OCEANS OF DARKNESS,
OCEANS OF LIGHT
enozzo Gozzoli in the Renaissance painted frescoes of the life of St Augustine for the Augustinians of San Gimignano. One of these shows the child taken from his Christian mother, Monica, and his pagan father, ambitious for him to enter corridors of power, to school in Tagaste to learn, and where pagan Latin is taught the children with cruelty and with lust.
We see the scene serially, first the decent-seeming school master fetching the child, innocent and cheeky, from his concerned mother and his proud father, then the child on the back of an older boy, his buttocks exposed, being flailed by this same master whom he had trusted and into whose eyes he strives to look with both surprise and horror as his world of security shatters. Trust is lost. The flogging is public, painful, humiliating. The shock will be enduring. Augustine the child is finally shown beside the master, docile, book in hand, almost smirking at this other and now divided self. Cultural, and acculturated, schizophrenia begins here.
We ourselves, gazing on this fresco, are witnessing a scene of child abuse, which continued even in the Christian world just as much as it had in the pagan world. The master would have had the same done to him, why he does it in turn.
Somehow the victims were brain-washed into thinking the abuse done to them privileged them. Their contempt for others not subject to the same abuse is tremendous. And totally un-Christian. In this way the ruling class is formed, Plato's 'Myth of the Metals', the concoction of a terrible lie to exonerate slavery. The English class structure, the deadly discrimination in Germany of Jews, in America of Native Americans and African Americans, in South Africa the apartheid against Indians and Africans, in Europe against gypsies, all products of the projection on to the other of a contempt bred into the self, a terrorizing both internal and external. These methods have now penetrated monasticism and ordination to the priesthood and come under the rubric of 'formation'. They are used, too, in American fraternities and sororities and honour societies, and male-only private clubs. They are used by religious 'cults', which play games with suicides. They are used in Protestant Irish Lodges inflaming sectarian violence against Catholics, such as at Holy Cross. An American President, a former alcoholic, shaped by his fraternity and by such sectarian Protestantism, aided and abetted by an English Prime Minister, who stooped to using plagiary, now has torn the world with war.
Rose Lloyds, An English Rose , 'Scorn for the Orphans'
Very few sought to break this cycle of victimized=victimizer. Montaigne's father did so, and brought up his son, Michel, in scepticism not of the pagans but of the Christians, of all reality, to grant him easy entry into the world of books, of texts, divorced from the world, in his tower study, beneath the motto from Terence on his ceiling beams: 'Homo sum: nihil humani me alienum puto '. Juan Luis Vives spoke of the need to 'unlearn', to undo our prejudices against the poor and the mentally ill, the traumatized.
Flogging, Latin, the world of the book, in this case of Virgil's lustful Aeneid for both Augustine and Dante, were all interconnected in the pagan, the medieval Christian, and the Renaissance worlds. It is a world of homosexuality, cruelty, and abandonment of the victim to depression and to suicide, all done in the name of entry into power, of Empire. Augustine then laid aside the world of lust to enter that of Christianity, and it was through hearing a child's voice as in play saying, 'Tolle, lege, tolle, lege', 'Take up and read, take up and read'. The book he picks up in the garden in Milan is Paul's Epistle to the Romans. And that day he reads no further.
In Gozzoli's rendition a young child is at his side gazing on his book over his shoulder. Augustine has re-entered Paradise in the garden from that world of lost innocence of the Marketplace.
Finally, and this story is legend not history, we have the account of Augustine's ponderings upon the mystery of the Trinity, to find a child at the sea shore playing at filling his sand castle with the ocean, and telling Augustine that it is equally impossible to fathom the mystery of the Trinity as it is to fill the castle with the ocean.
This playing child whom Augustine sees is both the Christ Child, and Augustine's alter ego, our Inner Child, our soul, telling us the world of the book is nought, unless it be Love, unless it be the Word made flesh, dwelling in our midst. In charity. Not cruelty. The marvel is in humility and in greatness, the smallness of the playful, creating child, the vastness of God's Creation. We can only truly teach, when we have learned from that fragility.
Gozzoli gives Augustine no halo until his baptism in humility, in nakedness, with water, by St Ambrose.
Perhaps Augustine never completely undid his own
initial trauma, his wounding, bringing that trauma into
Christian theology, projecting it upon others, indelibly
marring us with 'Original Sin', displacing his own shock at a
lost innocence, into what became a Christian doctrine, in
opposing Pelagius, - and which caused Christianity's loss of
innocence. He brings into the world of Christian books Aeneas'
pagan lacrimae rerum, the 'tears of things', once
taught him so brutally, so violently, in Tagaste, behind the
curtains of his school.
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Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: http://books.guardian.co.uk/video/2007/sep/07/naomiklein
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