2.2.3. Secularization as the structural transformation of the history of salvation.
When the rediscovery of classical philosophy occurred in the twelfth century, a topological differentiation began that laid the foundations for the secularization process of the modern era within the hierarchical model of temporal levels (Hoffmann  1960; Baeumker 1927; Beierwaltes 1969; Bredow 1972). The secular sphere now became more markedly and more clearly differentiated along two lines. First, the course of history and the prevailing social order was separated from the individual striving for salvation and morality. Second, the sphere of action and history was separated from the natural order. Nature, however, was no longer seen as unredeemed, unholy, barbaric, and the source of the base desires of the flesh. Rather, it was seen as the creation of God, a creation that reveals the eternal principles of the divine. The individual, by actually withdrawing from the spheres of worldly interests and the changing times into his or her inner being,
becomes an equally timeless stage for encounters with God and gaining knowledge of the truth.
The "dehistorification" of nature as a reflection of the divine and the dehistorification of the individual as the locus of the search for salvation and knowledge have the corollary effect of making the level of historical processes appear particularly secular, profane, and time-bound. As the level of individual action comes under increasing pressure from the history of salvation and as the eternal laws of the creator are sought in nature, history and the sphere of politics are gradually freed from their eschatological ties and are treated as a specific field of unrest in human action with a dynamism of their own. Even the final attempts to provide history with a theological intent in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (by Bossuet and the Protestant universal historians) could not avoid making the assumption of inner-worldly regular patterns in their presentation of the course of history (see, for example, Carion  1966; Bossuet 1964; Klempt 1960, 8). Following Guicardini's and Machiavelli's historiographies of the Renaissance, active intervention by the eternal God recedes into the background. God no longer reveals himself to the faithful. Rather the faithful experience him through their own reason. Nature follows the unalterable, eternal laws of its maker, and history becomes the stage for interests and politics functioning according to their own secular principles (Machiavelli  1962; Bodin  1961; and Pufendorf  1967).
In modern thought, too, the level of historical time, which lies above that of action-period time, is primarily constituted by politics and law. Political interests are what move history, and the principles of legality and the state are what constitute the order of society. The legitimation of the law and authority by God through his grace, by reason via enlightened monarchy, by nature via the notion of natural law, or by individual freedom via the concept of contractual agreement thus become the central problems in conveying continuity or discontinuity. The "detheologization" of history and dehistorification of nature bring about a fundamental transformation of the temporal levels. The level of timelessness is no longer conceived of as a level involving acting personages. The place of the eternal God is now taken by the objectivity of reason, natural law, and the laws of nature.
In contrast to this, the social level, which includes customs and common usage, initially appears incoherent and random, to be made up of illusions and mere fashions, to be "irrational" (see Fontenelle  1908). The differences between the sphere of the social, on the one hand, and the principles of nature and morality, on the other hand, nevertheless provide an avenue for analysis and explanation. "The external circumstances which cause the differences in human customs and
may be supposed to favour them further should be divided into natural and moral circumstances," according to Walch's Philosophical Lexicon, published in 1726 (Walch  1968). The main natural causes are taken to be physical constitution and climate, and differences in upbringing and education are thought to be the main moral causes (Montesquieu  1950. The education of humankind by enlightenment thus offers itself as a paradigm of historical change and progress. The idea of progress was to develop in the wake of the famous querelle des anciens et des modernes, " that is, the argument about the respective merits of ancient and modern learning, into the central concept of historical theory in the eighteenth century (Burry  1955). By applying reason and gaining knowledge of nature, observers believed that it was possible to repeal superstitions and misconceptions to an ever greater degree and to make history itself rational.
The new model and paradigm of history, then, is academic and scientific progress, which many believe will allow the fortunes of humanity to be planned in a society of the enlightened. "The perfectibility of man knows no factual bounds, and can never reverse into decline," writes Condorcet in 1793 ( 1963, 27, my translation). The conception of infinite progress had as its opposite number the universal expansion of history's area of concern as proposed by Voltaire in his famous Essai sur les moeurs . Europe and Christendom were no longer the self-evident reference points for historical change. Shortly before this, Vico, in his Szienza nuova, had made the mondo civile the object of a special branch of science investigating social action and societal order. This investigation was not conducted, as before, with reference to moral precepts or the history of salvation but with respect to actual conditions. Once the future had been opened up as offering the prospect of never-ending progress, the space under consideration was extended and the "social" was discovered as an object of empirical science. The confines of the hierarchical model were overcome once and for all.
Apart from the extension of historical space in Voltaire's philosophy of history, the natural sciences' concept of time in the eighteenth century also broke through the barriers of the hierarchical model of temporal levels. The concept of an objective measurable passage of time determined and moved by the laws of nature gradually asserted itself as a point of reference. Against it, historical time appears limited, imprecise, and inconstant. The temporality of the world, on the one hand, and that of the passage of history and experience, on the other hand, are hence ever more sharply delineated by different process models. "Objective"
time moves according to the eternal laws of nature, whereas historical time is kept in motion by the progress of the human race (Elias 1984).