Wednesday, August 17, 2011

St. Augustine On Myth, Astrolatry, and Platonism

"But whether Venus could bear Aeneas to a human father Anchises, or Mars beget Romulus of the daughter of Numitor, we leave as unsettled questions. For our own Scriptures suggest the very similar question, whether the fallen angels had sexual intercourse with the daughters of men, by which the earth was at that time filled with giants, that is with enormously large and strong men." -– Augustine, City of God, III, 5

"... though the verses of the poets are mythical, they are not altogether devoid of truth...." –- Augustine, City of God, III, 11

"But possibly these stars which have been called by their names are these gods. They call a certain star Mercury, and likewise a certain other star Mars. But among those stars which are called by the name of gods, is that one which they call Jupiter, and yet with them Jupiter is the world. There also is that one they call Saturn, and yet they give him no small property beside, namely all seeds." -- Augustine, City of God, VII, 15

"The Italic school had its founder Pythagoras of Samos, to whom also the term 'philosophy' is said to owe its origin. For whereas formerly those who seemed to excel others by the laudable manner in which they regulated their lives were called sages, Pythagoras, on being asked what he professed, replied that he was a philosopher, that is, a student or lover of wisdom; for it seemed to him to be the height of arrogance to profess oneself a sage." -- Augustine, City of God, VIII, 2

"If, then, Plato defined the wise man as one who imitates, knows, and loves this God, and who is rendered blessed through fellowship with Him in His own blessedness, why discuss with the other philosophers? It is evident that none come nearer to us than the Platonists." -- Augustine, City of God, VIII, 5

"Whatever philosophers, therefore, thought concerning the supreme God, that He is both the maker of all created things, the light by which things are known, and the good in reference to which things are to be done; that we have in Him the first principle of nature, the truth of doctrine, and the happiness of life -- whether these philosophers may be more suitably called Platonists, or whether they may give some other name to their sect; whether we say that only the chief men of the Ionic school, such as Plato himself and they who have well understood him, have thought thus; or whether we also include the Italic school, on account of Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans and all who may have held like opinions; and, lastly, whether also we include all who have been held wise men and philosophers among all nations who are discovered to have seen and taught his, be they Atlantics, Libyans, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians, Gauls, Spaniards, or of other nations -- we prefer these to all other philosophers, and confess that they approach nearest to us." -- Augustine, City of God, VIII, 10

"... he [Porphyry] is at a loss to understand how the sun and moon, and other visible celestial bodies – for bodies he does not doubt that they are – are considered gods." -- Augustine, City of God, X

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