Well, I had been
promised writing thinking of writing on Book VIII, but want to ponder it a little more. Augustine in this book discusses in depth (and I believe continues in later books) discussing and referring to demons. Demons for Augustine are not just little phantoms or imaginary things, but in fact, that term covers all the gods worshipped by others. Augustine (I believe … further reading in the City of God will confirm or deny this hypothesis) felt that Christian God was the Creator and the source of the Platonic ideal of Good. Given this supposition, any other rational being (supernatural, although I don’t like that term) which was not man, but having attributes closer to God (but not Perfectly Good) Augustine calls a demon.
I have two main thrusts in reading this book (and this my first time). That is to understand how Augustine’s thoughts apply to modern men. In reading the Confessions I was a little surprised how current and relevant his thought was. I would also like to continue in my search for how to apply theology to my daily life, and am seeking for insight in his ideas. Hence, to continue here, I need to come to grip with how to treat Augustine’s argumentation with respect to demons. A few (conflicting) thoughts:
- I was raised in a skeptical (modern liberal) household and trained in Academia in Physics and Mathematics. Modern horror stories strike me as morality plays not based in fact. When hearing tales of the “supernatural” my first impulse is skepticism.
- Shakespeare (via Hamlet) quoth:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
This is very much still true. What we humans have accumulated in our investigations into Natural Science and Philosophy I fear is far less than what we might still learn.
- Natural Science is descriptive. It can describe a squirrel. Science cannot answer cause or purpose for squirrel.
- Group theory in Mathematics teaches (roughly speaking) if a thing transforms like a particular group, then it is a representation of that group (and other representations can be useful in describe its behaviour). Platonic or Jungian arch-types may similarly describe or act as a representation of events and actions which are not understood. Modern perception of this is that it is an act of placing a pattern where only random noise exists … but that is a thought which is just a few centuries old. It could be wrong.
I think a workable hypothesis can be … I don’t know. I have no evidence to point to either way. Millenia of human belief and history points to demon’s reality … modern science rejects this position axiomatically so is of somewhat less help than it might be. I’m not convinced it matters for my understanding on how to order my life … so I’ll take the somewhat unsatisfying for others (but not for me) position of choosing not to choose and leave such questions undetermined … unless I find a later compelling reason to make a choice.