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Essential classic of world literature,
This review is from: St. Augustine Confessions (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)This is a good translation of St Augustine's 'Confessions', one of the most important works of Christian and also world religious and philosophical thought.
St Augustine's genius needs no advertisment. His brilliant intellect is more or less the founder of Western Christianity as we know it. Between St Paul and Aquinas, he is the most brilliant theological and philosophical mind the medieval period managed to produce. If Western philosphy is a cathedral, then Augustine is one of its capstones.
The Confessions is a personal narrative of Augustine's life, which describes his spiritual and intellectual journey from childhood to adulthood. Augustine is such a brilliant writer he manages to capture countless facets of experience in a book which itself is only about 340 pages long (thirteen books in total) and this work also has immense range and depth, from the strange nature of free will and sin to the inner quest for the indwelling image of the Trinity, to Augustine's mystical experiences, to his dramatic conversion, to his allegorical commentary on Genesis to his ceaseless praise of God's goodness and the beauty of creation.
Augustine is clearly influenced by several sources, especially Neo-Platonic Philosophy. Augustine read the Enneads of Plotinus in translation into Latin (thanks to Marcus Victorius, a Christian convert from Neo-Platonism) and found its concepts of God made more sense to him than that of the sect he was a member of, the Manicheans. The Manicheans, a syncretic sect who blended Buddhism, elements of Christianity, Zorastrianism and Gnosticism, and Platonism captivated Augustine for several years, seeming to provide a satisfying explanation for the baffling problem of evil. Yet Augustine, after reading Plotinus, thought the explanation of evil in terms of non-being made more sense than God making an evil world, or being ruled by an evil principle. In this sense Augustine made a crucial breakthrough in theology, not only by finding God 'within' the depths of his own soul, but also in associating God with the Platonic Good.
Yet Augustine's strongest influence is the Bible. References to the Bible abound far more than references to Plotinus, and for Augustine, pagan thought is mostly useful for articulating truths already main plain by the Word of God. However, Augustine is always too brilliant and original thinker to merely fall into a rigid pattern of dogma he never leaves (in contrast to many more mediocre minds in the Christian tradition) and reworks his theology consistently and constantly in a creative manner.
However the Confessions is too brilliant and profound a work to summarise in one review, and it is best if readers avail themselves to a copy of this work as soon as they can.