The Apocalypse in Germany
Klaus Vondung & Translated by Stephen D. Ricks University of Missouri Press, 2001 Library of Congress DD97.V6613 2000 | Dewey Decimal 943.001
Originally published in German in 1988, The Apocalypse in Germany is now available for the first time in English. A fitting subject for the dawn of the new millennium, the apocalypse has intrigued humanity for the last two thousand years, serving as both a fascinating vision of redemption and a profound threat.
A cross-disciplinary study, The Apocalypse in Germany analyzes fundamental aspects of the apocalypse as a religious, political, and aesthetic phenomenon. Author Klaus Vondung draws from religious, philosophical, and political texts, as well as works of art and literature. Using classic Jewish and Christian apocalyptic texts as symbolic and historical paradigms, Vondung determines the structural characteristics and the typical images of the apocalyptic worldview. He clarifies the relationship between apocalyptic visions and utopian speculations and explores the question of whether modern apocalypses can be viewed as secularizations of the Judeo-Christian models.
Examining sources from the eighteenth century to the present, Vondung considers the origins of German nationalism, World War I, National Socialism, and the apocalyptic tendencies in Marxism as well as German literature—from the fin de siècle to postmodernism. His analysis of the existential dimension of the apocalypse explores the circumstances under which particular individuals become apocalyptic visionaries and explains why the apocalyptic tradition is so prevalent in Germany.
The Apocalypse in Germany offers an interdisciplinary perspective that will appeal to a broad audience. This book will also be of value to readers with an interest in German studies, as it clarifies the riddles of Germany's turbulent history and examines the profile of German culture, particularly in the past century.
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 devotes himself especially to exposing National Socialism, and revisits its perverted motivations and the murderous consequences of its ideology.
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 that led to the Holocaust. 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 for order in history show us the unity of the history of humankind?