The Example Of A Woman Essay Research — страница 6

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Sensing the opportunity to tell a conversion storythat would appeal to Augustine’s own situation,Simplicianus speaks about the conversion of his friendMarius Victorinus. Victorinus had had something like atext-book philosophical conversion of the sort thatAugustine should have found congenial to histemperament, that is, if the intellectual odyssey wasall there had been. But the much hoped for conversiondoes not happen. Upon hearing Victorinus’ storyAugustine expresses a wish to imitate him (exarsi adimitandum).> But no sooner has he expressed the wishthan he is brought to his senses to confront the realitythat gnaws at him. We see Augustine again going over thenature of his anxiety, with an added comment that hefound in himself the conflict between the flesh and thespirit

spoken of by Paul (Gal 5; Rom 7-8). In hiscommentary on the events of that period Augustine nowsees quite unmistakably the problem of the dividedwill.> He had responded with ardor to the story ofVictorinus’ conversion only to regress. Julian’s ban, which compelled Victorinus to give upteaching, seemed propitious to Augustine because itallowed Victorinus to retire into philosophical leisure.Perhaps this is what Augustine would have wanted: apretext of some sort to help him do what he thoughtneeded doing. After all if he lacked one thing it wasresolve, and anything which could get him there waswelcome. Augustine’s iron will held fast.> The desireto retire from his profession was in any event thelesser of his worries.My will the enemy held, and thence had made a chain

forme, and bound me. For of a forward will, was a lustmade; and a lust served became custom; and custom notresisted, became necessity. By which links, as it were,joined together (whence I called it a chain) a hardbondage held me enthralled. But that new will which hadbegan to be in me, freely to serve Thee, and to wish toenjoy Thee, O God, the only assured pleasantness, wasnot yet able to overcome my former willfulness,strengthened by age. Thus did my two wills, one new, andthe other old, one carnal, the other spiritual, strugglewith me; and by their discord, undid my soul.> By turns censorious and apologetic Augustinedescribes himself in Conf. Bk. 8 in terms of a conflictbetween two wills: one old, carnal and entrenchedthrough years of habit and the other, new, spiritual

andinchoate. Unable to follow the example set by a woman,he had the temerity to do even worse: take anotherconcubine. To say that Augustine acted deplorably mayseem overly harsh. Yet he seems to be passing that kindof judgment on his own past, and in doing so invites hisinterpreters to wonder to what extent the departure ofhis concubine may have been decisive for the terms inwhich he came to understand his possible conversion toChristianity. Exactly when and at what time he came torethink what possible road he might take to becoming afull member of the church is not clear. What is beyonddoubt is that sometime between the departure of hisconcubine and his conversion in 386 Augustine came tolink his possible conversion to Christianity with sexualrenunciation. More specifically, by

the time he decidesto pay a visit to Simplicianus (Conf. 8.1.1) Augustinehas made the equation between conversion and continence. For all the anguish he must have endured Augustinewas unusually deliberate. The slow progression towardsresolution may also have prolonged his distress. Hehesitated when he heard the story of Victorinus. Againhe would hesitate when he hears the story of Anthony.The conversion of Victorinus seemed too sedate and toowell-managed a change, despite the fact that culturally,intellectually and professionally Augustine share a gooddeal with him. There is scarcely a hint that Victorinusunderwent anything like the deep emotional andpsychological trauma of Augustine’s. The stories told by Ponticianus were especiallywell suited for Augustine: the decisiveness

of those twocourtiers was what he needed. They had renounced theworld for something more enduring. And they had done sojust at the time in their careers when there were plyingthe very corridors of power and prestige in the Empire(Conf. 8.6.15). The effect on their own relations werealmost immediate: the women to whom they were engagedalso renounced the world, dedicating their virginity toGod (dicauerunt etiam ipsae uirginitatem tibi). Since his days as a Manichee, Augustine had neverlost his fascination with exemplary lives. But what hewas hearing now belonged to a different order. Hence thequestions he vaguely remembers posing for Alypius: Whatis wrong with us? What is this you have heard? Theunlearned rise up and take heaven by force, while we(look at us!) with all our learning