Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Schubert on St. Augustine's Teaching on the Eternal Law, Part 9

Augustine's Lex Aeterna Teaching
Its Content and its Source

by: P. Alois Schubert, S.V.D.

Sculpture of the Philosopher Plotinus

Part II
What Sources Inform St. Augustine's Teaching on the Eternal Law?

B. PLOTINUS (204-270 A.D.)(1)

We shall now investigate the dependence of Augustine on Plotinus in the matter of his teaching on the eternal law. Augustine was very familiar with Plotinus. In his works he cites Platonists somewhere around 42 times.(2) He bears self-witness to the influence of the Platonists, especially Plotinus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus.(3) Augustine frequently cites Plotinus's Enneads.(4) The bishop knew the Enneads more via its Latin version as translated by Victorinus than he did its greek original.(5) He himself said: "I have read some books of the Platonists in Latin translation by Victorinus, who died a Christian. Ambrose congratulated me that I did not come upon other Philosopher's books which were full of error."(7) In his writing Contra academicos, Augustine uses expressions of great enthusiasm and wonder in describing Plotinus. He places Plotinus upon a level with the great master Plato.(8) In his Enneads, Plotinus handles the eternal law, the Logos. Now we shall look at what there is to find regarding the eternal law in the Enneads.

1. Concept of Order, Law, and the Eternal Law According to Plotinus.

Plotinus distinguishes between the intelligible world and the sensible world. The latter derives from the former (the to Hen, τὸ Ἕν) through emanation. Plotinus therefore ties the visible world to a living organism. In this organism abides a wonderful order and harmony of all parts together and as a whole.(9) He writes in this regard: "One can see how the One (to Hen) diffuses itself, in that it extends itself over all things, and holds all things together in its order, so that there is also the One is a variedly-dressed organism, in which every part is designed so that it is in accord with its nature, and thereby all things hang together into one whole."(10) Plotinus's emphasis here is that the order that is in all things is similar to the order in which one finds in a visible organism. The One is the ultimate end and reason for the order in the world (syntaxis mia, σύνταξις μία). Plotinus uses the word "order" in the sense of the natural order and order of the world. Tied up within the order of nature there are natural laws and in the order of the world there are world laws. Order is also manifested in the world of the stars. The planets help to form the universe. They hang tightly together with the universe. Within these one may find a sort of impulsion wherein they long for the interest of the universe, similar to what one finds in the parts of an organism. Only in this way is achieved a total and complete harmony.(11)

The science of divination is based upon the very order of the stars. In the stars are written heavenly signs, which move in unperturbed order, a revelation of eternal order.(12) This order can only be founded by a God, but they reveal themselves to the diviner.(13) Such revelation would not possible if the movements of the heaven did not occur in proper order.(14) Where is the foundation of this order? In that principle which makes a multifarious organism one despite the variety of its parts.(15)

Sometimes Plotinus ties in the concept of order with the concept of the beautiful. God has made all things beautiful. This beauty exists in the self-sufficiency and the consistency of the parts to the whole.(16)

The beauty is here considered as order and harmony of the parts. In referring to this order sometimes as necessity (Notwendigkeit), Plotinus ties this concept to the Stoic concept, heimarmene (εἱμαρμένη), a concept that we will later see again.(17) He understands thereby a natural cause of the hanging together of things in their becoming, in their waxing and in their waning (Ursachenzusammenhang der Dinge im Werden, Wirken und Welken). At the foundation of this foundational cause of the hanging together of things (
Ursachenzusammenhangs) stands the the Hen, the Aitia kyriotate, the highest cause. Plotinus adjusts the Stoic conception in this manner, however: that this necessary order only in the lower realms is called heimarmene, but in the higher realms it is called pronoia (προνοια), Providence. The heimarmene relates to the lesser things. The higher is exclusively Providence. In the intelligible world only the Logos rules alone.(18) Ultimately, Plotinus names the order of all things a strategic order. Through this strategic Providence, all the world is ordered, irrespective of whether actions, suffering, demands are considered. When Providence is the great Guide under which all things stand, what could be disordered and what would could withdraw from the joinder and gathering of itself together?(19) The pronoia is here the strategy of the Guide that traverses through and over the All and is concerned with order.

Plotinus teaches therefore that a certain order dominates all things. He calls this order taxis, syntaxis, harmonia, pronoia, heimarmene. This order is identical with the law in All.

The concepts of taxis, syntaxis, harmonia fit into Augustine's concepts of ordo, the covenientia partium; the concept of pronoia is known as providentia, and the heimarmene as the ordo causarum. (S. 3-5)


(1) The sources are not chonologically, but by value addressed.
(2) Cf. Grandgeorge, St. Augustin et le Néoplatonisme, Paris 1896, p. 32.
(3) Aug., De civ. Dei VIII, 12. Ex quibus (Platonicis), sunt valde nobilitate Graeci, Plotinus, Porphyrius, Jamblichus.
(4) Vgl. die Zusammenstellung der Zitate bei Bouillet, Les Ennéades du Plotin, t. 2, p. 561, Paris 1859, t. 3, p. 661.
(5) Augustini vita PL 32, lib. 1, c. 2, col. 69. Augustinum mediocriter graecum scivisse constat. Litteras latinas amavit, graeces odit. Cogebatur ad haec studia. Augustinus ipse dixit: se leviter imbutum esse hisce litteris. Cf. Augu., Conf. 8, 2; 7, 9.
(6) Augustinus et Victorinus PL 46, col. 67, sub titulo Victorinus. Victoriunus vertit in linguam latinam libros platonicorum. PL 32, col. 750.
(7) Aug. Conf. 8, 2. Ubi autem commemoravi legisse me quosdam libros platonicorum, quos Victorinus, quondam rhetor urbis Romae, quem christianum defunctum esse audieram, in latinam linguam transtulisset, gratulatus est mihi Ambrosius, quod non in aliorum philosophorum scdripta incidissem, plean fallaciarum et deceptionum secundum elementa mund. Aug., Conf. VII, 9. Procurasti mihi . . . libros ex graeca lingua in latinam versos et ibi legi . . .
(8) Aug., Contra ac. III, 18. Osque illud Platonis, quod in philosophia purgatissimum et lucidissimum, dimotis nubibus erroris, emicuit maxime in Plotino, qui Platonicus philosophus ita eius similis iudicatus est, ut simul eos vixisse, tantum autem interesse temporis ut in hoc ille revixisse putandus est.
(9) cf. Überweg, Grundriß der Geschichte der Philosophie des Altertums, I Bd., Berlin 1920, S. 620-637.
(10) Müller, Fr. Herm., Plotini Enneades, Berolini 1888. Enn. III, 3, 1. καὶ σκιδνάμενον τὸ ἓν ὁρῶν τῷ ἐπὶ πάντα φθάνειν καὶ ὁμοῦ περιλαμβάνειν συντάξει μιᾷ, ὡς διακεκριμένον ἓν εἶναι ζῷον πολὺ ἑκάστου πράττοντος τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ τὸ κατὰ φύσιν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ ὅλῳ ὅμως ὄντος.
(11) Plotini Enn. II 3, 5. Πάντες (ἁστέρες) δὲ πρὸς τὸ ὅλον σύμφοροι, ὥστε πρὸς ἀλλήλους οὕτως, ὡς τῷ ὅλῳ συμφέρει, ὡς ἐφ´ ἑνὸς ζῴου ἕκαστα τῶν μερῶν ὁρᾶται . . . οὕτω καὶ ἓν καὶ μία ἁρμονία.
(12) Enn. III 3, 6. καὶ ἡ τέχνη (= τῆς μάντεως) ἀνάγνωσις φυσικῶν γραμμάτων καὶ τάξιν δηλούντων.
(13) Ibidem c. 6.
(14) Plotini Enn. II 3, 7. Οὐ γὰρ ἂν ἐσημαίνετο τεταγμένως μὴ ἑκάστων γιγνομένων.
(15) Ibidem. Τίς οὖν ἡ σύνταξις ἡ μία . . . καὶ μίαν ἀρχὴν ἓν πολὺ ζῷον ποιῆσαι καὶ ἐκ πάντων ἕν.
(16) Enn. III, 2, 3. γάρ τι ἐποίησεν (θεός) πάγκαλον καὶ αὔταρκες καὶ φίλον αὑτῷ καὶ τοῖς μέρεσι τοῖς αὐτοῦ τοῖς τε κυριωτέροις καὶ τοῖς ἐλάττοσιν ὡσαύτως προσφόροις.
(17) Enn. III, 1, 2. [Οἱ δὲ Στωικοι] διὰ πάντων φοιτήσασαν αἰτίαν καὶ ταύτην οὐ μόνον κινοῦσαν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ποιοῦσαν ἕκαστα λέγοντες, εἱμαρμένην ταύτην καὶ κυριωτάτην αἰτίαν θέμενοι, αὐτὴν οὖσαν . . . [Χρύσιππος . . . εἱμαρμένη φυσική σύνταξις τῶν ὅλων, ἐξ αιδίου τῶν ἑτέρων τοῖς ἑτέροις επακολουθουντων]. (E.N. I did not find the bracketed portion in the Enneads, III, 1, 2.]
(18) Enn. III 3, 5. εἱμαρμένη δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ χείρονος ἀρξαμένη, τὸ δὲ ὑπεράνω πρόνοια μόνον. Τὰ μὲν γὰρ ἐν τῶι κόσμωι τῶι νοητῶι πάντα λόγος.
(19) Enn. III 3, 2. Ἐτάχθη δὲ τὸ πᾶν προνοίαι στρατηγικῆι ὁρώσηι καὶ τὰς πράξεις καὶ τὰ πάθη καὶ ἃ δεῖ παρεῖναι . . . εἰ δὲ δὴ (= ἡ προνοίαι) ὁ μέγας ἡγεμὼν εἴη, ὑφ᾽ ὧι πάντα, τί ἂν ἀσύντακτον, τί δὲ οὐκ ἂν συνηρμοσμένον εἴη.

No comments:

Post a Comment