The Mystery of Godliness

Too late loved I thee, O Thou beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved Thee! And behold, Thou wert within and I abroad, and there I searched for Thee, deformed I, plunging amid those fair forms which Thou hadst made. Thou were with me but I was not with Thee. Things held me far from Thee which, unless they were in Thee, were not at all. Thou calledst and shoutedst, and burstedst my deafness. Thou flashedst, shonest, and scattered my blindness. Though breathedst odors, and I drew I n breath and pant for Thee. I tasted, and hunger hunger and thirst. Thou touchedst me and I burned for Thy peace. When I shall with my whole soul cleave to Thee, I shall nowhere have sorrow or labor, and my life shall live as wholly full of Thee.

This beautiful prayer of St. Augustine is merely the long version of “my soul followeth hard after thee, O Lord” from the Psalmist.   I’ve always had this longing in my heart and, though it was definitely a learned emphasis…my role in my family and community was to be a “man of the cloth”…I think it also revealed a sensitivity in my soul that has not dissipated after six decades. Yes, there are many ways of looking at it, including neurology and certainly neurosis! Perhaps there is that “god spot” in some of our brains that was merely over heated with St. Augustine and with the rest of us who “pine” after the Ultimate. I can’t help but speculate about whether or not we’d ever have heard of St. Augustine if he’d have been prozac’d!

As has been said, “it takes call kinds” and we “piners’ are therefore part of the picture that is being painted. St. Augustine and his ilk were highly attuned to the mystery that lies at the heart of life. This mystery can be overwhelming and so God has kindly offered fig leaves to hide those intense feelings for most people.

Here is wisdom from Ranier Rilke re this mystery, shared with us this morning on the blog by Blue Eyed Ennis on WP:

And yet, Though We Strain
~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

And yet though we strain
against the deadening grip
of daily necessity,
I sense there is this mystery:

All life is being lived.

Who is living it then?

Is it the things themselves,
or something waiting inside them,
like an unplayed melody in a flute?

Is it the winds blowing over the waters?
Is it the branches that signal to each other?

Is it flowers
interweaving their fragrances
or streets, as they wind through time?


4 thoughts on “The Mystery of Godliness

  1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    From your Augustine link:

    Augustine’s view of sexual feelings as sinful affected his view of women. For example he considered a man’s erection to be sinful, though involuntary because it did not take place under his conscious control. His solution was to place controls on women to limit their ability to influence men. Augustine viewed women not only as threatening to men, but also as intellectually and morally inferior. He equated flesh with woman and spirit with man.

    He believed that the serpent approached Eve because she was less rational and lacked self-control, while Adam’s choice to eat was viewed as an act of kindness so that Eve would not be left alone. Augustine believed sin entered the world because man (the spirit) did not exercise control over woman (the flesh).

    From most everything I’ve read about Augustine, it became apparent to me that he yearned for a connection and a thirst that was never satisfied. It is my opinion, based on a good bit of research on Augustine, that Augustine was never fully connected to his humanity and showed signs of hyper-religiosity. Jean-Miguel Garrigues, O.P., a member of the Pontifical Theological Academy, stated that “in no uncertain terms, Augustine provided the theological rationale for the Inquisition.” Eminent Catholic historian Eamon Duffy, while writing for the Pastoral Review, acknowledged the link between Augustine and coercion / Inquisition: “For more than a millennium the Catholic Church thought it right to combat heresy and enforce orthodoxy and Catholic morality by the use of force, including the death penalty. St Augustine himself had justified the forcible conversion. “Where Augustine led, others followed: forced conversions of whole populations were routine aspects of the Christianisation of Europe in the early Middle Ages.”

    IMO, I don’t think he ever got over the loss of his best friend, and I believe that affected his perception and behavior. PTSD. Within a couple of years of his friend’s death, he converted to Christianity after hearing voices in his head. Duress primes the brain for conversion.

    “Augustine is overcome with grief after his friend dies in his absence. Things he used to love become hateful to him because everything reminds him of what was lost. He concludes that any time one loves something not in God, one is bound to feel such loss. Augustine then suggests that he began to love his life of sorrow more than his fallen friend.”

    After his trauma, Augustine wanted to cleave to that which was not tangible, and pushed away that which was. Guilt ridden, it appeared he lived a life as a defeated perfectionist and seemed to view sorrow as a virtue. I think Augustine would have benefited from that “fig leaf”.

    I didn’t mean to detract from your thought provoking post, and I know that I can be a “thorn in your side” at times. I simply find it all fascinating—the biological and neurological mechanisms at work…to understand the roots of discontentment and emotional detachment under the guise of being “highly attuned to mystery” a.k.a. altered states of consciousness.. In my next post, I want to highlight something you said, and leave a link from a behavioral neuroscientist who is also spiritual – a Buddhist. I think you will find it fascinating and informative, and compliments one of your quotes. Thanks for reading.


  2. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

    This is my followup post I had mentioned in my previous post: You said:

    “Perhaps there is that “god spot” in some of our brains that was merely over heated with St. Augustine and with the rest of us who “pine” after the Ultimate.”

    Here’s the link I said I’d share with you. Perhaps some fuel for thought. Again, thank you for taking the time to read. You have a gift of “over heating” my brain, which is a good thing 😉


    1. literary lew Post author

      St. Augustine was subject to the limitations of being a finite person in a finite world in a particular moment in our history. I, for one, do not think that he was without “motivation” or that he ever approached objectivity. The tenor of your stance so often seems to present the notion that it is possible for one to be objective, to have obtained a perspective that is free of any subterranean (i.e. unconscious) influences. If I waited for that to happen, then “literarylew” would have to “shut the f…” up pronto for “literarylew” is as driven as anyone by these subterranean monsters. I deign to say that anyone who thinks he/she is living in an illusory world or is a Republican. He/she is driven by fear which is what drives him/her into such a firm, unequivocal position. Been there, done that. Can’t go back and would not want to. I find that living with uncertainty…and some semblence of faith…is better than living in the illusory world that I came from.


      1. N℮üґ☼N☮☂℮ṧ

        “The tenor of your stance so often seems to present the notion that it is possible for one to be objective, to have obtained a perspective that is free of any subterranean (i.e. unconscious) influences.”

        I appreciate your feedback, but would have to respectfully disagree with your assertion on “the tenor of my stance”. I think my posts, my blog, and our dialogs outside of WP, have clearly shown that it is not possible to be free from unconscious AND environmental influences, but it is possible to be objective about certain things when applying the scientific method. It is possible to understand some of those influences, how they affect us, and the motives behind belief by applying critical thinking as well. Humans exists. That’s a fact. We don’t know if God exists, and there are numerous variables that create the perception that God does exists, such as neurological disorders, abnormal electrical activity, kindling and scarring in the brain, psychological trauma, neurological trauma, indoctrination, temporal lobe lability, sensed presence caused by extreme environmental conditions on the body, infrasound, hormones, neurotransmitters, and geophysical interferences on the body and brain, etc.

        With all these variables, and then some, I have chosen not to make assumptions as to whether God exists or not. I simply don’t know. However, I did spend a good portion of my life seeking the “mystery of godliness”, but it no longer consumes me. With that comes a sense of peace, and an overall feeling of interconnectedness with people and with all life on this planet. I care about being focused on being alive, here and now and hopefully make a positive contribution. I think faith is the catalyst for yearnings, and I understand that faith has benefited people as a coping mechanism in times of uncertainty, and/or with those who experience death anxiety. But it also has side-effects. A reoccurring theme I see in your posts is a desire to return to ‘Source’. But hypothetically speaking, what if “Source” wants to experience life through you? Are you giving it your best shot? (wink, wink)


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