From Big Bang to Big Mystery

New City Press
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New City Press
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9781565484597
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In New Political Religions, or an Analysis of Modern Terrorism, Barry Cooper applies the insights of Eric Voegelin to the phenomenon of modern terrorism. Cooper points out that the chief omission from most contemporary studies of terrorism is an analysis of the “spiritual motivation” that is central to the actions of terrorists today. When spiritual elements are discussed in conventional literature, they are grouped under the opaque term religion. A more conceptually adequate approach is provided by Voegelin’s political science and, in particular, by his Schellingian term pneumopathology—a disease of the spirit. While terrorism has been used throughout the ages as a weapon in political struggles, there is an essential difference between groups who use these tactics for more of less rational political goals and those seeking more apocalyptic ends. Cooper argues that today's terrorists have a spiritual perversity that causes them to place greater significance on killing than on exploiting political grievances. He supports his assertion with an analysis of two groups that share the characteristics of a pneumopathological consciousness—Aum Shinrikyo, the terrorist organization that poisoned thousands of Tokyo subway riders in 1995, and Al-Qaeda, the group behind the infamous 9/11 killings.

Cooper applies the Voegelinian terms first reality (a commonsense goal regarding legitimate political grievances) and second reality (a fantastic objective sought by those whose rationality has been obscured) to show the major divide between political and apocalyptic terrorist groups. Osama Bin Laden's "second reality" was the imaginary goal that the 9/11 attack was supposed to achieve, and the commonsense reality was what truly happened (the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and the United States's subsequent military response). Cooper shows how such spiritual perversity enables a human being, imagining himself empowered by God, to go on a campaign of mass destruction.

Cooper concludes with a chapter on the uniqueness of terrorist networks, their limitations, and the means by which they can be dealt with. In the ongoing conversations among specialists in terrorist studies, as well as the ordinary discourse of citizens in western democracies wishing to understand the world around them, this book will add a distinctive voice.
Between 1933 & 1938, Eric Voegelin published four books that expressly stated his opposition to the increasingly powerful Hitler regime. As a result, he was forced to leave his homeland in 1938. Twenty years later, he returned to Germany as a professor of political science at Ludwig-Maximilian University. Voegelin's homecoming allowed him the opportunity to voice once again his opinions on the Nazi regime & its aftermath. In 1964 at the University of Munich, Voegelin gave a series of memorable lectures on what he considered "the central German experiential problem" of his time: Adolf Hitler's rise to power, the reasons for it, & its consequences for post-Nazi Germany. For Voegelin, these questions demanded a scrutiny of the mentality of individual Germans & of the order of German society during & after the Nazi period. Hitler & the Germans, published here for the first time, offers Voegelin's most extensive & detailed critique of the Hitler era. Voegelin interprets this era in terms of the basic diagnostic tools provided by the philosophy of Plato & Aristotle, Judeo-Christian culture, & contemporary German-language writers like Heimito von Doderer, Karl Kraus, Thomas Mann, & Robert Musil. His inquiry uncovers a historiography that was substantially unhistoric: a German Evangelical Church that misinterpreted the Gospel, a German Catholic Church that denied universal humanity, & a legal process enmeshed in criminal homicide. Hitler & the Germans provides a profound alternative approach to the topic of the individual German's entanglement in the Hitler regime & its continuing implications. This comprehensive reading of the Nazi period has yet to be matched.
"Thirty-five years ago few could have predicted that The New Science of Politics would be a best-seller by political theory standards. Compressed within the Draconian economy of the six Walgreen lectures is a complete theory of man, society, and history, presented at the most profound and intellectual level. . . . Voegelin's [work] stands out in bold relief from much of what has passed under the name of political science in recent decades. . . . The New Science is aptly titled, for Voegelin makes clear at the outset that a 'return to the specific content' of premodern political theory is out of the question. . . . The subtitle of the book, An Introduction, clearly indicates that The New Science of Politics is an invitation to join the search for the recovery of our full humanity."—From the new Foreword by Dante Germino

"This book must be considered one of the most enlightening essays on the character of European politics that has appeared in half a century. . . . This is a book powerful and vivid enough to make agreement or disagreement with even its main thesis relatively unimportant."—Times Literary Supplement

"Voegelin . . . is one of the most distinguished interpreters to Americans of the non-liberal streams of European thought. . . . He brings a remarkable breadth of knowledge, and a historical imagination that ranges frequently into brilliant insights and generalizations."—Francis G. Wilson, American Political Science Review

"This book is beautifully constructed . . . his erudition constantly brings a startling illumination."—Martin Wright, International Affairs

"A ledestar to thinking men who seek a restoration of political science on the classic and Christian basis . . . a significant accomplishment in the retheorization of our age."—Anthony Harrigan, Christian Century
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