The Flow of Presence

Some Voegelin quotes on the Flow of Presence

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In The Drama of Humanity Voegelin stated very clearly: "'I am operating with the conception of a flow of presence' and ‘Here I am using the concept of the flow of presence, to which I shall have to come back presently, in detail. That is the general position of history which I shall use here." The flow of presence for Voegelin has to do with the problem of time and the timeless and the way we experience the tension between these two dimensions, and so affects the way we reflect on or look at history. History, for Voegelin, is interconnected with this conception of the flow of presence..

"Every point of presence is, as T.S. Eliot formulated it, a point of intersection of time with the timeless. That is the point of presence. Thus, the whole series of time would not be a series on a line at all but a series of present points in which none is ever past, but only past in relation to their present, not really past. Ontologically, really, it is always in relation to the presence, which is the same presence that constitutes my present here and now." (CW, 33:181)

"You remember last evening I explained that "flow of presence" which is neither time nor the timeless, but the flow in which time and the timeless meet. That is the time in which we exist. In this flow of presence, in-between, that is where all the [concerns] of man are transacted" (CW, 33:213-14).

"The Parousia of the Beyond, experienced in the present of the quest, thus, imposes on the dimension of external time, with its past, present, and future, the dimension of divine presence. The past is not simply the past, nor the future simply in the future, for both past and future participate in the presence of the same divine-immortal Beyond that is experienced in the present of the questioner's participatory meditation. We have to speak, therefore, of a flux of presence endowing all the phases - past, present, and future- of external time with the structural dimension of an indelible present" (CW, 18:30).

For further analysis of the flow of presence, see:

Etty Hillesum and the flow of presence: a voegelinian analysis


Although she died cruelly at Auschwitz at the age of twenty-nine, Etty Hillesum left a lasting legacy of mystical thought in her letters and diaries. Hillesum was a complex and powerful witness to the openness of the human spirit to the call of God, even under the most harrowing circumstances. Her life was as much shaped by Hitler's regime as was that of philosopher Eric Voegelin, and as Meins Coetsier reveals, her thought lends itself to interpretation from a uniquely Voegelinian perspective.

Etty Hillesum and the Flow of Presence analyzes the life and writings of Hillesum from the standpoint of Voegelin's views on consciousness-especially his philosophy of luminous participation in the transcendent ground of being. Through a careful reading of her letters and diaries, Coetsier reveals the inner development of Hillesum's mystically grounded resistance to Nazism as he guides readers through the symbolism of her spiritual journey, making effective use of Voegelin's analytics of experience and symbolization to trace her path to spiritual truth.

Intertwining the lives, works, and visions of these two mystical thinkers, Coetsier demonstrates his mastery of both Voegelin's philosophy and Hillesum's Dutch-language materials. He shows how mystical attunement to the "flow of presence"-Voegelin's designation for human responsiveness to the divine-is the key to the development of Hillesum's life and writings. He displays a special affinity for the suffering and grace-filled transformation that she underwent as she approached the end of her life and gained insight into the ultimate purpose of each individual's contribution to the well-being and maintenance of the human spirit.

Retrieving one of the lesser-known but most compelling figures of the Holocaust, Etty Hillesum and the Flow of Presence is an original contribution to both Voegelin and Hillesum scholarship that reflects these writers' strong valuation of the human person. It presents Hillesum's life and work in an original and provocative context, shedding new light on her experiences and their symbolizations while further broadening the application of Voegelin's thought.