Sunday, August 21, 2005

Book VII, Chapter 10

That Augustine was a mystic is another one of those things that is so blatantly obvious that it is easy to overlook, again, like not seeing the forest for the trees.

Augustine states that the Platonists knew some truths that Christians knew, but they had nothing to say of humility nor had knowledge of the Son of God. Augustine uses a very interesting and important contrast that makes an allusion to Plato’s Cave. He describes his anguished search for the cause of evil, realizes that God has started to teach him inwardly and says, “And so My Helper, you have set me free from those chains.” After stating what he has learned of humility and Jesus, he says, “I was admonished by all this to return to my own self, and, with you to guide me, I entered into the innermost part of myself, and I was able to do this because you were my helper.” He has contrasted his own soul to Plato’s Cave, not as a jungle of ignorance, darkness, and slavery, but to a place of wisdom, light, and freedom.

Augustine felt admonished to return to his innermost self, which he describes with images from the Plato’s Cave: “I entered and saw with my soul’s eye (such as it was) an unchangeable light shining above the eye of my soul and above my mind. It was not the ordinary light which is visible to all flesh, nor sometimes of the same sort, only bigger, as though it might be our ordinary light shining much, much more brightly and filling everything with its greatness.” (I am leaving several sentences out here.) And then, “And you beat back the weakness of my sight, blazing upon me with your rays…” (If you haven’t read the allegory/parable of the Cave in Plato’s Republic, by all means do so. It is a foundational for understanding Western Civilization. ) At the conclusion of the passage, Augustine comes to the most definitive belief is the existence and nature of God, that those who feed upon God will become like God, and those who are wicked will perish.

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