Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Book VIII, Chapter 8

With great rhetorical power, Augustine shows us, on the brink of conversion, how his soul still ferociously resisted Grace and his own intellect. He makes observations about the lack of control of the will over the soul. We see Augustine as a philosopher of mind, that is, a psychologist.

“And now inside my house indeed was the quarrel which I had started with my soul in that bedroom of my heart which we shared together. My looks were as disordered as my mind as I turned on Alypius as cried out to him: ’What is wrong with us? What is this which you have just heard? The unlearned rise up and take heaven by force, while we (look at us!) with all our learning are wallowing in flesh and blood. Is it because they have gone ahead that we are ashamed to follow at all?’ And do we feel no shame at not even following at all?’ … My forehead, cheeks, eyes, color of face, and inflection of voice expressed my mind better than the words I used.”
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“My spirit was in a turmoil; I was boiling with indignation against myself for not entering into your will and covenant, my God, where all my bones cried out that I should enter and praised it to the skies.”
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“Then in the middle of this storm of mental hesitation I made many movements with my body—the kind of movements which people sometimes want to make, but cannot make, either because they have not the limbs, or because their limbs are bound or weakened by illness or in some way prevented by action. But I, if I tore my hair, beat my forehead, locked my fingers together, clasped my knee, was performing these actions because I willed to do so. But I might have willed to do so and still not done so if the power of motion in my limbs had not followed the dictates of my will. So I was performing all sorts of actions where the will to do and the power to do are not the same thing, and I was not doing something the idea of which pleased me incomparably more and which soon after, when I should have the will, I should have the power to do so, since when I willed, I should will it thoroughly.”
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Augustine concludes with a deep and mysterious psychological observation of his soul:

“It was easier for my body to obey the slightest intimation of the soul’s will that the limbs should be put immediately in motion than it was for the soul to give obedience to itself so as to carry out by the mere act of willing what was its own great will.”

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