Saturday, 19 October 2013

410, The City of God Against the Pagans, Augustine.

Book XIV

Chapter 5. The Platonic theory of body and soul; more tolerable than the Manichean view, but to be rejected because it makes the nature of the flesh responcible for all moral faults.

The Platonists, to be sure, do not show quite the folly of the Manicheans [Who ascribed the creation of flesh to an evil power, opposed to God, and co-eternal with him]. They do not go so far as to execrate earthly bodies as the natural substance of evil, since all the elements which compose the structure of this visible and tangible world, and their qualities, are attributed by the Platonists to God the artificier.

Chapter 9. The agitations of the mind, which appear as right feelings in the lives of the righteous.At this point, we may examine that condition which in Greek is called apatheia [note: see Cicero, Tusc. Disp., 3, 6, 12.], which might be translated in Latin by impassibilitas (impassibility) if such a word existed. Now, bearing in mind that the reference is to a mental, not a physical condition, if we are to understand it as meaning a life without the emotions which occur in defiance of reason and whcih disturb the thoughts, it is clearly a good and desirable state; but it does not belong to this present life. [...] ...since this state of apatheia will not come until there is no sin in man, it will not come in this present life.

Moreover, if apatheia is the name of the state in which the mind cannot be touched by any emotion whatsoever, who would not judge this insensitivity to be the worst of all moral defects? [...] Then if apatheia describes a condition in which there is no fear to terrify, no pain to torment, then it is a condition to be shunned in this life, if we wish to lead the right kind of life, the life that is, according to God's will. But in that life of bliss which, it is promised, will be everlasting, it is clearly right that we should hope for this condition.

Chapter 13. In Adam's transgression the evil will preceeded the evil act.

...could anything but pride have been the start of the evil will? For 'pride is the start of every kind of sin.' And what is pride except a longing for a perverse kind of exaltation? For it is a perverse kind of exaltation to abandon the basis on which the mind should be firmly fixed, and to become, as it were, based on oneself, and so remain.

Thus, in a surpsing way, there is something in humility to exalt the mind, and something in exaltation to abase it. It certainly appears somewhat paradoxical that exaltation abases and humility exalts.

Chapter 16. The evil of lust, in the specifically sexual meaning.

lust... excits the indecent parts of the body. This lust assumes power not only over the whole body, and not only from the outside, but also internally; it disturbs the whole man, when the mental emotion combines and mingles with the physical craving, resulting in a pleasure surpassing all physical delights. So intense is the pleasure that when it reaches its climax there is an almost total extinction of mental alertness; the intellectual sentries, as it were, are overwhelmed. [cont.]

Chapter 17. The nakedness of the first human beings, and the feeling of shame after their sin. 

It is right, therefore, to be ashamed of this lust, and it is right that the members which it moves or fails to move by its own right, so to speak, and not in complete conformity to our decision, should be called pudenda ('parts of shame'), which they were not called before man's sin; for, as Scripture tells us, 'they were naked, and yet they felt no embarrassment.' This was not because they had not noticed their nakedness, but because nakedness was not yet disgraceful, because lust did not yet arouse those members independently of their decision. The flesh did not yet, in a fashion, give proof of man's disobedience by a disobedience of its own.
It was not that the first human beings had been created blind... . ...their eyes were open, but not wide enough open, that is to say, not attentive enough to recognize what a blessing they were given in the garment of grace, inasmuch as their members did not know how to rebel against their will. When this grace was taken away, and in consequence  their disobedience was chastised by a corresponding punishment, there appeared in the movements of their body a certain indecent novelty, which made nakedness shameful. It made them self-conscious and embarrassed.
That is what Scripture says of them... 'The eyes of both of them were opened and they recognized that they were naked. And they sewed together fig leaves and made aprons for themselves.' 'The eyes of both', it says, 'were opened', not to enable them to see ((they could see already) but to enable them to distinguish the good which they had lost and the evil into which they had fallen. Hence the tree itself, which was to make this distinction for them if they laid hands on it to eat the fruit in defiance of the prohibition, got its name from that event, and was called 'the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. For experience of the distress of sickness reveals the joys of health in a clearer light.
And so 'they recognized that they were naked'-- stripped, that is, of the grace that prevented their bodily nakedness from causing them any embarrassment, as it did when the law of sin made war against their mind. Thus they gained a knowledge where ignorance would have been a greater bliss if they had trusted in God and obeyed him and thus had refrained from an action which would force them to learn by experience the harm that disloyalty and disobedience would do. The consequence was that they were embarrassed by the insubordination of their flesh, the punishment which was a kind of evidence of their disobedience, and 'they sewed together fig leaves and made aprons (campestria) for themselves.'

Thus modesty, from a sense of shame, covered what was excited to disobedience by lust, in defiance of a will which had been condemned for the guilt of disobedience; and from then onwards the practice of concealing the pudenda ['parts of shame'] has become a deep-rooted habit in all peoples, since they all derive from the same stock.

Chapter 19. Anger and lust were not part of man's healthy state before his sin.

This explains why the Platonists, who approached the truth more nearly than other philosophers, acknowledge that anger and lust are perverted elements in man's character, or soul, on the ground that they are disturbed and undisciplined emotions, leading to acts which wisdom forbids, and therefore they need the control of intelligence and reason. This third rational division of the soul is located by them in a kind of citadel, to rule the other elements, so that with the rational element in command and the others subordinate, justice may be preserved in the relation between all the parts of man's soul. [c.f. Plat., Rp., 586 d-e.]
These philosophers therefore admit that the two divisions of the soul are perverted, even in a wise and disciplined man. Consequently, the mind by repression and restraint bridles them and recalls them from courses they are wrongly moved to gollow, while it allows them to follow any line of action permitted by the law of wisdom. Anger, for example, is allowed for the purspose of imposing compulsion, when that is justified, and lust is permitted for the duty of procreation. But in paradise before man's sin these elements did not exist in their perverted state. For then they were not set in motion, in defiance of a right will, to pursue any course which made it necessary to hold them back with the guiding reins, so to speak, of reason.
The situation now is that these passions are set in motion in this fashion, and are brought under control by those who live disciplined, just, and devout lives, somtimes with comparative ease, sometimes with difficulty. But this control entails coercion and struggle, and the situation does not represent a state of health in accordance with nature, but an enfeebled condition arising from guilt.

Chapter 20. The ridiculous indecency of the cynics.

Human nature then is, without any doubt, ashamed about lust, and rightly ashamed. For in its disobedience, which subjected the sexual organ soley to its own impulses and snatched them from the will's authority, we see a proof of the retribution imposed on man for that first disobedience. And it was entirely fitting that this retribution should show itself in that part which effects the procreation of the very nature that was changed for the worse through that first great sin.

Chapter 23. Would procreation have taken place in paradise, if no one had sinned?

In Cicero's discussion of the different types of government, in his book On the Commonwealth [De Rep., 3, 25, 37. See above], the author takes an analogy from human nature. He says, it will be remembered, that the members of the body are governed like children, because of their ready obedience, while the perverted elements of the soul are coerced like slaves under a harsher regime. ...this lust we are now examining is something to be the more ashamed of because the soul, when dealing with it, neither has command of itself so as to be entirely free from lust, nor does it rule the body so completely that the organs of shame are moved by the will instead of by lust. Indeed if they were so ruled they would not be pudenda-- parts of shame.
As it is, the soul is ashamed of its body's resistence... .

No comments:

Post a Comment