Contemplation and Classical Christianity: A Study in by John Peter Kenney

By John Peter Kenney

After resolving to turn into a Catholic Christian, Augustine spent a decade attempting to make clear his knowing of "contemplation," the inner presence of God to the soul. That lengthy fight yielded his vintage account within the Confessions. This examine explores Augustine's constructing figuring out of contemplation, starting along with his earliest money owed written ahead of his baptism and finishing with the Confessions. bankruptcy One examines the pagan monotheism of the Roman Platonists and the function of contemplation of their theology. Augustine's pre-baptismal writings are then thought of in bankruptcy , monitoring his primary holiday from pagan Platonism. bankruptcy 3 then turns to Augustine's constructing figuring out of contemplation in those pre-baptismal texts. bankruptcy 4 concentrates on Augustine's idea throughout the decade after his baptism in 387, a interval that encompasses his monastic lifestyles in Thagaste, and his years first as a presbyter after which as a bishop in Hippo Regius. This bankruptcy follows the arc of Augustine's suggestion via those years of transition and leads into the Confessions, giving a vantage aspect to survey its theology of contemplation. bankruptcy 5 concentrates at the Confessions and units its most renowned account of contemplation, the imaginative and prescient at Ostia from booklet IX, right into a greater polemical context. Augustine's security of his transcendental studying of scripture in Confessions XII is analyzed after which used to light up the Ostian ascent narrative. The e-book concludes with observations at the significance of Augustine's theology of contemplation to the emergence of Christian monotheism in past due antiquity.

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Here we find an unusual expression of the self ’s fears at ascending to the unfamiliar level of the One, lacking as the One does any finite specification of its nature. Since the One is formless (aneideon), the soul is unable to comprehend it and so it becomes afraid that is has encountered nothing at all. It slips back down to the level of perceptible things, where it rejoices at things that seem solid. That suggests once again that the self has a menu of epistemic and ontological options at its disposal.

As such it is a mode of theological discourse that promises divine description at the expense of presence, forcing a separation between the divine and the soul. It is an act of cognitive reification—both of the self and its finite divine object. Apophasis undercuts the metaphysical distance of affirmative theology. It requires the soul to refuse the distance of description and to embrace the divine One as infinite. 36 Yet Plotinus maintains that when pursued with the proper philosophical guidance, apophatic contemplation offers a deep communion with the One as the boundaries of embodied consciousness dissolve.

That fact bears particular notice, setting out the characteristic view of the Platonic tradition that the soul has resources for higher wisdom within itself. What the soul grasps at the height of its epistemic power are the intelligibles: the just itself, the beautiful itself, the good itself (65d,e). These are transcendent, separate in their ontological nature from sensible things and self-same (100b: auto kath’ hauto). Nonetheless, a sensible thing shares in intelligible being (100c: metechein), and thus each is an instance of the presence or communion of a form (100d: parousia; koinōnia).

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