Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Frederick Van Fleteren - Consuetudo carnalis in Confessiones VII, xvii, 23

Augustine’s report of his ascents of the mind to God in Confessiones VII, xvii, 23 contains the reason why he was unable to sustain the divine vision as he had hope:  consuetude carnalis.  Most commentators have interpreted this phrase to mean that remnants of his sexual peccadillos over many years left him with insufficient moral purity, a pre-condition for such.  However this phrase is conjoined to Wisdom 9:15.  In Confessiones, Augustine continually casts aspersions on his inability to conceive spiritual reality as the reason keeping him from conception of God.  In the works until 390, intellectual purification (exercitatio animae) far outweighs moral considerations.  The program of the liberal arts was meant to provide ingtellectual purification.  Until 394, Augustine still thinks such a vision possible tin this life.  Consuetudo carnalis should therefore be interpreted primarily as intellectual incapacity and sexual appetition secondarily.  

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