LH-VI. The Philosophy of History in Christian Philosophy

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by Msgr. Eugene Kevane
©2003 The Miriam Press. All Rights Reserved

VI. The Philosophy of History in Christian Philosophy

The categories “Ancient,” “Medieval” and “Modern,” then, stand revealed as nothing but philosophical constructs. Historical succession seen in their context falls short of an objectively valid understanding of the order of things human in time. The grandiose and exotic nineteenth century philosophies of history of Hegel, Comte and Marx, elaborated in terms of these categories, have been so discredited intellectually that authors tend to apologize for the very use of the phrase.1 Is a philosophy of history possible? Can philosophy as such know the meaning and direction of history?

The Nature of Modernity

The analysis which leads toward the answer has a negative and then a positive aspect. Negatively, perhaps the best insight into the matter is provided by Eric Voegelin, a truly post-modern thinker, on the nature of Modernity. He sees it as a diversion of the Christian understanding of the end of history into a position within history, as if the meaning and direction of history were the construction of the kingdom of God within history. Augustine and Ambrose never meant this when they saw temporal society functioning suo modo within the Church and political rulers performing their specific offices as members of the Church.2

“Joachim of Flora,” writes Voegelin, “broke with the Augustinian conception of a Christian society when he applied the symbol of the Trinity to the course of history…. In his trinitarian eschatology Joachim created the aggregate of symbols which govern the self-interpretation of modern political society to this day…. The first of these symbols is the conception of history as a sequence of three ages, of which the third age is intelligibly the final Third Realm…. As variations of this symbol are recognizable the humanistic and encyclopedist periodization of history into ancient, medieval and modern history; Turgot’s and Comte’s theory of a sequence of theological, metaphysical and scientific phases; Hegel’s dialectic of the three stages of freedom and self-reflective spiritual fulfillment; the Marxian dialectic of the three states of primitive communism, class society, and final Communism; and, finally, the National Socialist symbol of the Third Realm….”3

At the heart of Voegelin’s analysis in his perception of Modernity as a rebirth of the ancient Gnosticism in its misconception regarding the nature and power of philosophical thought, its relationship to religious truth, and in particular its overconfident attitude toward the ability of natural reason to know the order of history as such. Thus Modern Philosophy, with its characteristic Voltairean, Hegelian and Marxist concept of the philosophy of history, is a function of the Gnostic replacement of religious faith by philosophical faith.

“The attempt at immanentizing the meaning of existence,” Voegelin points out, “is fundamentally an attempt at bringing our knowledge of transcendence into a firmer grip than the cognitio fidei, the cognition of faith, will afford, and the Gnostic experiences offer this firmer grip insofar as they are an expansion of the soul to the point where God is drawn into the existence of man.”4 And again: “The totalitarianism of our time must be understood as journey’s end of the Gnostic search for a civil theology.”5

History Not an Essence

Voegelin’s analysis reaches its climax in his forthright rejection of the Gnostic attempt to grasp an eidos of history. The Gnostic attempt to construct categories of historical understanding out of mere philosophy as such is its characteristic abuse of reason.

“The Gnostic fallacy,” he writes, “destroys the oldest wisdom of mankind…: what comes into being will have an end, and the mystery of this stream of being is impenetrable. These are the two great principles governing existence. The Gnostic speculation on the eidos of history, however, not only ignores these principles but perverts them into their opposite.”6 Thus “Gnosticism…creates a dream world which itself is a social force of the first importance in motivating attitudes and actions of Gnostic masses and their representatives.”7

History, in other words, when one understands the word to mean the formal object of a discipline called the philosophy of history, is not an “essence,” not a “substance.” It does not have a “nature” which empirical sciences can observe and categorize, and which philosophical reflection can define. It is rather an order by which such essences and natures succeed each other in time. But this order, ordo in Augustine’s precise sense, is not itself an eidos, an essence.

“From the Joachitic immanentization,” Voegelin writes, “a theoretical problem arises which occurs neither in classic antiquity nor in orthodox Christianity, that is, the problem of an eidos in history…. There is no eidos of history because the eschatological supernature is not a nature in the philosophical, immanent case. The problem of an eidos in history, hence, arises only when Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized. Such an immanentist hypostasis of the eschaton, however, is a theoretical fallacy. Things are not things, nor do they have essences, by arbitrary declaration. The course of history as a whole is no object of experience; history has no eidos, because the course of history extends into the unknown future. The meaning of history, thus, is an illusion; and this illusory eidos is created by treating a symbol of faith as if it were a proposition concerning an object of immanent experience.”8

Sifting Voegelin’s principle from his terminology on the eschaton as “a symbol of faith,” a valuable insight emerges regarding the origin of the view of history characteristic of Modernity. The great “philosophies of history” which it begets from Voltaire across the years to 1914 are the result of projections from Modern Philosophy, as such, onto the matter of history, creating in it, as it were, a form of understanding of the ordo, the meaning of the succession in time of its largest human entities. This, however, is exactly what philosophical reason cannot do, no matter what aid it gets from the other six Liberal Arts: for the formal object it seeks to understand, the ordo succesionis as such, is beyond their facts and its grasp. Voegelin is correct: Gnostic Modernity is an aberration in philosophy, one which effects the pathological substitution of an illusion, a dream world, for the contours of reality which men can see if, turning from subjective constructs of reason wrongly used, they give ear to the word which has come to this planet through the prophets.

Augustine’s Analysis

It is becoming clear that post-modern thinking is beginning to use once again the abiding insights of Christian Philosophy as such, in its metaphysical openness to God, the Creator of participated existences and the Administrator of the order of succession of these created beings in time.9

It is Augustine himself who stated positively this basic position of the Christian philosophy of history which Voegelin recovers. For the Bishop of Hippo rejects the Gnostic aberration in philosophy with its proud self-assurance regarding the ability of reason to discern the origin, meaning, direction and goal of history.

“These persons,” Augustine writes, “promise themselves cleansing by their own righteousness for this reason, because some of them have been able to penetrate with the eye of the mind beyond the whole creature, and to touch, though it be in ever so small a part, the light of unchangeable truth; a thing which they deride many Christians for being not yet able to do, who, in the meantime, live by faith alone…. These people also blame us for believing in the resurrection of the flesh, and rather wish us to believe themselves concerning these things. As though, because they have been able to understand the high and unchangeable substance by which the things are made, for this reason they had a claim to be consulted concerning the connected order of the ages, de contexto saeculorum ordine. For pray, because they dispute most truly, and persuade us by most certain proofs, that all things temporal are made after a science that is eternal, are they therefore able to see clearly in the matter of this science itself, or to collect from it, how many kinds of animals there are, what are the seeds of each in their beginnings, what measure in their increase, what numbers run through their conceptions, births, ages, settings; what motions in desiring things according to their nature, and in avoiding the contrary? Have they not sought out all these things, not through that unchangeable wisdom, but through the actual history of places and times, or have trusted the written experience of others? Wherefore it is the less to be wondered at, that they have utterly failed in searching out the succession of more lengthened ages, and in finding any goal of that course, down which, as though down a river, the human race is sailing, and the transition thence of each to its own proper end. For these are subjects which historians could not describe, inasmuch as they are far in the future, and have been experienced and related by no one. Nor have those philosophers, who have profited better than others in that high and eternal science, been able to grasp such subjects with the understanding; otherwise they would not be inquiring as they could into the past things of the kind, such as are in the province of the historians, but rather would foreknow also things future; and those who are able to do this are called by them soothsayers, but by us prophets.”10

This remarkable passage clarifies the nature of philosophy of history as a branch of Christian Philosophy. It will not profess to know the meaning and direction of history as a formal object of its own, cultivated by itself. It will recognize the limitation of the empirical sciences, history included: they can help to know what has existed or happened, and what is in contemporary experience. But the succession of beings and events, the ordo temporum with its direction and meaning, especially its future goal, lies beyond their grasp. The more it cultivates the central branch of philosophy, furthermore, “that high and eternal science” called metaphysics, the better it recognizes its inherent limitation. It can know the principles of existence which govern the being of the things which the empirical sciences study, and it can rise to Him who gives these things their participated being and its mode: but it cannot know that ordo temporum, the meaning and direction of their succession in time.

Who then can? Only He who administers His creation.11

The philosophy of history in Christian Philosophy, open to the Creator as it is, can cultivate ears to hear, in case the Supreme Being, Creator and Lord of history, has seen fit to reveal to mankind information on the plan. He is developing in His creation and the contours of its origin, process and goal. It can reflect upon the Hebrew Fact, it can experience and explain the meaning of the Catholic Fact, it can accept and study these Facts as given in reality and offered to the reflection of the human thinker. But it cannot conjure up of itself, even when it is Metaphysics cultivated rightly, a rational insight into this meaning and direction, projecting it out from itself as Philosophy upon the data described by the historians, and constructing thus a philosophy of history as Gnostic Modernity has thought it could do.

The first thing that Christian Philosophy does is to recognize that it is not a Gnosticism in the Philosophy of History. Hence, as Augustine indicates, it turns to the Prophets with ears to hear, and develops its structure as a branch of philosophy by ministering to an ever better understanding of the word coming from on High through them.

The Prophetic Word

“It makes the greatest possible difference,” Augustine continues, taking up the question of the Prophets, “whether things future are conjectured by experience of things past…, or whether they are either foreannounced to certain men, or are heard by them and again transmitted to other men, by means of holy angels, to whom God shows these things by His Word and His Wisdom, wherein both things future and things past consist; …[so that] the minds of certain men…behold the immovable causes of things future in that very highest pinnacle of the universe itself.”12

These “certain men,” of course, are the Hebrew Prophets.

“Therefore,” Augustine concludes, “neither concerning the successions of ages nor concerning the resurrection of the dead, ought we to consult those philosophers.”13

For they build philosophies of history out of their subjective selves as mere constructs, like spiders spinning webs. It is far different in Christian Philosophy, open as it is to the announcement from on High regarding the origin, meaning and goal of history:

“as these things actually were manifested to our fathers, who were gifted with true piety, and who by foretelling them, obtaining credence either by present signs, or by events close at hand, which turned out as they had foretold, earned authority to be believed respecting things remotely future, even to the end of the world.”14

St. Augustine in his De civitate Dei gives the same answer to the fundamental question of the inner nature of the philosophy of history.

“At present,” he writes, “we are certain that we possess these three things [the three philosophical certitudes: that I am, that I know I am, and that I love my known existence], not by the testimony of others but by our own consciousness of their presence in our interior and unerring vision. Nevertheless, since we cannot know of ourselves how long they will last or whether they will never cease and what will result from our good or bad use of them, we seek for other witnesses, if we have not already found them. Not now, but later, I shall carefully discuss the reasons why we should have unhesitating trust in these witnesses.”15

Wherever human beings turn, they find themselves

“among the things which He created and has conserved so wonderfully…, things which belong to particular species and follow and observe their own order…”16

This is temporal creation. Science and philosophy know it validly in its essences, in the forms, natures and operations, which it manifests. But “how long they will last,” or “what will result from our good or bad use of them,” what the meaning of their succession is, whether it has a goal, whether it will end, and if so, how: all this is the “philosophy of history” and it is beyond the range of natural philosophical knowledge. The meaning of the ordo succesionis must be learned another way, from witnesses. What witnesses? Men who somehow speak for the Creator, participating somehow in His knowledge. For He alone is in a position to know the length and the direction, the origin, the meaning and the goal, of the succession of beings in time.

It is the hallmark of Gnostic Modernity that it desired to create for itself the order of things and hence the meaning and direction of history. Man shall know history because he makes it himself. He will not be content, let alone enraptured, with a meaning he finds placed there by the Lord of history, speaking His Eternal Word. This is the taproot of the subjective process-philosophers of the Modern Age, dreaming great boastful “philosophies of history,” Comtean dreams, Hegelian dreams, Marxist dreams, which deaden the mind to the voice of witnesses.

The Lord of History

The plan of the Lord of history in creating, the meaning of the temporal succession, the direction and the goal of time, — all these are one: and they exist in creation because of the Word in whom God in making heaven and earth made the succession of human generations called history. In the fullness of time, this same Divine Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us. He is the chief and the greatest of the witnesses. Before Him came the witnesses called the Prophets. Since His coming mankind has the witness of the Magisterium of His Roman Catholic Church.

Thus the answer emerges to the questions regarding the nature of the philosophy of history as a branch of Christian Philosophy. The ultimate causes and meaning of the temporal succession are not knowable by natural reason. Bowing its head, philosophy listens for some Word from Him who holds history in His creating power, and hence is the Lord of history.17

The philosophy of history in Christian Philosophy, then, is basically this recognition that the ordo temporum is not an essence and hence cannot be known by the conventional tools of merely human empirical or philosophical knowledge. It is the secret of Him who is the Lord of history, the Creator of all its essences, substances and natures, and the Administrator of their mutually-interwoven succession in time.

Hence the first principle of philosophy of history as a branch of Christian Philosophy is to cultivate an ear to hear some word from Him whom the core-discipline, metaphysics, already has recognized as the intelligent Creator of the universe.

When Augustine turns to the Prophets, he is not leaving the philosophy of history behind; rather he is thinking as a philosopher of history in the most accurate and profound sense of the phrase. And in doing so he is recognizing the special affinity which the philosophy of history bears to theology. This is the heart of the relationship between reason and faith, furthermore, and the specific means whereby philosophy can “supplement…theology in the revealing with ever increasing clarity the Mystery of Christ, which affects the whole course of human history.”18

The Christian Philosophy of History

When it foregoes a positive and substantive philosophical knowledge of the ordo temporum, its own formal object, when it rejects the Gnosticism of the Modern Age, the Christian philosophy of history draws close to the general approach of post-modern thinking: philosophy performs a critical function rather than a substantive one.19 But this critical function, thanks to the power of Christian metaphysics, open to the almightiness and intelligence of the Creator, and thanks to its ability to se and to reflect upon the Hebrew Fact and its Christian counterpart and fulfillment, helps to develop an understanding of the meaning and direction of history which is a unique combination of the empirically given with the light coming from the higher order of faith in the Word of God.

In the Christian philosophy of history, certain constants will be recognized in operation throughout, analogous to the constants of creation in the space-time continuum. These will be chiefly God and the human soul: Deus Pater omnipotens, Deus totus ubique simul, Deus tam Pater, and each soul with its time on the machina transitura of history deciding and choosing before the hidden face of its Maker, making itself one of His Elect, or refusing to do so.20

Christian Philosophy, furthermore, helps in the reading of the Scriptures in the literary genre in which they were written, recognizing the historicity of the historical books. For it is liberated at last from the rationalist prejudice peculiar to Modernity as such and in the new post-modern climate stands free to recognize that the Almighty, present to each moment of the space-time continuum, is at one and the same time the Creator of the universe and the Lord of history. In the light of these adequate concepts of God and Man, the Scriptural readings on the Wisdom and Providence of God become fully intelligible, and with them the heritage of Christian teaching on the fact and mode of Divine Providence both in general and in its specific character as Salvation History.

  1. 100. Cf. Raymond Aron, Introduction to the Philosophy of History: An Essay on the Limits of Historical Objectivity (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), p. 9: “The title of this book runs the risk of misleading the reader who might identify the philosophy of history with the great systems of the beginning of the nineteenth century, so discredited today.” 

  2. 101. Cf. L. G. Patterson, op. cit., pp. 94ff., on the contrast between Sts. Ambrose and Augustine on the one hand, and the Eusebians on the other. “We can now see very easily how naive was the reliance of these fourth-century Christians on the assumption that the events of the time heralded a period of peace and prosperity” (p. 94). Patterson goes so far as to speak of “…Augustine’s virtual repudiation of the significance of a Christian empire…” (p. 152). 

  3. 102. Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), pp. 111-112. Cf. in general his chapter IV, “Gnosticism — The Nature of Modernity,” pp. 107-132. For Joachim, the three ages in historical succession are those of the Father, under the leadership of Abraham; of the Son, under the leadership of Jesus Christ; and of the Holy Spirit, under the leadership of one still to come, one who will introduce a new kind of religious life and hence a better world. Joachim, who imagined that the Age of jesus Christ was to end at A.D. 1260, set a pattern of thinking about forerunners of the coming leader, “paracletic figures,” a concept that will emerge in later, secularized stages of Modern Philosophy as the “Supermen” of Comte, Marx and Nietzsche. In this patter of thinking, “the course of history as an intelligible, meaningful whole must be assumed accessible to human knowledge, either through a direct revelation or through speculative gnosis. Hence, the Gnostic prophet, or, in the later stages of secularization, the Gnostic intellectual, becomes an appurtenance of modern civilization. Joachim himself is the first instance of the species,” Ibid., p. 112. For the broadening and deepening of Voegelin’s insight into Gnosticism, cf. Vol. IV of Order and History: The Ecumenic Age (Baton Rouge: Louisiana Stae Univ. Press, 1974), “Introduction,” pp. 1-58. For Joachim of Flora, cf. Marjorie Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages: A Study in Joachimism (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1969). For Aquinas’ lucid rejection of Joachimism, cf. S.T., I-II, q. 106, art. 3-4; II-II, q.174, art. 6; cf. Max Seckler, Le salut et l’histoire: la pensee de S. Thomas d’Aquin sur la theologie de l’histoire (Paris: Cerf, 1967), pp. 179-185, “Saint Thomas d’Aquin et Joachim de Flore.” Gnosticism, while retaining re-defined and re-interpreted Christian terminology, always moves against Christ, replacing Him with a new Coming One, and always attempts to subvert the Catholic Church in its original and abiding constitution with a Magisterium and Sacraments. “The Third Age of Joachim,” writes Voegelin, “by virtue of its new descent of the spirit, will transform men into members of the new realm without sacramental mediation of grace. In the Third Age the Church will cease to exist because the charismatic gifts that are necessary for the perfect life will reach men without administration of Sacraments. While Joachim himself conceived the new age concretely as an order of monks, the idea of a community of the spirutally Perfect who can live together without institutional authority was formulated on principle. The idea wsa capable of infinite variations. It can be traced in various degrees of purity in medieval and Renaissance sects, as well as in the Puritan churches of the saints; in its secularized form it has become a formidable component in the contemporary democratic creed; and it is the dynamic core in the Marxian mysticism of the realm of freedom and the withering away of the state.” Ibid., pp. 112-113. It is the emptiness of this construct which Solzhenitsyn experienced so keenly and describes so graphically in his works, an emptiness to which the growing volume of Samizdat literature bears witness. 

  4. 103. Voegelin, ibid., p. 124. 

  5. 104. Ibid., p. 163. Again important perspectives open up to younger scholars for research on Modern Philosophy as such, time and culture conditioned as it is and with a demonstrable beginning and ending, as a re-birth of the ancient Gnosticism which troubled the Early Church so deeply. Cf. the bibliographical leads in Voegelin, ibid., p. 124. Seen from this point of view, Comte, Marx and Nietzsche are all 19th Century Modernist Gnostics, who cast long shadows out of Modernity into post-modern time, shadows which help to explain how Religious Modernism, with its Marxist leanings, can continue to exist and seem alive in the years after 1908 and 1914. 

  6. 105. Voegelin, ibid., p. 160-167, with reference to Eccles. (Qoheleth) 3, 1-22, where man’s natural inability to know God’s purposes in the order and succession of events in time is explicitly stated. 

  7. 106. Ibid., p. 167. Voegelin speaks of “Gnostic insanity” (p. 170), and “The pathological substitution of the dream world” (p. 172). If these concepts seem too strong, one must study the fundamental work of Cornelio Fabro, Introduzione all’Ateismo Moderno (Rome: Studium, 1969, 2nd edition); English translation, God in Exile (New York: Newman Press, 1970), already cited. Fabro’s comprehensive analysis of Modern Philosophy as such, from Descartes to Nietzsche, Heidegger, marx and Lenin, reveals its implacable tendency toward atheism, a tendency constituted by its Cartesian, Spinozan and Kantian immanentism, its turning of human thought down from the personal God of creation and in upon the merely human understood simplistically as an experience of organismic being in time. Fabro and Voegelin taken together, and with them the growing number of post-modern thinkers, establish two facts, each increasingly relevant for the philosophy of history. The first is that Modernity, as a process in history and as a view of history, is “a Gnosticism…which is a fall from faith in the Christian sense as a mass phenomenon” (Voegelin, ibid., p. 123); and the second is a paraphrase of Marx dictum on religion: atheism is the mental illness of mankind. 

  8. 107. Voegelin, op. cit., p. 120. 

  9. 108. Cf. St. Augustine’s definition of history, De doctrina christiana II, 28 (44); and fn. 53 above. 

  10. 109. St. Augustine, De Trinitate, IV 15 (20-16 (21); Marcus Dods (transl.), Aurelius Augustine: On the Trinity (Edinburgh: Clark, 1873), pp. 130-131; for the original text, P.L. 42, 901-902. 

  11. 110. Cf. Acts 1, 6: “They asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has established by his own authority….’” And again, Qoheleth 3, 1-22. 

  12. 111. Augustine, De Trinitate IV, 17 (22); Dods, ibid., pp. 131-132. 

  13. 112. Ibid., 17 (22); Dods, p. 132. 

  14. 113. Ibid., 17 (23); Dods, p. 133. 

  15. 114. Augustine, De civitate Dei, XI, 28; P.L. 41, 341-342: alios nunc testes vel quaerimus vel habemus — i.e., this kind of knowledge is in a different order, and is not forthcoming from the natural rational power of man that produces empirical and philosophical knowledge. For the English translation, cf. Walsh-Monahan, Saint Augustine: The City of God, Books VIII-XVI (Washington: The University of America Press, 1963), p. 233. 

  16. 115. Ibid. 

  17. 116. Putting these things another way, God is the Master of contingency, an aspect of His Almightiness which belongs strictly to the unlimited mode of existing proper to the First Cause. It belongs to God alone. The fact that there is a plan of some kind in creation and history can be deduced from the philosophical certitude that the Supreme Being of the universe is intelligent. But philosophical reason cannot know what the plan is. Voegelin puts it correctly: history is not an eidos, an essence. 

  18. 117. Cf. Optatam totius, Note 1, above; and Josef Pieper, Über das Ende der Zeit: Eine Geschichtsphilosophische Meditation (München: Kosel-Verlag, 1953), p. 27: “One may say, therefore, that an affinity on principle and of a special character exists between Philosophy of History and Theology.” 

  19. 118. Cf. H.-I. Marrou, The Meaning of History (Baltimore: Helicon, 1966); “Introduction: The Critical Philosophy of History,” pp. 9-28; R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1946); W. H. Walsh, An Introduction to Philosophy of History (London: Hutchison, 1951); Henri Gouhier, L’histoire et sa philosophie (Paris: J. Vrin, 1952), esp. ch. V, “Histoire de la philosophie et histoire des visions du monde.” Professor Gouhier is quite laconic: “If history has a meaning, that meaning is not historical but theological: what one calls ‘philosophy of history’ is never anything but a theology of history more or less disguised” (p. 128). Better perhaps: either the objectively real one, or one of its Modernist Gnostic perversions in Voegelin’s sense. For the same insight, see O. Köhler, “Geschichte,” in Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, Vol. IV, 777-789; “Die Sinnfrage,” p. 779: “Answers about meaning given by Philosophy of History are derivatives of the Theology of History.” 

  20. 119. Cf. Jacques Maritain, On the Philosophy of History (New York: Scribner’s 1957), p. 17: “The philosophy of history is connected with the whole of philosophy. And yet it itself belongs to practical and moral philosophy.” Maritain did not write an ex professo and comprehensive treatise on the philosophy of history, but touched on it constantly when treating other questions. Cf. Charles Journet and Brooke Williams Smith, op. cit. Furthermore, his treatment tended more to concern the operation of secondary causes in history, the movement of the larger ones such as the Empires, in older parlance, or cultures and civilizations, as these extensive human social entities are called today, patterns of human operation that reflect human nature. “My own reflections and remarks on the philosophy of history,” he writes, “were, in fact, prompted for many years by the practical problem of the plight of Christians in contemporary society” (p. 171). But Maritain gives the principles involved, and is fundamentally post-modern in his openness to the mode of the First Cause Creating as the ultimate formal object of this discipline. “The philosophy of history has the same subject matter as history…, but another object than history” (p. 4). Thus he can praise Toynbee’s way of characterizing the great civilizations as “a good example of the possibility of drawing through indiction some typical characteristics relating to history” (p. 9). Then his openness to the ultimate nature of the philosophy of history comes explicitly into view in his final word on Toynbee: “There is no complete or adequate philosophy of history if it is not connected with some prophetic or theological data” (p. 170). “So it is that Toynbee’s remarkable, immensely erudite and thoroughly conscientious work is finally disappointing. It misses the mark because it is too ambitious (it claims to explain history) and insufficiently equipped (it is not integrated in a general philosophy); and, above all, because it resides in a sphere entirely extraneous to moral philosophy adequately taken. Toynbee discards the possibility of having his rational inquiry assisted and complemented by a theological light and prophetic data. Hence the shallowness to which I alluded” (p. 173). The relationship to Optatam totius, No. 14, is clear. “It is in a Christian perspective,” maritain states, “that I have for a long time brooded over my reflections on the philosophy of history” (p. 54). 

  • You are my witnesses (Is. 43:10)  •  You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)