Toynbee and Voegelin

February 24 2013

Below, part of a discussion between Toynbee and Eric Voegelin, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, April 15 1963. The moderator may be Howard Bowen. On the previous day Voegelin had lectured on The Configuration of History in a series known as The Grinnell Seminar on Order.

70,000 marchers arrived in London on April 15 on one of the Aldermaston Marches.

Much familiar ground is covered. Toynbee is not a particularly good speaker, but his meanings are clear (he has an irritating habit of grunting while others are speaking).

Voegelin refers to Toynbee in his magnum opus, the five-volume Order and History, Louisiana State University Press, 1956-87.

He had reviewed A Study of History in International Affairs (the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs published by OUP), Vol 31, 1955. He contributed a piece, Toynbee’s History as a Search for Truth, in Edward T Gargan, editor, The Intent of Toynbee’s History, A Cooperative Appraisal, with a Preface by Arnold J Toynbee, Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1961.

In the last volume of the Study, Toynbee refers several times to the essay in the Gargan collection.

Voegelin observes that, in the present book, from volume vii onwards, the history of religion becomes, for me, history proper, and that I now no longer take civilizations as being the intelligible fields of study. He correctly remarks that “the plan, as it was conceived on the first existential level, was retained to cover the studies on the last existential level”, and he makes the justified criticism that “neither has the plan of the first level been completed, nor has the last level found an organisational level of its own”.

A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961

3 Responses to “Toynbee and Voegelin”


  1. Reading a book by Toynbee written in 1963, changed my way of thinking about history and since then no one has been able to tell me anything new on the subject. A great man whose looks speak for him even in complete silence.

  2. An intelligible field Says:

    Do you have any further information on the review from 1955 in International Affairs you mentioned. I could not find it in the volume you name…


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