Pursuit of Unity and Perfection in History, The

978-1-58731-688-3; 978-1-58731-689-0
Hardback $26, E-book $17
6" x 9", 184 pages

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Pursuit of Unity and Perfection in History, The

Vondung, Klaus

The achievement of unity and perfection in human action begins with a struggle for these ideals in human thought. Dr. Klaus Vondung in his collection of essays that span four decades explores examples of this in different fields of human inquiry: striving for harmonious existential unity of talents and morals, intellect and emotion; seeking to make natural sciences consonant with the humanities and thereby moving toward a more universal, “perfect” science; and establishing unity in political structures and cultivating in this unity a homogenous society. Vondung has given special devotion to National Socialism as a context wherein he revisits its perverted motivation and the consequences of this despite noble ideals.

Particular focus in following the thread of unity and perfection in human intellectual and practical ambitions ultimately hones in on the combination of religion and politics. Vondung in these essays unpacks the ways in which this continues to fascinate and disturb us, and in his expertise he uses National Socialism to connect this pursuit of unity and perfection to what he calls one of the signature marks of modernity––namely, secular apocalypticism. This claim stands in opposition to Eric Voegelin’s remark that Gnosticism, rather, is “the nature of modernity.” Vondung, who studied and wrote his dissertation under Voegelin, grapples with the contrast of these positions. Vondung is willing to challenge Voegelin, but ultimately his treatment of the latter bears the quality of tribute to this great scholar.

Vondung also explores the points of contact between apocalypticism and Hermetic speculation. Despite the independence of the religious and philosophical doctrines of Hermeticism, there are parallels to be found. Apocalypticism and Hermeticism originated in antiquity and yet each represents a tradition that still holds footing today. Vondung furthermore leads the reader to see the project of salvation found in both even as each operates with a different scope.

This collection of essays centers itself on a perspective of the human pursuit of unity and perfection, directly or indirectly, as objectives of intellectual endeavors, existential ideals, as social or political outcomes, and in the case of National Socialism even as perverse aberrations. Vondung’s particular treatment of Voegelin’s work likewise establishes what the former identifies as a stand-out question of this study: Does the search of order in history show us the unity of the history of humankind?