Showing posts with label Pride. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pride. Show all posts

Monday, 18 December 2017

Bhakti Yoga

"In Aleister Crowley's work entitled Astarte vel Liber Berylli sub-figura CLXXV, he advocates a form of yoga called Bhakti or love yoga, where one devotes oneself to a particular deity and establishes a loving relationship with it. 

It is originally a Hindu form of yoga, and it is quite interesting from a magickal perspective. The idea is that you form a particular bond with a God, Goddess or Spirit and practice everything in your life in the context of this bond.

I think this form of yoga is particularly appropriate when discussing Hecate, as she has the characteristics and qualities of a Goddess to whom you devote yourself rather than a simple Spirit you evoke for a specific task. 

Although I haven't written about it in this book, I would like to suggest to those interested in Hecate and magick involving the Goddess to research Bhakti yoga also. 

Some of the principles and practices of Bhakti yoga are very complementary to evoking and working with Goddesses in a magickal context, as it seems that devotion and love come very natural to us when encountering these beings. 

After all, Hecate is the Greek Goddess of magick and, therefore, the patroness of all magicians.

sub figura CLXXV

A.·. A.·.
Publication in Class B.
N. Fra A.·. A.·.

0. This is the Book of Uniting Himself to a particular Deity by devotion.
  1. Considerations before the Threshold. First concerning the choice of a particular Deity. This matter is of no import, sobeit that thou choose one suited to thine own highest nature. Howsoever, this method is not so suitable for gods austere as Saturn, or intellectual as Thoth. But for such deities as in themselves partake in anywise of love it is a perfect mode. 
  2. Concerning the prime method of this Magick Art. Let the devotee consider well that although Christ and Osiris be one, yet the former is to be worshipped with Christian, and the latter with Egyptian rites. And this although the rites themselves are ceremonially equivalent. There should, however, be one symbol declaring the transcending of such limitations; and with regard to the Deity also, there should be some one affirmation of his identity both with all other similar gods of other nations, and with the Supreme of whom all are but partial reflections. 
  3. Concerning the chief place of devotion. This is the Heart of the Devotee, and should be symbolically represented by that room or spot which he loves best. And the dearest spot therein shall be the shrine of his temple. It is most convenient if this shrine and altar should be sequestered in woods, or in a private grove, or garden. But let it be protected from the profane. 
  4. Concerning the Image of the Deity. Let there be an image of the Deity; first because in meditation there is mindfulness induced thereby; and second because a certain power enters and inhabits it by virtue of the ceremonies; or so it is said, and We deny it not. Let this image be the most beautiful and perfect which the devotee is able to procure; or if he be able to paint or to carve the same, it is all the better. As for Deities with whose nature no Image is compatible, let them be worshipped in an empty shrine. Such are Brahma, and Allah. Also some postcaptivity conceptions of Jehovah. 
  5. Further concerning the shrine. Let this shrine be furnished approÿriately as to its ornaments, according to the book 777. With ivy and pine-cones, that is to say, for Bacchus, and let lay before him both grapes and wine. So also for Ceres let there be corn, and cakes; or for Diana moon-wort and pale herbs, and pure water. Further it is well to support the shrine with talismans of the planets, signs and elements appropriate. But these should be made according to the right Ingenium of the Philosophus by the light of the Book 777 during the course of his Devotion. It is also well, nevertheless, if a magick circle with the right signs and names be made beforehand. 
  6. Concerning the Ceremonies. Let the Philosophus prepare a powerful Invocation of the particular Deity according to his Ingenium. But let it consist of these several parts:
    First, an Imprecation, as of a slave unto his Lord.
    Second, an Oath, as of a vassal to his Liege.
    Third, a Memorial, as of a child to his Parent.
    Fourth, an Orison, as of a Priest unto his God.
    Fifth, a Colloquy, as of a Brother with his Brother.
    Sixth, a Conjuration, as to a Friend with his Friend.
    Seventh, a Madrigal, as of a Lover to his Mistress.
    And mark well that the first should be of awe, the second of fealty, the third of dependence, the fourth of adoration, the fifth of confidence, the sixth of comradeship, the seventh of passion. 
  7. Further concerning the ceremonies. Let then this Invocation be the principal part of an ordered ceremony. And in this ceremony let the Philosophus in no wise neglect the service of a menial. Let him sweep and garnish the place, sprinkling it with water or with wine as is appropriate to the particular Deity, and consecrating it with oil, and with such ritual as may seem him best. And let all be done with intensity and minuteness. 
  8. Concerning the period of devotion, and the hours thereof. Let a fixed period be set for the worship; and it is said that the least time is nine days by seven, and the greatest seven years by nine. And concerning the hours, let the Ceremony be performed every day thrice, or at least once, and let the sleep of the Philosophus be broken for some purpose of devotion at least once in every night.
    Now to some it may seem best to appoint fixed hours for the ceremony, to others it may seem that the ceremony should be performed as the spirit moves them so to do: for this there is no rule.
  9. Concerning the Robes and Instruments. The Wand and Cup are to be chosen for this Art; never the Sword or Dagger, never the Pantacle, unless that Pantacle chance to be of a nature harmonious. But even so it is best to keep the Wand and Cup, and if one must choose, the Cup.
    For the Robes, that of a Philosoÿhus, or that of an Adept Within is most suitable; or, the robe best fitted for the service of the particular Deity, as a bassara for Bacchus, a white robe for Vesta. So also, for Vesta, one might use for instrument the Lamp; or the sickle, for Chronos. 
  10. Concerning the Incense and Libations. The incense should follow the nature of the particular Deity; as, mastic for Mercury, dittany for Persephone. Also the libations, as, a decoction of nightshade for Melancholia, or of Indian hemp for Uranus. 
  11. Concerning the harmony of the ceremonies. Let all these things be rightly considered, and at length, in language of the utmost beauty at the command of the Philosophus, accompanied, if he has skill, by music, and interwoven, if the particular Deity be jocund, with dancing. And all being carefully prepared and rehearsed, let it be practised daily until it be wholly rhythmical with his aspiration, and as it were, a part of his being. 
  12. Concerning the variety of the ceremonies. Now, seeing that every man differeth essentially from every other man, albeit in essence he is identical, let also these ceremonies assert their identity by their diversity. For this reason do We leave much herein to the right Ingenium of the Philosophus. 
  13. Concerning the life of the devotee. First, let his way of life be such as is pleasing to the particular Deity. Thus to invoke Neptune, let him go a-fishing; but if Hades, let him not approach the water that is hateful to Him. 
  14. Further, concerning the life of the devotee. Let him cut away from his life any act, word, or thought, that is hateful to the particular Deity; as, unchastity in the case of Artemis, evasions in the case of Ares. Besides this, he should avoid all harshness or unkindness of any kind in thought, word, or deed, seeing that above the particular Deity is One in whom all is One. Yet also he may deliberately practise cruelties, where the particular Deity manifests His Love in that manner, as in the case of Kali, and of Pan. And therefore, before the beginning of his period of devotion, let him practise according to the rules of Liber Jugorum. 
  15. Further concerning the life of the devotee. Now, as many are fully occupied with their affairs, let it be known that this method is adaptable to the necessities of all.
    And We bear witness that this which followeth is the Crux and Quintessence of the whole Method.
    First, if he have no Image, let him take anything soever, and consecrate it as an Image of his God. Likewise with his robes and instruments, his suffumigations and libations: for his Robe hath he not a nightdress; for his instrument a walking stick; for his suffumigation a burning match; for his libation a glass of water?
    But let him consecrate each thing that he useth to the service of that particular Deity, and not profane the same to any other use. 
  16. Continuation. Next, concerning his time, if it be short. Let him labour mentally upon his Invocation, concentrating it, and let him perform this Invocation in his heart whenever he hath the leisure. And let him seize eagerly upon every opportunity for this. 
  17. Continuation. Third, even if he have leisure and preparation, let him seek ever to bring inward the symbols, so that even in his well ordered shrine the whole ceremony revolve inwardly in his heart, that is to say in the temple of his body, of which the outer temple is but an image. For in the brain is the shrine, and there is no Image therein; and the breath of man is the incense and the libation. 
  18. Continuation. Further concerning occupation. Let the devotee transmute within the alembic of his heart every thought, or word, or act into the spiritual gold of his devotion.
    As thus: eating. Let him say: "I eat this food in gratitude to my Deity that hath sent it to me, in order to gain strength for my devotion to Him."
    Or: sleeping. Let him say: "I lie down to sleep, giving thanks for this blessing from my Deity, in order that I may be refreshed for new devotion to Him."
    Or: reading. Let him say: "I read this book that I may study the nature of my Deity, that further knowledge of Him may inspire me with deeper devotion to Him."
    Or: working. Let him say: "I drive my spade into the earth that fresh flowers (fruit, or what not) may spring up to His glory, and that I, purified by toil, may give better devotion to Him."
    Or: whatever it may be that he is doing, let him reason it out in his own mind, drawing it through circumstance and circumstance to that one end and conclusion of the matter. And let him not perform the act until he hath done this.
    As it is written: Liber VII, cap. v. --- 
    22. Every breath, every word, every thought is an
    act of love with thee.
    23. The beat of my heart is the pendulum of love.
    24. The songs of me are the soft sighs:
    25. The thoughts of me are very rapture:
    26. And my deeds are the myriads of Thy Children,
    the stars and the atoms.
    And Remember Well, that if thou wert in truth a lover, all this wouldst thou do of thine own nature without the slightest flaw or failure in the minutest part thereof. 
  19. Concerning the Lections. Let the Philosoÿhus read solely in his copies of the holy books of Thelema, during the whole period of his devotion. But if he weary, then let him read books which have no part whatever in love, as for recreation.
    But let him copy out each verse of Thelema which bears upon this matter, and ponder them, and comment thereupon. For therein is a wisdom and a magic too deep to utter in any other wise. 
  20. Concerning the Meditations. Herein is the most potent method of attaining unto the End, for him who is thoroughly prepared, being purified by the practice of the Transmutation of deed into devotion, and consecrated by the right performance of the holy ceremonies. Yet herein is danger, for that the Mind is fluid as quicksilver, and bordereth upon the Abyss, and is beset by many sirens and devils that seduce and attack it to destroy it. Therefore let the devotee beware, and precise accurately his meditations, even as a man should build a canal from sea to sea. 
  21. Continuation. Let then the Philosophus meditate upon all love that hath ever stirred him. There is the love of David and of Jonathan, and the love of Abraham and Isaac, and the love of Lear and Cordelia, and the love of Damon and Pythias, and the love of Sappho and Atthis, and the love of Romeo and Juliet, and the love of Dante and Beatrice, and the love of Paolo and Francesca, and the love of Caesar and Lucrezia Borgia, and the love of Aucassin and Nicolette, and the love of Daphnis and Chloe, and the love of Cornelia and Caius Gracchus, and the love of Bacchus and Ariadne, and the love of Cupid and Psyche, and the love of Endymion and Artemis, and the love of Demeter and Persephone, and the love of Venus and Adonis, and the love of Lakshmi and Vishnu, and the love of Siva and Bhavani, and the love of Buddha and Ananda, and the love of Jesus and John, and many more.
    Also there is the love of many saints for their particular deity, as of St. Francis of Assisi for Christ, of Sri Sabhapaty Swami for Maheswara, of Abdullah Haji Shirazi for Allah, of St Ignatius Loyola for Mary, and many more.
    Now do thou take one such story every night, and enact it in thy mind, grasping each identity with infinite care and zest, and do thou figure thyself as one of the lovers and thy Deity as the other. Thus do thou pass through all adventures of love, not omitting one; and to each do thou conclude: How pale a reflection is this of my love for this Deity!
    Yet from each shalt thou draw some knowledge of love, some intimacy with love, that shall aid thee to perfect thy love. Thus learn the humility of love from one, its obedience from another, its intensity from a third, its purity from a fourth, its peace from yet a fifth.
    So then thy love being made perfect, it shall be worthy of that perfect love of His. 
  22. Further concerning meditation. Moreover let the Philosophus imagine to himself that he hath indeed succeeded in his devotion, and that his Lord hath appeared to him, and that they converse as may be fitting. 
  23. Concerning the Mysterious Triangle. Now then as three cords separately may be broken by a child, while those same cords duly twisted may bind a giant, let the Philosophus learn to entwine these three methods of Magic into a Spell.
    To this end let him understand that as they are One, because the end is one, so are they One because the method is One, even the method of turning the mind toward the particular Deity by love in every act.
    And lest thy twine slip, here is a little cord that wrappeth tightly round and round all, even the Mantram or Continuous Prayer. 
  24. Concerning the Mantram or Continuous Prayer. Let the Philosophus weave the Name of the Particular Deity into a sentence short and rhythmical, as, for Artemis: epsilon-pi-epsilon-lambda-theta-omicron-nu, epsilon-pi-epsilon-lambda-theta-omicron-nu, Alpha-rho-tau-epsilon-mu-iota-sigma; or, for Shiva: Namo Shivaya namaha Aum; or, for Mary: Ave Maria; or for Pan, chi-alpha-iota-rho-epsilon Sigma-omega-tau-eta-rho kappa-omicron-sigma-mu-omicron-upsilon, Iota-omega Pi-alpha-nu, Iota-omega Pi-alpha-nu; or, for Allah: Hua Allahu alazi lailaha illa Hua.
    Let him repeat this day and night without cessation mechanically in his brain, which is thus made ready for the advent of that Lord, and armed against all other. 
  25. Concerning the Active and the Passive. Let the Philosophus change from the active love of his particular Deity to a state of passive waiting, even almost a repulsion, the repulsion not of distaste, but of sublime modesty.
    As it is written, Liber LXV.ii.59. I have called unto Thee, and I have journeyed unto Thee, and it availed me not. 60. I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning.
    Then let him change back to the Active, until a veritable rhythm is established between the states, as it were the swinging of a Pendulum. But let him reflect that a vast intelligence is required for this; for he must stand as it were almost without himself to watch those phases of himself, And to do this is a high Art, and pertaineth not altogether to the grade of Philosoÿhus. Neither is it of itself helpful, but rather the reverse, in this especial practice. 
  26. Concerning silence. Now there may come a time in the course of this practice when the outward symbols of devotion cease, when the soul is as it were dumb in the presence of its God. Mark that this is not a cessation, but a transmutation of the barren seed of prayer into the green shoot of yearning. This yearning is spontaneous, and it shall be left to grow, whether it be sweet or bitter. For often times it is as the torment of hell in which the soul burns and writhes unceasingly. Yet it ends, and at its end continue openly thy Method. 
  27. Concerning Dryness. Another state wherein at times the soul may fall is this dark night. And this is indeed purifying in such depths that the soul cannot fathom it. It is less like pain than like death. But it is the necessary death that comes before the rising of a body glorified.
    This state must be endured with fortitude; and no means of alleviating it may be employed. It may be broken up by the breaking up of the whole Method, and a return to the world without. This cowardice not only destroys the value of all that has gone before, but destroys the value of the Oath of Fealty that thou hast sworn, and makes thy Will a mockery to men and gods. 
  28. Concerning the Deceptions of the Devil. Note well that in this state of dryness a thousand seductions will lure thee away; also a thousand means of breaking thine oath in spirit without breaking it in letter. Against this thou mayst repeat the words of thine oath aloud again and again until the temptation be overcome.
    Also the devil will represent to thee that it were much better for this operation that thou do thus and thus, and seek to affright thee by fears for thy health or thy reason.
    Or he may send against thee visions worse than madness.
    Against all this there is but one remedy, the Discipline of thine Oath. So then thou shalt go through ceremonies meaningless and hideous to thee, and blaspheme shalt thou against thy Deity and curse Him. And this mattereth little, for it is not thou, so be that thou adhere to the Letter of thine Obligation. For thy Spiritual Sight is closed, and to trust it is to be led unto the precipice, and hurled therefrom. 
  29. Further of this matter. Now also subtler than all these terrors are the Illusions of Success. For one instant's {WEH NOTE: Magick in Theory and Practice has "But one instant's..."} self-satisfaction or Expansion of thy Spirit, especially in this state of dryness, and thou art lost. For thou mayst attain the False Union with the Demon himself. Beware also of even the pride which rises from having resisted the temptations.
    But so many and so subtle are the wiles of Choronzon that the whole world could not contain their enumeration.
    The answer to one and all is the persistence in the literal fulfilment of the routine. Beware, then, last, of that devil {49} who shall whisper in thine ear that the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life, and answer: Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
    Yet shalt thou also beware of disputation with the devil, and pride in the cleverness of thine answers to him. Therefore, if thou hast not lost the power of silence, let it be first and last employed against him. 
  30. Concerning the Enflaming of the Heart. Now learn that thy methods are dry, one and all. Intellectual exercises, moral exercises, they are not Love. Yet as a man, rubbing two dry sticks together for long, suddenly found a spark, so also from time to time will true love leap unasked into thy mediation. Yet this shall die and be reborn again and again. It may be that thou hast no tinder near.
    In the end shall come suddenly a great flame and a devouring, and burn thee utterly.
    Now of these sparks, and of these splutterings of flame, and of these beginnings of the Infinite Fire, thou shalt thus be aware. For the sparks thy heart shall leap up, and thy ceremony or meditation or toil shall seem of a sudden to go of its own will; and for the little flames this shall be increased in volume and intensity; and for the beginnings of the Infinite Fire thy ceremony shall be caught up unto ravishing song, and thy meditation shall be ecstasy, and thy toil shall be a delight exceeding all pleasure thou hast ever known.
    And of the Great Flame that answereth thee it may not be spoken; for therein is the End of this Magick Art of Devotion. 
  31. Considerations with regard to the use of symbols. It is to be noted that persons of powerful imagination, will, and intelligence have no need of these material symbols. There have been certain saints who are capable of love for an idea as such without it being otherwise than degraded by "idolising" it, to use this word in its true sense. Thus one may be impassioned of beauty, without even the need of so small a concretion of it as "The beauty of Apollo", the "beauty of roses", the "beauty of Attis". Such persons are rare; it may be doubted whether Plato himself attained to any vision of absolute beauty without attaching to it material objects in the first place. A second class is able to contemplate ideals through this veil; a third class need a double veil, and cannot think of the beauty of a rose without a rose before them. For such is this Method of most use; yet let them know that there is this danger therein, that they may mistake the gross body of the symbol for the idea made concrete thereby. 
  32. Considerations of further danger to those not purged of material thought. Let it be remembered that in the nature of the love itself is danger. The lust of the satyr for the nymph is indeed of the same nature as the affinity of Quicklime for water on the one hand, and of love of Ab for Ama on the other; so also is the triad Osiris, Isis, Horus like that of a horse, mare, foal, and of red, blue, purple. And this is the foundation of Correspondences.
    But it were false to say "Horus is a foal" or "Horus is purple". One may say: "Horus resembles a foal in this respect, that he is the offspring of two complementary beings". 
  33. Further of this matter. So also many have said truly that all is one, and falsely that since earth is That One, and ocean is That One, therefore earth is ocean. Unto Him good is illusion, and evil is illusion; therefore good is evil. By this fallacy of logic are many men destroyed.
    Moreover, there are those who take the image for the God; as who should say, my heart is in Tiphereth, and an Adeptus is in Tiphereth; I am therefore an adept.
    And in this practice the worst danger is this, that the love which is its weapon should fail in one of two ways.
    First, if the love lack any quality of love, so long is it not ideal love. For it is written of the Perfected One: "There is no member of my body which is not the member of some god." Therefore let not the Philosophus despise any form of love, but harmonise all. As it is written: Liber LXV, 32. "So therefore Perfection abideth not in the Pinnacles or in the Foundation, but in the harmony of One with all."
    Second, if any part of this love exceed, there is disease therein. As, in the love of Othello for Desdemona, love's jealousy overcame love's tenderness, so may it be in this love of a particular Deity. And this is more likely, since in this divine love no element may be omitted.
    It is by virtue of this completeness that no human love may in any way attain to more than to foreshadow a little part thereof. 
  34. Concerning Mortifications. These are not necessary to this method. On the contrary, they may destroy the concentration, as counter-irritants to, and so alleviations of, the supreme mortification which is the Absence of the Deity invoked.
    Yet as in mortal love arises a distaste for food, or a pleasure in things naturally painful, this perversion should be endured and allowed to take its course. Yet not to the interference with natural bodily health, whereby the instrument of the soul might be impaired.
    And concerning sacrifices for love's sake, they are natural to this Method, and right.
    But concerning voluntary privations and tortures, without use save as against the devotee, they are generally not natural to healthy natures, and wrong. For they are selfish. To scourge one's self serves not one's master; yet to deny one's self bread that one's child may have cake is the act of a true mother. 
  35. Further concerning Mortifications. If thy body, on which thou ridest, be so disobedient a beast that by no means will he travel in the desired direction, or if thy mind be baulkish and eloquent as Balaam's fabled Ass, then let the practice be abandoned. Let the shrine be covered in sackcloth, and do thou put on habits of lamentation, and abide alone. And do thou return most austerely to the practice of Liber Jugorum, testing thyself by a standard higher than that hitherto accomplished, and punishing effractions with a heavier goad. Nor do thou return to thy devotion until that body and mind are tamed and trained to all manner of peaceable going. 
  36. Concerning minor methods adjuvant in the ceremonies. I. Rising on the planes. By this method mayst thou assist the imagination at the time of concluding thine Invocation. Act as taught in Liber O, by the light of Liber 777. 
  37. Concerning minor methods adjuvant in the ceremonies. II. Talismanic Magic. Having made by thine Ingenium a talisman or pantacle to represent the particular Deity, and consecrated it with infinite love and care, do thou burn it ceremonially before the shrine, as if thereby giving up the shadow for the substance. But it is useless to do this unless thou do really in thine heart value the talisman beyond all else that thou hast. 
  38. Concerning minor methods adjuvant in the ceremonies. III. Rehearsal. It may assist if the traditional history of the particular Deity be rehearsed before him; perhaps this is best done in dramatic form. This method is the main one recommended in the "Exercitios Espirituales" of St Ignatius, whose work may be taken as a model. Let the Philosophus work out the legend of his own particular Deity, and apportioning days to events, live that life in imagination, exercising the five senses in turn, as occasion arises. 
  39. Concerning minor matters adjuvant in the ceremonies. IV. Duresse. This method consists in cursing a deity recalcitrant; as, threatening ceremonially "to burn the blood of Osiris, and to grind down his bones to power." This method is altogether contrary to the spirit of love unless the particular Deity be himself savage and relentless; as Jehovah or Kali. In such a case the desire to perform constraint and cursing may be the sign of the assimilation of the spirit of the devotee with that of his God, and so an advance to the Union with HIm. 
  40. Concerning the value of this particular form of Union or Samadhi. All Samadhi is defined as the ecstatic union of a subject and object in consciousness, with the result that a third thing arises which partakes in no way of the nature of the two.
    It would seem at first sight that it is of no importance whatever to choose an object of meditation. For example, the Samadhi called Atmadarshana might arise from simple concentration of the thought on an imagined triangle, or on the heart.
    But as the union of two bodies in chemistry may be endothermic or exothermic, the combination of Oxygen with Nitrogen is gentle, while that of Oxygen with Hydrogen is explosive; and as it is found that the most heat is disengaged as a rule by the union of bodies most opposite in character, and that the compound resulting from such is most stable, so it seems reasonable to suggest that the most important and enduring Samadhi results from the contemplation of the Object most pposite to the devotee. [On other planes, it has been suggested that the most opposed types make the best marriages and produce the healthiest children. The greatest pictures and operas are those in which violent extremes are blended, and so generally in every field of activity. Even in mathematics, the greatest parallelogram is formed if the lines composing it are set at right angles. ED.] 
  41. Conclusions from the foregoing. It may then be suggested to the Philosophus, that although his work will be harder his reward will be greater if he choose a Deity most remote from his own nature. This method is harder and higher than that of Liber E. For a simple object as there suggested is of the same nature as the commonest things of life, while even the meanest Deity is beyond uninitiated human understanding. On the same plane, too, Venus is nearer to man than Aphrodite, Aphrodite than Isis, Isis than Babalon, Babalon than Nuit.
    Let him decide therefore according to his discretion on the one hand and his aspiration on the other; and let not one outrun his fellow. 
  42. Further concerning the value of this Method. Certain objections arise. Firstly, in the nature of all human love is illusion, and a certain blindness. Nor is there any true love below the Veil of the Abyss. For this reason we give this method to the Philosoÿhus, as the reflection of the Exempt Adept, who reflects the Magister Templi and the Magus. Let then the Philosophus attain this Method as a foundation of the higher Methods to be given to him when he attains those higher grades.
    Another objection lies in the partiality of this Method. This is equally a defect characteristic of the Grade. 
  43. Concerning a notable danger of Success. It may occur that owing to the tremendous power of the Samadhi, overcoming all other memories as it should and does do, that the mind of the devotee may be obsessed, so that he declare his particular Deity to be sole God and Lord. This error has been the foundation of all dogmatic religions, and so the cause of more misery than all other errors combined.
    The Philosophus is peculiarly liable to this because from the nature of the Method he cannot remain sceptical; he must for the time believe in his particular Deity. But let him (1) consider that this belief is only a weapon in his hands, (2) affirm sufficiently that his Deity is but an emanation or reflection or eidolon of a Being beyond him, as was said in Paragraph 2. For if he fail herein, since man cannot remain permanently in Samadhi, the memorised Image in his mind will be degraded, and replaced by the corresponding Demon, to his utter ruin.
    Therefore, after Success, let him not delight overmuch in his Deity, but rather busy himself with his other work, not permitting that which is but a step to become a goal. As it is written also, Liber CLXXXV.: "remembering that Philosophy is the Equilibrium of him that is in the House of Love." 
  44. Concerning the secrecy and the rites of Blood. During this practice it is most wise that the Philosophus utter no word concerning his working, as if it were a Forbidden Love that consumeth him. But let him answer fools according to their folly; for since he cannot conceal his love from his fellows, he must speak to them as they may understand.
    And as many Deities demand sacrifice, one of men, another of cattle, a third of doves, let these sacrifices be replaced by the true sacrifices in thine own heart. Yet if thou must symbolise them outwardly for the hardness of thine heart, let thine own blood, and not another's, be spilt before that altar. [The exceptions to this rule pertain neither to this practice, nor to this grade. N. Fra. A.·. A.·..]

  45. Nevertheless, forget not that this practice is dangerous, and may cause the manifestation of evil things, hostile and malicious, to thy great hurt. 
  46. Concerning a further sacrifice. Of this it shall be understood that nothing is to be spoken; nor need anything be spoken to him that hath wisdom to comprehend the number of the paragraph. And this sacrifice is fatal beyond all, unless it be a sacrifice indeed. Yet there are those who have dared and achieved thereby. 
  47. Concerning yet a further sacrifice. Here it is spoken of actual mutilation. Such acts are abominable; and while they may bring success in this Method, form an absolute bar to all further progress.
    And they are in any case more likely to lead to madness than to Samadhi. He indeed who purposeth them is already mad. 
  48. Concerning human affection. During this practice thou shalt in no wise withdraw thyself from human relations, only figuring to thyself that thy father or thy brother or thy wife is as it were an image of thy particular Deity. Thus shall they gain, and not lose, by thy working. Only in the case of thy wife this is difficult, since she is more to thee than all others, and in this case thou mayst act with temperance, lest her personality overcome and destroy that of thy Deity. 
  49. Concerning the Holy Guardian Angel. Do thou in no wise confuse this invocation with that. 
  50. The Benediction. And so may the love that passeth all Understanding keep your hearts and minds through Iota-Alpha-Omega Alpha-Delta-Omicron-Nu-Alpha-Iota Sigma-Alpha-Beta-Alpha-Omega and through BABALON of the City of the Pyramids, and through Astarte, the Starry One green-girdled, in the name ARARITA. AMN.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Five by Five

Don't worry, we're sure to spot Faith first.
She's like this cleavagey slutbomb walking around going,
 "Ooh, check me out, I'm wicked cool, I'm five by five".

"Five by five?" 
Five what by five what? 

See, that's the thing! 

No-One Knows!!

"The Endless Knot - for ever Faith-full in five pointsand five times under each" :

5 X 5
Five by Five
Five Squared



We get some rules to follow,
That and this, these and those.

No-One Knows

We get these pills to swallow
How they stick in your throat
Tastes like Gold
Oh, what you do to me...

No-One Knows

And I realize you're mine
Indeed a fool am I
And I realize you're mine

Indeed a fool am I -Ahhh...!

I journey through The Desert of The Mind with no hope - I follow....

" He remained there that day, and in the morning got ready, asked early for his arms, and they all were brought him. First a carpet of red silk was arrayed on the floor, and the gilded gear in plenty there glittered upon it. The stern man stepped thereon and the steel things handled, dressed in a doublet of damask of Tharsia, and over it a cunning capadoce that was closed at the throat and with fair ermine was furred all within. Then sabatons first they set on his feet, his legs lapped in steel in his lordly greaves, on which the polains they placed, polished and shining and knit upon his knees with knots all of gold; then the comely cuisses that cunningly clasped the thick thews of his thighs they with thongs on him tied; and next the byrnie, woven of bright steel rings upon costly quilting, enclosed him about; and armlets well burnished upon both of his arms, with gay elbow-pieces and gloves of plate, and all the goodly gear to guard him whatever betide; coat-armour richly made, gold spurs on heel in pride; girt with a trusty blade, silk belt about his side. 

When he was hasped in his armour his harness was splendid: the least latchet or loop was all lit with gold. Thus harnessed as he was he heard now his Mass, that was offered and honoured at the high altar; and then he came to the king and his court-companions, and with love he took leave of lords and of ladies; and they kissed him and escorted him, and to Christ him commended. And now Gringolet stood groomed, and girt with a saddle gleaming right gaily with many gold fringes, and all newly for the nonce nailed at all points; adorned with bars was the bridle, with bright gold banded; the apparelling proud of poitrel and of skirts, and the crupper and caparison accorded with the saddlebows: all was arrayed in red with rich gold studded, so that it glittered and glinted as a gleam of the sun. Then he in hand took the helm and in haste kissed it: strongly was it stapled and stuffed within; it sat high upon his head and was hasped at the back, and a light kerchief was laid o’er the beaver, all braided and bound with the brightest gems upon broad silken broidery, with birds on the seams like popinjays depainted, here preening and there, turtles and true-loves, entwined as thickly as if many sempstresses had the sewing full seven winters in hand. A circlet of greater price his crown about did band; The diamonds point-device there blazing bright did stand. 

Then they brought him his blazon that was of brilliant gules with the pentangle depicted in pure hue of gold. By the baldric he caught it and about his neck cast it: right well and worthily it went with the knight. And why the pentangle is proper to that prince so noble I intend now to tell you, though it may tarry my story. It is a sign that Solomon once set on a time to betoken Troth, as it is entitled to do; for it is a figure that in it five points holdeth, and each line overlaps and is linked with another, and every way it is endless; and the English, I hear, everywhere name it the Endless Knot. So it suits well this knight and his unsullied arms; for ever faithful in five pointsand five times under each, Gawain as good was acknowledged and as gold refinéd, devoid of every vice and with virtues adorned. So there the pentangle painted new he on shield and coat did wear, as one of word most true and knight of bearing fair. 

First faultless was he found in his five senses, and next in his five fingers he failed at no time, and firmly on the Five Wounds all his faith was set that Christ received on the cross, as the Creed tells us; and wherever the brave man into battle was come, on this beyond all things was his earnest thought: that ever from the Five Joys all his valour he gained that to Heaven’s courteous Queen once came from her Child. For which cause the knight had in comely wise on the inner side of his shield her image depainted, that when he cast his eyes thither his courage never failed. The fifth five that was used, as I find, by this knight was free-giving and friendliness first before all, and chastity and chivalry ever changeless and straight, and piety surpassing all points: these perfect five were hasped upon him harder than on any man else. Now these five series, in sooth, were fastened on this knight, and each was knit with another and had no ending, but were fixed at five points that failed not at all, coincided in no line nor sundered either, not ending in any angle anywhere, as I discover, wherever the process was put in play or passed to an end. Therefore on his shining shield was shaped now this knot, royally with red gules upon red gold set: this is the pure pentangle as people of learning have taught. Now Gawain in brave array his lance at last hath caught. He gave them all good day, for evermore as he thought. 

He spurned his steed with the spurs and sprang on his way so fiercely that the flint-sparks flashed out behind him. All who beheld him so honourable in their hearts were sighing, and assenting in sooth one said to another, grieving for that good man: ‘Before God, ’tis a shame that thou, lord, must be lost, who art in life so noble! To meet his match among men, Marry, ’tis not easy! To behave with more heed would have behoved one of sense, and that dear lord duly a duke to have made, illustrious leader of liegemen in this land as befits him; and that would better have been than to be butchered to death, beheaded by an elvish man for an arrogant vaunt. Who can recall any king that such a course ever took as knights quibbling at court at their Christmas games!’Many warm tears outwelling there watered their eyes, when that lord so beloved left the castle that day. No longer he abode, but swiftly went his way; bewildering ways he rode, as the book I heard doth say."


" The most certain thing known about the author is that he also wrote PatiencePurity and Pearl, then we have in Sir Gawain the work of a man capable of weaving elements taken from diverse sources into a texture of his own; and a man who would have in that labour a serious purpose. I would myself say that it is precisely that purpose that has with its hardness proved the shaping tool which has given form to the material, given it the quality of a good tale on the surface, because it is more than that, if we look closer. 

The story is good enough in itself. It is a romance, a fairy-tale for adults, full of life and colour; and it has virtues that would be lost in a summary, though they can be perceived when it is read at length: good scenery, urbane or humorous dialogue, and a skilfully ordered narrative. 

Of this the most notable example is the long Third Part with its interlacing of the hunting-scenes and the temptations. By this device all three main characters are kept vividly in view during the three crucial days, while the scenes at home and in the field are linked by the Exchange of Winnings, and we watch the gains of the chase diminish as the gains of Sir Gawain increase and the peril of his testing mounts to a crisis. 

But all this care in formal construction serves also to make the tale a better vehicle of the ‘moral’ which the author has imposed on his antique material. He has re-drawn according to his own faith his ideal of knighthood, making it Christian knighthood, showing that the grace and beauty of its courtesy (which he admires) derive from the Divine generosity and graceHeavenly Courtesy, of which Mary is the supreme creation: the Queen of Courtesy, as he calls her in Pearl

This he exhibits symbolically in mathematical perfection in the Pentangle, which he sets on Gawain’s shield instead of the heraldic lion or eagle found in other romances. But while in Pearl he enlarged his vision of his dead daughter among the blessed to an allegory of the Divine generosity, in Sir Gawain he has given life to his ideal by showing it incarnate in a living person, modified by his individual character, so that we can see a man trying to work the ideal out, see its weaknesses (or man’s weaknesses). 

But he has done more. His major point is the rejection of unchastity and adulterous love, and this was an essential part of the original tradition of amour courtois or ‘courtly love’; but this he has complicated again, after the way of morals in real life, by involving it in several minor problems of conduct, of courtly behaviour to women and fidelity to men, of what we might call sportsmanship or playing the game

On these problems he has been less explicit, and has left his hearers more or less to form their own views of the scale of their values, and their relation to the governing value of sin and virtue. So this poem is made to be, as it were, all about Gawain. The rest is a web of circumstance in which he is involved for the revelation of his character and code. 

The ‘Faerie’ may with its strangeness and peril enlarge the adventure, making the test more tense and more potent, but Gawain is presented as a credible, living, person; and all that he thinks, or says, or does, is to be seriously considered, as of the real world. 

His character is drawn so as to make him peculiarly fitted to suffer acutely in the adventure to which he is destined. We see his almost exaggerated courtesy of speech, his modesty of bearing, which yet goes with a subtle form of pridea deep sense of his own honour, not to mention, we might say, a pleasure in his own repute as ‘this fine father of breeding (stanza 38). 

We note also the warmth of his character, generous, even impetuous, which by a slight excess leads him ever to promise more than necessary, beyond the consequences that he can foresee. 

We are shown his delight in the company of women, his sensitiveness to their beauty, his pleasure in the ‘polished play of converse’ with them, and at the same time his fervent piety, his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. 

We see him at the crisis of the action forced to distinguish in scale of value the elements of his code, preserving his chastity, and his loyalty on the highest plane to his host; finally rejecting in fact (if not in empty words) absolute worldly ‘courtesy’, that is complete obedience to the will of the sovereign lady, rejecting it in favour of virtue

Yet later we see him, in the last scene with the Green Knight, so overwhelmed by shame at being discovered in a breach of his laughing word, given in a Christmas game, that the honour he has gained in the great test is of small comfort to him. 

With characteristic excess he vows to wear a badge of disgrace for the rest of his life.

In a fit of remorse, so violent that it would be appropriate only to grievous sin, he accuses himself of GreedCowardice, and Treachery

Of the first two he is guiltless, except by a casuistry of shame. 

But how true to life, to a picture of a perhaps not very reflective man of honour, is this shame at being found out (especially at being found out) in something considered rather shabby, whatever in solemn conscience we may think of its real importance. How true also is this equality in emotion aroused by all parts of a personal code of conduct, however various in importance or ultimate sanctions each element may be. 

Of the last charge: disloyalty, troth-breach, treachery, all the hard things that he calls it, Gawain was guilty only in so far as he had broken the rules of an absurd game imposed on him by his host (after he had rashly promised to do anything his host asked); and even that was at the request of a lady, made (we may note) after he had accepted her gift, and so was in a cleft stick. 

Certainly this is an imperfection upon some plane; but on how high a plane, and of what importance? 

The laughter of the Court of Camelot – and to what higher court in matters of honour could one go? – is probably sufficient answer. 

But in terms of literature, undoubtedly this break in the mathematical perfection of an ideal creature, inhuman in flawlessness, is a great improvement. 

The credibility of Gawain is enormously enhanced by it. He becomes a real man, and we can thus really admire his actual virtue. 

We can indeed give serious thought to the movements of the English mind in the fourteenth century, which he represents, from which much of our sentiment and ideals of conduct have been derived. We see the attempt to preserve the graces of ‘chivalry’ and the courtesies, while wedding them, or by wedding them, to Christian morals, to marital fidelity, and indeed married love

The noblest knight of the highest order of Chivalry refuses adultery, places hatred of sin in the last resort above all other motives, and escapes from a temptation that attacks him in the guise of courtesy through Grace obtained by prayer. That is what the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was mainly thinking about, and with that thought he shaped the poem as we have it. 

It was a matter of contemporary concern, for the English. Sir Gawain presents in its own way, more explicitly moral and religious, one facet of this movement of thought out of which also grew Chaucer’s greatest poem, Troilus and Criseyde. Those who read Sir Gawain are likely to read the last stanzas of Chaucer’s work with a renewed interest.

Friday, 27 October 2017

St. Augustine’s Confessions


Lecture 5 - St. Augustine’s Confessions [September 14, 2011]

Chapter 1: Why we read The Confessions[00:00:00]
Professor Paul Freedman:  Alright, so you may be asking yourself, "Why are we reading the Confessions?" I think I gave a preliminary answer before, but since it seems to be perhaps more appropriate for religious studies or philosophy, let me remind you why we're struggling through this.
First, the impact of Christianity on the Roman Empire--that is to say, the social and intellectual setting of the rise of Christianity in the late fourth, early fifth centuries.
The second is to understand some of the Christian moral and doctrinal problems and their implications. Once again, we're not exactly interested in these for reasons of theology or morality, but we need to get into the minds of people at the time in order to understand what bothered them, what controversies they were involved in, and how those controversies indeed divided the Roman Empire and the successors to the Roman Empire.
Some of those problems--well, under that second heading of Christian moral and doctrinal problems, let me just mention three, which by no means exhausts them, but are three that we can sort of, if not identify with, I think see their importance. One, the problem of evil.Second, the relation between body and soul.And three, the Christian understanding of sin and redemption. Now, it turns out these are all aspects of the same problem, and they are dealt with in Augustine's works most thoroughly, more thoroughly than any other thinker of the ancient world.
The third reason we're looking at this is the interaction between Christianity and classical culture and religion. Roman life and politics, Augustine's career and his giving up his career, what that means, other ideas within the Roman Empire, such as Manicheaism, Platonism.
And then finally, this is a document of philosophical and psychological investigation. And while that is not our primary purpose here, you should not get out of a liberal arts college program without reading this and pondering it a little. This can be summarized in terms of the importance of the humanities, even, or of philosophical investigation, as opposed to mere investigation of natural phenomena, in words that Augustine uses in Book X, which we have not read. After Book IX, Book X is a turning. It discusses time and the meaning of time. Books XI, XII, and XIII are a commentary on Genesis. Worth reading, if you like, and interesting to think about how they do or do not mesh with the more confessional parts of the Confession.
But in Book X, he says, "Men go out and gaze in astonishment at high mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad reaches of rivers, the ocean that encircles the world, or the stars in their courses, but they pay no attention to themselves." They are busy looking at external phenomena and not examining their own heart. And if the Confessionsis anything, it is certainly an examination of the author's heart.
But it's not an examination of his heart in a purely emotional sense, in the way we're familiar with in so-called confessional literature. I had a tough upbringing. This happened to me. That happened to me. I struggled with addiction. I beat my kids. Now I'm a great person. Whatever. This is an intellectual investigation as well as an emotional investigation.
And indeed, Augustine doesn't see these as separate, or to the degree that he does, it's in a more complicated way than just saying intellectual versus non-intellectual. He is an intellectual, obviously. And he awakened to being an intellectual, an experience that many of you may have had. Remember, he reads this dialogue by Cicero, now lost, called the Hortensius. And this convinces him that the life of the mind is the most important thing to pursue.
And I wouldn't say that we all have had this experience, but maybe you--what was the point at which you discovered that you weren't like other people, that they lived more for immediate sensations, or pleasure, or what Augustine would call debauchery, and you wanted to read or think about stuff or do lab experiments?
I think the essence of Yale, if I understand it correctly, is I don't have to choose between fun and the intellectual life. So it's not actually perhaps relevant to your lives now, but particularly if you went to a public high school, grew up in a non-intellectual environment. Those of you whose parents are professors and went to some school where everybody was reading Latin at the age of six, I'm not talking to you. But I'm talking to the vast majority who woke up one day and realized, either with pride or with dismay, "I'm different from other people. Ideas have meaning to me. I'm going to suffer in life for that, though there're going to be some rewards. And I leave you to discern what the rewards are and to mull over what the suffering has been or maybe will continue to be." I hope not, and I suspect you'll have an easier time of it.
But this book is about a search for truth and a search that takes a number of wrong turns, at least from Augustine's opinion looking back on the situation when he wrote this in the 390s. It's a confession of sin. It's also, as I said before, a confession of praise for the God whose love directed him back to the right path. It is personal, but exemplary. It is about spiritual yearning, but it is also about intellectual yearning for truth. It's a book about the education of a young man and the adventures of this young man and what he learns from them.
Chapter 2: A Brief Biography of Augustine [00:07:34]
Now, in the first place, he is both an intellectual and a passionate person. He is someone who is unusually frank about his desires. But notice that he's not just opposed to desire. He is not someone who believes that desire, love are to be simply repressed or ignored. Love is a psychological need. And he has a very discerning and interesting passage in describing his teenage years and his lusts when he frequented the brothels of Carthage. In Book III, at the beginning, he says, "I was in love with the idea of love." So he was not only in love, but he was in love with the idea of being an emotional being, of love that is both sexual and spiritual, in which these two things are not well marked off from each other.
He is also a believer in friendship. And it's funny, because in our own culture, I think friendship has changed. When I started teaching, people had trouble dealing with the affection that he has for his friends, like Alypius and Nebridius, or the mysterious unnamed friend who dies after being baptized. Augustine is always surrounded by friends. Even in the most intimate moments, when he's undergoing this conversion, there're all sorts of people right around him. And as I said before, this seemed to be--the explanation was, well, he must've been homosexual, or he must have these desires, or maybe it's part of Roman culture of friendship.
But in recent decades or years, where we have a culture of friendship, where your friends are extremely important--admittedly, if you have 900 of them, it's a little bit, perhaps, weakened--but I think we can understand some of this better than might have been the case a little while ago. This friend who dies after being baptized, here is an example of another form of seriousness. They go out and have fun together. The friend becomes ill. The friend is suddenly very serious. The friend gets baptized, because to be baptized, as with Constantine, means that you are committing yourself to a much more stringent and moral life than before.
And then he dies. And this certainly disturbs Augustine. What is life all about? Any of you who've had the experience of contemporaries of yours who have died will understand this, I think.
Augustine's also ambitious. He is a successful person. Even though he's from a modest family--his father, a pagan or non-Christian, middle class official of North Africa, his mother, a Christian--He's clearly marked for success because of his unusual gifts, his unusual gifts being intellectual, ability to write, ability to argue. He's marked out as extremely smart. And at that time, success for such a person, the course of success was through government service-- this is the era post-Diocletian, post-Constantine--and related particularly to a combination of rhetoric and law.
This is not all that different from societies familiar to us. That is to say, the training in law gives one access to a number of different kinds of political offices. But rhetoric is perhaps a little stranger to us. Rhetoric in this context means the art of persuasion. So it's very closely related to law and legal pleading. It is the art of writing well, of writing elegantly, and it is very, very highly valued in the Roman Empire.
His mother, Monica, is extremely pious. In fact, the first section, class rather that I taught--no, I guess I was a section leader--when I was a graduate student, the first section I had, my students were arguing with me about Augustine's patronizing attitude towards his mother. And I said, well, no, he's not patronizing. He's smarter than his mother. His mother's just an ordinary person. After all, Augustine becomes a saint, and his mother doesn't. Some guy from Santa Monica Catholic School said, who do you think Santa Monica is? This is Augustine's mother.
So anyway, I've learned. Augustine's mother is a saint. She is a more steadfast kind of person than Augustine. She's not someone who stays up all night wrestling with the problem of evil. Nevertheless, she does not want him to be baptized. She wants him to be successful. Like most mothers, she wants her child to be a good person. But even more than that, she wants her child to be a success. And that means delaying baptism, because if he's going to be a success, he's going to have to be involved in the world of high government, and that may mean--well, that definitely means involvement in sinfulness, involvement in the shedding of blood, involvement in legal wrangling and stuff like that.
And so he is encouraged to lead a normal life, "normal" meaning, at least in his own retrospective view, sinful life. This is what Augustine is giving up in his conversion. He is giving up a career. He is giving up a social expectation of success or social definition of success. He is giving up the pleasures attendant on that career, which range from parties to honors to sexual conquests and the whole life of a well-established member of the Roman elite.
Chapter 3: The Problem of Evil [00:14:33]
What is bothering Augustine? What bothers him is, in part, the problem of evil, which we've alluded to already. Why does a good and omnipotent god allow evil to flourish? A related problem is that compared to the works of the Greek writers and philosophers, the Bible seems awfully crude to him, rhetorically, in terms of style, and conceptually, in terms of its ideas.
The Old Testament god--and we're probably at various levels of familiarity with the Old Testament--but the Old Testament god is temperamental, I think it's fair to say. Here's a guy who decides to destroy--a guy--a deity who decides to destroy the world by flood, destroys the cities of the plain, kills one of the people bearing the tabernacle back to Jerusalem because he stumbles. What kind of god is this?
This bothers Augustine. And his anthropomorphism bothers Augustine. In the Old Testament, in the Hebrew Bible, a god speaks with people. Adam hears him walking in the garden. How can that be? How can this human-seeming god be the real God? So these two anxieties put Augustine in the camp of the Manicheans.
Remember, the Manicheans believe that the solution to the problem of evil is that God is not omnipotent. God is trying, but there's another evil god who is opposing Him. And that evil god is the god of the flesh and the god of the Old Testament, Jehovah, the creator god, the god of matter and flesh. We are souls imprisoned in flesh. Our true home is the spiritual, and we have to renounce everything that has to do with the flesh in order to go there.
So Manicheanism would seem to be extremely ascetic. You should have absolutely nothing to do with the world. But as is always the case with the statement, "everything that's material is evil, but we are material," Manicheanism also offers or affords you an opportunity to be completely involved in the world, totally involved in the world, because there's nothing you can do about it. All you can do is say, the flesh is evil, I'm in the flesh, I'm just going to have to deal with it until I am liberated into the spirit.
So Manicheanism is not necessarily world-renouncing, but they do identify the source of evil with the body. The body is wicked. The immaterial soul is good. This is not Christianity, as Augustine discovers or elaborates. Even though we may think of Christianity as exalting the soul over the body, nevertheless, it also exalts the body. Christian doctrine is that the bodies of human beings will be resurrected, not just the souls. There will be bodies after the Last Judgment in heaven and in hell.
God created the world, and it was good. What then explains the presence of evil? Augustine at this stage turns to Platonism for an understanding of the nature of evil. Evil is not a thing in itself. It is rather the absence of good. Now, if anyone has ever said that to you, you will have found that unconvincing, at least in its first iteration. Because we're not just talking about the absence of good, as in, this bowl of chili is not very good. It's not very flavorful. It's OK, but it's lacking in something. But that's not evil. Evil is not like, not particularly good. Evil is much more vivid, gratuitous, cruel, all-encompassing.
The Platonists don't deny that. What they mean by saying it's the privation of good is that it is nothingness. Evil is, in fact, the absence of being and meaning. The reason it produces such spectacular effects as war, oppression, crime, is that people turn away from the good, or they turn away from what is truly good to prefer lower goods. They turn away from the things of the spirit to the things of the flesh. They prefer their own lusts and desires, their own ambitions and greed, to the common good or to the immaterial and spiritual good. And it's this turning away from the Sun, this turning away from good, that seems to be a human problem. Human beings, generally speaking, don't understand what they're on Earth for, according to the Platonists.
Many of you are familiar with the metaphor of the cave from The Republic. This is the classic depiction of this wrong preference. The people in the cave are chained facing the back wall of the cave, and they see images of what's passing in front of the cave reflected on the wall. As time goes on, they come to believe that those images are reality. They forget that they're chained. They forget that they can't see the real things. They forget the Sun.
If you were to liberate them and turn them around and show them the light, first of all, they couldn't bear it, because they're used to the world of shadow. Secondly, they'd kill you, because you are destroying their assumptions and their world. They would at least persecute you. They're not interested in the truth. They're interested in getting by.
So for the Platonists, evil is the result of this error in perception, assuming that it's a great thing to get rich. Or assuming that it's a great thing to beat people up because you're stronger than they are. Or it's a great thing to conquer and subjugate. Or all of these things, some of which are evil but are really the preference of things that you should not be pursuing or that you should be pursuing for reasons inspired by spiritual truth.
How do you get rid of this? In the Platonists' imagination, by education. That's the whole point of Plato's dialogues. That's why they are dialogues, many of them, with a question and answer. They're very didactic. They're like being in a class. Socrates quizzes people, and then he shows the solution. And they say, "Oh, wow, Socrates, now I understand. Now I'm going to be a Platonist, and I'm going to build a perfect society." End of story.
The important thing to understand about Platonism is that it is not dualist in the way that Manicheanism is or the way that we instinctively think about evil. Evil is not opposed to good. It's hierarchically inferior to good. The Platonists' universe is like a ladder with many rungs going up from mud, bugs, rocks to the immaterial One, and with many, many steps, as I said, many rungs or steps or levels in between.
Human beings are in the middle. And also, human beings--unlike animals, mud, slugs, but also unlike angels and demiurges and deities--human beings can move up and down the ladder. That's what free will is. That's what being human is. You can read Hortensius, read the Confessions, fall in love with the liberal arts, and ascend to some very high realm of the spirit. Or you can choose the downward path to debauchery and mere pleasure. It's a question of how free you are, but we do have the opportunity to move up and down this ladder, unlike the animals and all other created forces that are fixed.
Now, the question is what makes us move up and down this? Or what'll motivate us to move up? And here we come to some key differences between Platonism and Christianity with regard to evil. Platonism tends to ascribe evil to ignorance. Christianity tends to ascribe evil to sin. The difference between sin and ignorance is that sin is deliberate. You know you shouldn't do this, and you do it anyway. You're not overcome by desire.
Chapter 4: Pears and Augustine’s Conception of Sin [00:25:00]
So to anticipate one of the paper topics--but I don't think I'm going to be giving away the answer--what is it about the pear-stealing incident that makes it so important? Anybody want to venture a preliminary response to this?
Student: Well, it's the fact that he doesn't need the pears. He just does it because he feels like sinning.
Professor Paul Freedman: So the pears--he doesn't need the pears. It is just a desire. I mean, he doesn't say to himself, I want to sin. I haven't sinned in two days. He doesn't need the pears. What do they do with the pears when they get them?
Student: They chuck them.
Professor Paul Freedman: Yeah, they throw them out. They throw them to the pigs. So they're not hungry. It's not like, I was overcome by desire, and that led me into some sinful behavior. They weren't overcome by desire at all. How would you describe their pre-pear-stealing state? At least, what would you guess was their pre-pear-stealing frame of mind? There's one word that'll describe it, but if you want to, use a few more. Some guys go and they steal some pears from an orchard. They fool around with them. They throw them to the pigs.
Student: Bored?
Professor Paul Freedman: Bored. Bored. Now, here's something we can identify with. They're bored. They need to amuse themselves. They cannot amuse themselves by saying, "I'm a good person," or, "I'm going to contemplate the One," or, "I'm going to do some homework." It doesn't end. Young people are thought to be easily bored, but the boredom of old people, it's a different kind of bored. But there it is. It's persistent. That's not the only reason people sin, but it is a gratuitous reason. And that's what's interesting about the pears. It's gratuitous. It's not from need. The Platonists don't have a good response to why this happens, because it's not a question of education.
Now, Augustine does not invent Christian ideas of sin. If you said to Augustine, "Come on, why are you so worried about the pears?" He's not worried about the pears as such. It's just a little emblem or a little example of a different kind of problem--that is to say, knowing how to behave doesn't change us. Feeling how to behave--to put it in Freudian terms, it's not the ego that decides. It's the id. It's the instinct, not the intellect.
And that's what his conversion means. His conversion is not: "Suddenly, I was convinced that Christianity was true." He already knows that Christianity is true, but he knows it intellectually. The conversion is a conversion to an emotional apprehension of it. So however intellectual he may seem to you, however formed in the tradition of Greco-Roman classicism he was, however much the Hortensius awakened him to the life of the mind, he is ultimately a theologian and philosopher of the irrational, of the supra-rational.
And indeed, Christianity in its history has an oscillation between intellectualization and the rediscovery of sin and God's grace. If you think of movements like the Reformation of Martin Luther, John Calvin, et cetera, in the sixteenth century, it takes issue with the notion that we can do works that give us merit in the sight of God, and that the Church tells us we have accumulated merits, and therefore we'll go to heaven.
The Reformation teaches that we are face to face with God and that our so-called good deeds don't amount to anything. We are all sinful. If God operated according to justice, we would all go to hell. It's faith and grace that save people, hence the Reformation. But it's also the Great Awakening of Britain and America in the eighteenth century, the development of Methodism, the Fundamentalist movement, all of these tend to reject attempts to approach God contractually, attempts to approach God in terms of a deal.
So if human beings are sinful and if education is not going to get them out of sin, what will? Now, the Augustine of the Confessions is different than the Augustine of 20 years later when he wrote The City of God. And we're not studying The City of God, but this book, written in response to the sack of Rome in 410, develops some ideas that are found in the Confessions about the nature of sin and how we get out of it. The nature of sin is the pears. How we get out of it is at least in part the conversion. We got the pears sufficiently for the time being?
The conversion is started--well, it started long before the event. But what precipitates it as a drama is this conversation with Ponticianus in Book VIII, Part VIII, who has traveled and describes the monks of Egypt. Now, we'll be talking lots and lots about monks, but the monks of Egypt are the first example of Christian monks, men who flee the world into the desert and there live on weeds, saline water, locusts, other insects, basically nothing. And they have visions, and they are sought out by ordinary people.
It's key to understand that to be a hermit in this society does not necessarily mean that you have nothing to do with people. People start to want to find you, because you must have special power. Back in Alexandria, their baby is sick. "Maybe you, oh hermit, living on locusts and out in the desert, have some spiritual power to help my baby."
This is shamanism. It happens in all sorts of religions. You can't just be a shaman, a medicine man, a wise man, and hold down a regular old job. Or you can, but it helps. And that's the conceit of a lot of TV ideas, secret heroes. They're the real estate agents, but they're battling the forces of darkness. But generally, most of the time, you've got to be special, and you've got to look special. And you've got to be a reject. You can't have a spouse, kids, a mortgage, a garden, a swing set. You've got to be a seer. You've got to have your vision focused on the other world.
Ponticianus tells Augustine about these men, and his response is not only to be impressed by them, but to be humiliated by them. First of all, here are these guys who are intoxicated with God, while I'm still thinking about my career. But--and this is the ancient world speaking--they are uneducated, these monks of Egypt. They didn't study The Republic, the Hortensius, the Timaeus, the rhetoric of Quintilian, the Satires of Juvenal.
They don't know anything about this. They're uneducated people. Many of them are illiterate. And yet they are closer to God. They have an apprehension of the divine that causes them to renounce the world, whereas we--Augustine says of him and his circle--we "lie here groveling in this world of flesh and blood, while they storm the gates of heaven." And this is the moment of his conversion.
Now, after his conversion, Augustine's plan was to lead a life of contemplation with his friends. They would retreat from the world, meaning they would give up their careers, but it would be a little bit like one of your friend's parents have a lot of money and have this wonderful cabin somewhere in the Rockies or the Sawtooth Mountains. And you're going to figure out some kind of way of--you'll be on the Internet and everything, but you're going to have this kind of beautiful, contemplative life.
But the beautiful part is that it's not going to be uncomfortable. It's not the desert of Egypt. It's remote--you're not going to be bothered--but there are beautiful mountains, trouts in the stream. It's idyllic. And you and your friends are going to talk about reality and the spirit and philosophy and--I don't know how idyllic this sounds to you, but it's certainly an understandable idea of a way of life.
It is the ancient idea of what's called “leisure with dignity”. And indeed, that's what being a professor was supposed to be when I signed up for it. Otium cum dignitate, leisure with dignity. "Leisure" meaning not wasting time leisure, but not responding to clients, or not responding to urgent scheduling phone calls, deals. You've got to show up to your classes, but that's not really onerous. At least, that was the idea.
And I won't go into the frustrations of being a professor or the dissatisfactions. But the classical idea is otium cum dignitate, "dignity" meaning not being naked in the desert, not having to eat locusts and figure out how to-- "OK, I had curried locusts last night. Tonight, I think I'll have locust casserole." No, no, no. Something nicer than that.
But in fact, he did not follow through on this. He did not lead a life of cultivated classical dignity with his friends. He went back to North Africa. He became a bishop. His years were consumed by disputes over doctrine or with heretical--as he deemed them--tendencies, like Donatism, most notably. And he died defending his city of Hippo, Hippo Regius, in modern Tunisia, from the Vandals, one of those barbarian invaders who will occupy us next week.
He then was very much involved in the world. To be a bishop in the Roman Empire was by no means an office of dignified leisure. It was right in there in the political trenches. It's a position of honor, to be sure, but his understanding of the Christian's duty in the world was that you cannot lead a life of perfection. You cannot lead a life of sin-free contemplation. We all are sinners. He becomes more and more the theologian, philosopher who combats perfectionism.
Chapter 5: Perfectability, Sin, and Grace [00:38:23]
Perfectionism is a doctrine that human beings can be made radically better--perfect, even. There are debates throughout societies about the degree of human perfectibility. This is indeed supposedly and to some extent I think really at the heart of debates between what is called liberalism in the United States and conservatism. Liberals believe in human perfectibility. If you educate people, if you help them, if you encourage them, if you provide government subsidies, you will build a better society. The response upon the part of conservatives to that is, people are the way they are because that's the way they want to be, or they made wrong choices. But all the help from some public authority isn't going to help, isn't going to really make a difference.
Are people perfectible? People who believe in education tend to believe that they are. On the other hand, very well-educated people have been bad. Hitler loved classical music. So did Stalin. Just because you are a connoisseur of art doesn't make you a good person.
Augustine is a radical imperfectionist, more so in The City of God than in the Confessions, which is teetering on the brink. The pears is a kind of imperfectionist moment. He glimpses the power of sin. By the time of The City of God, by the time that the end of the Roman Empire is at least glimpsed as a possibility and the rise of the barbarians, Augustine has become someone who does not believe that human beings can, in any way, earn salvation. Human beings are irrevocably sinful.
Once again, if God judged people according to their merits, they would all be damned. Since the Christian belief is that some people are saved, they are saved by a mysterious process called "grace." Grace, by its very meaning, is undeserved. You don't show up at the door of Heaven with a ticket of admission earned by your deeds on Earth. What opens the doors to you is a generous, arbitrary decision. Well, "generous" may mean, I had good intentions. I didn't kill anybody. But "arbitrary" may mean that we can't figure out who's going to Heaven and who's going to Hell. It may even mean that since God knew before we were born, God predestined us for Heaven or Hell.
This is a harsh doctrine. It gets periodically rediscovered and then dropped. It's at the heart of the belief of the people who settled Massachusetts and Connecticut. It is the heart of Calvinism and of Puritanism, the belief in the elect. The question is, are these elect visible or invisible? The elect are people who are going to go to heaven. Are they visible? Can we say, this guy is so good, he's going to heaven? This woman is so loving, nurturing, self-effacing, whatever, she's going to go to heaven? That's the notion of a visible elect. An invisible elect is, "We don't know, we have no idea."
And this is a crucial difference. Because if you believe in the visible elect, even if you say they're not guaranteed, but anybody outside of this circle is for sure going to hell, then you have Puritan New England. You have a small community of people pursuing perfection. Or you have the Amish. Or you have any small pious community that believes that outside of it is more or less given over to sin and more or less doomed. Inside of it, maybe it's not guaranteed, but your chances are much, much better.
But if you believe that we don't have a visible elect, that we have no idea, then everybody ought to be in the Church. Everybody ought to have access to the sacraments that provide initiation into the Church. You ought to start converting pagans, even savage pagans. You ought to be out there roping in as many people into the church, including people who don't want to be. Because you just never know. Maybe their kids will be.
Augustine is behind ideas of things like forced conversion. As long as they're baptized, there's a chance of them being saved. And baptized as infants, preferably, because baptism does not any longer mean, in Augustine's world, perfection. It means the beginning. It means entering the process.
So the three things that he is teaching that are implicit in the Confessions and that he is important for in terms of his intellectual impact are his opposition to perfectionism, his exaltation of grace, and the notion of sin as indelible, not solvable.
Where this becomes of key historical importance is in the Church. The Church is a body that can either be sectarian and small, as with the Amish or Puritan New England, or it can be huge and universal, as with the medieval Catholic Church. Augustine stands behind the medieval Catholic Church, which is a political body, a body of doctrine, a structure ruled by princes, and a structure that has a missionary impact on the rest of the world.
Now, the papers. You have the paper topics. If you didn't get them, come up and see me after. You can choose any one of them, or you can choose something else. But if you choose something else, please talk to your teaching fellow or to me. And talk to us anyway about these papers. We'll give you plenty of opportunity to bounce ideas off us.
Now, next week, we talk about the fall of the Roman Empire. But this is implicit in what we've talked about today, because the bottom line is the Roman Empire is going to fall in the West, and the Church is not going to. And so we'll look at how that works next week. Thanks.
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