St. Augustine’s “Thou hast made us for thyself.”

In Chapter 18, of Entering Eternity with Ease, I talked about the new age interpretation of St. Augustine’s famous prayer: “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts will never rest until they rest in thee.” For 1600 years, millions of Christians have taken this prayer as an infallible formula for peace of heart in both time and eternity. But the problem is, today in the 21st Century, our ideas about who this God is who has made us for himself, have changed so radically, that we are at a loss to understand what that prayer concretely means today. Who IS this God who made us? WHAT is this God, and HOW did he make us? 

St. Augustine spent the first 30 years of his life as a Manichean. This was a sect that believed that there were two Gods:  The spiritual God of goodness, and the material God of badness, or evil. Augustine had inherited the Greek philosophers’ disagreements over matter and form. Many believed that only matter existed, while many believed that only form existed. By form, the Greeks meant the concept, or idea, of a thing. The materialists thought that only matter existed, and contained its own form as part of its physical existence. The idealists, especially the strict followers of Plato, did not believe in the physical existence of matter. They believed that everything existed only in the mind as an idea, a concept, a form. The Christian Scientists who follow Mary Baker Eddy are idealist, although why they call themselves scientists is lost on me, because scientists are the first ones to accept the reality of matter as opposed to idea.

Now in Augustine’s day, the Manicheans tried to solve the problem of matter and form by postulating two Gods: the material God and the spiritual God. Augustine seems to have finally settled on the spiritual God, after, of course, “sewing his wild oats,” by having a child out of wedlock with a concubine. He named the child “Deodatus”, that is, “given by God.”  Guess which God he was named after?  Finally, Augustine became a Christian, and embraced, presumably, the spiritual God. Although he spent a couple of years praying: “God, make me pure, but not yet.” Eventually, Augustine seems to have totally rejected the material God, and wholly embraced the spiritual God, when he made his famous quote that God had created us with an emptiness that only He could fill.

As the French standard of the seventies sang: “What now my love, now that it’s over. How can I live for another day? “Yes, that infinite emptiness is inside of each of us, and it can only be filled by some infinitely higher power.  Where is that God of infinite fulfillment today in this screwed up century? The answer to these questions is in Chapter 11 under “The Experience of Limitless Belonging.” That is where I draw upon some of the greatest meditation/mindfulness teachers of today.

I sense that many in America today are becoming overwhelmed by the infections and deaths that keep rising every day, along with the stalled economy which is hurting the most vulnerable in our society the most. Not to mention millions of parents and grandparents who are frightened to death of the loss of a successful continuing education for their children.

Thus we are slipping into the longest and hardest of the five stages of mourning: depression. Many do not seem to realize that depression is a serious disease.  It is not just a mental illness, but is what we call psychosomatic, that is, it involves both the psych and the body. Depression can lead to death or disability. This is the real danger of the perfect storm we find ourselves in today. As a psychotherapist for 49 years, I have to say that I have never seen anyone come out of depression by using anti-depressant drugs. What I have seen, however, is people coming out of depression through  mindfulness and meditation. It is up to each of us.

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