Friday, 1 May 2015

Patricia Grosse: Augustine’s Two Flights and Our Two Cupidities: Loving Extension as Human Interaction

In his Confessions, Augustine describes two out-of-body experiences that lead him to two different kinds of knowledges. His first experience, cut short by the crushing weight of sexual habit, leads him to a non-material understanding of divinity; his second experience ends gently and prepares the way for his mother’s death. Both of these readings seem to align with readings of Augustine as one who sees soul and mind as separate from flesh and yearning for the divine. Augustine’s account of love as double, as bifurcated into quiet caritas and wild concupiscentia seems to support this claim as well. Does proper transformation of “Fallen” flesh to “Resurrected” flesh lend itself into a world without concupiscence?

In this paper, I will explore the interrelation between ecstatic vision and earthly love in Augustine. In Part One, I will offer an analysis of Augustine’s Neoplatonic vision in Confessions VII with reference to his account of uncontrollable cupidity as a result of the Fall. In Part Two, I will read Augustine’s account in Book IX of his vision with his mother alongside the possibility of the transformation of cupidity. Augustine’s two cupidities offer not only a transformative possibility in time or out of time, but an understanding of human being that is bodied and socially extended through love. Augustine is no immaterialist denouncer of the flesh: the perfection of human love at the time of resurrection (or through the grace of God in this world) does not involve the destruction of concupiscence, but its transformation.

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