They felt they lived in one process, which has a definitely known beginning, the days of creation, which are only a few thousand years before our time and which will have a definite end, the days of judgment, which are only a few or a few thousand years ahead of us. And within this period we live; what we are doing in it is extremely important; it is the meaning of the whole world process. But it is limited in time, as it is limited in space. We are in the center of everything which happens, and Christ is in the center of everything which we are. This was the medieval world-view, and you can imagine how far away we are from this if you really realize, not what this means in terms of words, but in terms of a feeling towards reality, an awareness of one’s existence.
This is what Augustine says about the relationship of God and the world. Each of these statements is more important than what other theologians have said, in the whole history of Christianity.
Augustine’s Psychology or, better, his Doctrine of Man: He says that the decisive function in man is the will. It is present in memory and in intellect, and has the quality of love, namely, the desire toward reunion. This predominance of will was another of the great ideas in which the West overcame the East, and which produced the great medieval struggle between voluntarism and intellectualism. The two basic activities of the soul – knowledge and love, or will, which is the same – have an ambiguous character. They are partly directed towards themselves, and partly beyond themselves. They are directed towards oneself in self-knowledge and self- love.. . . . “We are, we know that we are, and we love this our being and knowing” This means we are self-related and self-affirming. We affirm ourselves in knowledge and in will.
On the other hand, of course, love and knowledge transcend ourselves and go to the other beings. Love participates in the eternal – this is its own eternity. The soul has trans- temporal elements. Now this participation is not what we usually call immortality, but it is the participation in the Divine Life, in the Divine loving ground of being.
But this idea is crossed by another one, in Augustine, and this tension is very important. One could say the mystical element is crossed by the educational element. The souls are not only eternal in their essence, but also immortal in the technical sense of continuation in time and space, or at least in time. As a consequence, those who are excluded from eternity because they are separated from God, are still immortal, and their immortality means their punishment, their damnation. They are excluded from God, which means they are excluded from love – love is the ground of being – and they do not deserve any pity. There is no unity of love between them and the others; but if so, one must ask: How, then, is (there) unity of being, if being is love? Here you see one of those conf licts between mystical-ontological thinking and ethical-educational thinking. We had the same conf lict in Origen when he spoke about the apokatastasis panton, the return of everything to God, the final salvation of everything that has being – and the Church rejected this. Here we have, again, in Augustine the same conf lict. In this conf lict esoteric theology and philosophy and mysticism always choose the one side, namely the side of the eternal and the union with God in eternity. Ecclesiastical, educational and ethical thinking always chose the other side, namely, the. personal impossibility of being eternally condemned and punished. Logically this is impossible because the very concept of the eternal excludes continuation in time, and the ontological concept of love – which is so strong in Augustine – excludes being which is not in unity with love. Educational – this is the continuous threat over everybody, and therefore the Church always maintained it, and accepted the logical contradiction in order to produce the threat of eternal (I. e., endless) condemnation. Ontological mysticism and educational moralism contradict each other in such ideas. It reminds me a little of another problem which is much more concrete, perhaps, in our time, but it has the same character: Everybody who thinks seriously, or at least thinks in a Christian or in an existentialist tradition, will agree with me that utopianism, namely the idea that at a certain time the classless society, or the Kingdom of God, will be established on earth, without power or compulsion, is Utopian – I. e., there is “no place” (no topos ) for this in time and space. But if we say this, then we diminish the fanatical will to political revolution and to transformational society – because people tell you: We know this, but if we tell the people, then they will not fight any more for the transformation of society. They can do it if they believe the final stage is at hand – the Kingdom of God at hand.
Only this gives the tremendous demanding power – What do you answer? It is the same problem. The ethical (in this case the social-educational) and the insight into the relation of time and eternity contradict each other, and many say: Although we know this is Utopianism, we must pronounce it, otherwise people will not act.