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Saint augustines perception of god in confessions book xi

An Analysis of the Concept of Time in the Confessions, Book 11 by Augustine of Hippo by Eric Rosenfield In 1917, Albert Einstein completed work on the General Theory of Relativity, one of the rules of which states that time is fundamentally bound to matter and gravity, and that without matter there would be no time.

Oddly, this concept was presaged almost 1,300 years before that when Bishop Augustine of Hippo later St. Augustine put forth the idea that when God created the Heavens and the Earth, he created time itself as well.

  • When, therefore, time is passing, it can be perceived and measured; but when it has passed, it cannot, since it is not;
  • Who can easily and briefly explain it?
  • What when we measure silence, and say that this silence has lasted as long as that voice lasts?
  • What, then, is time?
  • But yet our consideration endures, through which that which may be present may proceed to become absent;
  • Where is the short syllable by which I measure?

Before Augustine, no one that we know of had tried to consider "time" as being something changeable, something that could start and stop; after all, we always perceive time as moving forward, saint augustines perception of god in confessions book xi contemplating temporality as being finite or malleable seems unnatural, and the implications headache-rousing. Plato and Aristotle both regarded time as being infinite. Yet it was Augustine's application of the methods of the principles of Grecian philosophy and reason to the Christian concept of God that forced him to arrive at his conclusions.

In the first sentence of Book 11 of the Confessions, the book that deals with time, Augustine presents to us the commonly held Christian belief that God is eternal. Then, like a good philosopher, Augustine begins applying reason to this idea. If God is eternal then he does not take action at individual moments in time, because he does not exist in individual moments in time.

He is literally outside time, and only his agents — the angels, who exist in time — can carry out his will on Earth. Yet if God is outside of time, then how could he have made the Heavens and the Earth in the beginning, as claimed in Genesis since "the beginning" is inherently a point in time. For instance, John 1: Yet what was that Word that created the Universe?

Surely, the words of an eternal being do not sound and die out like the words of us mortal folk - "If then, in words that sound and fade away thou didst say that Heaven and Earth should be made, and thus madest Heaven and Earth, then there was already some kind of corporeal creature before Heaven and Earth by whose motions in time that voice might have had its occurrence in time.

But there was nothing corporeal before the Heaven and the Earth. Therefore, because there was nothing before God created the Heavens and the Earth, then the Word did not start and stop as human words do, but instead exists eternally, as does God Himself. Indeed, because the Heavens and the Earth must've been created outside the Heavens and the Earth for obvious reasonsthe very creation of Creation is outside of anything that could experience time, and therefore "the Beginning" of the Bible is not actually a beginning at all, but an immutable eternal, the eternal Word, the eternal Truth, the eternal God, and so according to Augustine, "He is the Beginning, and speaketh to us" emphasis mine, notice the tense.

Therefore, the question that some ask Augustine, "what was God doing before He created the Heavens and the Earth" is completely inapplicable. To an eternal being the word "before" holds no meaning — there literally was no before God created the Heavens and the Earth, or as Augustine puts it "for there was no 'then' when there was no time" - "There was no time, therefore, when thou hadst not made anything, because thou hadst made time itself".

There are some obvious problems with this interpretation of Genesis as an interpretation of Genesis. If God created the universe outside of time, and God is eternal in the way that Augustine describes, then why is the creation of the universe in the Bible divided up into days, an explicitly temporal measurement?

Why would creation need to be divided up at all, why would the eternal act of creation not simply breath life into the whole shebang at once, and even more importantly, why would an eternal God need to rest?

Augustine sort of implies an answer for this when he says, in a different context, "[God's] years are but a day, and [God's] day is not recurrent, but always today. Augustine never actually tackles this head-on, and one can't help but suspect that's because his answers might have been heretical especially considering the constant overtures to God's help and statements that all this work is done to merely discover the Truth of God to be found interrupting the proper narrative throughout Book 11, which seems to imply that Augustine was worried about a possible heresy charge.

But then, what's really strange about Augustine's interpretation of the eternal nature of the Beginning is that, when taken entirely apart from the Bible, it resonates not only with Relativity Augustine saying that for the Word to happen in time there must have been something that experiences time being roughly analogous to Einstein saying that matter and time are linked, and without one you would not have the other but also with modern Big Bang Theory.

Briefly, according to Big Bang Theory, because matter and time are so inextricably bound, when all the matter in the universe was compressed into a single point it formed what's called a "quantum singularity" in which, the math shows, the curvature of time and space became infinite.

This means the Big Bang singularity exists at all times at once, in all places at once much like Augustine's God - the singularity that created the universe is all around us, all the time, forever. Moving forward in Book 11, Augustine then asks "what exactly is time? And yet, we also know that the past and future don't actually exist, since we can in no way interact with them except when they are the present.

That is to say, if the past and the future exist in the physical way saint augustines perception of god in confessions book xi the present does, we have no way of knowing it, because we only experience the present. And yet, if the past and future don't exist, then what exactly are we measuring when we measure time? Obviously, time itself exists, since it can be measured, and yet if we say something is a hundred years ago, what exactly is that hundred years ago when it is past and therefore doesn't exist at all?

And since the present must become past in order to be time otherwise, it would be eternitythen if "time present -- if it be time -- comes into existence only because it passes into time past, how can we say that even this is, since the cause of its being saint augustines perception of god in confessions book xi that it will cease to be?

Thus, can we not truly say that time is only as it tends toward nonbeing? In truth the present has no length at all, it can only be measured as it passes from future into past — two states that do not actually exist — and therefore, can it be said that the present actually exists at all? After all of these eye-crossing questions about the nature of time, it is hardly surprising when Augustine says "And I confess to thee, O Lord, that I am still ignorant as to what time is.

My childhood, for instance, which is no longer, still exists in time past, which does not now exist. But when I call to mind its image and speak of it, I see it in the present because it is still in my memory. Augustine also speculates that those who claim to see the future may be experiencing the future as the rest of us experience the past, but wisely offers the caveat that he doesn't know if they truly see the future at all.

Therefore, time is not something that exists in the physical world, like a rock or a chair, but something that purely exists inside the mind. Which leads to Augustine's most shattering revelation: This is a marvel to me. The extendedness may be of the mind itself. After Augustine states this, he goes back, summarizes most of what he has said already and then praises God and Jesus for a while.

  • For whatsoever that were of which such a voice was made, unless it were made by You, it could not be at all;
  • The four short, then, the first, third, fifth and seventh, are single in respect of the four long, the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth;
  • Augustine put forth the idea that when God created the Heavens and the Earth, he created time itself as well;
  • And whence should he be able to do this, had not Thou made that mind?
  • It is likely that I'm stretching Augustine's theories of time here quite a lot, and my goal is not to form the basis of some new religious cult or new age fad belief, but simply to show that the exploration of the ideas discussed in Book 11 have far reaching implications which we, who don't actually understand time all that much better than Augustine did, have yet to completely examine.

It is disappointing that he does not take the implied consequences of time being simply a function of the mind further. In an Augustinian view, if time is merely a function of the mind, and all time extends from the eternal Word, then perhaps all consciousness is simply a splinter of the concept of time that exists in the mind of God — each of our individual consciousnesses a fragment of the eternal.

In a modern physics view, if time is a function of consciousness, then perhaps time and consciousness are inextricably linked in the same way that we know time, gravity and matter are — in other words, perhaps consciousness is a thing itself — like gravity, like time — and, moreover, if this is so, then perhaps the eternal quantum singularity that created the universe is not only infinite in space and time, but also infinite in consciousness, and just as all space and time stems from it, all consciousness too flows from it, like water from a river.

It is likely that I'm stretching Augustine's theories of time here quite a lot, and my goal is not to form saint augustines perception of god in confessions book xi basis of some new religious cult or new age fad belief, but simply to show that the exploration of the ideas discussed in Book 11 have far reaching implications which we, who don't actually understand time all that much better than Augustine did, have yet to completely examine. By trying to understand the nature of time itself for the first time, Augustine sent us on a path that we have yet to reach the terminus of, and the answers to the questions Augustine posed all those centuries ago may yet prove to reveal the very nature of reality itself.

As found in the above, Augustine relates that time has three parts --- the past, the present and the future.

  • After Augustine states this, he goes back, summarizes most of what he has said already and then praises God and Jesus for a while;
  • If, then, in sounding and fleeting words Thou said that heaven and earth should be made, and thus made heaven and earth, there was already a corporeal creature before heaven and earth by whose temporal motions that voice might take its course in time.

And yet, according to how Augustine lays out time for us we also know that the past and future don't actually exist because we can in no way interact with them except when they are the present. Obviously, time itself or something like it exists, since it can be measured, and yet if we say something is a hundred years ago, what exactly is that hundred years ago when it is past and therefore doesn't exist?

Since the present must become past in order to be time otherwise, it would be eternitythen if time present comes into existence only because it passes into time past, how can we say that even this is, since the cause of its being is that it will cease to be?

How so saint augustines perception of god in confessions book xi loophole? Would it not be so if you were to go back into the past or into the future, that either past or future you were in would then become your present, of which then you would be able to interact therein? You and the present are inexorably entwined. Where you are is the present, regardless of the "where you are" as it relates to any given now or past or future that may or may not exist, have existed, or will exist.

In a sense the present stays with you, where you go it goes. There is a difference, however, between your presence and THE present. While there, he was told by John Ford's brother that President and Mrs.

Booth, after being told the President would be attending the play at the Ford Theater as cited in the above quote, informed three of his associates who he had been plotting with all along, his intention to kill Lincoln that night. He assigned one associate to assassinate Secretary of State William H.

The Confessions (Book XI)

Seward and a second to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson. The third was to target Ulysses S. Grant, the commanding general of the Union Army. If John Wilkes Booth had afforded himself the presence of being within the crowd at the same time Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address a year and a half before, it isn't known and wouldn't matter much, at least as history has come down to us.

On the other hand, even though he and Lincoln shared the same present all along, including at Gettysburg, if either Booth's or Lincoln's presence was such that one or the other or both was not at the Ford Theater in Washington, D. We do know however, what happened with both their presence in the theater sharing the same present.

Lincoln was shot and died the next day and Booth was the shooter. Of the four assassins Booth was the only to succeed. One associate was able to stab Seward, and although Seward was badly wounded, he survived.

The second associate never even made an attempt to kill Johnson, getting snockered out of his mind and spending most of the night passed out instead. The assassination of Grant didn't come off because he saint augustines perception of god in confessions book xi his wife decided at the last minute to go by train that evening to visit relatives in New Jersey rather than go to the theater with the president.

If you travelled into the future relative to me and of which taken together was our present --- or collectively a given point we can give title to as Saint augustines perception of god in confessions book xi present, a present we shared --- your presence would no longer be in my present. If you were to travel into the past relative to my present again your presence would not in my present. But why should it be that MY present, where we were together initially, is or would be the dominant present, that is, predetermining where, when, and how your present would be THE correct or right present.

If you are in the future or in the past and I am where I am you would just not be presence in my present. If we were together we would both be presence in the present.

Or so it would seem. However, if all that is ever going to happen has already happened relative to you or us it is no longer in the realm of the present, but in the past. If all events that are to or going to happen have not yet happened relative to you or us they are not yet in the realm of either the present or the past.

The gossamer thin not-existent membrane that wafts along the disembarkation and arrival of the yet-to-happen and the already happened is where the present is found. Any movement in any direction up or down or away from there and you are somewhere else. Then there are the time paradoxes, paradoxes that do not fit nicely into predictable time realms, of which Augustine acknowledges but does not fully address.

Paradoxes are however, for the most part mind games or what ifs. What if this happened or what if that happened, but not pulled into the conventional plain on a reality scale.

THE MOBIUS STRIP

Take for example the Bootstrap Paradox, followed then by a link that will take you to what would happen if such a paradox actually happened, and below that several "in real life" time paradoxes to ponder over: The object or piece of information in the future is taken back in time where, through the normal passage of time from the past to the future, it is retrieved to become the very object or piece of information that was brought back in the beginning.