Published Humanitas, Volume XXVII, Nos. 1 and 2, 2014

“Equivalences of Experience and Symbolization in History” (1971) is one of Eric Voegelin’s five most important standalone essays, along with “Immortality: Experience and Symbol” (1967), “The Gospel and Culture” (1971), “The Beginning and the Beyond: A Meditation on Truth” (written 1974-77), and “Wisdom and the Magic of the Extreme: A Meditation” (1983). It is a writing with relatively few textual references, consisting almost exclusively of a sustained exegesis of the nature and structure of human consciousness in history. Despite its being by far the briefest of these five essays, “Equivalences” addresses questions about so many issues central to philosophy—concerning experience, language and symbols, truth, reality, values, divine being, history, and the structure of consciousness and its historical development—that a proper exposition and “reader ’s guide” to the essay would have to extend to the length of a book, and not a short book at that.

My principal aim in what follows is to examine one element addressed in the course of the essay: the fact that what Voegelin calls “the depth of the cosmos,” or the “underlying oneness of reality,” requires, for each of us, adequate articulation and symbolization, if we are to orient ourselves successfully in existence. In order to pursue a proper study of this issue, I will need to consider both the overall character of Voegelin’s essay, and some of the key concerns that initiate and propel it…

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