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St. Augustine (true confessions)



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There’s one word to sum up St. Augustine: “mummy”. Yes, for Augustine it’s all about mum—dad, well, dad not so much, not at all really. You see, dad was a pagan and, though he paid for Augustine to become a rhetorician, to go to “rhetoric school” (journalism school, we’d say today), it was mum who really counted—mum was a Christian from the first; and dad, well, he came along in the end, but then he died quite early. We don’t talk about him now—it’s just me and mum now.


Augustine is feminine: he’s labile, he’s moody—he’s up, he’s down. He’s exultant, he’s saved! He’s wicked, he’s a sinner! He’s in tears in the garden—it’s all over! No—he’s found God, he’s saved! He’s dirty, he sleeps around—it’s awful! But he does it anyway—but he’s not happy…


He’s a woman—he’s up and down like an elevator. He’s moody, capricious, and neurotic—he self-lacerates, then again he also feels fantastic. Throughout all these moods, he never really thinks.


For Augustine, to “think” is to like someone. So he starts off as a Manichaean and Confessions is the story of how he finds his way into the “true” Catholic faith. Along the way, Augustine meets various priests, wise men, philosophers, and rhetoricians—and the way he decides between them is whether or not they make him feel good.


So for a time he’s infatuated with a Manichaean priest—but then he meets him and he discovers that he can’t answer certain questions, doesn’t know the answers to things Augustine knows. The guru bites the dust, so much for the Manichaeans…


But then, later, Augustine meets a Catholic bishop—and, though he admits he says nothing true but just says things Augustine likes the sound of, he gets Augustine’s attention. Afterwards, Augustine decides the man speaks the truth….


Similarly, in other situations Augustine talks to men who come “well recommended” or “are wise” and just believes what they say—because they have a good reputation and he likes them.


Hence Augustine rejects astrology—he points out that twins often have different futures; and yet he doesn’t understand the basic astrological principle that the stars offer inclinations not predictions—in other words, astrology tells you about temperament and possibilities, not rigid predictions (ironically, Augustine’s fallacies are replicated by sceptics, anti-Christians, down to this day).


However, although Augustine is very much against astrology, he is totally for numerology—which is no more ridiculous, if you consider that astrology is basically about numbers too.


I’m pretty sure I know what happened—Augustine met some guy he really liked who was into numerology, so he decided that numerology is true. But he either met some astrologer he didn’t like or someone he did like was against astrology, so Augustine didn’t like astrology; even though, in rational terms, the two disciplines have an obvious connection—and it is no more absurd to say “6 is a perfect number” than it is to say “the position of Venus formed his character”.


This is all because Augustine is a major narcissist (he reads books and gets them at once, explains them to other students—so he “modestly” tells us). A rhetorician, as he was trained to be, would be equivalent to a journalist today—he’s trained to speak well, to look good, to convince you. He’s not trained to think.


So for Augustine, it all depends on whether you say it in a sweet way, if you do—you’re right.


It’s a womanish, but it makes sense because Augustine himself is womanish—he’s neurotic, labile, moody. He doesn’t think things through, he’s about the superficial.


Today, he’d be a YouTube livestreamer “Why I’m QUITTING Manichaeanism” (143k views)—and, indeed, his trajectory is similar to the YouTuber Roosh, a man who was once a pick-up artist and who is now a convert to Russian Orthodoxy (Andrew Tate has taken a similar direction with Islam).


It’s identical: Augustine’s big thing is sex—he’s had a lot of sex (and it was terrible—I mean, he’s going to tell us he did it a lot; but it was really bad, you understand). So at one point Augustine packs off his poor old concubine, with whom he has a son, because he wants to take a wife and be more holy and proper—the poor tart protests that she will stay true to him forever as he ships her off back to Africa.


Augustine’s obsession with sin and sex inflected the whole of Christianity for centuries—he’s a foundational figure for Christianity, like Aquinas. Yet Jesus is not obsessed with sex and sin in this sensuous and moody way. He just says to the woman taken in adultery that to relent is sufficient and that you shouldn’t punish people if you’re not innocent yourself.


None of that attitude, which is basically healthy, is apparent in the moody St. Augustine. The man was never happy—he was one of these people who speaks about happiness all the time but is never happy. So he was apparently happy, or thought he was, as a dirty sexy Manichaean; but then he found God, properly, and became happy.


That’s in Confessions—and yet, if you read The City of God, written in part when he was nearly 70, you still see him worrying at this idea of “happiness” and how there is “no happiness” in this world (earlier he told us he found happiness in Christ). The truth is that Augustine was a neurotic and moody man—he was bipolar, up and down. So he thought he was happy as a Manichaean, drinking and carousing, then he thought he was happy when he found God—but in old age he’s still not really happy.


Because that’s his character—he’s just a moody guy.


**


This would all just be the story of one man’s take on the world—if Augustine wasn’t a Church father and foundational for Catholicism. Augustine uses what psychotherapists today call “primitive defence mechanisms”—namely, splitting (good/bad, right/wrong, happy/unhappy). Teenagers think this way a lot—and Augustine is a teenage fanatic who never stopped being a teenage fanatic.


So it’s all the good God, God is good—and yet, since Augustine construes everything that happens as the will of God, he says, in effect, that everything that happens is “good”. This makes the word “good” meaningless—it’s a pleonasm; it’s like if I said that God is amiable and so everything that happens is, in the final analysis, amiable. The word is unnecessary, it doesn’t add anything to the description—and, as many have noted, the good/bad dichotomy creates contradictions in Christian theology.


The problem is that Augustine’s outlook on life—happy/unhappy, dirty/clean, sinner/saved, right/wrong—was also translated into official Church doctrine. This rigid dualism, highly emotive because it depended on Augustine’s mood swings, eventually turned into heretic/faithful (Burn, destroy!).


Manichaeanism was, notoriously, dualist—it’s no wonder it attracted the young Augustine, because the worldview is literally black/white (no state in between—bipolar Augustine doesn’t do moderation, it’s euphoria or depression for him; so you’re saved or damned—there’s the true Catholic faith, or there’s the Devil). Although Augustine renounced “the Manichaean heresy” he never stopped his dualism, because dualism is in his character.


When you read The City of God you get a clear impression as to how what became “Christianity” (aka the Catholic Church) was formed—it was formed just like the woke today, as a hysterical belief in a declining empire (saved/sinner, racist/anti-racist). There were many beliefs about Jesus floating around—but there was one talented rhetorician who had a certain slant on Jesus….And anyone who disagrees with me is TOTAL EVIL, TOTALLY DAMNED…


Yes—and that’s what people had to live with for centuries, under the yoke of this hysterical mommy’s boy who fucked around a lot and then decided he needed to tell everyone about it in his Confessions (surely history’s greatest and most successful humble-brag; and, ironically, an act of colossal vanity that masqueraded as piety).


Jesus would have just said “well, don’t do it again, no need to offer loud prayers in public about what a sexy boy you were and how sorry you are about it now…that smacks of pride”.


Jesus was a sensible man.


***


Augustine was basically a menace. It’s worth remembering that when he was writing about Jesus that almost 400 years had already passed since the crucifixion—it’s like when I write about Oliver Cromwell or Charles II now, I know quite a lot about these people but if I were to create a cult around Charles II it would be a little contrived or I’d have to stretch things quite a bit.


The reason Augustine was a menace was that he was intolerant, moody, and just not very rational. And yet his ideas, put in emotive language, informed Church doctrine for centuries. It is true that he can be rational and says some sensible things—but these come as moments of clarity among emotive rhetoric, since, to be fair, rhetoric was what he was trained in.


Unclear thought: he says that Moses learned all the Egyptian magic—and yet Moses is not a magician, Judaism has nothing to do with magic, Christianity has nothing to do with magic. But if Moses was informed by “the one God”, why did he need to learn magic at all—the one God would do it all for him?


In a similar vein, Augustine speaks with contempt as regards the Zarathustrians—but in his emotional arrogance forgets that the Magi who adored Jesus were Zarathustrian priests (and magicians); further, he inveighs against “the spirits of the air” and “the worship of stars” and yet forgets the Magi followed a mobile star to find Jesus (they being astrologers, who knew to do that because of astrology). So how can this be “all bad”?


Yet Augustine makes no such connection—it’s due to the fact that he has a fanatical belief in “the invisible God” as opposed to the tangible pagan gods, and so anything tangible has to be suppressed. It’s more to do with the sectarian religio-political situation at that time than an attempt to find the truth.


And so he says that no one ever martyred themselves for Rome’s city god, Romulus—yet thousands died for Christianity. But he forgets that as the city god of Rome that the legions died for Romulus in battle in their thousands—there are your “martyrs of Romulus” (but perhaps he knew that and omitted it deliberately, or perhaps it’s that he doesn’t like war—only passive, feminine, masochistic martyrdom…).


Further, he is adamant that Christianity definitely, definitely isn’t magic or poetry or philosophy, it’s totally different—even though he quotes Virgil and Plato all the time, because Christianity is basically a Semitic take on European views like reincarnation (also found in India); and because, deep down, he loves Virgil—a greater poet than the Hebrews, and more true (he’s just entangled himself in lies).


It’s like when Muhammad says he definitely isn’t a poet, a magician, or possessed by a jinn—he protests so much against it that I just think “he’s a poet, a magician, and possessed by a jinn”, he’s just high on his own supply, as such people often are, and so decides that only his poetic magic should dominate the world. It’s all magic—it’s just some magicians, like Moses, claim it isn’t so.


I think Augustine in person was probably a very nice guy, very sensitive—he definitely feels that the world is very harsh and cruel, and I don’t think he ever really found peace (he just had up swings when everything seemed great and okay—when he talks about his mother’s death you can tell that he struggles to think there will be a bodily resurrection, he’s deeply upset by it).


I did think at one moment he was homosexual, because he wept so much at a male friend’s death—and afterwards I read others think the same—but I doubt it, when he talks about sodomy he genuinely dislikes it; and he certainly slept with lots of women. I just think he was a really sensitive guy, a lover not a fighter (of all these women—and mum), and that can seem a bit “gay”.


You can tell he was sensitive because he mentions both in The Confessions and The City of God how he was beaten as a boy at rhetoric school—the experience coloured his whole life, it’s a touchstone for him.


It’s his father, the pagan, I feel sorry for—his son turned out as a total weepy woman; he’s obsessed with sex, obsessed with being good/bad, and often can’t think straight for five minutes—being almost entirely at the service of his whims and his emotions.


It came from his mother, she was the type of woman who, on a sea voyage, “reassured the sailors” (they being the ones used to doing the reassuring at a time when sea voyages were dangerous)—you can imagine the unbearable Mrs. Augustine, probably as self-righteous and narcissitc as her son, not unlike the parson Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, in a promenade around the decks to reassure the sailors “all is well, the Lord has blessed and protected this voyage” (sailor, under his breath: “as it happens, Mrs, I wasn’t worried—but thanks anyway”).


****


If Augustine wasn’t a reformed pick-up artist livestreamer today, he’d be a progressive activist—he’d be a social justice warrior. He has the same temperament: the dualism, the good/bad, the labile emotions, the sense of dirtiness (“I’m white, I’m a sinner”), the academic career, the hatred of nobility (he’s pleased when an aristocratic friend defects from the noble gods)—it’s all there.


That said, I think Augustine did connect with the infinite—but there are many ways to do that, and he makes out there’s one way, his way. I say that because when I read the Confessions I walked out of the cafe and there was bus advert that said “time to leave earth” (i.e. ascend to heaven); and then I saw two people with crosses round their necks.


That’s synchronicity, just as when Augustine was in the garden trying to overcome his lust and he heard a child say “take up and read, take up and read” and he took up the Bible and the passage referred to his situation—and, as he said, children don’t say that usually (which is the sort of thing that happens to me very often). I’d say that’s standard magic—because in magic you assume everything refers to yourself. But Augustine wouldn’t have had that.


Well, I think there are many ways to do it, to connect to the infinite—but Augustine would shut off any other way, because he had a neurotic and fanatical temperament and couldn’t reason.


As I say, if he were just a minor figure in world history that would be fine—but he wasn’t so, he restricted man’s intellectual horizon for centuries and also interposed his sensuous and randy nature (and its attendant guilt) upon millions and millions of people, and in so doing distorted the more healthy message of Jesus.

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