever-increasing fanaticism in order to demonstrate one’s loyalty and in order to prove that the ideology is not at fault. Wahhab’s ikhwan in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic revolution in Iran have provided glimpses of such a possible future for the Islamic world. Furthermore, it is of great importance for these movements to agitate



and destabilize the societies of the unbelievers. The greater the level of animosity, the greater the truth value of the doctrine of loyalty and enmity and thus the greater the need for offensive jihad. The increase of intolerance against un-Islamic values, the rise of hatred against Jews and Christians, and the spread of extremist thought amongst western Muslims attest to the consequences for the non-Muslim world.132 It is an inescapable and intentional consequence of the described ideology that an ever-increasing level of tension between the Islamic and nonIslamic world will be created. Any hope of co-existence or meaningful dialogue with these movements should, therefore, be abandoned as soon as possible. The totalitarian movements of the past should tell us that their mission of peace is nothing short of an all-out, permanent war against human nature itself. The declaration of war against the unbeliever is not due to any act of the unbeliever, it is intrinsic to the message of Islam as it is seen by these movements. No act of cooperation or appeasement can prevent such a war. It is the enemy who defines us as his enemy, and in making this definition, he changes us, and changes us whether we like it or not.133

132 With a reported 10 to 12 anti-Semitic attacks per day in Paris alone, and with multiple carefully orchestrated attacks on police forces, described by the spokesperson of a major French police trade union as “We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists”, (Arnaud de Borchgrave, ‘Gallic Intifada’, Washington Times, 13 October 2006) there is every cause for alarm. It is my belief that such terror is not merely a reaction against poverty or discrimination but far more likely a deliberate attempt at mobilizing young people who find themselves despairing in an alien environment, looking for an identity and a common bond under the heading of (radical) Islam. With 12 per cent of the French population, 5 million people, living in so-called Zones urbaines sensibles, no-go-areas, there is ample opportunity for radical alternatives to get a foothold. Similarly in the UK, one of the most lenient countries when it comes to religious tolerance, makeshift Shari’ a courts seize the opportunity in those parts of its cities where the power of the state appears to be dwindling (Joshua Rozenberg, ‘Sharia Law Is Spreading as Authority Wanes’, Daily Telegraph, 30 November 2006). A recent study in the Netherlands found that 40 per cent of Dutch youth of Moroccan descent denounces western values and democracy, 7 per cent admit to being willing to ‘defend Islam’ by violent means (Michiel Kruijt and Janny Groen, ‘Bijna Helft Jonge Marokkanen Antiwesters’, De Volkskrant, 14 June 2006). This alienation from or even resentment towards the society in which they live can take on even more frightening proportions, as was revealed in a recent study done in Britain with regards to the bombings in London: about one in 20 British Muslims voiced overt sympathy for the bombings a year before. Separate polls find that between 2 per cent and 6 per cent endorse the attacks, 4 per cent refuse to condemn them, 5 per cent believe the Koran justifies them, and 6 per cent say the suicide bombers were acting in accord with the principles of Islam (Dr Daniel Pipes, ‘What British Muslims think’, New York Sun, 11 July 2006). 133 Lee Harris, Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History, New York: Free Press 2004, p. xiv.



BIBLIOGRAPHY Al-Misri, Ahmad Ibn Naqib, and Noah Ha Min Keller, Reliance of the traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, ‘Umdat AS-Salik’, rev. ed. (Chicago, IL: Kazi Publications, 1994). Al-Sheikh, Muhammad bin ‘Abd Al-Latif Aal. ‘Jihadist Salafist Ideology Is Like Nazism’, MEMRI, 2005. Al-Wahhab, Muhammad ibn Abd. Kitab at-Tauhid, Translated by Compilation and Research Department Dar-us-Salam. Riyadh: Darussalam 1996. Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism, Orlando: Harcourt Brace & Company 1951. Arnaud de Borchgrave. ‘Gallic Intifada’, Washington Times (2006). Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernity and the Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity 1989. Berlin, Isaiah. Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1969. Berlin, Isaiah, and Henry Hardy. The Roots of Romanticism, The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1965: The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC: Pimlico 2000. Bostom, Andrew G., (ed.) The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, Amherst: Prometheus Books 2005. Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Ideology and Power in Soviet Politics, New York: Praeger 1967. Centre for Religious Freedom of Freedom House and Institute for Gulf Affairs. Saudi Arabia’s Curriculum of Intolerance, 2006. Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, London: J. Murray 1859. David E. Kaplan; Monica Ekman; Aamir Latif, ‘The Saudi Connection: How Billions in Oil Money Spawned a Global Terror Network’, U.S. News & World Report, December 15, 2003. ‘Documents on German Foreign Policy 1918–1945’. In Series D, Vol XIII. London, 1964. Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, From Dawa to Jihad, 2004. Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service, Saudi Influences in the Netherlands – Links between the Salafist Mission, Radicalisation Processes and Islamic Terrorism, 2004. Friedrich, Carl J., and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, New York: Praeger 1966. Gobineau, A. de. An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races, n.p. 1855. Gold, Dore. Hatred’s Kingdom : How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishers 2003. Janssen, Hans. Van Jodenhaat Naar Zelfmoordterrorisme, Heerenveen: Groen 2006. Harris, Lee. Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History, New York: Free Press 2004. Hayek, Friedrich A. von. The Road to Serfdom, Routledge Classics, London: Routledge 2001. Horst, Pieter van der. De Mythe Van Het Joodse Kannibalisme (Ongecensureerd), Soesterberg: Aspekt 2006. Groen, Janny, and Michiel Kruijt. ‘Bijna Helft Jonge Marokkanen Antiwesters’. De Volkskrant, 06-14-2006. Jansen, Johannes J. G. The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1997. Khatab, Sayed. The Political Thought of Sayyid Qutb: The Theory of Jahiliyyah, Routledge Studies in Political Islam. London: Routledge 2006. Khrushchev, N. ‘On the Personality Cult and Its Consequences’. Paper presented at the twentieth party congress 1956. Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.



Linz, Juan J. Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers 2000. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Das Kapital. Kritik Der Politischen Oekonomie, Hamburg, New York,: Otto Meissner; L.W. Schmidt, 1867. MEMRI. ‘Palestinian Friday Sermon by Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris: Muslims Will Rule America and Britain, Jews Are a Virus Resembling Aids’. In TV monitor project, Jerusalem: MEMRI, 2005. Napoleoni, Loretta. Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks, London: Pluto 2003. Nilus, Sergëiìeæi, and Victor E. Marsden. Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion, London: Britons Publishing Society 1925. Pew Global Attitudes Project, ‘Islamic Extremism: Common Concern for Muslim and Western Publics’, Washington: Pew research Center 2005. Popper, Karl Raimund. The Open Society and Its Enemies, Routledge Classics, London: Routledge 2003. Populus limited, ‘Muslim Poll – December 2005’, London: Populus Limited, 2005. Qutb, Sayyid, Milestones, n.p. 1964. RAND Corporation, ‘The Muslim World after 9/11’, Santa Monica: 2004. Robespierre, Maximilien, and Slavoj Zizek. Virtue and Terror. London: Verso 2007. Rohling, August, Der Talmudjude, Münster: n.p. 1877. Rozenberg, Joshua, ‘Sharia Law Is Spreading as Authority Wanes’, The Telegraph, 30 November 2006. Schacht, Joseph, An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982. Schechtman, Joseph B., The Mufti and the Fuehrer: The Rise and Fall of Haj Amin El-Husseini, New York: T. Yoseloff 1965. Schoenfeld, Gabriel, The Return of Anti-Semitism, London: Politico’s 2005. United Nations, ‘Freedom and Good Governance’, in: Arab Human Development Report, New York: United Nations 2004. United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Wahhabism: State-Sponsored Extremism Worldwide, Washington DC: 2003. Voegelin, Eric, Modernity without Restraint, Manfred Henningsen (ed.), Columbia: University of Missouri Press 2000. Wolin, Sheldon, ‘Inverted Totalitarianism’, Review of Reviewed Item, The Nation, May 19, 2003


THE ENLIGHTENMENT IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURAL DEBATE Paul Cliteur and Geoff Gordon Everywhere in the world there seems to be a new orientation on religion as an important political factor. “Whoever misunderstands religion, does not understand politics”, is the title of a book by German authors also to be found among the contributors to the present volume on Religion, Politics and Law.1 In the United States of America the secular tradition lies under siege by the so-called ‘theocons’, scholars and intellectuals who favour a breach with the secular roots of the American Constitution.2 No less indicative is the upsurge in the Islamic world of countless movements that claim political significance, some of them with a violent character, others more peacefully.3 It is not very surprising that under those circumstances there is also renewed interest in the tradition that is well known for its secular orientation:4 the Enlightenment. Recent decades have seen renewed debate on the Enlightenment.5 Important books, by scholars such as Peter Gay,6 Paul Hazard,7 Ernst

1 Bärsch, Claus-E., Berghoff, Peter, Sonnenschmidt, Reinhard, hrsg., Wer Religion verkennt, erkennt Politik nicht. Perspektiven der Religionspolitologie, Würzburg: Köningshausen & Neumann 2005. 2 Linker, Damon, The Theocons. Secular America under Siege, New York: Doubleday 2006. 3 Allen, Charles, God’s Terrorists. The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad, London: Little & Brown 2006; Karsh, Efraim, Islamic Imperialism. A History, Yale: Yale University Press 2006. 4 Dybikwoski, James, “The critique of Christianity”, in: Martin Fitzpatrick, Peter Jones, Christa Knellwolf and Ian McCalman, (eds.), The Enlightenment World, London: Routledge 2007, pp. 41–57. 5 Kurtz, Paul, & Madigan, Timothy J., Challenges to the Enlightenment. In Defense of Reason and Science, New York: Prometheus Books 1994. 6 Gay, Peter, The Enlightenment. An Interpretation, The Rise of Modern Paganism, London: W.W. Norton & Company 1966; Gay, Peter, The Enlightenment. An Interpretation, 2, The Science of Freedom, London: Wildwood House 1979 (1970). 7 Hazard, Paul, European Thought in the Eighteenth Century. From Montesquieu to Lessing, Translated by J. Lewis May, Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith 1973. (Fr. 1946); Hazard, Paul, The European Mind 1680–1715, Translated by J. Lewis May, Harmondsworth: Penguin University Books 1973 (Fr. 1935).



Cassirer,8 Roy Porter9 and Gertrud Himmelfarb,10 consider the Enlightenment to be a historical phenomenon. Ongoing debate also considers the Enlightenment to be a contemporary movement, or at least a movement that continues to influence contemporary affairs.11 Neoconservative attempts to bring democracy to the Middle East, for instance, have been presented as an Enlightenment project, because the Enlightenment principles hold democracy and the rule of law to be universal values, applicable the world over.12 Attempts to integrate newcomers into European societies by referencing to universal ideas about the equality of men and women have likewise been perceived as part of an Enlightenment agenda – an agenda at odds with a popular, multicultural support for local cultural traditions that obtains even where particular traditions run afoul of modern values.13 In this context, multiculturalists hold ‘the Enlightenment’ responsible for violating cultural traditions, advocating instead a kind of radical pluralism and cultural relativism: Enlightenment values are not superior to premodern ways of thinking. So there is not only debate about the Enlightenment as a historical phenomenon, but also about the contemporary significance of this cultural movement that started in the 17th century and flourished in the 18th century. Some writers are staunch defenders of the Enlightenment; others see a commitment to universal values, science and rationality as


Cassirer, Ernst, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, Translated by Fritz C.A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1951 (Germ. 1932). 9 Porter, Roy, Enlightenment. Britain and the Creation of the Modern World, London: Penguin Books London 2000. 10 Himmelfarb, Gertrude, The Roads to Modernity. The British, French, and American Enlightenments, New York: Vintage Books, Random House 2005. 11 See for a defence: Bronner, Stephen Eric, Reclaiming the Enlightenment. Toward a Politics of Radical Engagement, New York: Columbia University Press 2004; Grayling, A.C., Against all Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay on Kindness, London: Oberon Books 2007; Grayling, A.C., What is Good? The Search of the best Way to live, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2003. 12 See for instance: Frum, David, & Perle, Richard, An End to Evil. How to win the War on Terror, New York: Ballentine Books 2003. For a critique: Fukuyama, Francis, After the Neocons. America at the Crossroads, London: Profile Books 2006. 13 Regarding the tension between cultural traditions and Enlightenment ideas on equality, see: Moller Okin, Susan, “Feminism and Multiculturalism: Some Tensions”, in: Ethics, July 1998 (108), pp. 661–684; Moller Okin, Susan, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? With Respondents, edited by Joshua Cohen, Matthew Howard, and Martha Nussbaum, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1999.



typical Western preoccupations that should be disparaged being a pretext for ‘ethnocentrism’, ‘Euro-centrism’, even ‘racism’, or at least for Western arrogance.14 In this chapter, we want to contribute to this debate by referencing to the work of two contemporary scholars, Jonathan Israel and Ian Buruma. Let us start with the British historian, Jonathan Israel, in whose work the debates about historical phenomena and contemporary significance meet. His work has given both debates a new stimulus, particularly with the publication, in 2001, of Radical Enlightenment, and, in 2006, Enlightenment Contested.15 In these impressive volumes, Israel describes the ideas of an enormous number of philosophers, men of letters, theologians and other scholars. In fact, it is hard to discuss the nature of the Enlightenment nowadays without reference to the new interpretations Israel draws from his scholarship. Therefore, we begin with a description of his main theses. Our aim in this section is twofold. First, we will give a sketch of four themes that recur throughout Israel’s work. Second, we will discuss his ideas concerning the importance of one of those themes, in particular the significance of the principle of free speech, or, as it was called by Spinoza, “libertas philosophandi ”.16 1. FOUR THEMES IN THE WORK OF JONATHAN ISRAEL The unity of the Enlightenment. The first theme that characterises Israel’s approach to the Enlightenment is the ambition to present a new comprehensive analysis of this movement. The historiography of the 14 See for an interesting analysis and critique: Scruton, Roger, The West and the Rest. Globalization and the terrorist Threat, London/New York: Continuum 2002; Windschuttle, Keith, The Killing of History. How Literary Criticism and Social Theorists Are Murdering our Past, San Francisco: Encounter Books 1996; Gellner, Ernest, Postmodernism, Reason, and Religion, London: Routledge 1992; Bruckner, Pascal, La tyrannie de la pénitence:Eessai sur le masochisme occidental, Paris: Bernard Grasset 2006. 15 Israel, Jonathan I., Radical Enlightenment. Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650– 1750, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001; Israel, Jonathan I., Enlightenment Contested. Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006. 16 Spinoza’s work in English is available in: Spinoza, Benedict de, A Theologico-political Treatise and a Political Treatise, Translated from the Latin with an introduction by R.H.M. Elwes, New York: Dover Publications 1951 and more recently: Spinoza, Benedict de, Theological-Political Treatise, L. 1670, Edited by Jonathan Israel, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007.



subject, prior to Israel, was dominated by different schools of historians who stressed the national differences between the various Enlightenment traditions. For instance, the subtitle of Himmelfarb’s book on the Enlightenment is: “The British, French, and American Enlightenments”. She segregates between a typically French Enlightenment, an American Enlightenment, a British Enlightenment, and, perhaps one may add, a German Enlightenment and an Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment. The Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment, in particular, had a high reputation for being modest, non-sectarian and not explicitly anti-religious. For that reason, it was considered more palatable to the majority of European intelligentsia – and, a fortiori, to European rulers – than the more radical French Enlightenment.17 Significantly, Israel breaks with the proliferation of Enlightenment traditions along national lines. There was one Enlightenment. In Enlightenment Contested, he specifies his reasons: Ultimately, the view that there was not one Enlightenment but rather a ‘family of Enlightenments’ leads to distraction from the core issues, and even a meaningless relativism contributing to the loss of basic values needed by modern society, and hence also to the Counter-Enlightenment and Postmodernism.18

Instead of a diverse family, Israel offers a new typology, discerning instead two competing strains of thought, not tied to nationality, within the whole of the Enlightenment tradition. On the one hand, there is the radical strain beginning with Spinoza, Bayle and Diderot. On the other hand, there is the more moderate strain. Many people favour the latter tradition, but Israel adheres to the former, arguing that the most important contribution to modernity has been made by the radical brand of the Enlightenment. Viewed from the democratic, egalitarian and anti-colonial perspective of the post-1945 western world, the more important Enlightenment was surely that of the radical stream, which also drew on many sources, and figured many writers and thinkers, Descartes and Hobbes prominent 17 Broadie, Alexander, The Scottish Enlightenment. The Historical Age of the Historical Nation, Edinburgh: Birlinn 2001. An important supporter of the Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment was F.A. Hayek. See: Hayek, F.A., ‘The Results of Human Action but not of Design’, in: Hayek, F.A., Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press 1980 (1967); Hayek, F.A., Law, legislation and liberty. A new statement of the liberal principles of justice and political economy, Complete edition in one-volume paperback, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1982. 18 Israel, Enlightenment Contested, op. cit. p. 863.



among them, but was intellectually unified and crafted into a powerful philosophical apparatus primarily by Spinoza, Bayle, and Diderot.19

Radical Enlightenment can be conceived as a package of eight cardinal points: (1) adoption of philosophical (mathematical-historical) reason as the only and exclusive criterion for what is true; (2) rejection of all supernatural agencies, magic, disembodied spirits, and divine providence; (3) equality of all mankind (including racial and gender equality); (4) secular universalism in ethics; (5) comprehensive toleration and freedom of thought, based on independent critical thinking; (6) personal liberty of lifestyle and sexual conduct between consenting adults, safeguarding the dignity and freedom of the unmarried and homosexuals; (7) freedom of expression, political criticism, and the press, in the public sphere; (8) democratic republicanism as the most legitimate form of politics.20 These basic tenets, so Israel argues, make up the essence of ‘philosophicalm odernity’. A reappraisal of Radical Enlightenment. A second important theme in the books of Israel is his re-evaluation of Radical Enlightenment. Radical Enlightenment is not – pace postmodern critics, cultural relativists and so called moderates – a kind of “fundamentalism”,21 comparable to religious extremist positions, but something different, something more important than most of us are willing to acknowledge. What many “moderates” abhor in Radical Enlightenment is its critique of religion, especially the public role of religion. Moderate Enlightenment thinkers try to harmonise Enlightenment rationalism with faith. There is no clash of reason and faith, because reason can support faith, so they contend. True faith would be rational. Thinkers like Voltaire, Newton and John Locke tried to show that once the Christian tradition is purged of elements unnecessary to a true understanding of the Christian faith, reason and faith can be placed in a harmonious relation.22 According to Newton, gravity was created by God. According


Israel, op. cit. p. 866. Israel, Enlightenment Contested, op. cit. p. 866. 21 See for a critique of the concept “enlightenment fundamentalism”: Philipse, Herman, Verlichtingsfundamentalisme? Open brief over Verlichting en fundamentalisme aan Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Mede bestemd voor Piet Hein Donner, minister van Justitie en coördinerend minister in de strijd tegen terreur, Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Bert Bakker 2005. 22 See for different positions: Helm, Paul, ed., Faith & Reason, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1999. 20



to Voltaire, atheism was something to be avoided,23 just like biblical Christianity.24 Moderate Enlightenment thinkers Locke and Voltaire were as much offended by ‘radicals’ such as Spinoza, Bayle, Meslier, Holbach and many anonymous authors,25 as they were by the intolerance of the Catholic Church. Some of the early defenders of moderate Enlightenment may be seen as precursors to radical Enlightenment’s contemporary critics, critics who disavow thinkers like Spinoza as “Enlightenment fundamentalists”, a label usually found between quotations. The label “Enlightenment fundamentalism” remains imprecise in meaning and application. It draws its inspiration from critics of the Enlightenment like John Gray26 and Stuart Sim27 and it holds currency in postmodern circles as we will see when we analyse the work of Ian Buruma.28 Cultural self-understanding in the United States and in Europe. A third theme in the work of Israel pertains to the cultural self-understanding of Europe and the United States. What is the essence of European culture? Is it the Enlightenment? Or would that be too restrictive? And if it would be too restrictive, what basis is there for an alternative identity? Multiculturalism?

23 The books of Holbach were much too radical according to Voltaire. See: Holbach, Pierre Henri Dietrich baron d’, La Contagion Sacrée, ou Histoire Naturelle de la Superstition ou Tableau des Effets que les Opinions Religieuses ont produits sur la Terre (1768), in: D’Holbach, Premieres Œuvres, Préface et notes Paulette Charbonnel, Paris: Éditions Sociales 1971, pp. 139–175. 24 See for Voltaire’s critique on the Bible: Voltaire, Examen important de Milord Bolingbroke ou le tombeau du fanatisme, (1736), in: Voltaire, Mélanges, Préface par Emmanuel Berl, Texte établi et annoté par Jacques van den Heuvel, Paris: Gallimard 1961, pp. 1001–1099. 25 Prominent among the anonymous publications were: Traité des trois imposteurs: Moïse, Jésus, Mahomet, Paris: Max Milo Editions 2002 (1712) and the work of Jean Meslier. See: Desné, Roland, ‘L’Homme, l’Oeuvre et la Renommée’, in: Jean Meslier, Oeuvres de Jean Meslier, Tome 1, Mémoire des Pensées et sentiments de Jean Meslier, Préfaces et notes par Jean Duprun, Roland Desne, Albert Soboul, Paris: Éditions Anthropos Paris 1970, pp. xvii–lxxix. 26 Gray, John, Al Qaeda and what it means to be modern, London: Faber and Faber 2003. 27 Sim, Stuart, Fundamentalist World. The New Dark Age of Dogma, n.p.: Totem Books USA 2004. 28 See Buruma, Ian,’Der Dogmatismus der Aufklärung’, in: Thierry Chervel & Anja Seeliger, (eds.), Islam in Europa: Eine internationale Debatte, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 2007, pp. 126–128., a reaction on: Cliteur, Paul, ‘Krieger ist nicht gleich Krieger’, in: Thierry Chervel & Anja Seeliger, (eds.), Islam in Europa, op. cit. pp. 117–128, also in: Cliteur, Paul, ‘The Postmodern Interpretation of Religious Terrorism’, in: Free Inquiry, February/ March 2007 (Volume 27, Number 2), pp. 38–41.



Everywhere in the Western world, these questions are being posed: “Who are we?” is the title of a book by the well-known American political scientist Samuel Huntington;29 the question is equally prevalent in Europe. The French, for example, are preoccupied with the question whether they can still uphold the secular values enshrined in their constitution since 1905. Is that ideal still viable, under the changing demographic conditions?30 Should the traditional ‘laïcist’ ideals accommodate new religious movements, therewith changing the religiously neutral state into a multicultural state with reference to all the cultural and religious traditions that are represented on French soil?31 The debate goes on,32 probably nowhere in such an acrimonious manner as in The Netherlands. Since the murder of the politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002, and even more so since the murder of Theo van Gogh in 2004, the Dutch ask themselves: Who are we? Some people make a plea for a revitalization of the Judeo-Christian roots of The Netherlands, but is that still a viable option? These questions are intimately linked with the research done by Israel. His research does not only point to the history of Europe, but also to its future. If Israel is right in his books Radical Enlightenment and Enlightenment Contested, the Enlightenment remains the core of the European and American tradition. The Enlightenment principles are more suitable to regulate the life of people from a different background and religion in modern multicultural society than postmodernism and the ancient religions are. Misguided attempts to revitalise Judeo-Christian roots can only exacerbate ‘us and them’ tensions. The same is true of multiculturalism, another aspirant to the mantle of Western self-definition. Israel refers in his research to a discussion entertained in the Dutch Republic since 1650, a discussion largely initiated by Spinoza, with great influence on the American and French Revolutions as well as 29 Huntington, Samuel P., Who are we? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, New York: Simon & Schuster 2004. 30 Zarka, Yves Charles, Faut-il réviser la loi de 1905? La séparation entre religions et État en question, Paris : Presses Universitaires de France 2005; Kaltenbach, Jeanne-Hélène & Tribalat, Michèle, La République et l’islam. Entre crainte et aveuglement, Paris: Gallimard 2002; Kriegel, Blandine, Philosophie de la République, Paris: Plon 1998. 31 As seemed to be the position of France’s president Sarkozy, Nicolas, La République, les religions, l’espérance. Entretiens avec Thibaud Collin et Philippe Verdin, Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf 2004. See on the laïcité: Brovelli, Ivan, Laïcité: Réflexions autour d’un mal français: Les limites d’une société sans Dieu, Toulouse: Editions de France 2006; Cabanel, Patrick, Entre religions et laïcité: La voie française: XIXe siècles, Toulouse: Éditions Privat 2007. 32 Dierkens, Alain, & Schreiber, Jean-Philippe, eds., Laïcité et sécularisation dans l’Union européenne, Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, Bruxelles 2006.



subsequent constitutional developments in those countries. The circle of philosophers around Spinoza and those who followed his lead was perhaps small, but it was influential if not epochal. Their influence may be observed in the worldview that found expression after 1945 in national constitutions and international treaties on human rights, all deeply influenced by radical Enlightenment. Our conceptions of human rights, democracy, tolerance, the rule of law and basic freedoms of conscience and speech are much indebted to thinkers like Spinoza, Bayle, Diderot and other representatives of the radical, rational Enlightenment thought of the 17th and 18th centuries. The accounts of these thinkers demonstrate that human rights gained supremacy not thanks to religion but in spite of religion. A plea for a radical conception of freedom of speech. That brings us to a fourth theme in the work of Israel: his advocacy of a radical conception of tolerance and free speech along Spinozist (and not Lockean) lines. No one familiar with Israel’s previous volumes can be surprised by his radical notion of free speech as expounded in a lecture he held at the University of Nijmegen in November 2006. For Israel, following Spinoza, freedom of speech holds primacy over freedom of religion, rather than being coextensive with it, much less subordinate to it.33 2. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF FREE SPEECH? In his lecture, Israel starts with a passage that points to the actual significance his historical research has for contemporary debate on the identity of European culture. On November 10th, 2006, he said: Judging from the number of British newspaper and television reports about the change of position of toleration and freedom of expression in the Netherlands since the murder of Theo van Gogh, in November 2004, the intellectual and political ferment in progress in Dutch society today is attracting the attention of the English-speaking world to a degree that has perhaps never been witnessed before.34

Here we see that the Netherlands is the focus of attention of the Englishspeaking world (and, we may add, of the non-Anglophone world). That 33 Israel, Jonathan, “Freedom of Thought versus Freedom of Religion: an EighteenthCentury – and now also a Twenty-first-Century-Dilemma”, Thomas More lecture, Radbouduniversiteit, November 10, 2006, also on: and abbreviated in: NRC Handelsblad, 12 november 2006. 34 Israel, op. cit. p. 1.



attention has something to do with a “change of position” in the Netherlands with respect to toleration and freedom of expression. These are important words but they should be clarified to understand their true meaning. What exactly is that change? That change is informed, sadly, by an observable, increasing reluctance to welcome people from abroad into Dutch society.35 Immigrants from non-Western cultures feel less at home in Dutch society. Tensions are dramatically demonstrated and exacerbated by religious-cultural conflicts such as the Danish Cartoon-affair, the murder of Van Gogh, and other incidents. Dutch society is less willing to embrace newcomers. An important question, however, is to what extent should this should be understood as a decrease in ‘tolerance’? Here we must distinguish between two concepts of tolerance. A popular conception recently developed but widely held, mixes up toleration with solidarity. Someone is considered ‘tolerant’ who is prepared to back up everything that ethnic and religious minorities do or say, even if what they do or say is a gross violation of universal human rights or the core principles of democracy and the rule of law. But is tolerance the same as solidarity? That may be contested. The new idea of tolerance erodes our classical concept of tolerance, referred to in the famous words attributed to Voltaire, “I disagree with you in everything you say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it”. These words are not exactly to be found with Voltaire, but that is irrelevant. They certainly incorporate the essence of a Voltairian tradition of tolerance. That essence is: tolerance has to do with free speech. It is the ethos that sustains free speech. Tolerance in this classical conception holds that we should not try to suppress what people say even if we disagree with the content of what is being said. This conception of tolerance was also ingrained in the work of Spinoza. We consider this a classical conception of tolerance because it represented an agenda in itself before toleration became admixed with other social agendas, such as economic solidarity, open borders, etc. Israel, in the prefatory comments to his lecture, does not give an example of what he means with his reference to a change of position on tolerance in the Netherlands, but it is in harmony with his previous work to warn against an erosion of classical tolerance. This concern is

35 Perhaps more than in other countries. See for the United States: Jacoby, Tamar, ‘Immigration Nation’, in: Foreign Affairs, November/December 2006, pp. 50–65.



not limited to The Netherlands, but undoubtedly, Israel is right, in the wake of van Gogh’s murder, that in The Netherlands this erosion is particularly clear. In this context, Israel states: “The same phenomenon is reflected in the interest being shown in, and lively reactions to, Ian Buruma’s new book, Murder in Amsterdam” .36 We turn, then, to Buruma’s work,37 and begin by noting what Israel does not specify: Buruma’s book is largely antithetical to Israel’s defence of radical Enlightenment. 3. THE IMPLICATIONS OF MURDER IN AMSTERDAM Buruma’s book is, in our view, a clear manifestation of the decay of the classical tradition of tolerance. The writer himself probably had no other intention with his book than relating the events that led to the murder of Theo van Gogh. For the main part, it is a lively written account of what happened and what key players in the discussion about this murder had said. What we concentrate on, however, are the ideological presuppositions of the writer himself. His own position represents a clear-cut example of the loss the classical conception of tolerance. This has escaped the attention of almost all the commentators on Buruma’s book. As Israel wrote, Buruma’s book solicited “lively reactions”, especially in the Dutch-speaking intellectual community. Partly this had to do with Buruma’s unorthodox way of operating. His interviews were rather informal affairs, without a recording device – in some cases, apparently, even without notes – none of which stopped him from putting a considerable amount of the book’s text between quotation marks, attributed to interviewees without further consultation. This led to no small amount of consternation and controversy 38 concerning what actually was and was not said.39 The contested quotations distracted from the content of 36

Israel, op. cit. p. 1. Buruma, Ian, Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, New York: Penguin 2006. 38 A journalist from the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad asked some of the “interviewees” whether they were correctly quoted. Frits Bolkestein, Paul Scheffer, Theodor Holman, Afshin Ellian and Bart Jan Spruyt all stated that they were not. See: Mat, Joke, ‘Ian Buruma over de multiculturele samenleving na de moord op Theo van Gogh’, in: NRC Handelsblad, 16 september 2006. One of the authors of the present article, Cliteur, also had a chat with Buruma. He can also acknowledge that he was not aware of Buruma’s plan to use the information to be quoted in the book. 39 In the second impression of the Dutch version of the book, some of the contested passages were amended, but not all of them. 37



the book, which requires our attention as well. Murder in Amsterdam is important because the implicit and explicit predilection of its writer for the moderate Enlightenment is the exact antithesis of Israel’s preference for radical Enlightenment as expounded in Radical Enlightenment and Enlightenment Contested. Furthermore, Buruma represents the de-valuing process described, above, by Israel as a consequence of having divided up the Enlightenment tradition among a variety of national identifications. Buruma’s own multicultural bias creates a value-eroding blind spot. The effect of Buruma’s work seems precisely to disavow the tradition of Enlightenment that Spinoza, Bayle and Diderot tried to stimulate. Contrasting the books of Buruma and Israel may seem strange for two reasons. The first is that, though Buruma references Israel’s work, he does so only as a quote within a quote, by citation of a passage in a newspaper article concerning Radical Enlightenment. Moreover, though the word “Enlightenment” occurs at least thirty times in Murder in Amsterdam, it often does so by attribution, with limited explication, and Buruma’s own apparent predilection for the accommodation of moderate Enlightenment is not explicitly worked out against the ideas to be found in Israel’s books or elsewhere. The second reason why it may seem strange to treat the books in relation to each other is that they are products of different scholarly ambition. Buruma’s work offers a mix of journalism and opinion for general consumption, offered in an effort to capture and perhaps explain the climate of opinion directly before and after the murder of Van Gogh. Israel’s volumes are weightier contributions to scholarly historical research, set to take a rightful place among the tools of countless future historians. Buruma’s book is a slender, engaging affair, based largely on informal (if controversial) interviews and anecdotal material, whereas Israel’s books are substantial tomes based on extensive reading in primary sources and donnish analysis of material squirreled away in the archives of European libraries. It is, however, testament to the vital force of Enlightenment ideals that these two very different works draw so much on the same source, and that ultimately the authors of these works demonstrate similar concerns. For all the similarity, however, the two authors are most interesting to compare because they demonstrate opposite sides of the Enlightenment. Moreover, Buruma’s book is indispensable insofar as it reflects widespread feelings of unease with radical Enlightenment, an unease that we must understand, and – so we will try to argue – overcome.



4. DIMINISHING REASON Israel is concerned with the historical protagonists of the Enlightenment: Spinoza, Bayle, Diderot, Voltaire, Locke, and countless others. Buruma treats the contemporary protagonists of radical Enlightenment by focussing on the work of two Dutch intellectuals: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Afshin Ellian. Ellian (1966) is a Dutch professor of jurisprudence at the University of Leiden, and of Iranian background.40 Hirsi Ali (1969), of Somalian background, was a member of the Dutch Parliament for a liberal party and co-author of a feminist film, Submission, made by Van Gogh.41 The film criticizes the suppression of women in the Islamic world, and according to many commentators, this film was the direct incentive for the assassination of Van Gogh. This is speculation, there is no hard evidence,42 but that does not alter the fact that the film was unpopular within radical Islamic circles, similar to the reaction to the Danish cartoons that ignited a worldwide controversy in January 2006. Both Hirsi Ali and Ellian, so Buruma contends, were representatives of a tradition that Israel dubbed radical Enlightenment. They “embraced a radical version of the European Enlightenment”, Buruma writes.43 His attitude, however, towards the tradition Hirsi Ali and Ellian have embraced is ambivalent at best, and, more cynically, Buruma consigns their philosophical or political embrace to a sort of psychological


Ellian is a colleague of Cliteur. Hirsi Ali, Ayaan, Submission. Transmitted in the T.V. program “Zomergasten” on 29 august 2004; text, reactions and backgrounds, with a contribution by Betsy Udink, Amsterdam: Augustus 2004, on the internet: 846339861805446088 42 During the trial, the murderer did not complain about the film. He referred to a “law” that required of him “to cut off the head of everyone who offends against Allah or his Prophet”. Most commentators tend to ignore this statement by the murderer himself. The Netherlands is in a state of denial. It is very popular to interpret the murder as a reaction to the rude criticism of Van Gogh. Not the content of Van Gogh’s books and public statements was the cause of his murder, but his style (insulting) was the problem. But if that were the case, why is the moderate mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, condemned by religious terrorists? Michael Burleigh, Sacred Causes, London: Harper Press 2006, p. 457, rightly reminds us that the murderer left a letter on the body of his victim: “This contained death threats against the Somali-born Dutch liberal MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Amsterdam’s socialist Jewish mayor Job Cohen”. Dutch society’s denial seems to construct a sort of warped symmetry, however unsatisfying, to Bouyeri’s violence: Theo van Gogh was offensive, so he was killed – but Bouyeri’s fundamentalism demonstrates still less balance than even this sick formula would allow. 43 Buruma, op. cit. p. 31. 41



dysfunction – an arbitrary behaviour rather than a thoughtful or informed choice. Thus Buruma reconstructs the characters of Ellian and Hirsi Ali by emphasizing particular elements of the personal history of each, ultimately making their political philosophies to appear little more than the bitter fruits of frustration, or, better still, “trauma”. Ellian was “traumatized by Khomeini’s revolution”, as Hirsi Ali was by “an oppressive Muslim upbringing in Somalia”.44 Buruma presents the ideas of Ellian and Hirsi Ali in the context of their troubled personal histories and this serves Buruma’s tacit agenda to particularize Enlightenment philosophy, reducing the universalizing powers of reason to idiosyncratic psychological discontents. Thus Ellian “rants” and, though Hirsi Ali expresses herself with a great deal more charm (…) in her battle for secularism, too, there are hints of zealousness, echoes perhaps of her earlier enthusiasm for the Muslim Brotherhood, before she was converted to the ideals of the European Enlightenment.45

Buruma goes on to diminish the rational grounds for adopting Enlightenment values by using the word ‘converted’, thereby emphasizing an inescapably religious nature to the choice, as he sees it, between Enlightenment values and religious fundamentalism. Other exponents in Murder in Amsterdam of the worldview that Hirsi Ali and Ellian defend include the former EU-commissar and prominent Dutch intellectual Frits Bolkestein, and the Amsterdam professor Paul Scheffer. But Buruma does not concentrate on their worldview. Why not? Because here the psychological theory that traumatizing experience lies behind Enlightenment ideas is less convincing? If the radical ideas of Ellian and Hirsi Ali are caused by their upbringing, where did Bolkestein and Scheffer pick up their radical secular ideas? Buruma’s treatment of the Dutch philosopher Herman Philipse (1951) furthers the point. We learn of Philipse, in Murder in Amsterdam, in the context of the crucial point at which Hirsi Ali embraces Enlightenment political philosophy. But Buruma shows us Philipse’s character only to dismiss him. First Buruma recalls Philipse from a shared kindergarten sandbox, offering only the memory that Philipse was a pompous kindergartner. Reencountering Philipse, Buruma’s contemporary take goes no further than to describe him as “the sort of 44 45

Buruma, op. cit. p. 31. Buruma, op. cit. p. 158.



man who likes to personify the high European civilization of the French Enlightenment”.46 The Enlightenment, in the form of Philipse, is reduced to a pretension, better suited to aid method actors playing villains in Harry Potter films than for serious discussion in political or academic circles. Revealingly, however, Buruma discusses Philipse one more time, in the context of Hirsi Ali’s comments that the Enlightenment elevates the individual above the vagaries of local culture: It takes courage for an African immigrant in Europe to say that, even if she is from a privileged class. For a man like Herman Philipse, secure of his rightful place at the high table of European civilisation, it is easier to dismiss culture in this way, for there is much that he can take for granted. There is no need for shortcuts if you are educated to believe in universality and individualism; they are products of the civilization to which Philipse was born.47

Buruma nowhere takes up in a serious way the reasoned arguments of the Enlightenment, preferring instead, as here, to make a caricature of Enlightenment ideas, sketching them with the broad brush of status consciousness: even as Philipse represents the universal individualism of egalitarianism, he stands farcically above the concept (at least, however, Buruma is consistent: not even the exoticism of an African past exempts Hirsi Ali’s statements and argument from indirect dismissal for class considerations). In this way Philipse is somehow compromised by being the inheritor of Enlightenment values, not because he has turned his back on them, but precisely because, having been raised in the political community of their production, he continues to uphold them. Still, the values themselves are not the only thing that is at fault in Murder in Amsterdam. Instead, we have a sort of nihilism, a consistent rejection of everything that appears before us. Everyone is biased, so everything is wrong. In arriving at that dismal conclusion, however, we must first decipher a confused statement that traffics in exoticism and resorts either, in the case of Philipse, to derision, or, in the case of Ellian and Hirsi Ali, to convenient psychological analysis. Returning, then, to Buruma’s ‘frustration-thesis’, it could be equally tempting to speculate on the origin of the ideas of Spinoza himself, the founding father of radical Enlightenment. If Hirsi Ali as an “heiress of Spinoza” is radicalized by her Somalian upbringing, how did Spinoza

46 47

Buruma, op. cit. p. 166. Buruma, op. cit. p. 168.



get radicalized? By unpleasant experiences within the Jewish community perhaps? On the other hand, Ellian: if he, as “Nietzsche’s disciple”, got his extremist ideas by being frustrated because of the developments in his native Iran, where did Nietzsche himself pick up his radical ideas? Not from Iran, for sure. Was he traumatized by his Christian upbringing perhaps? Moreover, how do we explain the widespread adherence to the ideas of Nietzsche in Europe after his death in 1900? Were all those adherents of the Nietzschean philosophy traumatized by something, and if so, by what? Many other examples can be adduced, of course, but we do not have to go into them to suspect that this way of treating your subject is not very convincing. Buruma offers soft psychology instead of a discussion of ideas, perhaps not as an intended attack, but with sad consequences all the same. Many people make this mistake – attacking perceived motive and psychology without being actually responsive to the argument at hand, and it takes them all the farther from anything like a solution to the problems they would treat. We can also address the question in abstract terms. Is it justified at all to “explain” the convictions of people with whom you disagree, or even merely want to understand, by declaring those people “traumatized” by their upbringing? Why would experience with oppressive regimes make people “traumatized” instead of making them insightful or farsighted, or both? Joseph Brodsky, Solzhenitsyn and many others had experiences with oppressive regimes, that made them particularly cognizant of and sensitive to political decadence, they weren’t considered ranting victims of heavily traumatizing events. 5. CONFLATING RADICAL AGENDAS Buruma’s confusion goes deeper than his resort to nihilism and psychological shorthand to describe the rise and role of radical Enlightenment ideas. He also overreaches with a cultural or sociological explanation of the ideas of contemporary radical Enlightenment – touched on in his comparison of Hirsi Ali and Philipse – likening ‘radical Enlightenment’ to another type of radicalism, to wit ‘radical Islam’ (or ‘political Islam’ or ‘Islamism’). He introduces this identification with the claim that both Hirsi Ali and Ellian are “warriors”. Why this militant qualification? “They are warriors on a battlefield inside the world of Islam”.48 48

Buruma, op. cit, p. 31.



Why a battlefield inside Islam? Hirsi Ali is an unbeliever. She defected from Islam. Ellian never was a Moslem, so why are they portrayed as warriors inside the world of Islam? It would be possible to construct a battlefield inside the world of Islam between, for instance, reformers such as Rifaa (1801–1873)49 and radicals such as Sayyid Qutb (1906– 1966),50 but neither Hirsi Ali nor Ellian partakes in this struggle.51 What Buruma tries to convey, however, appears in the follow up of his curious reasoning. He states that the ideas of both Hirsi Ali and Ellian embrace universalism.This is true, of course, because radical Enlightenment thinkers are indeed universalists. And it is also true that they think that universalism is a release from the suffocating particularism of tribal traditions. Nevertheless, although Buruma insinuates that there is something seriously wrong with universalism, he does not make clear what exactly. As with his resort to psychological caricature, Buruma opts for misdirection: instead of giving arguments against universalism, he disparages this tradition in ethics52 by pointing out that jihadists are also universalists. That seems to be the basis for Buruma’s strange identification of radical Enlightenment with radical Islam. This entails making a division between those who are radical because they are prepared to use violence against all those with a different opinion and those who are radical because they are cultural innovators criticizing petrified, received traditions in the name of universalistic, reasoned ideals. After his introduction of the worldview of Hirsi Ali and Ellian with their “radical version of the European Enlightenment” and “bracing air of universalism”, Buruma goes on to say: But the same could be said, in a way, of their greatest enemy: the modern holy warrior, like the killer of Theo van Gogh. The young Moroccan – Dutch

49 See on the tradition of Rifaa: Sorman, Guy, Les Enfants de Rifaa. Musulmans et modernes, Paris: Fayard 2003. 50 See on Qutb: Jansen, Johannes J.G., The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1997, pp. 47–54. 51 See for a variety of voices: John J. Donohue and John L. Esposito (eds.), Islam in Transition. Muslim Perspectives, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007 (1982); Taji-Farouki, Suha, ed., Modern Muslim Intellectuals and the Qur’an, Oxford / London: Oxford University Press in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London 2006 (2004). 52 Universalism in ethics is: “the view that all human beings are morally equal in the sense that membership of a certain tribe, class, caste, nation, race, etc. as such neither justifies special consideration nor excuses lack of consideration”. See: Mautner, Thomas, The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy, London: Penguin Books, 2000 (1996), p. 580. In postmodern circles, ‘universalism’ is considered something of an arrogant pretence.



youth downloading English translations of Arabic texts from the Internet is also looking for a universal cause, severed from cultural and tribal specificities.53

From the qualification “in a way” we can infer that the writer had some qualms about his bold identification but not enough to shy away from it. The adherents to radical Enlightenment are “warriors” and the modern jihadists are “warriors”, so basically they are the same. The Enlightenment thinkers embrace universalism and so does the holy warrior of radical Islam. So what is the difference? The answer should be: a great deal. “Krieger ist nicht gleich Krieger”.54 The ideals of those who “struggle” for a world of peace and the alleviation of hunger are not the same as those who “struggle” for the annihilation of the western world because both are struggling. Moreover, the universal ambition to install a caliphate55 is not the same as the universal ambition of inaugurating democracy everywhere, or at least maintaining it in some places, because both have universalistic aims. It seriously matters for what ideal we struggle. Both adherents of the Enlightenment and those who try to annihilate the Enlightenment are struggling for their ideals, and are therewith “warriors”; both have universalist ambitions, and therefore are the same Buruma insinuates.56 A similar identification is made by Buruma through the fact that radical Enlightenment and radical Islam are both “radical”: “two different versions of the universal, one radically secular, the other radically religious”.57 He states that there is no difference between the two because they have this in common. Nevertheless, radical traditions can be radically different; having radicalism in common does not make them the same. How is it possible that sophisticated modern cultural critics do not seem to notice this? The answer is: because they are in the grip of a kind of postmodern cultural relativism that makes it impossible for them to proclaim 53

Buruma, op. cit. p. 32. Cliteur, Paul, ‘Krieger ist nicht gleich Krieger’, in: Thierry Chervel & Anja Seeliger (eds.), Islam in Europa, op. cit. pp. 117–128, also in: Cliteur, Paul, ‘The Postmodern Interpretation of Religious Terrorism, op. cit. pp. 38–41. 55 As radical islamists advocate, see: Tibi, Bassam, Islamische Zuwanderung. Die Gescheiterte Integration, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt 2002, p. 13. 56 In Buruma, Ian, ‘Der Dogmatismus der Aufklärung’, in: Thierry Chervel & Anja Seeliger (eds.), Islam in Europa, op. cit. pp. 126–128, p. 127 denies this is what he has tried to say with his comparisons, but the writer fails to explain what else he wanted to convey with his equation of radical Enlightenment and radical Islam. 57 Buruma, op. cit. p. 32. 54



adherence to universalistic ideals as superior to local and tribal traditions. The postmodern critics think a consistent commitment to Enlightenment principles would push them into the corner of Western arrogance, intellectual neo-colonialism and other despicable ways of thinking. They are in favour of Enlightenment ideals, at least so they say, but only insofar as they are in harmony with the traditions of religious minorities. If not, they immediately shy away from a commitment to the Enlightenment.58 A more forceful defence of Enlightenment ideals is scorned as “Enlightenment fundamentalism”.59 In the typology of Israel: moderate Enlightenment is the maximum commitment to Enlightenment they think is justified without hurting the feelings of religious and ethnic minorities in contemporary western societies. Buruma’s defence of moderate Enlightenment appears clearly in his laudatory remarks on Voltaire, the paragon of the moderates: (T)here is a difference between the anticlericalism of Voltaire, who was up against one of the two most powerful institutions of eighteenth-century France, and radical secularists today battling a minority within an already embattled minority.60

Sure, there is a difference, but that does not answer the question whose side we should take. The argument that Buruma implicitly uses to advance towards siding with the moderate Enlightenment of Voltaire and against the radical Enlightenment of Spinoza is that that the radical secularists are “battling a minority”. Besides, this minority is already embattled and Buruma seems to suggest that taking sides with the embattled minority is an act of elementary justice. What are the presuppositions of this reasoning? The first is that Enlightenment secularists are opposed to the religious minority of the Moslems in Dutch society. They are not. What they are opposed to is that – perhaps very small – minority that is prepared to commit violence, perpetrate crimes in the name of their religion. It is ‘jihadism’, ‘radical Islam’, ‘Islamism’ or ‘political Islam’, not religion per se that advocates of radical Enlightenment will attack, so political groups that claim the public sphere and the state in the name of religion. Indeed, this necessitates ‘struggle’, a struggle that the decadent elite of contemporary

58 See for a good example of this tendency: Sim, Stuart, Fundamentalist World. The New Dark Age of Dogma, op. cit. 59 For instance in: Gray, John, Al Qaeda and what it means to be modern, op. cit. 60 Buruma, op. cit. p. 33.



Western societies (with Ian Buruma as an important spokesman), indoctrinated by cultural relativism and postmodernism, appears to avoid.61 That struggle also implies “embattling a minority”, but it is neither the battle nor the minority that Buruma addresses. The real conflict is not Buruma’s ethically empty contest of self-interest against self-interest. The real conflict, instead, concerns an affirmation of positive meaning as a social phenomenon. Meaning and aspirations to truth come about through reasoning or are received. Those who associate truth with the revelations of religion, or other systems of thought inaccessible to the unbelievers, may do so – but cannot insist that others recognize it to be true. For Enlightenment secularists to offer that recognition absent common belief is not an affirmation of human dignity but an act of condescension. Moreover, the Enlightenment gives us a way out of the ineluctable conflicts between closed systems of revelatory thought. The Enlightenment promotes argument based on the common language of reason, rather than based on the inaccessible language of devotion. To shy away from that reason, and from that argument, because the process is difficult or uncomfortable, is testament to crippling decadence. Perhaps, in fact, it is a sense of precisely this decadence – this failure to acknowledge meaning in the Enlightenment tradition, other than by a passive act of accommodation – that drives unlikely radicals such as Mohammed Bouyeri (the convicted murderer of Theo van Gogh) to their strange fundamentalism. Moreover, to turn away in the face of a revelatory fundamentalism that strives to censure opposing thought, a fundamentalism that will embrace violence to do so, is cowardice. If Buruma really means the following, that the murder (of Van Gogh; ed.), like the bomb attacks in Madrid and London, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and the worldwide Muslim protests against the cartoons of the Prophet in a Danish newspaper, exposed dangerous fractures that run through all European nations,62

the next question is what to do about those “fractures”. Certainly, the answer cannot be appeasement.63 Needless to say, turning a blind eye is

61 For an insightful analysis, see: Kimball, Roger, Tenured Radicals. How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education, Revised Edition, with a New Introduction by the Author, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee Publisher 1998 (1991). 62 Buruma, op. cit. p. 35. 63 As Gove and Phillips make clear in: Gove, Michael, Celsius 7/7, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2006; Phillips, Melanie, Londonistan. How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within, London: Gibson Square 2006.



no better, as the experiences in London and Birmingham attest.64 Weak responses serve no one and achieve nothing. Buruma’s comfortable nihilism is a manifestation of laziness and lack of conviction – a learned one, yes, but no more satisfying for its urbanity. Contemporary followers of Spinoza, Bayle and Diderot claim to know what we should do: advocating enlightened morality with a firm rejection of the worldview that undermines liberal democracy. Murder in Amsterdam represents not only a rejection of that proposed course, but demonstrates the guilt complex that lies at the heart of this rejection: the Holocaust and a failed colonial history receive great attention, precluding the reluctance to affirm an Enlightenment tradition that has seen terrible abuses occur on its watch and often in its name. Jonathan Israel reminds us however, that abuse of an argument is not proof positive of its failure. We should not throw the baby out with the bath water, and we should not suffer inferior political and cultural paradigms because we have not lived up to something better. BIBLIOGRAPHY Buruma, Ian, Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, London: Penguin 2006. Cassirer, Ernst, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, Translated by Fritz C.A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1951 (Germ. 1932). Chervel, Thierry & Seeliger, Anja (eds.), Islam in Europa: Eine internationale Debatte, Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 2007. Dierkens, Alain, & Schreiber, Jean-Philippe, eds., Laïcité et sécularisation dans l’Union Européenne, Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles 2006. Gay, Peter, The Enlightenment. An Interpretation, The Rise of Modern Paganism, New York: W.W. Norton & Company 1966. Gay, Peter, The Enlightenment. An Interpretation, 2, The Science of Freedom, London: Wildwood House 1979 (1970). Gray, John, Al Qaeda and what it means to be modern, London: Faber and Faber 2003. Hazard, Paul, European Thought in the Eighteenth Century. From Montesquieu to Lessing, Translated by J. Lewis May, Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith 1973. (Fr. 1946) Hazard, Paul, The European Mind 1680–1715, Translated by J. Lewis May, Harmondsworth: Penguin University Books 1973 (Fr. 1935). Himmelfarb, Gertrude, The Roads to Modernity. The British, French, and American Enlightenments, New York: Vintage Books, Random House 2005.


See on Great-Britain apart from Phillips, op. cit. also: Thomas, Dominique, Le Londonistan. Le djihad au Coeur de l’Europe, n.p.: Éditions Michalon 2005; O’Neill, Sean, McGrory, Daniel, The Suicide Factory. Abu Hamza and the Finsbury Park Mosque, London: Harper Perennial 2006.



D’Holbach, Premieres Œuvres, Préface et notes Paulette Charbonnel, Paris: Éditions Sociales 1971, pp. 139–175. Huntington, Samuel P., Who are we? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, New York: Simon & Schuster 2004. Israel, Jonathan I., Radical Enlightenment. Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001. Israel, Jonathan I., Enlightenment Contested. Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2006. Israel, Jonathan, ‘Freedom of Thought versus Freedom of Religion: an EighteenthCentury – and now also a Twenty-first-Century-Dilemma’, Thomas More lecture, Radbouduniversiteit, November 10, 2006. Jansen, Johannes J.G., The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press 1997, pp. 47–54. Meslier, Jean, Oeuvres de Jean Meslier, Tome 1, Mémoire des Pensées et sentiments de Jean Meslier, Préfaces et notes par Jean Duprun, Roland Desne, Albert Soboul, Paris: Éditions Anthropos 1970. Porter, Roy, Enlightenment. Britain and the Creation of the Modern World, London: Penguin Books 2000. Sim, Stuart, Fundamentalist World. The New Dark Age of Dogma, n.p.: Totem Books USA 2004. Sorman, Guy, Les Enfants de Rifaa. Musulmans et modernes, Paris: Fayard 2003. Spinoza, Benedict de, A Theologico-political Treatise and a Political Treatise, Translated from the Latin with an introduction by R.H.M. Elwes, New York: Dover Publications 1951. Spinoza, Benedict de, Theological-Political Treatise, L. 1670, Edited by Jonathan Israel, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2007. Voltaire, Mélanges, Préface par Emmanuel Berl, Texte établi et annoté par Jacques van den Heuvel, Paris: Gallimard 1961.




THE RELIGIOUS ASPECTS OF THE FOUNDING OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC: A DESIGN OF RELIGION AND REASON Detlef David Bauszus To speak of the founding of the American Republic is to speak of a great design of faith and reason. A glorious cause wins the day, an epoch ends, and a new order of the ages (novus ordo seclorum) is proclaimed. What is the role of protestant religion in this remarkable drama? My concern with the subject here should not be misunderstood. Any attempt to reduce the event into this or that influence or element is patently defective and fallacious. Neither a single human life, nor a social entity, nor a passage of history, nor the comprehending of reality itself is monistic, and merely to raise the possibility carries the refutation of selfevidence. We live, as William James clearly saw, in a pluralistic universe, a differentiated reality of transcendence and immanence that invites exploration of its richness in the open and generous spirit of wonder, awe, and humility confronting the intelligible Whole in search of meaning and truth. These elementary verities are intended to revise the discussion of the spiritual aspects of the founding of the American Republic by portraying it by a series of reflections on the highly stratified, richly textured historical reality of the birth of the nation, with the Constitution as the focal point. More narrowly put, then, the question that will be dealt with in my contribution is: what role did things spiritual-the Torah, the Bible, (protestant) Christianity, the perspectives of transcendental faith and reason-play in the framing of the United States’ founding? Perhaps I should add, ‘if any’, since the framing is widely regarded as being a purely secular enterprise. Positive proof for this enlightened conclusion is the celebrated proposal of Benjamin Franklin (evidently in his advanced age) that the Convention should turn to prayer in order to break the weeks-long impasse that threatened the entire endeavour. The proposal was turned aside without a vote, and Franklin noted on his manuscript, “The Convention, except three or four persons, thought



Prayers unnecessary”.1 Moreover, despite the existence of established churches in several states and religious tests for holding office, the framers determined that officials “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office of public Trust under the United States” (Art. VI, Sec. 3), and by 1791 the First Amendment had been ratified, the opening clause of which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ”. Despite these facts, my suggestion is that the Constitution owes a great debt to the spiritual convictions of the country and to its Protestant traditions. It may not be entirely amiss to notice that the Convention was occasioned by acute political problems, which, if unresolved, might undermine the very nation itself. It was a political event of a highly pragmatic sort, not a religious convocation. The business before it was a political emergency engendered by ineffective government under the Articles of Confederation. The task at hand was to design a workable form of government in the setting of the new American nation. It is primarily in terms of contextual factors that the spiritual aspects of the Constitution are to be sought. The emendations made by the Convention had to meet the nation’s satisfaction. Of course, the emendations resulted in an entirely new plan of government. Yet acceptability for a diverse and divided people, organized into thirteen separate states, each of which thought of itself as (in some sense) sovereign, was the challenge that all the delegates knew to be decisively important. While the familiar issues leading to the Great Compromises and the general design of the government reflect the Convention’s sensitivity to sectional, demographic, economic, and political issues as components of the people’s views, can there be any doubt that they knew the proposed Constitution would also be tested by the public’s fundamental intellectual and spiritual convictions? Religious liberty was the Constitution’s answer to this central concern of public opinion. As James Iredell (later U.S. Supreme Court Associate justice) said in the North Carolina ratifying convention, Is there any power given to Congress in matters of religion? Can they pass a single act to impair our religious liberties? If they could, it would be a

1 Farrand (Ed.), Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, I, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1968, p. 452.



just cause of alarm. If they could, sir, no man would have more horror against it than myself.2

Despite what may have been a decline in religion during and just after the Revolution, Carl Bridenbaugh’s remarks about the Americans of 1776 still held true a decade later: “Who can deny that for them the very core of existence was their relation to God?”3 In order to win his race for the House of Representative in the first Congress, James Madison was compelled to propose amendments to a Constitution that he initially thought needed none. He wrote to the Baptist minister and his supporter, Rev. George Eve, in order to remind him of his devotion to ‘religious liberty’. Now that eleven states had ratified the Constitution, Madison expressed his sincere opinion that the Constitution ought to be revised, and that the First Congress meeting under it ought to prepare and recommend to the States for ratification the most satisfactory provisions for all essential rights, particularly the rights of conscience in the fullest latitude, the freedom of the press, trials by jury, security against general warrants, & c.4

My argument here will proceed by first surveying learned opinion of the significance of ‘things religious’, for the founders and their generation. Then I shall turn to contemporary evidence showing the nature and depth of religious views at the time, paying detailed attention to such representative documents as the Continental and Confederation Congress’ official proclamations, to the texts of the sermons preached by leading churchmen, and to some of the other pamphlet literature. On the basis of this defining context, I shall then suggest the appeal to the spiritual order of the Constitution’s central structures of assuring liberty under law, thereby arguing that this is the ultimate theoretical grounding in American consciousness. The purpose of this presentation is to provide evidence for the fact that there was indeed a substantial spiritual dimension to the founding of the United States of America and to sketch the character of the debt of the Constitution and its order to that dimension. While the argument does not contend that the framers established a Christian Republic or theocracy, it does challenge the view that they established a purely and entirely secular state.


Farrand (Ed.), Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, I, op. cit. p. 125. Bridenbaugh, Carl (ed.), Spirit of 76: The Growth of American Patriotism Before Independence, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1975, p. 118. 4 Adams, Charles F. (ed.), Letters of James Madison, Boston: 1856, I, p. 447. 3



1. ANNUIT COEPTIS To begin with, the Bible was widely read in early America. In George Trevelyan’s words: The effect of the continual domestic study of the book (i.e. the Bible) upon the national character, imagination, and intelligence for three centuries-was greater than that of any literary movement in the annals, or any religious movement since St. Augustine.5

Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1835 about his visits to the log cabins on the American frontier, when he discovered there the typical pioneer, still in rustic isolation, astonishingly enough, aware of the past, curious about the future, and ready to argue about the present; he is a very civilized man prepared for a time to face life in the forest, plunging into the wildernesses of the New World with his Bible, axe, and newspapers.6

As Donald S. Lutz shows, Bible reading persisted unabated throughout the entire formative period (1760–1805), with a full one-third of all citations in the enormous pamphlet literature produced in that fortyfive-year period being from that book.7 The political significance is vast. Alice Baldwin concludes from a study on the clergy in Virginia and North Carolina during and after the Great Awakening (roughly 1740–1770) that the southern Presbyterian ministers based their political concepts on the Bible. The idea of a fundamental constitution based on law, of inalienable rights which were God-given and therefore natural, of government as a binding compact made between rulers and peoples, of the right of the people to hold their rulers to account and to defend their rights against oppression, these seem to have been doctrines taught by them all. In the South as well as in New England, the clergy helped in building the basic principles for which the Revolution was fought familiar to the common people, such as the constitutional conventions, the Bills of Rights, and the state and national constitutions.8 5 Niebuhr, H. Richard, ‘The Idea of Covenant and American Democracy’, Church History, XXIII, 1954, p. 130. 6 Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America, New York: New American Library 1956, p. 302. 7 Lutz, ‘Relative Influence of European Writers on American Political Thought’, APSR 53, 189–97. 8 Baldwin, Alice, ‘Sowers of Sedition’, William and Mary Quarterly (WMQ), V 1984, 76ff.



Baldwin also quotes John Adams’ letter of June 1776 to James Warren. “I am amazed”, writes Adams, to find an inclination so prevalent throughout all the southern colonies, to adopt plans so nearly resembling that in the Thoughts on Government, I assure you, until the experiment was made; I had no conception of it.9

Sydney Ahlstrom discerns a “long-term American Revolution”. This was the revolution in men’s hearts to which, in John Adams’ view, the Declaration of 1776 gave only belated expression. And the source of its strength laid in the religious substratum, which was always Nonconformist, Dissenting, and Puritan in its basic disposition. For this reason the Old Whig or Commonwealthman writers were so much more popular in eighteenth-century America than in England. Not only political antipathy and a desire for independence resulted in America, but also a new conception of freedom and equality took shape, involving conceptions of God, man, human rights, the state, and history, which became inseparable from the [American] Enlightenment’s outlook on reality. 0n 4 July 1776, these conceptions became a cornerstone of the American political tradition; during this period they were given further embodiment in state constitutions (and in due course in the federal Constitution).10

In reflecting on Bernard Bailyn’s and others’ thesis about the decisive role played by the Old Whig political ideology in the origins of American politics and in the Revolution, Robert Middlekauff writes to a similar effect: Radical Whig perceptions of politics attracted widespread support in America because they revived the traditional concerns of a Protestant culture that had always verged on Puritanism. That moral decay threatened free government could not come as a surprise to a people whose fathers had fled England to escape sin. The importance of virtue, frugality, industry, and calling was at the heart of their moral code (. …). The generation that made the Revolution were the children of the twice-born, the heirs of this seventeen-century religious tradition. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin … may not have been men moved by religious passions. But all had been marked by the moral dispositions of a passionate Protestantism. They could not escape this culture; nor did they try. They were imbued with an American moralism that colored their perceptions of politics. … Their responses-the actions of men who felt that Providence had set them apart for great purposes-gave the Revolution much of its intensity and much of its idealism.11 9

Loc. cit. Ahlstrom, Sydney E. (ed.) Religious History of the American People, New Haven: Yale University Press 1972, 362. 11 Middlekauff, Robert (ed.), Glorious Cause. The American Revolution, New York: Oxford University Press 1985, 48. 10



Middlekauff remarks that “religion is supremely important” for understanding American history, not only through the Revolution but also throughout the Civil War and later.12 Understanding religion is at least as vital to a comprehension of these earlier centuries as understanding economics is to comprehending the twentieth century. “This is a terribly rough equation”, Middlekauff says, “but Calvin is to the 17th and maybe the 18th century what John Maynard Keynes is to the 20th century”.13 He might better have substituted Bible for Calvin, but the point is made and it is sound. However diligently they studied Calvin, Americans’ daily and pervasive converse with the Bible far eclipsed every other literary source. 2. THE RELIGIO-POLITICAL NEXUS These historical sources reflect that we should understand the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, the framing of the Constitution, the ratification and adoption of the Bill of Rights, and the transformation of the thirteen British colonies in North America into the new United States as composing the unit of meaning we are studying. All these aspects can be symbolized as the founding of America. The seamless web of history barely allows even this broad sweep to be palpably inadequate for a smooth comprehension of our subject matter, particularly in its more theoretical aspects. When the American public in 1786 responded Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia urging them “not to confound the terms of the American Revolution with those of the late American war”, they also concurred with him that nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government, and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection.14

There also was wide agreement with some of Rush’s further notions. The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in RELIGION. Without this, there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican


Middlekauff, Robert (ed.), Glorious Cause. The American Revolution, op. cit. 51ff. Middlekauff, Robert, loc. cit. 14 Rush, ‘Thoughts Upon the Mode of Education in a Republic’; in: Lutz et al. (Ed.), American political Writing During the Founding Era, pp. 680–82. 13



governments. … The religion I mean to recommend in this place is the religion of’ JESUS CHRIST. … A Christian cannot fail of being a republican. The history of the creation of man and the relation of our species to each other by birth, which is recorded in the Old Testament, is the best refutation that can be given to the divine right of kings and the strongest argument that can used in favour of the original and natural equality of all mankind. A Christian, I say again, cannot fail of being a republican, for every precept of the Gospel inculcates those degrees of humility, selfdenial, and brotherly kindness which are directly opposed to the pride of monarchy and the pageant of a court. A Christian cannot fail of being useful to the republic, for his religion teacheth him that no man “liveth to himself ”. And lastly, a Christian cannot fail of being wholly inoffensive, for his religion teacheth him in things to do to others what he would wish, in like circumstances, they should do to him.15

A strong consensus supported Rush’s views, which can be taken as representative before, during, and after the founding. In 1804, for instance, Rev. Samuel Kendal preached during an election sermon entitled Religion the Only Sure Basis Free Government in Weston, Massachusetts, partly in order to combat anti-clericalism that accompanied American reaction to the ideology of the French philosophes, their Revolution, and Jeffersonian democracy-intertwined phenomena. His preach was addressed to the clergy who was ever vigilant in fighting Satan’s minions and who were in full cry by this time with the Second Great Awakening reviving the country. Yet Kendal’s large and timeless purpose, he said, was to illustrate this general truth. … that religion, and the moral and social virtues, of which that is the great spring, are, under God, the life and security of a free people.16

The scare over Jefferson’s ‘Jacobinism’ eventually dissipated. That the consensus held is evidenced a generation later by the reports of Tocqueville, who confirmed Rush’s logic as essentially correct and who anguished that his own countrymen were so devoid of such understanding as to split the nation because of it: “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith”.17 Anglo-American civilization, Tocqueville discovered to his astonishment, is the product of two perfectly distinct elements which elsewhere have often been at war with one another but which in America it was somehow possible to 15 16 17

Rush, loc. cit. Lutz et al (Ed.), American Political Writing, op. cit. II, 1243. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, I, op. cit. p. 34.



incorporate into each other, forming a marvelous combination. I mean the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom.18

This accomplishment was possible because the English colonists: brought to the New World a Christianity which I can only describe as democratic and republican. (…) There is not a single religious doctrine hostile to democratic and republican institutions. (…) America is (…) the place where the Christian religion has kept the greatest real power over men’s souls; and nothing better demonstrates how useful and natural it is to man, since the country where it now has widest sway is both the most enlightened and the freest. (…) It was religion that gave birth to the English colonies in America. One must never forget that. In the United States religion is mingled with all the national customs and all those feelings that the word fatherland evokes. For that reason it has peculiar power. (…) Christianity has kept a strong hold over the minds of Americans, and (…) its power is not just that of a philosophy which has been examined and accepted, but that of religion believed in without discussion. (…) Christianity itself is an established and irresistible fact, which no one seeks to attack or to defend.19

Of course, Tocqueville is also uniquely perceptive in recognizing that the spiritual dimensions of human existence do not vanish simply because men become atheistic and rebellious. He brilliantly analyzed the ideology of the French Revolution as an “Ersatz religion” aiming at “nothing short of a regeneration of the whole human race. (…) This strange religion has, like Islam, overrun the whole world with its apostles, militants, and martyrs”.20 Since no more than an illustrative analysis of our complex theme can be attempted here, perhaps enough has been said to disperse some of the “obtuse secularism” by those who approach the founding as a merely rationalistic enterprise of men preoccupied with the European Enlightenment’s progressive notions and contemptuousness of traditional religion. Reason and faith were readily reconciled on the American side of the Atlantic throughout the debates of the founding period, and John Locke and the Bible often were quoted as spokesmen of the same eternal verities in a single sentence. However analytically cogent the modern analysis may or may not be, to polarize as incompatible the politics of Locke’s Second Treatise and the theology and cosmology of the Old and New Testaments, was simply unthinkable to the founders of the United States. 18 19 20

Loc. cit. Tocqueville, Democracy in America, II, op. cit. pp. 432ff. Tocqueville, Old Regime and the French Revolution, in: op. cit. pp. 13ff.



The American situation, as the preachers saw it, was not what Thomas Paine presented in Common Sense – a community of hardworking, rational creatures being chased by an irrational tyrant – but was more like the recurrent predicament of the chosen people in the Bible. As Samuel Cooper declared on October 25th, 1780, upon the inauguration of the Constitution of Massachusetts, America was a new Israel, selected to be “a theatre for the display of some of the most astonishing dispensations of His Providence”.21 When they offended Him, He punished them by destroying their republic, subjecting them to a king. Thus while we today need no revelation to inform us that we are all born free and equal and that sovereignty resides in the people – “these are the plain dictates of that reason and common sense with which the common parent has informed the human bosom” – still Scripture makes these truths explicit. Hence, when we angered our God, a king was inflicted upon us; happily, Americans have succeeded, where the Jews did not, in recovering something of pristine virtue, whereupon Heaven redressed America’s earthly grievances. Only as we today appreciate the formal unity of the two cosmologies, the rational and Biblical, do we take in the full import of Cooper’s closing salute to the new [Massachusetts] Constitution. “How nicely it poises the powers of government, in order to render them as far as human foresight can, what God ever designed they should be, power only to do good”. Once this light is allowed to play on the scene, we perceive the shallowness of that view which would treat the religious appeal as a calculated propaganda maneuver. The ministers did not have to ‘sell’ the Revolution to a public sluggish to ‘buy’. They were spelling out what both they and the people sincerely believed, nor were they distracted by worries about the probability that Jefferson held all their constructions to be nonsense. A pure rationalism such as his might have declared the independence of these folk, but it could never have inspired them to fight for it.22

3. THE POLITICAL-RELIGIO NEXUS The nexus between religion and the ‘official politics’ clearly shows to be significant. The outpourings from the pulpits of the country were not merely spontaneous but were instigated by the Continental Congress on at least sixteen occasions, Congress called for various days of public, 21

Loc. cit. Miller, Perry (ed.) From Covenant to the Revival, Religion in the American Life, Princeton, NJ: Yale University Press 1961, pp. 152–53. 22



fasting, humiliation, and thanksgiving throughout the Revolution War. These kinds of observances had been a practice of the colonists prior to the reign of King George III and had been practiced in England and Scotland as well in previous centuries. They were continued in the administrations of Washington and Adams, spurned by Jefferson, and reluctantly reinstated by Madison amidst the trouble of the War of 1812. Such official expression of religious interest demonstrated by the American political elite is indicative of the fact, to be further considered, that a common bond of fundamental conviction in things spiritual united the people and their leadership in like-mindedness during the founding era. The leadership throughout the period from 1775 to 1791 was highly homogeneous. “The Founding Fathers were so similar to the broader elite of Revolutionary executive officeholders as to be indistinguishable from them”.23 The power of religious symbolism can be seen from a glance at some of Congress’ resolutions. The Resolution of June 12, 1775, reads as follows: As the great Governor of the World, by his supreme and universal Providence, not only conducts the course of nature with unerring wisdom and rectitude, but frequently influences the minds of men to serve the wise and gracious purposes of his providential government; and it being, at all times, our indispensable duty devoutly to acknowledge his superintending providence, especially in times of impending danger and public calamity, to reverence and adore his immutable justice as well as to implore his merciful interposition for our deliverance. (…) That virtue and true religion may revive and flourish throughout our land; And that all America may soon behold a gracious interposition of Heaven, for the redress of her many grievances, the restoration of her invaded rights, a reconciliation with the parent state, on terms constitutional and honorable to both; And that her civil and religious privileges [sic] may be secured to the latest posterity.24

And it is recommended: “to Christians, of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and to abstain from servile labour and recreations on said day”.25 Language and form remained much the same through all these resolutions and proclamations, the chief point being simultaneously 23 Brown, Richard D., ‘Founding Fathers of 1776 and 1787: A Collective View’, WMQ XXXIII 1976, p. 466. 24 Ford, Worthington C. et al. (eds.), Journals of the Continental Congress, 34 vol., New York 1937, II, pp. 87–89. 25 Loc. cit.



bringing together the entire country as one moral and religious community – despite denominationalism, it should be noted – in covenant with their God, individually and collectively. There the nation should prostrate itself in repentance of sin and pray for forgiveness, confessing its iniquities and corruptions, and seeking God’s loving mercy as the fruit of faith restored and made whole again. The Americans, then, represented their plight here as indeed being that of a people in the hands of an angry God who’s Providence must be reckoned with, and whose sovereignty cannot be doubted. The one hope for the community is a restoration to divine grace so that God’s wrath will abate. As a result of the cleansing of the sinful hearts of the persons composing the national community, forgiveness can ensue and concord be restored with heaven and peace on earth. Thus, another call in urgent language went out on March 16, 1776 for the nation to do “its indispensable duty” and with true penitence of heart, and the most revenant (sic) devotion, publicly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger.26

May 17th was recommended as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may with united hearts, confer and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincerer repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure and, through the merits and meditations of Jesus Christ, obtain pardon and forgiveness,27

so that God will then soften the hearts the English. If this is not to be, then may it please the Lord of Hosts the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude (…) and to crown [them] (…) with victory and success.28

The resolution also asks God’s blessing on the land and its people and leaders, and that he “grant that a spirit of incorruptible patriotism and of pure undefiled religion, may universally prevail”.29 Another appeal is made on December 11, 1776, “to reverence the Providence of God, and look up to him as the supreme disposer of all 26 27 28 29

Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Text in brackets added by the author. Loc. cit.



events, and the arbiter of the fate of nations” so that the nation by request of Congress and each of the states “beg the countenance of his Providence in the prosecution of the present just and necessary war”. It is particularly important for the members of the army to observe strictly the regulation “which forbids profane swearing, and all immorality, of which all such officers are desired to take note”.30 The Revolution again is characterized as a “just and necessary war” in the calling of a day of Thanksgiving (written in the hand of Sam Adams) by Congress on November 1st, 1777. Here, too, confession of sins and forgiveness are begged that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance … [and] under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, independence and peace … to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.31

As the Revolution neared its end, a more cheerful and self-confident tone entered the proclamations, the turning point being France’s entry into the conflict. The founding is a nexus of faith and reason, we have said, and enlightenment and devotion are inseparable from each other in the minds of the Americans of the time. Thus, in the spring of 1778 Congress prepares another Proclamation: When the lust for dominion or lawless ambition excites arbitrary ‘power to invade the rights, or endeavor to wrench [sic] wrest from a people their sacred and unalienable [sic] invaluable privileges, and compels them, in defense of the same, to encounter all the horrors and calamities of a bloody and vindictive war; then is that people loudly called upon to fly unto that God for protection, who hears the cries of the distressed, and will not turn a deaf ear to the supplication of the oppressed.32

A day of public fasting, prayer, and humiliation is called so our joint supplications may then ascend to the throne of the Ruler of the Universe, beseeching Him (…) to diffuse a spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens; and make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people. (…) That He would incline the hearts of all men to peace, and fill them with universal charity and benevolence, and

30 31 32

Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Text in brackets added by the author. Loc. cit.



that the religion of our Divine Redeemer, with all its benign influences, may cover the earth as the waters cover the seas.33

It is prayed that God smile upon our seminaries and means of “education, to cause pure religion and virtue to flourish, to give peace to all nations, and to fill the world with his glory”.34 The signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783 is observed the following year with a Thanksgiving Proclamation offering gratitude that “the freedom, sovereignty and independence of these states” is “fully and compleately [sic] established (…) and (…) the dearest and most essential rights of human nature” secured through the “benign interposition of Divine Providence”, as that has “been most miraculously and abundantly manifested”. Hence, the citizens of the United States have the greatest reason to return their most hearty and sincere praise and thanksgiving to the God of their deliverance. (…) And above all [because], (…) he hath been pleased to continue to us the light of gospel truths, and secured to us, in the fullest manner, the rights of conscience in faith and worship.35

4. A NATION UNDER GOD There obviously is some truth in the assertion that the Bible was the chief “textbook of the fathers of the Republic”. John Quincy Adams believed that the “highest glory of the American Revolution … was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity”.36 In New England, John Cotton founded the Boston Thursday Lecture in 1633 at which time social and political matters were discussed, combined with a ‘market day’. With nearly a century and a half of precedent to rely on, the Rev. William Gordon’s Thanksgiving Sermon of 1774, dedicated to the political crisis of America, opens with a reminder we are prone to ignore. The pulpit is devoted, in general, to more important purposes than the fate of kingdoms, or the civil rights of human nature, being intended to recover men from the slavery of sin and Satan, to point out their escape


Op. cit. p. 102. Op. cit. p. 105. 35 Ford et al. (Ed), Journals of the Continental Congress, II, op. cit. pp. 627–29. Text in brackets added by the author. 36 Thornton, John W., (ed.) Pulpit in the American Revolution, New York: Ayer Publishing 1970, pp. 24ff. 34



from future misery through faith in a crucified Jesus, and to assist them in their preparations for an eternal blessedness. But still there are special times and seasons when it may treat of politics.37

The fundamental tension in reality, and man’s existence in the In-Between of immanence and transcendence, is nicely expressed by the Rev. Gordon’s preamble as the true source of the misgiving Professor Murrin senses in the people’s and historians’ preoccupation with merely secular politics as the final point of intellectual and spiritual concern. Yet Rev. Gordon is clear, the politics does not exhaust human reality, since men are destined for eternal Blessedness through Christ as the hoped-for homecoming for the prodigal sons of men. By this account, the historians and the people they chronicle may indeed be wandering in the wild, venerating one golden calf now and then another. The flavour of the founders’ theology as they grappled with the great temporal crises of the period needs to be kept in mind as we explore the subject. President Samuel Langdon of Harvard College preached an election sermon in the spring of 1775 based on Isaiah 1:26. And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning; afterward thou shalt be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.

An election sermon, of course, was in any event political occasion, and this one was preached in the neighbourhood of Lexington and Concord: “We must”, Dr. Langdon says, keep our eyes fixed on the supreme government of the Eternal King, as directing all events. (…) For the sins of a people God may suffer the best government to be corrupted or dissolved, and (…) nothing but a general reformation can give good ground to hope that the public happiness will be restored.38

After recounting the circumstances of Isaiah’s prophecy and the vicissitudes of the Chosen People through the Babylonian exile, Dr. Langdon continues: The Jewish government, according to the original constitution which was divinely established, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect republic. The heads of their tribes and elders of their cities were their counsellors and judges. They called the people together in more general or particular assemblies, took their opinions, gave advice, and managed 37 38

Loc. cit. Loc. cit.



the public affairs according to the general voice. Counsellors and judges comprehend all the powers of that government; for there was no such thing as legislative authority belonging to it, their complete code of laws being given immediately from God by the hand of Moses. And let them who cry up the divine right of kings consider that the only form of government which had a proper claim to a divine establishment was so far from including the idea of a king, that it was a high crime for Israel to ask to be in this respect like other nations; and when they were gratified, it was rather as just punishment of their folly.39

The trouble at hand has one main cause: We have rebelled against God. We have lost the true spirit of Christianity, though we retain the outward profession and form of it. We have neglected and set light by the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy commands and institutions.40

The prevailing moral philosophy is a corruption, “little better than ancient Platonism”. The excellent British constitution is a “mere shadow of its ancient” splendour. The “sins of America, and of New England in particular” have brought “down upon us the righteous judgment of Heaven”. The punishment must be doubly severe. Since America is so favoured by God, it will receive more speedy and signal punishment; as God says of Israel: ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities’ (Amos 3:2).41

In his peroration Dr. Langdon does not fail to proclaim: If God be for us, who can be against us? [Romans 8:31]. The enemy has reproached us for calling on his name, and professing our trust in him. They have made mock of our solemn, fasts, and every appearance of serious Christianity in the land; May we be truly a holy people, and all our towns’ cities of righteousness! Then the Lord will be our refuge and strength.42

The Reverend Samuel West, preaching in Boston a year later (May 29, 1776), concentrates on a common theme of these sermons, that resistance to tyranny is a sacred obligation (This was the motto of the first draft of the Great Seal of the United States). Dr. Langdon quote, 39 Loc. cit. See also the contribution of Labuschagne in this volume, where I Samuel 8 is discussed. 40 Loc. cit. 41 Loc. cit. 42 Loc. cit. Text in brackets added by the author.



Proverbs 28:15 as the epigraph of his sermon: “As a roaring lion and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people”. In preaching on Titus 3:11: “Put them in mind to be subject to principality and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work”,43 Rev. West finds that neither the Old Testament nor the New require obedience to evil rulers. Whoever imposes evil government has degraded himself below the rank and dignity of a man, and deserves to be classed with the lower creation. Hence we find that wise and good men of all nations and religions, have ever inculcated subjection to good government and have borne their testimony against the licentious disturbers of public peace. Nor has Christianity been deficient on this capital point. After reconciling the Bible and Locke, Rev. West asserts that: the law of nature gives men no right to do anything that is immoral, or contrary to the will of God, and injurious to their fellow-creatures; for a state of nature is properly a state of law and government, even a government founded upon the unchangeable nature of the Deity itself, and a law resulting from the eternal fitness of things. … This law is as unchangeable as the Deity himself, being a transcript of his moral perfections. A revelation, pretending to be from God, that contradicts any part of natural law, ought immediately to be rejected as an imposture; for Deity cannot make a law contrary to the law of nature without acting contrary to himself, a thing, in, the strictest sense impossible, for that which implies contradiction is not an object of the divine power. … The doctrine of non-resistance and unlimited passive obedience to the worst of tyrants could never have found credit among mankind had the voice of reason been hearkened [sic] to for a guide, because such a doctrine would immediately have been discerned to be contrary to natural law. … The most perfect freedom consists in obeying the dictates of right reason. … Where licentiousness begins, liberty ends.44

The obligation of obedience to the powers that be, as ordained of God, means obedience to lawful magistrates. Those only are to be esteemed lawful magistrates, and ordained of God, who pursues the public good by honoring and encouraging those that do well and punishing all that do evil. Such, and such only, wherever they are to be found, are the ministers of God for good,45

and only such as these are to be obeyed and not resisted. Otherwise men are entitled to emulate the 43 44 45

Thornton (Ed.), Pulpit in the American Revolution, op. cit. pp. 24ff. Loc. cit. Loc. cit.



primitive Christians, who refused to comply with the sinful commands of men in power; their answer in such cases being this, we ought to obey God rather than men.46

The result at length then is this: obedience is taught, as is the liberty of the subject, under rightful rule. But it is also strongly implied, that when rulers become oppressive to the subject and injurious to the state, their authority, their respect, their maintenance, and the duty of submitting to them, must immediately cease; they are then to be considered as the ministers of Satan, and, as such, it becomes our indispensable duty to resist and oppose them. Thus we see that both reason and revelation perfectly agree in pointing out the nature, end, and design of government, viz., that it is to promote the welfare and happiness of the community. (…) Reason and revelation (…) do both teach us that our obedience to rulers is not unlimited, but that resistance is not only allowable, but an indispensable duty in the case of intolerable tyranny and oppression. It therefore must be concluded that Isaiah’s great prophecy of millennial peace cannot yet be entered upon, for – to the contrary – we Americans now must beat our ploughshares into swords, and our pruning-hooks into spears, and learn the art of self- defence against our enemies.47

From Rev. West’s mighty jeremiad, we turn finally to the election sermon preached to the Massachusetts legislature in Boston in May I778 by the Reverend Phillips Payson, who reminds us with Augustinian overtones of the differences between the heavenly and temporal city, the visible and invisible churches. These distinctions are as fundamental to the founders’ thinking as to Christians of all ages. “It is common”, Rev. Payson says, for the inspired writers to speak of the gospel dispensation in terms applicable to the heavenly world, especially when they view it in comparison with the Law of Moses. In this light they consider the church of God, and good men upon earth, as members of the church and family of God above, and liken the liberty of Christians to that of the citizens of the heavenly Zion. We doubt not but the Jerusalem above, the heavenly society, possesses the noblest liberty to a degree of perfection of which the human mind can have no adequate conception in the present state. The want of that knowledge and rectitude they are endowed with above renders liberty and government so imperfect here below.48

46 47 48

Loc. cit. Loc. cit. Loc. cit.



Having taken as his text for the occasion Galatians 4 (“But Jerusalem, which is above, is free, which is the mother of us all. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free”.), Rev. Payson continues: This religious or, spiritual liberty must be accounted the greatest happiness of man, considered in a private capacity. But considering ourselves here as connected in civil society, and members one of another, we must in this view esteem civil liberty as the greatest of all human blessings. (…) A people formed upon the morals and principles of the gospel are capacitated to enjoy the highest degree of civil liberty, and will really enjoy it, unless prevented by force or fraud. (…) The voice of reason and the voice of God both teach us that the, great end of government is the public good. Nor is there less certainty in determining that a free and righteous government originates from the: people, and is under their direction and control; and therefore a free, popular model of government – of the republican kind – may be judged the most friendly to the rights and liberties of the people, and the most conducive to, the public welfare.49

The founders’ faith and rational schooling in ‘things spiritual’ are intimated by these excerpts from sermons by some of the leading churchmen of the day. While our examples are from New England sermons, the message is almost the same throughout the country. The denominational differences are minimized partly as a result of the homogenizing and democratizing effects of decades of revivalism from the Great Awakening and its rumbling echoes and aftershocks. That the leading lights of the Revolutionary Congresses and the Federal Convention were generally men of faith can no longer be doubted. Of course, Jefferson traditionally has been regarded as a Deist and rationalist comparable to Tom Paine in radicalism and antipathy to true religion. Had he not held such a special place in the minds and hearts of the country, he might well have been included in Theodore Roosevelt’s libel of the latter as “a dirty little atheist” – but all this has changed. When Jefferson was elected vice-president in 1796, the Reverend Judah Champion of Litchfield, Connecticut, prayed, “0 Lord, wilt Thou bestow upon the Vice-President a double portion of Thy grace, for Thou knowest he needs it”.50 Other Connecticut worthies reacted similarly. One minister called him “a debauchee, an infidel, and a liar”. It turned out that Jefferson was a non-Trinitarian Christian, a “demythologized Christian”, or 49

Loc. cit. Keller, Charles A. (ed.), Second Great Awakening in Connecticut, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1942, p. 26. 50



one … who rejected all myth, all mystery, all miracles, and almost all supernaturalism in religion and sought instead to return to what he perceived to be the primitive purity and simplicity of Christianity. The corner stone of Jefferson’s religion was an unswerving commitment to monotheism. He firmly believed in the existence of one God, who was the creator and sustainer of the universe and the ultimate ground of being…. He lavishly praised Jesus for making the one true God worthy of human worship inasmuch as he took for his type the best qualities of the human head and heart, wisdom, justice, goodness, and adding to them power, ascribed all of these, but in infinite perfection, to the supreme being.51

The unity of God, the moral teachings of Jesus as the most sublime in the history of the world and the expectation of personal immortality constitute the core of Jefferson’s religion, his “Christianity”, as disclosed through critical publication of all relevant materials from his papers. It is impressive, indeed, that Jefferson assiduously concerned himself with the search for religious truth from the 1790s until the end of his life in 1826. He pursued this compelling concern through resolute study of the Bible, biblical scholarship, and mastery of theological literature in Greek, Latin, French, German and English. When urged, as a means of quieting sectarian bigotry, to publish his religious sentiments toward the end of his life, Jefferson replied with wonderful irony, “But have they not the Gospel? If they hear not that, and the charities it teacheth, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead”.52 5. CONCLUSION: IN GOD WE TRUST Our examination of the religious setting of the Federal Convention can come to an end. If Thomas Jefferson was a believer, who disbelieved? The answer that is persuasively suggested is: nobody. The founders were united in what John Adams long after called the general principles of Christianity and Protestantism, as we have seen, which for him meant especially the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. Jefferson not only could agree that this was true of the country but also that he shared Adams’ faith – although he did not fully inform his old friend of his convictions in their correspondence on religious matters but instead veiled the details in utter secrecy. How persuasive the claim

51 Adams, Dixon W. (ed.), Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1983, pp. 39–41. 52 Op. cit. p. 45.



will be that all the founders were men of faith remains to be seen, of course. Aristotle distinguishes between persuasion and coercion in argumentation, and the deep-seated scepticism in this matter may surpass the reach of persuasive evidence. The adduced evidence supports the conclusion that the founding was indeed a great feat of faith and reason. The core conviction of the Founders accommodated a nation that worshipped the Biblical Jehovah. This was essential to the ideology of their new creation and was, besides, heavily influenced by the vigorous participation of the American pulpits and congregations in the struggle for independence since God was not, as it seemed to many of the French, a reactionary despot there was no need for a profane Year One or a Cult of Reason. Service to this God and service of the commonwealth were perceived as harmonious to the republic’s moment of truth. Caesar’s things’ were recast in a way that could provoke no obvious conflicts with ‘God’s things’, while the latter, far more ethically than metaphysically interpreted, brought a sacred touch to the profane world. Being in but not of the state (as patterned after the Virginia disestablishment of 1785) religion itself – not the least cause, until after the war: it had been everywhere, even in the liturgical churches, congregational in structure – could be seen as part of the realm of freedom. Precisely because it was “free”, it could accommodate to the civil power without that fatal sense of moral conflict that had scarred Europe for centuries. If religion was “reasonable”, so was the American constitution experiment. If it was “revelatory”, so was the American “garden in the wilderness”. If it was pluralized, so were the “areas of settlement and the economic interests”.53 The question remains, however: what difference does this contend of powerful conviction in things spiritual make in the framing and meaning of the Constitution? To begin with, as we have seen, the Constitution arose out of and revolved within a horizon of reality that is decisively structured by Judaeo-Christian revelation, itself a commanding structure of faith and reason of enormous theoretical complexity and historical depth. However, the subject is much wider and deeper.

53 Kelly, George A. (ed.), Politics and Religious Consciousness in America, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction 1984, pp. 44–46.



The founding was the rearticulation of Western civilization in its Anglo-American mode. The founders were thoroughly educated in the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew sources of this civilization, often knowing the classic writings in the original tongues, in addition to French and English literature. While substantially influenced by the secularizing tendencies of the movement from Humanism to the Enlightenment, the American Revolution was essentially restorative and retrospective, in the primary meaning of the term as a movement to re-establish truth and justice on a primordial foundation, one lost through corruption and rebellion by men motivated by the perversities of vaulting ambition and the lust for power engendered by selfishness, sin, and evil. This model of revolution as the “turning of a wheel” represents the primary – though not exclusive – tendency of the American and perhaps of all earlier Western revolutions to be restorations. The ransacking of historical sources by James Madison and others throughout the period of the revolutionary and constitutional crises is suggestive of the present point. While a dissertation on the philosophy of history need not now be attempted, the relationship discerned between spiritual aspects of human affairs and protestant theology, is indicative of present concerns. The pertinent point, as we remind ourselves of, is the great existential and historical debt Americans owe to distant influences, including religion and ancient philosophy. As Northrop Frye puts it: Man lives, not directly or nakedly in nature like the animals, but within mythological universe, a body of assumptions and beliefs developed from his existential concerns. Most of this is held unconsciously, which means that our imaginations may recognize elements of it, when presented in art or literature, without consciously understanding what it is we recognize. Practically all that we can see of this body of concern is socially conditioned and culturally inherited. Below the cultural inheritance there must be a common psychological inheritance, otherwise forms of culture and imagination outside our own traditions would not be intelligible to us. (…) The Bible – the Torah – is clearly a major element in our own imaginative tradition”.54

It also is clearly a major element in our theoretical and political traditions. It is to a considerable degree, in terms of its symbolic world that the founders comprehended themselves, contrived their great work and

54 Frye, Northrop (ed.), Great Code – The Bible and Literature, London : Routledge & Kegan Paul 1982, pp. 17ff.



grasped reality itself. Perhaps it is not too much to say, and really not very surprising that nearly all features of the constitutional system as it came from the hands of the founders bear the marks of the biblicalChristian symbolic world. This is not to deny the presence of other factors of great importance, such as in the technical details of political theory and legal structure. Yet biblical fingerprints are everywhere, and the commanding heights of meaning are heavily indebted to the controlling spiritual symbols and the experiences they mediate. The fact is evident from the proclamations and other sources quoted above. Some of the major symbols can now be identified and characterized. Love of liberty is the premier motif of the founders. It is juxtaposed to abhorrence of tyranny and a passionate insistence upon just rule, defined as dedication to the common good of all and conformity to fundamental law. Liberty stands at the centre of revelatory experience, not merely in terms of doctrine but in terms of the living faith from Abraham onward. Biblical religion is a drama of liberty. It is symbolized in the mystery of the free disclosure of a loving God who reveals himself and his truth to his creature, man, and who is met by the free response of the paradigmatic man of spirit, Abraham, whose sons we all are, Paul says (Galatians 3:6). Abraham sets out from Ur of the Chaldea’s for a land God will show him (Genesis 12:1). This is the pilgrimage of human faith, freely undertaken in response to the divine initiative and without which revelation itself would be lost. The dynamics of grace and faith structures the whole questing dimension of the Christian adventure as exemplified in the Torah in the Exodus and as repeatedly re-enacted thereafter in various settings and transformations. It is the Pilgrim’s Progress of all spiritual men and women, individually and of universal mankind itself, tellingly represented by the English Baptist John Bunyan in the famous book of that title. Life is a pilgrimage through time in partnership with God, a time for cooperatively and freely working out one’s salvation in response to revealed truth. This dynamic lies at the core of the experience of divine transcendent Being as transmitted through biblical symbolism. In New Testament revelation, the verses in John that underscore this point are especially those from Jesus’: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” ( John 8:38); and “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” ( John 14:32). The understanding that truth is liberating, that it is not some abstract proposition but a living communion with the eternal God revealed in Christ who is Truth itself, and that salvation depends upon a free,



personal acceptance of this truth and a spiritual rebirth are controlling elements in the Christianity of the Americans of the period under study. The thrust of the Great Awakening and the revival of true faith during and after that spiritual earthquake in Colonial America especially keyed on these elements. The insistence upon free, adult conversion and personal spiritual rebirth vivified religion. It was demanded of the ministry no less than of the congregations, and the experience itself gave powerful meaning to liberty as a formative force in the attainment of a mature Christian personality. Liberty of conscience arose in this experiential setting as a great desideratum. It formed a major theme of the revolutionary ferment. Liberty of conscience was demanded when amendments to the Constitution were requested by the states during ratification. As James Lord Bryce explained matters, about a century ago, there are both political and religious reasons for insisting on religious liberty. The political principle sets out from the principles of liberty and equality. (…) The second principle starts from the conception of the church as a spiritual body existing for spiritual purposes, and moving along spiritual paths. It is an assemblage of men who are united by their devotion to an unseen Being, their memory of a divine life, their belief in the possibility of imitating that life, so far as human frailty allows, their hopes for an illimitable future. Compulsion of any kind is contrary to the nature of such a body, which lives by love and reverence, not by law. It desires no state help, feeling that its strength comes from above, and that its kingdom is not of this world. (…) Least of all can it submit to be controlled by the state, for the state, in such a world as the present, means persons many or most of whom are alien to its beliefs and cold to its emotions. The conclusion follows that the church as a spiritual entity will be happiest and strongest when it is left absolutely to itself, not patronized by the civil power, not restrained by law except when and in so far as it may attempt to quit its proper sphere and intermeddle in secular affairs.55

This even-handed explanation is unexceptionable and reflects the kind of motivational synthesis that marked all the founders’ work. Their sources of truth were experience, common sense, reason, and revelation, as they frequently said. Religion was no direct concern of the Convention because it had economic, political, and social problems to resolve. Their kind of urbane recognition of the layered structure of reality and the 55 Bryce, Viscount James, The American Commonwealth, New York: MacMillan and Co. 1893–95, I, pp. 767–69.



need for pluralistic approaches to a pluralistic reality is rooted in the mutually reinforcing foundations of Western thought: the Creation story in Genesis, with its layering of the cosmos and man, created between brute and angelic beings in the image and likeness of God, given dominion over all the earth; and the hierarchical structure of being of the Hellenic philosophers, for whom reality ranges from the material to the divine, man’s composite nature being such as to participate in all layers and thus be their epitome. His essential being is Reason, which is mysteriously both human and divine. The founders understood the hierarchical structure of being and acted as reasonable people would, whose grasp of order is not deformed by fantasies of one kind or another. James Madison went so far on one occasion as to write, The people of the U.S. owe their Independence & their liberty, to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprised in the precedent.56

It is clear from the same document containing Madison’s sentence that his concern for religious liberty is at least as strongly motivated by Bryce’s “religious principle” as by political considerations. The “rights of conscience” are to be protected against both the “danger of silent accumulations & encroachments by Ecclesiastical Bodies” and their incipient establishment of religion and the pollution of true religion by accommodation to the political power. “Ye States of America”, Madison urged, which retain in your Constitution or Codes, any aberration from the sacred principle of religious liberty, by giving to Caesar what belongs to God, or joining together what God has put asunder, hasten to revise & purify your systems, and make the example of your Country as pure & compleat [sic], in what relates to the freedom of the mind and its allegiance to its maker, as in what belongs to the legitimate objects of political & civil institutions.57

The complementary structure to liberty in biblical religion is the absolute sovereignty of God. This is a matter of reason nearly as much as it is of religion for Americans of this period. The fusion of the teachings of Deuteronomy with Newtonian science and classical Greek and Roman sources tends to produce a rational divinity and natural law. We have 56 57

Loc. cit. Op. cit. p. 469.



heard Samuel West affirm that “deity cannot make a law contrary to the law of nature” and that any pretended revelation that contradicts reason is “an imposture”. While there is no suggestion that God’s sovereignty and will are wholly explicable by the rationality accessible to the finite minds of men, there is very firm reliance upon an ultimate power that is rational, just, omnipotent, merciful, loving, and the personal deity revealed through Jesus Christ. The reiterated appeal to divine Providence in the material quoted earlier, stresses the dependence of the creature upon the Creator as the Governor of the world and disposer of all events, the ineffable Sovereign. That there is a fundamental law is the chief matter. That notion is imported into the Constitution in the “Supremacy Clause” (i.e. Federal Law nullifies State Law) and serves as the ultimate grounding of national power in the United States. Without attempting to resolve in detail the vexed dispute about the “kind” of natural law prevalent in the minds of the founding generation, we can simply point to the obvious debt owed the Christian or “traditional” idea of these matters. The key text for that is Sir Edward Coke’s, the universal tutor of lawyers before the Revolution and the emergence in the late 1760s of Blackstone as the legal authority of the English-speaking world. In Coke’s words: The law of nature is that which God at the time of creation of the nature of man infused into his heart, for his preservation and direction; and this is the Lex aeterna, the moral law, called also the law of nature. And by this law, written with the finger of God in the heart of man, were the people of God a long time governed before the law was written by Moses, who was the first reporter of the law in the world. (…) And Aristotle, nature’s secretary, in Book 5 of the Ethics saith that ‘natural justice is that which everywhere has the same force and does not exist by people’s thinking this or that’.58

The appeal to absolute justice and to natural rights as God-given was pervasive and displays the conception of an order of being transcendent to mere mortal and earthly authority, effectively superior in obligation to it, and as rational as Newton found God’s mind to be in ordering the cosmos. The disputed notion is that arbitrary or ‘tyrannical’ rule is inadmissible under terms of a “fundamental law”: Magna Carta, custom, divine and natural law, or a combination of all of them composing the Ancient Constitution demand Reason and Justice. That such 58 Coke, Sir Edward (ed.), Higher Law. Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, London: 1642, pp. 45–47.



fundamental law is superior even to kings is the nub of the seventeenthcentury struggle that eventually settled the issue in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Americans resolutely rejected absolute claims on the part of any government, whether by king or by Parliament. The eighteenth century notion of the unlimited superior power of a sovereign parliament triggered much of the controversy leading to the Revolution. It was this element in Blackstone’s Commentaries (published in 1769) that so aroused James Wilson, who knew arbitrary power and creeping tyranny when he saw them. This sense of demanding a rule of law (in Aristotle’s phrase) and not of men – hence, of absolute Justice as far as that is humanly attainable – is a higher law principle, however it may be disguised, and finds its experiential footing in the transcendental order of being in which men participate. Few statements in the Federalist are as powerful as Madison’s in No. 51 where, as we have seen, he affirms this conviction. Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be pursued, until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.59

The great frame of biblical symbolism is comprehended in Exodus, Covenant, and Canaan. That the American Israel understood itself as continuing this history through its pilgrimage to the American wilderness in analogy with the Mosaic adventures is well known. The fact that Americans organized themselves by covenants for civil as well as religious purposes and even in federations of covenants is clear; and that the Constitution itself is framed in the spirit of the covenant, compact, and contract symbolism is evident. That this symbolism is indebted to Protestant Christian theory is also acknowledged, “Without the strong link that Augustine forged between consent and will, social contract theory would be unthinkable, since it defines consent in terms of will”.60 But then, the whole sequence of biblical covenants linking consent and will lay behind Augustine. That the symbolism of Exodus can be applied to the departure of America from the British Empire 59 Hamilton, Alexander (et al.), The Federalist papers: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, With an introd., table of contents, and index of ideas by Clinton Rossiter, New York: New American Library 1961, #51. 60 Riley, Patrick, (ed.) Will and Political Legitimacy. A Critical Exposition of Social Contract Theory, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1982, pp. 5ff.



through independence also is clear and in keeping with the tenor of the religious literature of the period. That the Revolution was theorized as a just war is explicit in the resolutions of the Congress and even in Tom Paine’s writings. That the fulfilment of time in the dawn of the millennium in America by establishment of a novus ordo seclorum of Constitution and republic is a palpable hope of a faithful people and a theme that has played a role in American consciousness into the present century. Who could doubt that America is a special and favoured nation? I shall not leave this subject without correcting the impression that Benjamin Franklin stood alone among his colleagues in Philadelphia on June 28, 1787, when the suggestion of prayer was turned aside. There is no reason to believe that they did not heartily share his sentiments on religious matters. Pragmatic considerations of timing, possible alarm to the country and even economics seem decisive in their letting the matter drop. Franklin’s sentiments typify the settled views of most of the American community of the time. We can conclude by attending to the nation’s favourite philosopher. In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it’. I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel.61

BIBLIOGRAPHY Adams, Charles F. (ed.), Letters of James Madison, Boston: 1856. Adams, Dixon W. (ed.), Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 1983.


Farrand (Ed.), Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, I, op. cit. p. 451.



Ahlstrom, Sydney E. (ed.) Religious History of the American People, New Haven: Yale University Press 1972. Baldwin, Alice, ‘Sowers of Sedition’, William and Mary Quarterly (WMQ), V 1984. Bryce, Viscount James, The American Commonwealth, New York: MacMillan and Co. 1893–95. Bridenbaugh, Carl (ed.), Spirit of 76: The Growth of American Patriotism Before Independence, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1975. Brown, Richard D., ‘Founding Fathers of 1776 and 1787: A Collective View’, WMQ XXXIII 1976. Butler, Jon and Stout, Harry S. (eds.), Religion in American History: A Reader, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1998. Cherry, Conrad (ed.), God’s New Israel. Religious Interpretations of American Destiny, Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press 1998. Coke, Sir Edward (ed.), Higher Law. Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, London: 1642. Farrand, Max (ed.), Records of the Federal Convention 1787, 4 Vol. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1968. Ford, Worthington C. et al. (eds.), Journals of the Continental Congress, 34 vol., New York 1937. Frye, Northrop (ed.), Great Code – The Bible and Literature, London : Routledge & Kegan Paul 1982. Gardiner, S.R. (ed.), Constitutional Documents of the Puritan Revolution, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1906. Hamilton, Alexander (et al.), The Federalist papers: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, With an introd., table of contents, and index of ideas by Clinton Rossiter, New York: New American Library 1961. Keller, Charles A. (ed.), Second Great Awakening in Connecticut, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press 1942. Kelly, George A. (ed.), Politics and Religious Consciousness in America, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction 1984. Lutz, Donald S., ‘Relative Influence of European Writers on Late 18th Century American Political Thought’, American Political Science Review, LXXVIII, 1984. Middlekauff, Robert (ed.), Glorious Cause. The American Revolution, New York: Oxford University Press 1985. Miller, Perry (ed.) From Covenant to the Revival, Religion in the American Life, Princeton, NJ: Yale University Press 1961. Niebuhr, H. Richard, ‘The Idea of Covenant and American Democracy’, Church History, XXIII, 1954. Rakove, Jack N. (ed.), The Beginnings of National Politics. An Interpretative History of the Continental Congress, New York: Knopf 1979. Riley, Patrick, (ed.) Will and Political Legitimacy. A Critical Exposition of Social Contract Theory, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1982. Rudolph, Frederick, (ed.), Essays on Education in the Early Republic: Benjamin Rush and Noah Webster, Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 1965. Thornton, John W. (ed.), Pulpit in the American Revolution, New York: Ayer Publishing 1970. Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America, New York: New American Library 1956.



(…) our concern is with social arrangements for continued existence, not with those of a suicide club. (H.L.A. Hart)1 (…) democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. (Winston Churchill)2

1. INTRODUCTION The citation from H.L.A. Hart’s classical work of legal theory may be read so as to remind scholars and practitioners alike, that realpolitik is an important dimension of the constitutional design and legal framework of any society. Churchill’s quote on the other hand reminds us of the promise of democracy: compared to all other forms of government, democracy comes closest to the ideal of a just order. Moreover, many democrats will assert, democracy answers to the requirements of realpolitik. By enabling peaceful means of conflict resolution and allowing for peaceful change, democratic government makes violent resistance obsolete and therefore prevents the creation of a ‘suicide club’. But is democracy the best option for all kinds of societies? Scepticism appears to be on the rise. According to some, cultural and religious diversity pose a serious challenge to liberal democracy – a challenge too great to overcome.3 These days religious and cultural differences are 1 Hart 1997 p. 192. See the Bibliography at the end of this chapter for all bibliographic references. 2 From a House of Commons speech on 11th November 1947. 3 See e.g. Fish & Brooks 2004 p. 254 quoting A. Kartatniycky, president of Freedom House.



regularly blamed for eroding social cohesion and the constitutional order in the Netherlands, as well as in other countries.4 If stable democracies and stable constitutional systems are difficult to achieve in pluralist societies, this has far-reaching consequences worldwide. The vast majority of all of the world’s nations are multicultural societies. More specifically, this pessimistic approach might well predetermine the failure of the European integration process. The European Union (EU) is an entity formed by 25 states, which within and between them encompasses a relatively high degree of diversity. Yet the EU is firmly committed to democracy. If diversity hurts democracy there seem to be but two options: either abandon the EU, or renounce democracy as a leading principle of the Union’s order. Abandoning democracy as an ideal and as a concept for just government seems unfeasible. This does not only hold good for nations with long-established democratic traditions like the United States (US) and the EU member-states, but also for the growing number of emerging democracies which have been struggled for, and have often come about through significant personal sacrifices of local democracy and human rights activists. Fortunately (for the EU and pluralist societies) there is a long-standing academic tradition dedicated to democratic constitutional design for pluralist societies. This tradition is exemplified by the Dutch-American political scientist Arend Lijphart. He acknowledges that [m]ost experts on divided societies and constitutional engineering broadly agree that deep societal divisions pose a grave problem for democracy, and that it is therefore generally more difficult to establish and maintain democratic government in divided than in homogeneous countries.5

Yet this does not mean that it is impossible. Lijphart argues that successful establishment of democracy in such societies will depend on two key elements: power-sharing and group autonomy.6 The theory of multiculturalism7 belongs to that same tradition. While the model of consociational democracy exemplified by Lijphart essentially focuses on the institutional level, the theory of multiculturalism essentially focuses on the philosophical underpinnings of society. What makes them two components of the same tradition is the notion that 4 5 6 7

See Cliteur 2002, Ellian 2004. Lijphart 2004 pp. 96–97. Op. cit. p. 97. See amongst others Kymlicka 1995, Taylor 1992.



diversity can neither be ignored nor forced out: it must be acknowledged, recognized, respected and accommodated. The Human Development Report 2004, published for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reaffirms the basic notions of consociation and multiculturalism. After carefully examining the claim that cultural differences necessarily lead to social, economic and political conflict, the Report calls it a ‘myth’.8 However, if not dealt with properly, the arguably destabilizing character of diversity can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.9 Therefore, the rest of the Report is dedicated to reviewing and formulating approaches which allow for the recognition and accommodation of religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity in order to facilitate a functioning and stable democracy in pluralist societies. The approach of the UNDP Report, much like Lijphart’s, starts from the Hartian assumption that the main concern lies in “continued existence”. This however does not lead to the recommendation that pluralist societies should abandon democracy or that democratic societies should suppress pluralism. On the contrary the Report presents democracy as the favourable form of government for pluralist societies. Nonetheless, democracies must take societal conditions into account and accommodate existing ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic pluralism. Consequently the Report can be placed in the tradition of realpolitical approaches to pluralism, the consociational model. In the following a detailed study of the multicultural democracy model shall be presented. The structure of this chapter will be as follows. First, the theoretical concept of ‘multicultural democracy’, as presented in the Human Development Report 2004 will be examined. Next, we will illustrate the realization of the model in the Netherlands, which can be considered – at least it could be considered until recently – a near-perfect multicultural democracy in practice. Moreover, Lijphart’s theory of consociational democracy was developed on the very basis of the Dutch case, that is in his groundbreaking work The Politics of Accommodation. Pluralism and Democracy in theNetherlands (1968). Then, we will look at the extent in which the concept applies to the US and the EU, respectively. The US and the EU were chosen as test-cases for several reasons. As mentioned above the EU encompasses a relatively high degree of

8 9

HumanDevelopmentReport 2004 p. 89. Op. cit. p. 2.



pluralism and is strongly committed to democracy. The US is often looked at as a role model for all nations wishing to establish constitutional democracies, not only by Americans, but also by democracyadvocates from elsewhere in the world. Moreover the EU in its path towards an ‘ever closer union’ continues to be inspired by the public-law framework of the US. From the beginning, but increasingly in the 20th century the US chose consciously to build a multicultural democracy, as signified by the motto on the Great Seal: e pluribus unum. Can the EU learn from the US in this respect, or is the Union also a model multicultural democracy? 2. THE CONCEPT OF MULTICULTURAL DEMOCRACY Whereas cultural diversity is an empirical concept, a multicultural democracy built on cultural liberty is a normative approach towards cultural diversity, an approach the authors of this article subscribe to. The concept of a multicultural democracy, based on the notions of consociation and multiculturalism does not regard the preservation of cultural and religious diversity as an end in itself. Rather it is built on the hypothesis that only the recognition of existing diversity will foster stability and unity in the long run, while the attempt to demolish existing diversity will undermine the freedom of choice and may lead to serious conflict.10 The underlying notion of a multicultural democracy is cultural liberty. According to the Human Development Report 2004, cultural liberty is a human right.11 This right encompasses “being able to choose one’s identity – who one is – without losing the respect of others or being excluded from other choices”.12 The notion of cultural liberty signifies the inherent connection between the freedom of choice and the politics of recognition.13 If peoples are given a free choice, they will often choose their cultural, religious and linguistic roots. As this freedom of choice implies equal freedom for everyone, the recognition of one individual’s choice must not impair another person’s choice. Hence cultural liberty also implies the outright rejection of cultural domination. 10

See Lijphart 2004, Kymlicka 1995, and Taylor 1992. HumanDevelopmentReport 2004 p. 6. 12 Op. cit. p. 1. 13 For an eloquent discussion of the freedom of choice as the basis for Canadian multiculturalism see Boyd 2004, 89–94. 11



The UNDP Report acknowledges that diverse societies may be characterized by cultural domination of individuals by a group or of one group by another group. The notion of cultural liberty reaffirms a commitment to a “universal ethics based on universal human rights and respect for the freedom, equality and dignity of all individuals”.14 These principles consequently form the boundary between cultural liberty and cultural domination. The fact that cultural liberty is a human right implies that states are under the obligation to actively pursue multicultural policies, “policies that explicitly recognize cultural differences”.15 More specifically, according to the Human Development Report 2004, multicultural policies are required in the following five fields: (1) political participation of diverse cultural groups, (2) religion and religious practice, (3) customary law and legal pluralism, (4) use of multiple languages, and (5) redressing socio-economic exclusion. Strictly speaking the relationship between religion, law and politics, as being the general topic of this book, represents just one of these dimensions. However, one of the theses of this chapter is that in order to develop a just (right) relationship between religion and politics, all five need to be taken into account. As far as political participation is concerned, a multicultural conception of democracy requires that power-sharing arrangements are introduced.16 Power can either be shared territorially through (asymmetric) federalism or, when the different groups are dispersed throughout a country, through consociation.17 Consociation is “a political arrangement in which various groups, such as ethnic or racial populations within a country or region, share power according to an agreed formula or mechanism”.18 Examples of such mechanisms include an electoral system of proportional representation, executive power-sharing, provisions for cultural autonomy, and safeguards in the form of mutual vetoes. Because religion is of profound importance to one’s identity, from the point of view of cultural liberty, guaranteeing religious liberty in the best possible way is of foremost importance. This does not lead to a preference for one particular model of church-state relations.19 What is 14 15 16 17 18 19

HumanDevelopmentReport 2004 p. 90. Op. cit. p. 2. Op. cit. p. 7. Op. cit. p. 51. HumanDevelopmentReport 2004 p. 56.



important, however, is that the state provides a “reasonable accommodation” for religious practices.20 As far as the legal dimension is concerned, recognizing traditional legal systems in one way or another can be a means of countering exclusion. Obviously, both unitary and plural legal systems will have to conform to international standards of human rights.21 Contrary to what one would perhaps expect, language often turns out to be the most controversial issue in diverse societies. Without doubt this has to do with the fact that public recognition of a language “symbolizes respect for the people who speak it, their culture and their full inclusion in society”.22 Plural language policies, such as the threelanguage formula as recommended by UNESCO, can be the solution for this problem.23 Finally, in order to redress socio-economic injustices, policies are needed that recognize differences between groups. An example is affirmative action, i.e. allocation of “jobs, promotions, public contracts, business loans, admissions to higher education and legislative seats on the basis of membership in a disadvantaged group”.24 As mentioned above the report also deals with, what it calls “coercive movements for cultural domination – those that are motivated by an ideology of cultural supremacy and domination and that use coercion to suppress the cultural identities of others”.25 Violent religious fundamentalist movements are one strand of such movements. However, movements for cultural domination are neither confined to any particular religion nor to religion per se. There are many examples, past and present, of groups aiming for cultural domination based on ethnicity, culture, language, religion or other identities. Moreover, not all forms of religious fundamentalism are prepared to use violence, while violent movements do not necessarily have an agenda of cultural domination, but may just as well wish to impose a certain political ideology.26 The report argues that normal democratic processes must be allowed to function as much as possible, but that restricting the activities of 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Op. cit. p. 8. Op. cit. p. 58. Op. cit. p. 9. Op. cit. p. 60. Op. cit. p. 69. Op. cit. p. 73. Op. cit. p. 73–77.



coercive movements can be aimed for by measures such as erecting institutional barriers against coercive political parties, enacting legislation, using judicial intervention, and eventually also through the application of force.27 In a more preventive way, attention can be paid to, for example, school curricula.28 The combination of recognizing cultural liberty, pursuing multicultural policies and countering cultural domination will, according to the hypothesis underlying the concept of multicultural democracy, foster unity as it protects choice and promotes inclusion. The world obviously also needs stronger commitment to such unity, if only because – as the introduction to this volume puts it – democracy cannot function if the people share no common notion whatsoever of who they are, where they come from and what they consider to be their common destiny. The report seeks the solution to this problem in creating institutions and policies that allow for both self-rule that creates a sense of belonging and a pride in one’s ethnic group and for shared rule that creates attachment to a set of common institutions and symbols. An alternative to the nation state, then, is the ‘state nation’, where various ‘nations’ – be they ethnic, religious, linguistic or indigenous identities – can coexist peacefully and cooperatively in a single state polity. Case studies and analyses demonstrate that enduring democracies can be established in polities that are multicultural. Explicit efforts are required to end the cultural exclusion of diverse groups (as highlighted in the Spanish and Belgian cases) and to build multiple and complementary identities. Such responsive policies provide incentives to build a feeling of unity in diversity – a ‘we’ feeling. Citizens can find the institutional and political space to identify with both their country and their other cultural identities, to build their trust in common institutions and to participate in and support democratic politics. All of these are key factors in consolidating and deepening democracies and building enduring ‘state-nations’.29

The title of this book considers religion in relation to politics and law. The concept of multicultural democracy however shows that as far as pluralistic societies are concerned religion should not be considered in isolation. Rather religion is but one of the factors which can make a society multicultural. Religion, culture, language and ethnicity and even (customary) law are often intertwined as far as the identity of groups in

27 28 29

Op. cit. p. 78. Op. cit. p. 80. Op. cit. p. 49.



society and their individual members is concerned. Many religions attach special importance to a certain language, the way in which a certain religion is lived in every day life is often indistinguishable from culture and many religious doctrines have found their way into (customary) legal systems. The five multicultural policies sketched above hence provide an integrated (normative) approach to cultural pluralism. Therefore this chapter shall consider religious as well as linguistic, cultural, legal and ethnic pluralism. 3. INTERMEZZO: THE NETHERLANDS Between 1917 and 1967 the Netherlands was a near-perfect example of a consociational democracy.30 The notion of multicultural democracy, as developed in the UNDP report, stems from the same academic tradition as the concept of consociational democracy as defined by Lijphart. The essential ideas and ideals of both concepts may be summarized with the terms power-sharing, group autonomy and accommodation of pluralism. During said period the Netherlands was, as far as political participation is concerned, characterized by an electoral system of proportional representation (extreme proportionality), executive power-sharing (coalition cabinets), provisions for cultural autonomy (such as Article 23 of the Constitution, which is still in place and which enables religious communities to operate state-funded schools next to the public school-system), and safeguards in the form of mutual vetoes (nondecision-making). With respect to religion, in 1917, under pressure from a political alliance of the orthodox Reformed and the Roman Catholics, principled public pluralism was introduced, making the Netherlands a secular state asserting equal respect and principled distance to all religious and secular worldviews in society and their affiliated organizations. Thus, the Netherlands became a democracy in which “subculturally-rooted differences are affirmatively accommodated by the state”.31 According to Griffiths, the modern history of legal pluralism began as early as in 1772 when a regulation for the territories administered by the East India Company provided that, in all suits regarding inter alia 30 31

Lijphart 1968. Carlson-Thies 1993 p. iv–v.



inheritance and marriage, the laws of the Qur’an would be applied with respect to Muslims.32 Legal pluralism can also be seen in the fact that Frisian is one of the two official languages in the Dutch province of Friesland and in the fact that equal opportunities policies are a wellestablished phenomenon in the Netherlands. Unfortunately this unique contribution to constitutional design is under pressure in the Netherlands today. At least this is the impression one gets from recent reform proposals. Introducing a district election system, an electoral threshold, a referendum and a popularly elected prime minister are examples of ideas put forward during the last couple of years by advocates of constitutional reform.33 If realized, these proposals would change the Netherlands from a system of extreme proportional representation to a majoritarian system. This would ultimately lead to the marginalization or even the political annihilation of small groups. On top of this, because of the shifting worldviews in society, from the 1960s onwards a paradigm shift with regard to church–state relations in the Netherlands is gradually taking place. This might bring with it the end of plurality. In essence this most recent shift involves a return to the neutral or laicist state of the nineteenth century. This all comes at a moment in time when society, because of both secularization and immigration, is becoming more plural than ever before. The pace of change is slow, because – as American political scientists Stephen V. Monsma and Christopher J. Soper have noted – the pluralist theories on societies of Reformed and Catholic origin “have become part of the Dutch mindset on issues of church and state”.34 Yet, the change is unmistakable, as is for example currently demonstrated by the demise of the pluralist broadcasting system.35 This paradigm change has led to debates about the traditional autonomy and rights of religious groups and individuals. Forbidding headscarves and other religious attire in public service, schools and universities and abolishing (the state funding for) religious schools are measures which pose a potential threat to principles


Griffiths 1986 p. 6. See, for example, De leidende burger. Eindrapport projectgroep democratie & bestuurlijke vernieuwing (2005) and Om de vrijheid. Liberaal manifest (2005), published respectively by the Labor Party and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. However, recent proposals by government advisory bodies such as the National Convention and the Electoral System Civic Forum by and large stick to the system of proportional representation. 34 Monsma & Soper 1997 p. 58. 35 See Hiemstra 1997. 33



of public pluralism and religious group autonomy. Such ideas are not only put forward by ‘Islamophobes’, who in part capitalize on feelings of fear and insecurity, but increasingly also by so-called ‘progressives’ who feel that the time has come to finally ban religion from the public sphere altogether. Not only multicultural policies on political participation and religion are meeting rejection by some, so are legal and linguistic pluralism. For example the Scientific Council for Government Policy in its otherwise nuanced report Dynamism in Islamic Activism (2006) explicitly calls the introduction of legal pluralism ‘undesirable’.36 With respect to language, the Rotterdam civic code of 17th January 2006 expected citizens to speak Dutch, “at school, in the office, in the street and in the community centre.”37 With regard to redressing socio-economic exclusion there is a mixed picture. On the one hand socio-economic reforms in recent years emphasize individual responsibility; on the other hand there are fewer measures than in past decades to redress the structural disadvantages of minorities in terms of language, education and employment. 4. US AND EU In the following the US and Europe shall be compared with regard to their approach to diversity. As said before, the concept of the multicultural democracy provides an integrated approach in which not just religion but all the factors contributing to the multicultural character of a particular society are taken into consideration. Remaining true to this integrated approach this chapter shall thus not limit itself to comparing the United States and Europe merely as far as policies on the accommodation of religion are concerned. Rather both entities shall be compared with regard to political participation of diverse groups, accommodation of religion and religious practices, customary law and legal pluralism, use of multiple languages and redressing socioeconomic exclusion. This comparative investigation relies on official policy documents, legislation and case-law. Hence this paragraph does not attempt to draw any conclusions about individual attitudes or public sentiment, the focus is on the political entities and their more or less official multicultural policies. 36 37

WRR 2006.



Political Participation The US is a federation, with substantial autonomy for the individual states (states’ rights), a presidential democracy with a bicameral parliament. As far as political participation is concerned, federalism and a bicameral system ensure a high degree of participation of diverse groups. For example groups which might be minorities nationally can be majorities locally and they can benefit from the autonomy of their state. In the federal chamber of parliament the states are all equal in the sense that they each send two senators, this outbalances the overweight of the large states in the House of Representatives where seats are distributed amongst states according to the number of inhabitants.38 Less positive, however, from the point of view of the concept of multicultural democracy are the presidential system and the majoritarian elections at all levels. The president is elected by a number of electors, assigned to the states on the basis of the population size. The votes of the electors are steered by the votes of the general public in their states. While this system prevents the large states from electing the president between themselves and thus dominating the small states, the presidential election is still of a majoritarian nature. First past the post – who ever scores the most votes of all candidates wins. While in reality compromise candidates are often put forward, it is difficult to deny the fact that an ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic or otherwise structural minority is per definition an electoral minority. As the majoritarian system declares electoral minorities almost definite losers, majoritarianism tends to affect the political representation of minorities negatively. Proportional representation on the other hand makes electoral minorities partial winners as political power depends on compromises and coalitions. According to Lijphart, “[m]ost experts have concluded that parliamentary government is preferable to presidential government and that proportional representation is preferable to majoritarian electoral systems”.39 One reason for this is that in a presidential system there is a one-person executive, whereas the cabinet in a parliamentary system is a collegial decision-making body. A second reason is that presidential election campaigns encourage the politics of personality and in

38 39

See Lijphart 1984, chapter 13. See also Tribe 2000, Chap. 4 and 5. Lijphart 2000 p. 5.



particular in plural societies political parties are vital in providing a link between communal groups and the state.40 The EU’s institutions, to the contrary, conform largely to the consensus instead of the majoritarian model. The European Parliament consists of representatives from all member states, the seats are distributed amongst them on the basis of population size. The European Commission, being the de facto government of the Union, will until 2014 consist of one Commissioner per member state. In the Council all member states are represented by their respective ministers. Votes range from a maximum of 29 to a minimum of 3 and are distributed to member states mainly on the basis of population size. Practices such as taking votes by unanimity in the Council further contribute to the consociational character of the Union. Moreover, many observers predict that the EU will eventually become a federal state.41 In fact, according to Weiler, the EU has already become indistinguishable from a federal state, “in that the doctrines of direct effect and its derivatives, supremacy, and implied powers ensure that Union law will enjoy the position of federal law rather than suffer the status of international law within a state”.42 Accommodation of Religion and Religious Practices With respect to religion, it is important to stress that, as John Witte has argued, “[a] plurality of theological and political views helped to inform the early American experiment”.43 These views include those of congregational Puritans, Free Church Evangelicals, Enlightenment thinkers and Civic Republicans. From the tensions among these groups emerged six interdependent principles: liberty of conscience, free exercise of religion, religious pluralism, religious equality, separation of church and state and disestablishment of religion.44 One of the problems of the case law of the U.S. Supreme Court with respect to the First Amendment is that it tends to emphasize one or two principles during a particular period in time, instead of dealing with them in an integrated

40 41 42 43 44

Lijphart 2004 p. 101–102. Lijpart 1999 p. 6–47. Weiler 2005 p. 176. Witte 2000 p 23. Op. cit. p. 37.



manner.45 According to Witte, the Court can also learn from comparative legal analysis. Compared to the case-law of the U.S. Supreme Court since 1947, documents such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981), and the Concluding Document of the Vienna Follow-up Meeting of Representatives of the Participating States of the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe (1989) all basically contain principles similar to those the US was founded on, yet prioritize them differently: “Conspicuously absent from international human rights instruments are the more radical demands for separationism, rooted in certain strains of Enlightenment reasoning and reified in the popular American metaphor of ‘a wall of separation between church and state’ ”.46 Exemplary to the Supreme Court’s doctrine in the 1960’s and 1970’s are the cases of Sherbert v. Verner (1963) and of Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972).47 The first case concerned a Seventh Day Adventist who refused to work on Sabbath (Saturday), while the latter case was initiated by the state of Wisconsin against Amish parents who refused to let their children attend high-school after 8th grade. Both cases thus involved so-called neutral law, not targeted against any specific religion or religion in general, while still conflicting with the religious life of individuals. The Court ruled in favour of the individuals claiming an infringement of their religious freedom and decided that states’ restriction of free exercise of religion must serve a compelling interest and that such interest must be safeguarded only by the least restrictive means. In the 1980’s the Supreme Court became more tolerant of restrictions on the free exercise of religion, as long as those restrictions affected all faiths equally. The landmark decision Employment Division v. Smith,48 involved the constitutionality of an Oregon prohibition on illicit drugs vis-à-vis the use of peyote by Native Americans. Peyote is a natural hallucinogen used by Native Americans in their religious ceremonies. The majority of the Court concluded that the restricting of the use of peyote was no infringement, as religious belief cannot be understood to exempt


Op. cit. p. 18. Op. cit. p. 226. 47 US Supreme Court, Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), US Supreme Court, Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 U.S. 205 (1972). 48 US Supreme Court, Employment Division v. Smith, 494 US 872 (1990). 46



people from compliance with an otherwise valid law. In reaction to this case and other cases following the trend, more than 60 religious organizations and civil liberties groups established the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion. This coalition includes Native American spiritual groups and Christian, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, Scientology and Sikh religious organizations. Lobbying by them as well as by other religious freedom groups led to the adoption of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by the federal Congress on 27 October 1993. The Act, which sought to restore the ‘compelling interest’ and ‘least restrictive means’ doctrine, was signed into law by President Clinton on the 16 th of November 1993. However, in the 1997 case of City of Boerne v. Flores49 involving a local law, the Supreme Court ruled that by adopting the RFRA Congress had exceeded its powers under the Constitution. While the case clearly established that state and local laws could no longer be measured against the RFRA, the question whether the Act still applied to federal laws was left open. In 2006, the Supreme Court answered this question affirmatively. It ruled that a Brazilian Christian sect had the right to use a hallucinogenic tea even though it was prohibited by federal law as an illicit substance.50 The draft reform Treaty of Lisbon provides in a new Article 15b, that the European Union “respects and does not prejudice the status under national law of churches and religious associations or communities in the Member States” (paragraph 1) and “equally respects the status under national law of philosophical and non-confessional organizations” (paragraph 2). This restraint is perhaps understandable, given the principle of subsidiarity.51 More plausible, however, is that the topic of church-state relations has proven too sensitive to regulate at this stage, given the already problematic nature of the discussion about the possible inclusion of an explicit reference to the Judeo-Christian heritage in the Preamble of the former draft EU-Constitution. As a result, we will


US Supreme Court, City of Boerne v. Flores 521 U.S. 507 (1997). US Supreme Court, Gonzales v. O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal 546 U.S._ (2006), argued 1 November 2005, decided 21 February 2006. 51 In Article 5 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (and the new Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union) this principle is defined as follows: “In areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Community shall take action, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved by the Community”. 50



have to wait and see whether either the French tradition of laicism (secularism) or the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox inclination towards Christian nationalism will prevail. Even the Dutch model of pluralist democracy might have a – be it small – chance of success, especially since the EU, according to the Preamble of its former draft Constitution, sees itself as ‘united in its diversity’. Perhaps, however, it is better to leave it this way, since – as the Human Development Report argues – “it is difficult to propose an optimal design for the relations between state institutions and religious authority”.52 To be sure, the European Court of Human Rights has acknowledged the importance of freedom of religion for a democratic and pluralist society: “As enshrined in Article 9, freedom of thought, conscience and religion is one of the foundations of a democratic society within the meaning of the convention”.53 The Court has a significant impact on the EU, since the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is explicitly mentioned in the EU Treaty.54 Yet, according to Evans, it has performed its task of guaranteeing the freedom of religion or belief “in an incoherent and inconsistent manner”:55 “The decisions in Article 9 cases reveal a narrow and often confused concept of religious freedom”.56 One of the reasons for this is that the so-called Arrowsmith-test, which lies at the heart of the interpretation of Article 9(1) and requires a very direct link between an applicant’s religion or belief and an action if the action is to qualify as a ‘practice’ under this Article, is unclear in its scope, uncertain in its application, and inconsistent in its usage. The vagueness of the test opens up the potential for judges to determine cases based only on their own perceptions of the importance of actions for which protection is claimed.57

According to Evans, “one of the reasons that the Court and Commission have not developed an adequate jurisprudence on religious freedom is that they have not taken seriously the importance of understanding the


HumanDevelopmentReport 2004 p. 56. ECtHR, 25-05-1993, Kokkinakis v. Greece (14307/88), §31. 54 See Article 6 EU. According to Article 6 (2) of the new Treaty on European Union, the Union shall accede to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. 55 Evans 2001 p. 2. 56 Op. cit. p. 200. 57 Op. cit. pp. 202–203. 53



rationale for religious freedom”.58 Therefore, “the Court needs to develop a philosophy of freedom of religion or belief that gives emphasis to the autonomy of the individual and the development of a pluralistic and democratic society”.59 Like Witte, Evans points to the need for the Court to explore comparative legal materials, such as scholarly studies into religious freedom conducted by the United Nations: These United Nations materials could be a valuable resource for the Court as they draw on studies and input from the wider international community. While the overwhelming majority of judges on the Court come from States that are predominantly Christian, the United Nations studies incorporate comments from States with a far wider range of religious demographics. Groups such as Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, which are minorities in the great majority of the Council of Europe States, form majorities in other United Nations Member States. Because of this, an issue such as the wearing of religious apparel, which a number of Western authors and judges consider marginal to religion, has been given greater prominence in international materials. Reference to such materials could prove useful to members of the Court in helping to ensure that majoritarian concepts of what it is to manifest a religion do not gain inappropriate significance in the Court’s case law.60

Legal Pluralism and Customary Law The US is certainly not the first country we think of when legal pluralism is mentioned. However, there is legal pluralism in the US, even though it is not strong, and it manifests itself predominantly through legislative and judicial federalism61 describing the relationship between the federal government and the states. The respective states maintain their separate private law, criminal law and administrative law systems and the federal government may only intervene on the basis of an explicit authorization. This explains deviations between the states ranging from issues such as the death penalty, homosexuality, abortion and drug policy. Whereas most states have a common law legal tradition, Louisiana with its history as a French colony retains a continental-style codified legal system even today. The most striking examples of legal pluralism in the US however are without any doubt the tribal law and court systems of the Native 58 59 60 61

Op. cit. p.33. Op. cit. p. 3. Op. cit. pp. 126–127. See Tribe 2000 Chap. 5 and 6.



Americans. American constitutional law recognizes the Tribes as “domestic dependent nations”62 and the Indian treaties as belonging to the “supreme law of the land”. Following the erosion of Indian rights and the near-extermination of the American natives in the 19th century, the US has in the 20th century adopted a policy of restoration of Native American self-determination, beginning in 1934 with the Indian Reorganization Act. The tribal justice systems are recognized and regulated by the US Code Title 25 Chapter 38 entitled “Indian Tribal Justice Support”. While the Native American nations are not fully legally autonomous, tribal and federal law generally has primacy over state laws. For example US Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 18, Section 1152 reads: Except as otherwise expressly provided by law, the general laws of the US as to the punishment of offenses committed in any place within the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the US, except the District of Columbia, shall extend to the Indian country. This section shall not extend to offenses committed by one Indian against the person or property of another Indian, nor to any Indian committing any offense in the Indian country who has been punished by the local law of the tribe, or to any case where, by treaty stipulations, the exclusive jurisdiction over such offenses is or may be secured to the Indian tribes respectively.

The contours of this law enforcement authority were more fully defined in 1976, when the Supreme Court decided in Bryan v. Itasca County that states could not apply their tax or other ‘regulatory’ laws in Indian country.63 In the EU there is strong de facto legal pluralism.64 After all, the Union is made up of 27 different member states, each with their own national and (if they are federal states) sub-national legal orders. Yet, the ECHR in its ruling in the case of Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey concluded that a plurality of legal systems, as proposed by this Islamic party, is incompatible with the system of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.65 In his Concurring Opinion, however, the Russian judge A. Kovler rightly argued that the concept of legal pluralism is well-established in ancient and modern legal theory and practice (…). Not only legal anthropology but also modern constitutional law accepts


US Supreme Court, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1, 17 (1831). 426 U.S 373 (1976). 64 Manen & Hoekema 2001 p. 237. 65 See ECtHR (GC), 13-02-2003, Refah Partisi v. Turkey (41340/98), §119. See Boyle 2004 and Loenen 2006. 63



that under certain conditions members of minorities of all kinds may have more than one type of personal status (…).66

Use of Multiple Languages The US, as a nation, does not have an official language. Neither the constitution nor any other federal law acknowledges English as such. Some of the individual states and territories do have official languages. Twenty-eight states have recognized only English as their official language. Six territories and states are officially bilingual: Louisiana (English and French), New Mexico (English and Spanish), Hawaii (English and Hawaiian), Puerto Rico (Spanish and English), Guam (Chamorro and English), and American Samoa (Samoan and English). One territory, the Northern Mariana Islands is officially trilingual (English, Chamorro and Carolinian). The remaining states and territories do not have official languages. However within some states towns have recognized official languages and in the Indian Reservations the Native American tongues have official status.67 However, almost since the foundation of the US there have been movements for the legal recognition of an ‘Official English’ status.68 In the 1990s the Republican congressional majority made a serious attempt to push through legislation prohibiting the use of any other language than English by the US government. This legislation never found its way into force, due to a veto by President Clinton.69 In the year 2006 another attempt to make English the official language was weakened when two consecutive amendments to an immigration bill changed the words ‘official language’ first into ‘national language’ and then into ‘common and unifying language’. An exception was made for Executive Order 13166, the mandate signed by President Clinton, that requires government agencies and federal funds recipients to provide translations and interpreters for non-English speaking clients.70 However as other ‘official English’ legislation has been introduced and is due to be voted on soon, the debate continues.71


See ECtHR (GC), 13-02-2003, Refah Partisi v. Turkey (41340/98), §119. For more information on languages in the US, see Languages_in_the_United_States and 68 See for example 69 Crawford 1998 pp. 2–3. 70 See 71 See S 3828, S 557, HR 997 and HR 138. 67



One of the milestone cases concerning language rights in the 20th century was the case of Meyer v. Nebraska.72 Following World War I Nebraska and other states had criminalized the use of German. Meyer, a teacher, was charged with unlawfully teaching German to a student. The Nebraska statute was invalidated under the Due Process Clause.73 The major part of the ratio decidendi however was not a language right, but the right of parents to decide how their children are best educated.74 Within four years the Supreme Court again applied the Due Process Clause to a language related case in the education arena. This time a Hawaiian statute severely restricting the operation of all foreign language schools in Hawaii, was under review. Foreign language referred to all languages not being Hawaiian or English, the prime targets however were Japanese schools. Referring to Meyer, the Court struck down the statute, acknowledging that Japanese parents as well as any other had constitutionally protected rights to direct their children’s education without unreasonable restrictions.75 The scope of Meyer was expanded to cover cases outside the educational arena in Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad,76 a case from the then Americancontrolled Philippines.77 The colony’s government had banned the keeping of books in any language other than English, Spanish or Tagalog. While the government’s right to require records in a certain language was upheld, prohibiting Chinese merchants from maintaining books in their own language was considered unconstitutional. Protection of language rights has had mixed successes in the US judicial system.78 Nevertheless, as linguistic minorities became recognized as national minorities, measures affecting them negatively had to pass a ‘strict scrutiny’ test. Justice Stone, in his famous footnote in the Caroline case, in which he defined minority protection as one of the raisons d’ être of judicial review, cited Meyer and Farrington as cases of discrimination against ‘discrete’ and ‘insular’ national minorities.79 Some claims of

72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79

US Spreme Court, Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923). See Constitution of the United States of America, Fifth Amendment. See Fife 2005, p. 333. US Supreme Court, Farrington v. Tokoshique, 273 U.S. (1927). US Supreme Court, Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad, 271 U.S. 500 (1926). See Fife 2005 pp. 335–336. Fife 2005 p. 337. US Supreme Court, Caroline Prod., 304 U.S. at 153 n. 4.



infringement of language rights were filed under the constitutional protection of free speech, as language by definition involves speech.80 Native American language rights, as a subcategory of cultural rights, are largely protected by the trust doctrine, formulated in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia.81 Under this doctrine the US is “obliged to protect Indian status and culture”.82 In 1990 the US awarded Native Americans (read American Indians, Inuit, indigenous Hawaiians) legal protection that no other linguistic minority can claim. The Native American Languages Act (NALA)83 is a “repudiation of past government policies aimed at suppressing and ultimately eradicating the traditional languages of the indigenous peoples of the United States”. To this end the government commits itself to policies supporting the use of indigenous languages in education and other official arenas and to re-evaluate laws, policies and procedures. There are also funds available for organizations promoting the use of Native American languages. The EU being a supra-national entity of 27 member states, almost automatically cherishes linguistic diversity as treasure. Article 151 of the Treaty establishing the European Communities (and the new Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), therefore provides that the Union will contribute to the ‘flowering’ of the national cultures, while also bringing common cultural heritage to the fore. Article 6(3) of the Treaty establishing the European Union stipulates that the Union shall respect the national identities of its member states. As it is impossible for the member states to agree on one official language, the original Treaty was drawn up in all the languages of the member states, the translations into the languages of acceded states also being authentic. The Union now has 23 official languages, as some of the member states share official languages.84 In the European Court of Justice where the defendant is a state, the language used shall be the official language of that state. As the Rules of Procedure do not specify that this language must at the same time be an official EU language, this opens the

80 US Supreme Court, Yniguez v. Arizonans for Official English, 69 F. 3d 920, 923 (9th Cir. 1995) vacated sub nom. By Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997). 81 US Supreme Court, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, supra. 82 US Supreme, Court Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49 (1978). 83 See 25 U.S.C. Para. 2901–2906 (2000). 84 Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish.



possibility that a case be conducted in a minority language recognized by a member state as an official language. In prejudicial procedures the language of the requesting court is used. The Advocate General may issue his Opinion in any of the above-mentioned languages.85 Both the Commission and the Council are bound by the language rules of Regulation 1/58. In reality both institutions use English and French as working languages, German is also used increasingly.86 In the European Parliament an MP may use any of the official languages; there are simultaneous translations to all other languages. Documents are distributed in all of the official languages.87 Article 12 EC Treaty (which shall become Article 17 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), the general principle of nondiscrimination, in conjunction with the free movement of persons has been one of the most important guidelines in EU language policy and case law. When charged with a criminal offence, Robert Mutsch who was a national of Luxemburg residing in a German-speaking municipality in Belgium, requested to be tried in German, as German-speaking Belgian nationals would be able to make that request. The European Court of Justice ruled that under article 293 EC (then article 220) member states were held to grant nationals of other member states the same benefits and protections as their own nationals, if the circumstances were identical. This in conjunction with Article 12 EC (then Article 7) led to the conclusion that Mutsch, residing in a German speaking municipality in Belgium, had the right to have his trial conducted in German just as a Belgian national would have that right.88 Mutsch was followed by the Groener case.89 Mrs. Groener, a Dutch national, had applied for a permanent teaching job in Dublin. Irish law provided that teachers had to be fluent in Irish and stipulated that foreign nationals had to pass an Irish language test. Having failed the test Mrs. Groener challenged the provision under Community law. The Court decided that while the requirement might be more likely to prelude nonIrish nationals from becoming teachers, it did not exclude them per se, as they were put in the position to prove their Irish fluency and others had 85 Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice of the European Communities of 19 June 1991 (OJ L 176 of 4.7.1991, p. 7), Article 29 (2) and (5). 86 Shuibhne 2002 p. 15. 87 European Parliament Rules of Procedure, 16th Edition, February 2006. 88 ECJ, Case C-137/84 [1985], Ministere Public v. Robert Heinrich Maria Mutsch. 89 ECJ, Case C-379/87 [1989], Anita Groener v. Minister for Education and the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee.



done so in the past. Hence the language competence requirement was justified and proportional to the aim of revitalizing the Irish language. The case of Bickel and Franz, like Mutsch, involved language rights granted to national minorities in court proceedings and the applicability to EU citizens speaking the same language. Bickel, an Austrian and Franz, a German, both under criminal investigation in Italy’s Bolzano region, where both German and Italian have official status, requested their proceedings to take place in German. Italian law however specifies that only inhabitants of this region, not even all Italian citizens, may opt for German language proceedings. Moreover unlike Mutsch and Groener, Bickel and Franz were not foreign inhabitants of the member state, but were merely passing through. The Luxembourg Court held that Article 12 EC in conjunction with the free movement of persons entitled the two to German language proceedings. While agreeing with the Italian government that minority protection was a legitimate aim, it found that the aim would not be compromised if the language option were extended to nationals of other EU nations, speaking the same language.90 The Angonese case was also set in Italy’s Bolzano region. Angonese, an Italian citizen and inhabitant of the region, had applied for a job that required bilingualism in German and Italian. Mr. Agonese did not hold a patentio, a document certifying fluency in German, issued by the local authorities upon passing a language test. However, he could prove that he had studied a number of languages through the medium of German at an Austrian University. Reiterating its findings from Groener, the Court decided that while language requirements as such are legitimate, reducing the possibility to prove language skills to one certificate only, issued by only one local authority, was a violation of Article 39 EC.91 The aforementioned cases deal with language issues from the perspective of general EU law. There have, however, been some attempts to specifically ensure the protection of minority languages within the framework of the EC/EU. In 1981, 1983 and 1987 resolutions, dealing with linguistic minorities and their protection in the Community framework, were adopted in the European Parliament.92 This led amongst


See ECJ, Case C-274/96 [1998], Criminal Proceedings against Bickel and Franz. ECJ, Case C-281/98 [2000], Angonese v. Cassa di Risparmio di Bolzano SpA. 92 European Parliament, 16 October 1981, [1984] OJ C287/106; 11 February 1983 [1983] OJ C68/103; and 30 October1987, Doc A2-150/87. For commentary see Shuibhne 2002 p. 62–71. 91



others to the establishment of the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBUL) which has defined and classified minority languages in the community.93 The EP also expressed support for the Council of Europe’s European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages,94 which puts on signatory states to recognize, support and institutionalize minority languages. Two in-depth reports on the status of minority languages have also been produced and issued in European Union framework. The second report, the Euromosaic Report, sees a role for EC policy in redressing the historic homogenization policies in Europe.95 The European Union traditionally does not address language issues by means of language rights. The cases brought before the ECJ dealt with rights under the freedom of movement and non-discrimination, both firmly established in European law. Although one might consider the approach to language rights by the Court and the Union at large underdeveloped, in a number of cases language rights were implicitly recognized.96 It is also noteworthy that the EC Treaty grants greater protection in some language cases than the European Convention for the Protection on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In light of this, it is reasonable that Community law takes precedence over the Convention, in so far as it grants more protection to individuals.97 Socio-economic Policies In the United States redressing social exclusion of minorities is commonly debated under the heading of ‘affirmative action’ (sometimes called positive discrimination or positive action in Europe). The concept derives from rulings of the Warren and Berger Courts recognizing an ‘affirmative duty’ of local school boards under the Equal Protection Clause98 to desegregate the school system.99 In 1964, in the midst of confrontations between the civil rights movement and the protagonists of institutionalized racial segregation, the 93

See Shuibhne 2002 p. 49–56. Strasbourg, 5 November 1992. 95 Shuibhne 2002 p. 264–274. See citation on page 274. 96 Op. cit. p. 233–34 and 262–264. 97 Op. cit. p. 213. Compare Opinion of Advocate General in the Case of Ministere Public v. Mutsch, supra. 98 Equal Protection Clause refers to a clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution reading: ‘… nor shall any state. … deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws’. 99 See e.g.US Supreme Court, Green v. County Board, 391 U.S. 430 (1968); Swann v. Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971); Keyes v. Denver School District, 413 U.S. 189 (1973). 94



United States Congress adopted the Civil Rights Act of 1964100 providing that public or private employers with 15 or more employees are subject to equal employment regulations (Title VII). The scheme of Title VII provides for judicial power to order monetary damages and injunctive relief, including “such affirmative action as may be appropriate”.101 Since then affirmative action programs have arisen as a result of executive orders, legislation, court orders and voluntary action of private institutions. The issue has triggered an at times highly politicized, legal debate. The main focus of this debate is the legal permissibility of affirmative action programs in public and private employment, both of mandatory and voluntary nature, as well as affirmative action programs by educational institutions, notably universities.102 In 1978 a highly divided Supreme Court was unable to produce a majority opinion in the Bakke case.103 The University of California medical school had introduced an admission program which set aside a number of positions for minority students. The institution had no history of discrimination. Four Supreme Court Justices held that the program was in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, another bloc of four upheld the admission quota, arguing that neither the Civil Rights Act nor the Constitution interdicted such a program. Justice Powel added a vote to each camp. On the one hand he held the Davis program to be unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. On the other hand he endorsed non-exclusive consideration of race as an admission criterion in order to increase student diversity. Bakke was followed by Wygant 104 which suggested that while a specific layoff preference for minorities was unconstitutional, the Equal Protection Clause does not generally prohibit race-conscious programs designed to redress past discrimination. From 1989 onwards the Supreme Court rulings portray a reasonably clear scheme of permissible affirmative action. According to Croson,105 in which the Court ruled on a program setting aside 30% of city contracts for minority businesses, programs taking race into account need to pass a test of ‘strict scrutiny’. Such programs have to be ‘narrowly tailored’ to a ‘compelling’ interest. 100 101 102 103 104 1