Psychology, Philosophy, and Theology: St. Augustine of Hippo


Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on...

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on the concept of just war (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aurelius Augustinus, better known as St. Augustine of Hippo, was an important figure through which the Greek philosophical tradition and the Judeo-Christian religious traditions became a unified pillar of thought in the early church.  He is one of the most important authority figures of medieval philosophy, who continues to have a lasting influence today. His works are rich in philosophical, as well as psychological insights, of which much of modern day thought is based upon. He is especially influential to those who are sympathetic to the religious traditions, which his writings and work helped to form, while much Augustinian thought is worthy of philosophical and psychological focus, even for those who are not in agreement with his theological views.  Several significant contributions come out of the metamorphosis of his Greco-Roman inheritance, including his explanations of belief and authority, of knowledge and illumination, the importance and centrality of the will, along with his conceptions of the events of human history. 

 

Augustine’s African homeland was a wealthy metropolis of the Roman Empire, where Christianity was the dominant religion of his day.  The Christianity of Augustine’s day was violently opposed to the traditions of old Rome, though it may not have spread as quickly without the prosperity and unity that Rome had brought to the ancient world. Augustine’s mother seems to have had a lasting influence on his eventual conversion to Christianity, though this was not immediately apparent from his egotistical and platonic youth.  His father was mostly apathetic to religion, though he was eventually baptized on his deathbed, and had no real influence on Augustine’s conversion and religious thought processes.  Augustine was particularly influenced by the similarities between Christian and Platonic thought, with the workable combinations of the two systems of thought clearly reflected in his most important works.  His writings bridged the gap between ancient pagan Rome and the Christian Middle Ages. Augustine’s system of thought has become a powerful intellectual force from the middle ages even to today.

 

 The Nature of Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

Augustine discussed several psychological topics as well as his philosophical views, including infant motivation, the origin of speech, memory, grief, and unconscious motivations in dreams.  He emphasized the self-seeking asocial nature of the infant, and the self-serving nature of children’s prayers.  He argued that the fear of punishment in the educational setting interferes with children’s natural curiosity, which is normally conducive to the learning experience. He also discussed the emotions, with his descriptions of grief showing great sensitivity and insight.  His observations of grief show its pervasiveness and the overwhelming religious turmoil that sometimes accompanies this strong emotion.  He observed that consolations along with new associations and ideas that come with the passage of time contribute to the dispersal of grief in those who are mourning a significant loss. 

 

Augustine’s references to memory drew a clear distinction between recognition and recall, arguing that in sensory memory, we only remember the images of things.  He believed that the nature of the image is obscured in affective memory.  Though Augustine believed in an inborn knowledge, he rejected the idea that the soul recalls knowledge from a previous existence, which was inconsistent with his theology. 

 

Augustine outspokenly noted that thoughts such as fornication, which are often subdued during waking hours, can be very strong during dream sleep.  He pointed out that peace of conscience need not be disturbed by illicit dreams, though these dreams are obviously impossible without the memory of past experience.  He also hinted at the unconscious in his discussions of memory, asserting that memories are sometimes deeply buried in the human psyche.  He argued against the idea that these embedded covert memories could be controlled by reason during sleep.  Though Augustine was sometimes quite blunt in his discussions, his important contributions to psychological thought should not be dismissed as merely Freudian. 

 

Augustine’s psychological thought must be viewed in context of his philosophical world view and his theological ideology of human beings.  He viewed worldly curiosity as a spiritually dangerous intellectual device stemming from the sins of Adam and Eve, which may have delayed the development of scientific methods of understanding somewhat. Nevertheless, his works are rich in philosophical as well as psychological insights, of which much of modern day thought is based upon.  Augustine is reflectively seen as one of the greatest philosophers and psychologists of early history, as well as a noted theologian of the early church. 

 

References:

St. Augustine. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Augustine: Augustine the African James, J. O’Donnell

History of Psychology: Ideas and Context.  Viney, Wayne, and King. 

 

 Aurelius Augustinus, St. Augustine of Hippo, Greek, philosophy, Judeo, Christian, religious tradition, church, psychology, theology.       

A Little Redneck Theology now available. Also available on Kindle

About mamaheartfilled

I am a mother of eight wonderful children and five grandkids, of whom I am very proud. I am also a bi-vocational ordained evangelical minister, and a Christian Counselor. I received my B.S. degree in 2004, studying primarily in the areas of Psychology, with minors in Religion and English. I received my Masters Degree in 2009 in Psychological Counseling with an emphasis in Christian Counseling. I have endeavored to paraphrase the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, for the last ten years or so and am working on a final edit, now. It is my hope that it will be of some use in the great commission of Christ. My ministry is primarily geared toward victims of sexual and domestic violence, including victims of childhood sexual abuse, whether currently or in the past. Since I have personally experienced the healing hand of God in overcoming many of the life issues that Christians may face, I feel qualified and compelled to discuss them in a truthful and open manner, as God’s word tells us that “We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.” God has brought me through such diverse tribulations as sexual, physical, and mental abuse, being a victim of a drunk driving accident, spousal pornography addiction, adultery, divorce, remarriage, a very brief, though unjust, incarceration, and having experienced multiple miscarriages and various other trials. I have been asked to leave two Southern Baptist Churches, due to my being a female, ordained as a minister, and fired from a SBC sponsored Christian School (mostly white) for speaking out against racial prejudice in the Family of God. Through God’s merciful forgiveness of my own sins and inadequacies and God’s grace given to me to forgive those who have been a stumbling block to me, I have overcome many of these adversities. God’s word tells us that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to the purposes of God." Since I have this hope, I believe that God has blessed me with the ability to confront and relate these issues to the Christian community around the world. I hope to be able to use my personal experiences as a ministry of God’s grace and in the comforting of the people of God with the truth of God's mercy. I claim II Corinthians 1: 3 & 4 as my calling, which states: “Blessed be God, the Origin of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Origin of mercies, and the God of comfort; who comforts us in all our troubles, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, by the comfort we ourselves have been given by God.” As I have received the gift of God’s healing, I hope to be able to bring the peace beyond understanding to others with the message of God’s mercy and grace. My love for the Sovereign Lord of my life, Jesus Christ, along with my passion for writing has drawn me to explore these commonly experienced crisis issues from the perspective of my own experience in the hope that I may bring an empathetic and compassionate insight to God’s people. I am now a published author and have several books in publication, including my autobiography, "A Little Redneck Theology." The views expressed in my writings are strictly my own insights, acquired from personal experience and diligent study of the related topics and God’s word concerning them. Though I am an ordained minister, my views should not be considered authoritative. I believe that the Christian community’s ultimate authority is the guidance of the human heart by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
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One Response to Psychology, Philosophy, and Theology: St. Augustine of Hippo

  1. lillilijhm hkm says:

    :D

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