A very informal prospectus.
I have tried writing this in outline form. I have tried composing theses and sub-theses. But perhaps it is better to write up a rough description of the scope and requirements of my project(s).
I guess I am considering two major works or projects.
The first is an interpretation of American institutions, especially the American order. By the American order, I mean the Federal Constitution, social reform movements, and American cultural life affected by these.
The essential point of the first project would be to interpret the development of the American order as a partial recapitulation of the political history of the papacy from St. Boniface to Boniface VIII, and partly of the Roman Republic. In this interpretation, John Marshall imitates Gregory VII: Marbury v. Madison is the Dictates Papae for the New World. Jackson and Lincoln are the great emperors and have their respective struggles to define the imperial domain of America, a task carried on by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The Civil War is a conflict between the political values of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution of 1789; the conflict creates the American "national" identity in a way comparable to the War of Roses. FDR is the Emperor who finally humbles the Holy See, but he is also an Augustan figure. Most importantly, the conflict of 1937 results in the separation of economic and personal realms as "secular" and "sacred," respectively, which separation permanently secures the New Deal and sets the stage for the Warren Court to start the march in Griswold and Brown that would end in Roe, Casey, and Lawrence. However, all of this personal autonomy jurisprudence, like the conciliarism and the "little" reform movements of the fifteenthcentury, tends to set up the big earthquake that is the next revolution. In our case, the next revolution, the sequel to the Russian and French, which we can guess at but not really imagine will be precipitated by the conflict of personal autonomy--pushed to the limits of sexuality, bioethics, and mortality--with the social necessity of the family and procreation.
The problem with the first project is that it would be relatively negative. The second project is more positive.
The second is a large-scale interpretation of western social thought and letters from Israel to the present, issuing especially in a fuller consideration of the significance of the American order as developed in the first project. Yes, this sounds like From Plato to Nato or The Shield of Achilles. And it also sounds a lot like Mr. Voegelin's project. One wants avoid duplication here, of course. Yet there are many things which ought to be brought in but are not. David Gress, for example, does a find job with his synopsis, but much of the work relies on secondary or tertiary material. Voegelin, for his part, basically deals with a series of "great events" or "great ideas," and tends to neglect literature and the arts.
The second project would systematically address the relation of religion and politics, with special reference to the origins of secularism. Ideally, it would comprise a sort of history of political theology, with a suitable helping of political philosophy. Think about the incisiveness of the R. J. Rushdoony of The Politics of Guilt and Pity matching the scope of Leo Strauss and the sympathies of Philip Schaff--that's the mix I'd like to bring to the treatment.
In the second project, it will be necessary to analyze several "projects" in history. I would envision treating nothing earlier than Moses, but certainly Solomon. Solomon is the necessary contrast with Socrates, and possibly also with Confucius. A good portion of the project is coming to terms with the idea of philosophy in Socratic terms, and understanding how and why this is different for Solomon and Cicero.
A central purpose of the second project is to understand, from the standpoint of political theology, what the person and work of Christ mean. This involves treatment of Augustine and Constantine and the Jewish War of 66-71 but also the papal and imperial struggle from Boniface to Boniface. It also involves a reading of Plato and Vergil as looking for, but not finding, the Messiah. I tentatively expect to conclude that some eschatologies can be heresies of the Ascension, just as Arianism or Docetism were heresies of the Incarnation. I expect that the main points of political Augustinianism---i.e., De Civ. Dei XX plus Aegidius Romanus--will be confirmed.
The latter end of the project looks to that long, tragic arc from Luther to Bonaparte, and involves primarily the rise of secularism and its consequences. I would like to deal adequately with Arabic and Jewish philosophy as it relates to the nature/grace issue, and generally with the problem of the ebb and flow of Neoplatonism with the intervening rise and fall of the Stagirite. I would expect to deal with the Ockham/Salamanca/Locke/Rousseau line fairly heavily, and to tie in a fair bit of political history. I would hope to deal with the poets, especially with the epics, in support of this. There is far too much material in Dante and Tasso and Milton and even Keats to ignore--and it ought to integrate well with the intellectual archaeology. Furthermore, I should hope to deal with what Voegelin called ersatz forms of Christianity, and not just Hitler and Communism, but also the ersatz forms detailed in the first project, like the legal profession and the Supreme Court. I expect that the basic point will be that the structure of man's social and political nature demands both the Incarnation and the Ascension and that no amount of secularism can change or efface that. Hitler, as the embodiment of the Last Emperor of German myth, is apotheosis (or the apodiabolisis) of this reality.
The second work should be broached as a series of articles on select topics. Ultimately, however, it should be a multivolume and probably a life's work—although hopefully not the only fruit of labors.
I admit to having delusions of grandeur, and probably needing either dissuading advice or several drinks or real help. Feel free to pray for me. Or feel free to suggest materials or possible supporting courses of study. Most of all, I feel like I need a mentor or an advising committee. :)