Saturday, February 12, 2005

Book I, Chap. 6

Augustine probes his development of consciousness and memory since his birth and ends with a statement of the changelessness of God.

So much of his language is precise, touching and acute. He touchingly addresses God as you Mercy, as he does in several places in Book I. And it is in such contrast to his reference to man as his mocker in the very next phrase.

In referring to those who breast fed him, he says, "Their feelings were so ordered that they wanted to give me something of that abundance which they received from you." My attention is drawn to the word, "Ordered." Lately, I have been getting the impression that in traditional (Medieval?) Catholic theology, all drives, desires, and behaviors that strictly for the self are classified as, "Disordered," meaning inherently sinful, unless used in a limited, well defined context. An example would be sex which is moral only in the context of marriage. And to kill is only moral in self-defense. It is easy to see fom this mind-set how someone or a whole theology can develop an overwrought sense of man's depravity and sinfullness. This is all speculation on my part. I am not taking a position! I suspect that in church and theological Latin the words Ordered and Disordered have a specific technical meaning. The sense of those two words may be somewhat different in Latin than English as well. Remember, that when most of the church's theology was developed, even through modern times, the writing was all in Latin. Note that in this quoted example of Augustine's use of the word ordered, that the women are being lifegiving and selfless. But characteristic of Augustine, he backs off from giving them credit and says the good really came from God and that his nursemaids were only the means.

Likewise, I don't like the following:

"I was welcomed then with the comfort of women's milk; but neither my mother nor my nurses filled their own breasts with milk; it was you who, through them, gave me the food of my infancy, according to your own ordinance and according to the way in which your riches are spread throughout the length and depth of things."

Of course, God is ultimately responsible and deserves praise for our human development, and all of the good, that occurs to us. However, A gives no credit or appreciation, not even a sentimental or emotional fondness, to those who nursed him as an infant, not even to his mother.

Then there is this:

"Indeed I acknowledge you, Lord of heaven and earth, and I give praise you for my first beginnings and for that infancy of mine which I do not remember, for on this subject you have granted man to guess from others about himself and to believe many things about himself merely on the evidence of weak women."

In both of teh above statements, in his zeal to love, honor and praise God, A comes across as misogynistic and arrogant.

The best A can say about children is that they are ignorant.

At the end of the section, when Augustine (quite elegantly) describes the changelessness of God, he says, "What does it matter to me if someone finds this incomprehensible? And goes on, "Yes this is the way I should like him to rejoice, preferring to find you in his uncertainty rather than in his certainty to miss you."

Again A refers to the inability to comprehend completely who and what God is and the need for a leap of faith in the uncertainty.


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