Augustine’s Confessions

Describe an experience of ‘eternity’ by St. Augustine.

 

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11 thoughts on “Augustine’s Confessions

  1. After reading Augustine’s confessions, I interpret his experience of eternity as coming through his worship of god and his questioning of time. Particularly, in book XI, St. Augustine repeatedly questions how time can be in existence if the past is just technically a memory and the future has not yet materialized. However, he soon realizes that when considering eternity he cannot think about human time, because he sees that eternity is the absence of time. Through his continual questioning of time (for example, mulling over how the present is actually measured) he then sees that he should be focusing on his eternity with god. His questioning, in a way, is a for of creation because he is coming up with new concepts and ideas that he is then writing down in his journal/novel that we have today. Thus, he is creating, therefore experiencing eros, and is in turn experiencing eternity (even though he realizes that his eternity is going to be with god). In my opinion, Augustine now has to experience eternity through his incessant questioning of time and realization that he will eventual have an eternity with god (if he is a faithful follower) because he has removed a substantial earthly form of creation (lust and therefore reproduction) from his life.

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  2. I think St. Augustine’s experiences with eternity is most apparent in Book IX. Towards the second half of this book, he refers to his mother’s death and the grief that brings. I think this is a truly important and significant experience of and with eternity for him because as he is first feeling the grief, he tries to tell himself that it is unnecessary because he knows she is in a better place now, but he still feels sad, making apparent that though he knows heaven as a fact, but doesn’t truly have faith in it or accept it. His grief abates as time passes because he comes to terms with the concept of heaven and the idea of eternity in it. This allows him to feel less sad about the loss of his mother because for the first time he truly believes in heaven and eternity , allowing hi to have real faith that his mother hasn’t just disappeared and been wiped away forever, but still exists in a different sense and always will in a better place than the material world.

    ~Anu

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  3. Although several events in St. Augustine’s Confessions were technically concrete events that no longer exist, many of their implications can be considered eternal. For example, in Book III when Augustine leaves his hometown for Carthage, he is exposed to a vast array of sinful pleasures. He describes his experiences there as a “cauldron of illicit loves.” (35, i (I)) Upon writing this memoir, he acknowledges his realization of what exactly tempted him to take part in his hedonistic activities in Carthage. Love and lust are powerful forces that can change man’s behavior even when man is aware of the repercussions. He ponders the roots of evil, and reasons the fact that if God is as human-like as Christianity depicts him to be, has he participated in sin as well? The experience of knowing that he should not have these questioning mindsets, and that he should not give in to love and lust, serve as an eternal phenomenon for Augustine. They impact his mind and his actions for the duration of his life, and also for the readers that have experienced his religious and philosophical commentary.

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  4. Augustine is able to experience eternity through his memories. In Book X, Augustine analyzes memories and what it means to remember something. Augustine begins by thinking that when something is stored in one’s memories, it can be retrieved and re-experienced in one’s mind without having to physically experience the event. Augustine connects memories to experiencing eternity in that memories are snapshots of one’s past, a frozen moment in time. We can go back to those moments as many times as we would like, and relive them in our minds. This creates a feeling of timelessness, as with memories, there is no passing of time.

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  5. In Book 11, he becomes philosophical and thinks about what he has said in the confessions. He says that when God was in eternity when there was no time and no history, he created the world. How could he do that because speech requires time? If God is eternal, how did he speak? St. Augustine is a philosopher of time. He says that in fact speech (Narrative) initiates the journey of time and historical time. Thus time emerges from speech. This history and journey goes on as long as there is speech and singing. The moment you stop talking genuinely, there is dead time. This is very much the idea of Eros. It is the desire to speak, yearning that is creating eternity and a means to touch eternity. St. Augustine knows Plato and Aristotle very very well but is still not Christian because he knows so much but he doesn’t believe about it. He talks about it but his words are only words. He doesn’t know them well in his heart. He was getting quite agitated and humiliated that after all this intelligence he cannot believe that he doesn’t have faith. He is upset that he cannot believe. It is at the moment of absolute despair, truly breaking down when he hears a voice. Now he finds faith. He starts reading and at the end of the sentence he believes. His yearning to believe is what made him experience eternity.

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  6. The concept of time and eternity comes up in Book XI where Augustine describes time as the process by which our soul is “stretched out”. He goes on to describe time as immeasurable, having no duration and depending utterly on a movement towards non-being. Augustine was a philosopher of time and focused a great deal of his inquiry into the separation from God(who is eternal) from his creation( temporal nature). He stresses on the eternal sense of the word”creation”, as God did not create the universe at a given set of time because time is not a feature for God. Previously he argues over how the words of Genesis should not be taken literally but spiritually as Gods words cannot have unfolded in time as time did not exist, hence they must be ” spoken eternally.” God therefore created all through an eternally uttered word and is the eternal cause of all creation.

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  7. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, eternity is defined as infinite or never-ending time. In Confessions, St. Augustine’s primary understanding of time and eternity is presented from Books X-XIII. In these books, he claims that God created time and is ‘eternal’—as opposed to humans, whose existence is all relative to time. This is seen especially highlighted in Book XI, where Augustine suggests that we can move toward eternity by worshipping God and not allowing time to control us. He expresses a disconnect between God and humans—God couldn’t have created the world at a specific moment because he exists outside of time. By this, he refers to the fact that God is unchanging and creation is eternal. The only reason we humans believe otherwise is because we live in a world bound by time (past, present and future). He argues that the past and future does not really exist, and that these are just notions that humans have created to understand the world. The present moment is all we have and once it has passed, it is no longer the present but now the past. Hence, this highlights the experience of eternity because we are constantly living in present moments.

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  8. Augustine begins his discussion of eternity, most thoroughly, in Book XI. The topic is introduced explicitly when he speaks about God creating the world with God’s eternal Word. Because God is immortal, God’s speech is beyond time and change. The reason and Word of God does not have a beginning or end. Augustine states that things which are not eternal but are a part of time are subject to constant change. However, eternity is when there is a stillness because everything is in the present. The eternal does not fall into the past, it is perpetually in the present. He states that the immortal God’s years “are completely present…all at once, because they are at a permanent standstill” (263). Thus, eternity is most plainly defined by Augustine as something which is not a part of the interplay of the three divisions of time, but is above time in a state of constant presence.

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  9. Augustine reminisces about his transient experience with Monica in a garden within Ostia.In their discussion, they attempt to discuss the afterlife of saints, and the journey to this truth. In a moment they pondered past heaven and earth and created within their minds. The love and pure passion drove Augustine to experience pure bliss within his mind, imagining the ultimate prize to his spiritual journey. Augustine states, “we touched it to some small degree by a moment of total concentration of the heart,” meaning, he had touched eternity; experienced timelessness. Here, Augustine is clearly moved by the gods of love and passion, which inspire one to make art, quite divinely.

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  10. Although Book I seemed to have the a lot of mention and elaboration on the subject of eternity, there were two other instances that jumped out to me in regards to what “eternity” is. In book IX, Augustine states “And while we spoke of the eternal Wisdom, longing for it…for one fleeting instant we reached out and touched it,” (197). This is an experience Augustine has with eternity (we refers to him and his mother). They were striving “towards the eternal God” and this higher climb is what he seems to call “Wisdom”. For that one “fleeting” moment, Augustine was able to get lost in his thoughts and spirituality and in getting lost in thought he experienced a timelessness, or an eternity. Another experience of eternity That stuck out to me was in Book VIII where he says “…you had shown me to her in a dream so many years before,” (179). A dream in the past that Augustine’s mother had dreamt foreshadowed Augustine’s life in the future. I think that dreams such as these relate past and future to one another very closely so in a way, they show that the past and future comprise of the same actions, emotions, experiences; this tying creates a lack of distinction between past and future which is timelessness/eternity. Monica’s dream was that Augustine would one day be as enlightened as her which ultimately ended up becoming true so this dream shows how what happens in the future has also and already happened in the past; this bridge of past and future creates an experience of eternity which come in the form of dreams.

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