AUGUSTINE ON THE SOUL

This is the passage from the City of God, often quoted by later Scholastic writers, about the footprint in the sand. This page is under construction.




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CHAPTER 30 -- PORPHYRY'S EMENDATIONS AND MODIFICATIONS OF PLATONISM,
[10.30] Si post Platonem aliquid emendare existimatur indignum cur ipse Porphyrius nonnulla et non parva emendavit? Nam Platonem animas hominum post mortem revolui usque ad corpora bestiarum scripsisse certissimum est. Hanc sententiam Porphyrii doctor tenuit et Plotinus; Porphyrio tamen iure displicuit. If it is considered unseemly to emend anything which Plato has touched, why did Porphyry himself make emendations, and these not a few? for it is very certain that Plato wrote that the souls of men return after death to the bodies of beasts. Plotinus also, Porphyry's teacher, held this opinion; yet Porphyry justly rejected it.
In hominum sane non sua quae dimiserant sed alia nova corpora redire humanas animas arbitratus est. Puduit scilicet illud credere, ne mater fortasse filium in mulam revoluta uectaret; et non puduit hoc credere, ubi revoluta mater in puellam filio forsitan nuberet. He was of opinion that human souls return indeed into human bodies, but not into the bodies they had left, but other new bodies. He shrank from the other opinion, lest a woman who had returned into a mule might possibly carry her own son on her back. He did not shrink, however, from a theory which admitted the possibility of a mother coming back into a girl and marrying her own son.
Quanto creditur honestius, quod sancti et veraces angeli docuerunt, quod prophetae Dei spiritu acti locuti sunt, quod ipse quem venturum Salvatorem praemissi nuntii praedixerunt, quod missi apostoli qui orbem terrarum evangelio repleverunt -- quanto, inquam, honestius creditur reverti animas semel ad corpora propria quam reverti totiens ad diversa! How much more honorable a creed is that which was taught by the holy and truthful angels, uttered by the prophets who were moved by God's Spirit, preached by Him who was foretold as the coming Saviour by His forerunning heralds, and by the apostles whom He sent forth, and who filled the whole world with the gospel -- how much more honorable, I say, is the belief that souls return once for all to their own bodies, than that they return again and again to divers bodies?
Verum tamen, ut dixi, ex magna parte correctus est in hac opinione Porphyrius, ut saltem in solos homines humanas animas praecipitari posse sentiret, beluinos autem carceres evertere minime dubitaret. Dicit etiam ad hoc Deum animam mundo dedisse ut materiae cognoscens mala ad Patrem recurreret nec aliquando iam talium polluta contagione teneretur. Nevertheless Porphyry, as I have said, did considerably improve upon this opinion, in so far, at least, as he maintained that human souls could transmigrate only into human bodies, and made no scruple about demolishing the bestial prisons into which Plato had wished to cast them. He says, too, that God put the soul into the world that it might recognize the evils of matter, and return to the Father, and be for ever emancipated from the polluting contact of matter.
Ubi etsi aliquid inconvenienter sapit (magis enim data est corpori, ut bona faceret; non enim mala disceret, si non faceret), in eo tamen aliorum Platonicorum opinionem et non in re parva emendauit, quod mundatam ab omnibus malis animam et cum Patre constitutam numquam iam mala mundi huius passuram esse confessus est. And although here is some inappropriate thinking (for the soul is rather given to the body that it may do good; for it would not learn evil unless it did it), yet he corrects the opinion of other Platonists, and that on a point of no small importance, inasmuch as he avows that the soul, which is purged from all evil and received to the Father's presence, shall never again suffer the ills of this life.
Qua sententia profecto abstulit, quod esse Platonicum maxime perhibetur, ut mortuos ex uiuis, ita uiuos ex mortuis semper fieri, falsumque esse ostendit, quod Platonice uidetur dixisse Vergilius, in campos Elysios purgatas animas missas (quo nomine tamquam per fabulam uidentur significari gaudia beatorum) ad fluuium Letheum evocari, hoc est ad obliuionem praeteritorum: Scilicet inmemores supera ut convexa reuisant Rursus et incipiant in corpora uelle reverti By this opinion he quite subverted the favorite Platonic dogma, that as dead men are made out of living ones, so living men are made out of dead ones; and he exploded the idea which Virgil seems to have adopted from Plato, that the purified souls which have been sent into the Elysian fields (the poetic name for the joys of the blessed) are summoned to the river Lethe, that is, to the oblivion of the past, "That earthward they may pass once more, Remembering not the things before, And with a blind propension yearn To fleshly bodies to return."
Merito displicuit hoc Porphyrio quoniam re vera credere stultum est ex illa uita, quae beatissima esse non poterit nisi de sua fuerit aeternitate certissima, desiderare animas corruptibilium corporum labem et inde ad ista remeare, tamquam hoc agat summa purgatio, ut inquinatio requiratur. Si enim quod perfecte mundantur hoc efficit, ut omnium obliuiscantur malorum, malorum autem obliuio facit corporum desiderium, ubi rursus implicentur malis: profecto erit infelicitatis causa summa felicitas et stultitiae causa perfectio sapientiae et inmunditiae causa summa mundatio. Nec ueritate ibi beata erit anima, quamdiucumque erit, ubi oportet fallatur, ut beata sit. Non enim beata erit nisi secura; ut autem secura sit, falso putabit semper se beatam fore, quoniam aliquando erit et misera. Cui ergo gaudendi causa falsitas erit, quo modo de ueritate gaudebit? Vidit hoc Porphyrius purgatamque animam ob hoc reverti dixit ad Patrem, ne aliquando iam malorum polluta contagione teneatur. Falso igitur a quibusdam est Platonicis creditus quasi necessarius orbis ille ab eisdem abeundi et ad eadem revertendi. Quod etiamsi uerum esset, quid hoc scire prodesset, nisi forte inde se nobis auderent praeferre Platonici, quia id nos in hac uita iam nesciremus, quod ipsi in alia meliore uita purgatissimi et sapientissimi fuerant nescituri et falsum credendo beati futuri? Quod si absurdissimum et stultissimum est dicere, Porphyrii profecto est praeferenda sententia his, qui animarum circulos alternante semper beatitate et miseria suspicati sunt. Quod si ita est, ecce Platonicus in melius a Platone dissentit; ecce uidit, quod ille non uidit, nec post talem ac tantum magistrum refugit correctionem, sed homini praeposuit ueritatem. This found no favor with Porphyry, and very justly; for it is indeed foolish to believe that souls should desire to return from that life, which cannot be very blessed unless by the assurance of its permanence, and to come back into this life, and to the pollution of corruptible bodies, as if the result of perfect purification were only to make defilement desirable. For if perfect purification effects the oblivion of all evils, and the oblivion of evils creates a desire for a body in which the soul may again be entangled with evils, then the supreme felicity will be the cause of infelicity, and the perfection of wisdom the cause of foolishness, and the purest cleansing the cause of defilement. And, however long the blessedness of the soul last, it cannot be rounded on truth, if, in order to be blessed, it must be deceived. For it cannot be blessed unless it be free from fear. But, to be free from fear, it must be under the false impression that it shall be always blessed -- the false impression, for it is destined to be also at some time miserable. How, then, shall the soul rejoice in truth, whose joy is rounded on falsehood? Porphyry saw this, and therefore said that the purified soul returns to the Father, that it may never more be entangled in the polluting contact with evil. The opinion, therefore, of some Platonists, that there is a necessary revolution carrying souls away and bringing them round again to the same things, is raise. But, were it true, what were the advantage of knowing it? Would the Platonists presume to allege their superiority to us, because we were in this life ignorant of what they themselves were doomed to be ignorant of when perfected in purity and wisdom in another and better life, and which they must be ignorant of if they are to be blessed? If it were most absurd and foolish to say so, then certainly we must prefer Porphyry's opinion to the idea of a circulation of souls through constantly alternating happiness and misery. And if this is just, here is a Platonist emending Plato, here is a man who saw what Plato did not see, and who did not shrink from correcting so illustrious a master, but preferred truth to Plato.
CHAPTER 31 -- AGAINST THE ARGUMENTS ON WHICH THE PLATONISTS GROUND THEIR ASSERTION THAT THE HUMAN SOUL IS CO-ETERNAL WITH GOD.
[10.31] Cur ergo non potius diuinitati credimus de his rebus, quas humano ingenio peruestigare non possumus, quae animam quoque ipsam non Deo coaeternam, sed creatam dicit esse, quae non erat? Why, then, do we not rather believe the divinity in those matters, which human talent cannot fathom? Why do we not credit the assertion of divinity, that the soul is not co-eternal with God, but is created, and once was not?
Ut enim hoc Platonici nollent credere, hanc utique causam idoneam sibi uidebantur adferre, quia, nisi quod semper ante fuisset, sempiternum deinceps esse non posset; quamquam et de mundo et de his, quos in mundo deos a Deo factos scribit Plato, apertissime dicat eos esse coepisse et habere initium, finem tamen non habituros, sed per conditoris potentissimam uoluntatem in aeternum mansuros esse perhibeat. For the Platonists seemed to themselves to allege an adequate reason for their rejection of this doctrine, when they affirmed that nothing could be everlasting which had not always existed. Plato, however, in writing concerning the world and the gods in it, whom the Supreme made, most expressly states that they had a beginning and yet would have no end, but, by the sovereign will of the Creator, would endure eternally.
Verum id quo modo intellegant invenerunt, non esse hoc uidelicet temporis, sed substitutionis initium. Sicut enim, inquiunt, si pes ex aeternitate semper fuisset in puluere, semper ei subesset uestigium, quod tamen uestigium a calcante factum nemo dubitaret, nec alterum altero prius esset, quamuis a]terum ab altero factum esset: sic, inquiunt, et mundus atque in illo dii creati et semper fuerunt semper existente qui fecit, et tamen facti sunt. But, by way of interpreting this, the Platonists have discovered that he meant a beginning, not of time, but of cause. "For as if a foot," they say, "had been always from eternity in dust, there would always have been a print underneath it; and yet no one would doubt that this print was made by the pressure of the foot, nor that, though the one was made by the other, neither was prior to the other; so," they say, "the world and the gods created in it have always been, their Creator always existing, and yet they were made."
Numquid ergo, si anima semper fuit, etiam miseria eius semper fuisse dicenda est? Porro si a]iquid in illa, quod ex aeterno non fuit, esse coepit ex tempore, cur non fieri potuerit, ut ipsa esset ex tempore quae antea non fuisset? If, then, the soul has always existed, are we to say that its wretchedness has always existed? For if there is something in it which was not from eternity, but began in time, why is it impossible that the soul itself, though not previously existing, should begin to be in time?
Deinde beatitudo quoque eius post experimentum malorum firmior et sine fine mansura, sicut iste confitetur, procul dubio coepit ex tempore, et tamen semper erit, cum ante non fuerit. Illa igitur omnis argumentatio dissoluta est, qua putatur nihil esse posse sine fine temporis, nisi quod initium non habet temporis. Its blessedness, too, which, as he owns, is to be more stable, and indeed endless, after the soul's experience of evils -- this undoubtedly has a beginning in time, and yet is to be always, though previously it had no existence. This whole argumentation, therefore, to establish that nothing can be endless except that which has had no beginning, falls to the ground.
Inventa est enim animae beatitudo, quae cum initium temporis habuerit, finem temporis non habebit. Quapropter diuinae auctoritati humana cedat infirmitas, eisque beatis et inmortalibus de vera religione credamus, qui sibi honorem non expetunt, quem Deo suo, qui etiam noster est, deberi sciunt, nec iubent, ut sacrificium faciamus, nisi ei tantum cuius et nos cum illis, ut saepe dixi et saepe dicendum est, sacrificium esse debemus, per eum sacerdotem offerendi, qui in homme, quem suscepit, secundum quem et sacerdos esse uoluit, etiam usque ad mortem sacrificium pro nobis dignatus est fieri. For here we find the blessedness of the soul, which has a beginning, and yet has no end. And, therefore, let the incapacity of man give place to the authority of God; and let us take our belief regarding the true religion from the ever-blessed spirits, who do not seek for themselves that honor which they know to be due to their God and ours, and who do not command us to sacrifice save only to Him, whose sacrifice, as I have often said already, and must often say again, we and they ought together to be, offered through that Priest who offered Himself to death a sacrifice for us, in that human nature which He assumed, and according to which He desired to be our Priest.








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