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St. DionysiosThe logoi spoken of by Augustine are “rationes seminales,” the seeds of development that make sure an embryo develops correctly into an adult (but also, they make sure movements of inanimate objects are orderly). This kind of logoi is fine and perfectly Orthodox, but Augustine’s overall anthropology and overall system of thought runs aground when we see the bigger picture. Why? Because there is another component to Augustine’s doctrine of logoi or forms. Augustine proclaims that there is a Truth that is God Himself, His Essence, which humans will know in the next life if they are good in this life (or if chosen by God to get prevenient grace–Augustine says different things in different writings). This is a heresy, since no one, not even angels, ever will know the essence of God. Below God’s Essence are immutable “ideas” of God, according to Augustine. These are uncreated in some sense (a problem since Augustine is not clear about the uncreated status of them, but how can he deny it? How can there be a level of immutable realities that are created? So most interpreters think Augustine places the forms in God’s mind. But how are things in God’s mind distinct from the essence and/or the Divine Persons? Answer to the problem: Augustine does not properly distinguish essence from energies in God, so he cannot place forms or logoi in the energies, as do the Orthodox), and man is equipped with forms in his own mind that correspond to them. There are many problems here. For one thing, Augustine defines the divine forms (later Aquinas makes these into Exemplars, which he equates with the logoi in St. Dion.) as standards by which human beings judge sense experience. This is why Augustine allows that pagan Platonist philosophers had direct experience of the forms or logoi in God, and thus somehow shared in changeless, eternal Christian Truth! For the Orthodox, a pagan does not join his nous to anything uncreated by means of the same mental power by which we distinguish red from blue and pain from pleasure. Such discrimination may be the beginning of purification, but it will be no more than a quasi-medicinal calming of the spirit with no appreciable effect on the nous. Augustine really thinks there is a form called “Equality” that hooks up to a node in our minds which allows us to determine whether two sticks are the same length or not. Most disturbing is Augustine’s inability to distinguish this supposed form-use with the saint’s experience of God. Augustine seems to think that experiencing the forms or logoi is to experience the immutable, but that to experience God, full-stop, one must die and then be merged with the divine essence. As you can plainly see, Augustine is confused about things no one who had experienced illumination of the nous could possibly be confused about. The question will certainly be asked: then Augustine cannot be a saint, right? He can be a saint, since he could have experienced illumination late in life and not written about it, and Augustine could be a saint by having his efforts at being a Christian rewarded by God filling up all that was lacking in his knowledge of God at the moment of his death, etc. But could we not say the same about anyone else who taught errors of theology but who remained within the sacramental bounds of the Church? See, we are already in a dangerous place when we say for sure where somebody is going after death. We cannot refrain from pointing out Augustine’s errors, though. They are the lifeblood of Western theology, and they threaten to undermine the spiritual lives of Western-minded Orthodox people who do not know any better.

James L. Kelley