“I Yearn to Know God and the Soul”

AugustineDeum et animam scire cupio: I yearn to know God and the soul. So says Augustine in his 386 A. D. Soliloquies, one of four texts in his Cassiciacum Dialogues. The other three are: Against the AcademicsOn the Happy Life, and On Order. In Soliloquies Augustine also gives us this beautiful little prayer: Deus semper idem, noverim me, noverim te: O God, always the same, may I know myself, may I know thee. My revised dissertation on the Cassiciacum dialogues will be soon be published by Wipf and Stock. On the one hand:

  • it’s not quite as prestigious as Oxford or Cambridge.
  • it won’t earn me the kind of royalty money Barack Obama’s autobiography earns him;
  • it won’t be read by ten million people;
  • and this won’t be the most important book of the decade.

On the other hand:

  • Wipf and Stock is a respectable publisher of academic books relating to Christianity.
  • I might make a little bit of royalty money.
  • Some people will read it.
  • Since it will be available for around $30 or less (pretty cheap for academic publishing; way to go, Wipf and Stock!), more people will actually be able to buy it.
  • It’s probably going to be better written and will certainly be more edifying than the vast majority of books that began as dissertations–perhaps even than a majority of all academic books.
  • It’s picked up a few neat endorsements.
  • Although it’s not the most important book of the decade, it’s not nothing. It’s important in its own way.

To elaborate on that last point: My little book is on Augustine, who can simultaneously be considered a significant ancient philosopher, the founder of medieval philosophy, the most important church father, and the most influential theologian in church history. This book on his early writings concerns a huge topic in the theology and philosophy stretching from about 500 years before Augustine to about 1,200 years afterhim. Augustine is more influential than any one else in the shift from the ancient world (those earlier 500 years) to the medieval (the next 1,200 years). And the early period (just after his conversion to Christianity in 386 A. D.) is the start of his monumental contribution to that shift. The Cassiciacum dialogues are a close-up on the hinge on which history turns. So, yeah . . . in its own nerdy way, it’s kinda important. But what is that “huge topic”? I told you in my last post: It’s desire and happiness.  I explain how Augustine mingles the Platonist with the Christian approaches to the question of what we should desire in order to be happy. In one sentence: I explain how Augustine’s theology of desire is a Christian one which making of some insights from the Platonic philosophers. The book will be called The Conversion and Therapy of Desire: Augustine’s Theology of Desire in the Cassiciacum Dialogues. Hopefully sometime next year it will be available on Amazon. I would be honored if a few readers of TTC were to read it.

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