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Immanentize the eschaton

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In political theory and theology, to immanentize the eschaton is a generally pejorative phrase referring to attempts to bring about utopian conditions in the world, and to effectively create heaven on earth.[1] Theologically, the belief is akin to postmillennialism as reflected in the Social Gospel of the 1880–1930 era,[2] as well as Protestant reform movements during the Second Great Awakening in the 1830s and 1840s such as abolitionism.[3]


Modern usage of the phrase started with Eric Voegelin in The New Science of Politics in 1952. Conservative spokesman William F. Buckley popularized Voegelin's phrase as "Don't immanentize the eschaton!". Buckley's version became a political slogan of Young Americans for Freedom during the 1960s and 1970s.[4]

Voegelin identified a number of similarities between ancient Gnosticism and the beliefs held by a number of modern political theories, particularly Communism and Nazism. He identified the root of the Gnostic impulse as belief in a lack of concord within society as a result of an inherent disorder, or even evil, of the world. He described this as having two effects:[citation needed]

  • The belief that the disorder of the world can be transcended by extraordinary insight, learning, or knowledge, called a Gnostic Speculation by Voegelin (the Gnostics themselves referred to this as gnosis).
  • The desire to implement a policy to actualize the speculation, or as Voegelin said, to Immanentize the Eschaton, to create a sort of heaven on earth within history. See Scientism.

One of the more oft-quoted passages from Voegelin's work on Gnosticism is that "The problem of an eidos in history, hence, arises only when a Christian transcendental fulfillment becomes immanentized. Such an immanentist hypostasis of the eschaton, however, is a theoretical fallacy."[5]

James H. Billington's 1980 book Fire in the Minds of Men explores the idea further.[6][7]


At the end of the 12th century, Joachim of Fiore theorized the coming of an age of earthly bliss right before the end of time. Although not a full immanentization, Joachim has opened the way to an anticipation of the eschaton in the course of time. His ideas have influenced the thoughts on an immanentized eschaton.[8]

In contemporary terminology this process is sometimes described as "hastening the eschaton" or "hastening the apocalypse". In this sense it refers to a phenomenon related to millenarianism and the specific Christian form of millennialism which is based on a particular reading of the Christian Bible's Book of Revelation especially popular among evangelicals in the United States.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "To Immanentize the Eschaton - English definition and meaning". Lexico. Archived from the original on October 26, 2020. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  2. ^ David W. Miller (2006). God at Work : The History and Promise of the Faith at Work Movement. Oxford University Press. p. 28. ISBN 9780198042983.
  3. ^ Douglas M. Strong (2002). Perfectionist Politics: Abolitionism and the Religious Tensions of American Democracy. Syracuse U.P. p. 30. ISBN 9780815629245.
  4. ^ Jonah Goldberg (2002-01-16). "Immanent Corrections". National Review. Retrieved 2008-11-06.
  5. ^ Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics, 1952, in: The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 5, Modernity Without Restraint, edited and introduced by Manfred Henningsen, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, Missouri, 1999, page 185. ISBN 978-0826212450.
  6. ^ "Paperbacks: New and Noteworthy". The New York Times. 1983-03-20. Retrieved 2008-11-06. At once erudite and dramatic, the book explores the roots of the modern belief that a just and beautiful new world will spring into being if only we can overthrow evil powers and institutions.
  7. ^ Fire in the Minds of Men, introduction
  8. ^ Potestà, Gian Luca, ed. (2005). Gioacchino da Fiore nella cultura contemporanea: atti del 6 Congresso Internazionale di Studi Gioachimiti, San Giovanni in Fiore, 23 - 25 settembre 2004. Roma: Viella. ISBN 8883341872.
  9. ^ Landes, Richard Allen (2011). Heaven on Earth: The varieties of the Millennial experience. England: Oxford.

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