March 16, 2017

The Early Theists


A ugustine was an early Christian theologian and philosopher whose writings influenced the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. He was the bishop of Hippo Regius (within modern-day Annaba, Algeria), located in Numidia (Roman province of Africa). Augustine is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers in Western Christianity for his writings in the Patristic Era. Among his most important works are The City of God and Confessions.


13 November 354 Thagaste, Numidia (modern-day Souk Ahras, Algeria)


28 August 430 (aged 75) Hippo Regius, Numidia (within modern-day Annaba, Algeria)


Ancient philosophy


Western philosophy

Main interests


Chapter Ⅱ. The Early Theists



Hayagriva dasa: Augustine considered the soul to be spiritual and incorporeal, but he also believed that the soul of the individual does not exist prior to birth. The soul attains its immortality only at death, and then goes on to live through eternity.

Srila Prabhupada: If the soul is created, how is it immortal? How can the soul sometimes not be eternal?

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine would say that the soul is immortal after it is created, but that at a certain point it is brought into being.

Srila Prabhupada: Then what does he consider death to be?

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine recognizes two types of death: physical death, wherein the soul leaves the body; and soul-death, which is the death experienced by the soul when God abandons it. When one is damned, he faces not only physical death but spiritual soul-death as well.

Srila Prabhupada: Figuratively speaking, when one forgets his position, he undergoes a kind of death, but the soul is eternal. What Augustine calls spiritual death is forgetfulness. When one is unconscious, he forgets his identity, but when one is dead, he cannot revive his consciousness. Of course, until one acquires his freedom from material existence, he is spiritually dead, even though existing in the material form. Forgetfulness of our real identity is a kind of death. When we are alive to God consciousness, we are actually alive. In any case, the soul is eternal and survives the annihilation of the body.

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine would consider that in some cases the forgetful stage is eternal.

Srila Prabhupada: It is not. Our consciousness can always be revived, and that is the conviction of this Krsna consciousness movement. We say that a man is unconscious when he is sleeping, but if you call him again and again, the sound of his name enters his ear, and he awakes. Similarly, this process of chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra awakens us to spiritual consciousness. Then we can live a spiritual life.

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine would say that God eternally abandons the damned soul to eternal perdition.

Srila Prabhupada: He may be "eternally abandoned" in the sense that he may remain forgetful for millions of years. It may seem eternal, but our spiritual consciousness can be revived at any moment by good association, by the method of hearing and chanting. Devotional service therefore begins with sravanam, hearing. In the beginning, especially, hearing is very important. If we hear the truth from a self-realized soul, we can awake to spiritual life and remain spiritually alive in devotional service.

Hayagriva dasa: In The City of God, Augustine refers to two cities, or societies: one demonic, and the other divine. In one city, love of God and the spirit is the unifying factor; and in the other, love of the world and the flesh is dominant. Augustine writes: "These are two loves, the one of which is holy, the other unholy; one social, the other individualistic; the one is subject to God, the other sets itself up as a rival to God."

Srila Prabhupada: A similar allegory is given in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The body is likened to a city, and the soul is likened to the king of that city. The body has nine gates, and the king can leave the city through these gates. These detailed descriptions are given in Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine seems to admit the transcendence of God, but not His omnipresence as the Paramatma accompanying each individual soul. He writes: "God is not the soul of all things, but the maker of all souls."

Srila Prabhupada: Then how is God all pervading? The Paramatma is accepted as the Supersoul both in Brahma-samhita and in Bhagavad-gita.

upadrastanumanta ca
bharta bhokta mahesvarah
paramatmeti capy ukto
dehe 'smin purusah parah

"Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul." (Bg. 13.23) God is present in every atom.

vistabhyaham idam krtsnam
ekamsena sthito jagat

"With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe." (Bg. 10.42)

vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvam yaj jnanam advayam
brahmeti paramatmeti
bhagavan iti sabdyate

"Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan." (Bhag. 1.2.11) Certainly God has the potency of omnipresence. This cannot be denied.

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine disagrees with Origen's contention that the body is like a prison. He writes: "If the opinion of Origen and his followers were true—that matter was created that souls might be enclosed in bodies, as in penitentiaries for the punishment of sin—then the higher and lighter bodies should have been for those whose sins were slight, and the lower and heavier ones for those whose crimes were great."

Srila Prabhupada: The soul is essentially part and parcel of God, but is imprisoned in different types of bodies. In Bhagavad-gita Krsna says:

sarva-yonisu kaunteya
murtayah sambhavanti yah
tasam brahma mahad yonir
aham bija-pradah pita

"It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father." (Bg. 14.4) From material nature, the mother, different species are coming. They are found in earth, water, air, and even fire. The individual souls, however, are part and parcel of the Supreme, who impregnates them within this material world. The living entity then comes out into the material world through the womb of some mother. It appears that the soul is coming out of matter, but it is not composed of matter.

The souls, always part and parcel of God, assume different types of bodies according to pious or impious activities or desires. The desires of the soul determine higher or lower bodies. In any case, the soul is the same. It is therefore said that those who are advanced in spiritual consciousness see the same soul in each and every body, be it the body of a dog, or a brahmana.

brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva svapake ca
panditah sama-darsinah

"The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater [outcaste]." (Bg. 5.18)

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine looked on Adam as the root of mankind. He writes: "God knew how good it would be for this community often to recall that the human race had its roots in one man, precisely to show how pleasing it is to God that men, though many, should be one."

Srila Prabhupada: Our Vedic conception is similar. We say that mankind has come from Manu. From Manu, we get the Sanskrit word manusah, which means "coming from Manu," or "human being." Manu himself comes from Brahma, who is the first living being. Thus living beings come from other living beings, not from matter. Brahma, in his turn, comes from the Supreme Lord as rajo-guna avatara. Indeed, Brahma is the incarnation of rajo-guna, the mode of passion. All living beings ultimately come from the supreme living Being.

Hayagriva dasa: Like Origen, Augustine considered the soul to be created at a particular time, but unlike Origen, he rejected reincarnation: "Let these Platonists stop threatening us with reincarnation as punishment for our souls. Reincarnation is ridiculous. There is no such thing as a return to this life for the punishment of souls. If our creation, even as mortals, is due to God, how can the return to bodies, which are gifts of God, be punishment?"

Srila Prabhupada: Does he think that the assumption of the body of a hog or similar lower creature is not punishment? Why does one person get the body of King Indra or Lord Brahma, and another the body of a pig or insect? How does he explain the body of a pig? If the body is a gift from God, it can also be a punishment from God. When one is rewarded, he gets the body of a Brahma or a King Indra, and if he is punished, he gets the body of a pig.

Hayagriva dasa: What about the body of a man? Is that a gift or punishment?

Srila Prabhupada: There are many men who are well situated, and others who are suffering. Suffering and enjoyment take place according to the body. As explained in Bhagavad-gita:

matra-sparsas tu kaunteya
agamapayino 'nityas
tams titiksasva bharata

"O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed." (Bg. 2.14) An old man may perceive cold very acutely, whereas a young child may not perceive it. Perception is relative to the body. An animal may go naked and not feel the cold, whereas a man cannot. Thus the body is a source of suffering and enjoyment. Or we may consider this punishment and reward.

Hayagriva dasa: For Augustine, the soul of each individual man is not necessarily condemned to earth due to his own desire or sin, but due to the original sin of Adam, the first man. He writes: "When the first couple [Adam and Eve] were punished by the judgement of God, the whole human race...was present in the first man. And what was born was not human nature as it was originally created, but as it became after the first parents' sin and punishment—as far, at least, as concerns the origin of sin and death." In this sense, the individual partakes of the karma of the entire race.

Srila Prabhupada: If this is the case, why does he call the body a gift? Why does he say that it is not punishment? The original man was punished, as well as the man after him, and so on. Sometimes a father's disease is inherited by the son. Is this not a form of punishment?

Hayagriva dasa: Then the human form is a punishment in itself?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes. At the same time, you can consider human life a gift because it is given by God. We should think that if God has given us this body for our punishment, it is His mercy, because by undergoing punishment we may become purified and progress toward God. Devotees think in this way. Although the body is a form of punishment, we consider it a reward because by undergoing the punishment, we are progressing toward God realization. Even when the body is given by God for our correction, it can thus be considered a gift.

Hayagriva dasa: For Augustine, the physical body precedes the spiritual: "What is sown a natural body, arises a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body....But it is not the spiritual that comes first, but the physical. The first man was of the earth, earthly; the second man is from heaven, heavenly.... But the body which, of the life-giving spirit, will become spiritual and immortal will under no condition be able to die. It will be immortal, just as the created soul is immortal."

Srila Prabhupada: Why does he speak of immortality in connection with man only? Every living entity has an immortal body. As we said, entering the mortal body is a kind of punishment. The individual undergoes an evolutionary process from lower to higher species. Every soul is part and parcel of God, but due to some sinful activity, the living entity comes into this material world. In the Bible, it is said that due to disobedience to God, Adam and Eve lost paradise and had to come into the material world. The soul belongs to the paradise in heaven, the planets of Krsna, but somehow or other he has fallen into this material world and has taken on a body. According to our activities, we are elevated or degraded as a demigod, human being, animal, tree, or plant. In any case, the soul is always aloof from the material body. This is confirmed by Vedic literatures. Our actual spiritual life begins when we are freed from material contamination, or transmigration.

Hayagriva dasa: Concerning peace, Augustine writes: "Peace between a mortal man and his Maker consists in ordered obedience, guided by faith, under God's eternal law; peace between man and man consists in regulated fellowship... .The peace of the heavenly city lies in a perfectly ordered and harmonious communion of those who find their joy in God and in one another in God. Peace in its final sense is the calm that comes of order."

Srila Prabhupada: Peace means coming in contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A man in ignorance thinks that he is the enjoyer of this world, but when he contacts the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the supreme controller, he understands that God is the enjoyer. We are servants meant to supply enjoyment to God. A servant supplies the needs of his master. Actually, the master has no needs, but he enjoys the company of his servants, who in turn enjoy his company. A public servant is very happy when he receives a good government job, and a master is happy to acquire a very faithful servant. This is the relationship between the individual soul and God, and when this relationship is destroyed, it is said that the individual soul exists in maya. When the relationship is restored, the individual is situated in his spiritual consciousness, which we call Krsna consciousness, by which he understands that the supreme God is the actual enjoyer and proprietor as well as the Supreme Being. When we understand God's transcendental qualities, we become happy and attain peace.

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine felt that neither activity nor meditation should be exclusive but should complement one another: "No man must be so committed to contemplation as, in his contemplation, to give no thought to his neighbor's needs, nor so absorbed in action as to dispense with the contemplation of God."

Srila Prabhupada: Unless you think of God, how can you be active in the service of God? Real meditation is meditation on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, or the Supersoul within the core of the heart. Activity and meditation should go together, however. If we sit down and think of God, it is commendable, but if we work for God as God desires, our position is superior. If you love me and simply sit and think of me, that is commendable. That may be considered meditation. However, if you love me, it is better that you carry out my orders. That is more important.

Hayagriva dasa: Augustine conceived of a spiritual world in which the movements of the spiritual bodies "will be of such unimaginable beauty that I dare not say more than this: There will be such poise, such grace, such beauty as become a place where nothing unbecoming can be found. Wherever the spirit wills, there, in a flash, the body will be....God will be the source of every satisfaction. He will be the consummation of all our desiring, the object of our unending vision, of our unlessening love, of our unwearying praise....The souls in bliss will still possess freedom of will, though sin will have no power to tempt them."

Srila Prabhupada: Yes, sin cannot touch one who remains in contact with God. According to our desires, we associate with the modes of material nature and acquire different types of bodies. Nature, the agent of Krsna, affords us facilities by giving us a body, which is like a machine. When a son insists, "Father, give me a cycle," the affectionate father complies. This is a typical relationship between a father and his son. As explained in Bhagavad-gita:

isvarah sarva-bhutanam
hrd-dese 'rjuna tisthati
bhramayan sarva-bhutani
yantrarudhani mayaya

"The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone's heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as on a machine made of the material energy." (Bg. 18.61) The Supreme Father, Krsna, is within the core of everyone's heart. As the living entity desires, the Father supplies a body manufactured by material nature. This body is destined to suffer, but the spiritual bodies in the Vaikunthas are not subject to birth, old age, disease, or death, nor the threefold miseries. They are eternal and full of knowledge and bliss.

Hayagriva dasa: For Augustine, the mind, reason, and the soul are one and the same.

Srila Prabhupada: No, these are different identities. The mind acts according to the intelligence, but the intelligence of different living entities differs. Similarly, minds also differ. A dog's intelligence is not equal to that of a human being, but this is not to say that the dog does not have a soul. The soul is placed in different bodies that have different types of intelligence and different ways of thinking, acting, feeling, and willing. So the mind and intelligence differ according to the body, but the soul remains the same.

Hayagriva dasa: By identifying the soul with mind and reason, Augustine could justify killing animals. He writes: "Indeed, some people try to stretch the prohibition ['Thou shalt not kill.'] to cover beasts and cattle, and make it unlawful to kill any such animal. But then, why not include plants and anything rooted in and feeding on the soil?...Putting this nonsense aside, we do not apply 'Thou shalt not kill' to plants, because they have no sensation; nor to irrational animals that fly, swim, walk, or creep, because they are linked to us by no association or common bond. By the creator's wise ordinance, they are meant for our use, dead or alive. It only remains for us to apply the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill' to man alone, oneself and others."

Srila Prabhupada: The Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill," without qualification. Our Vedic philosophy admits that one living entity serves as food for another living entity. That is natural. As stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam, those animals who have hands eat animals without hands. The four-legged animals eat animals that cannot move, as well as plants and vegetables. Thus the weak is food for the strong. This is a natural law. Our Krsna consciousness philosophy, however, is not based on the view that plant life is less sensitive than animal life, or animal life is less sensitive than human life. We consider all human beings, animals, plants, and trees to be living entities, spirit souls. We may eat an animal or a vegetable—whatever the case, we must inevitably eat some living entity. It therefore becomes a question of selection. Apart from vegetarian or nonvegetarian diets, we are basically concerned with Krsna prasadam. We take only the remnants of whatever Krsna eats. In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says:

patram puspam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayacchati
tad aham bhakty-upahrtam
asnami prayatatmanah

"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it." (Bg. 9.26) This is our philosophy. We are concerned with taking the remnants of Krsna's food, which we call prasadam, mercy. We should not touch meat or anything else not offerable to Krsna.

yajna-sistasinah santo
mucyante sarva-kilbisaih
bhunjate te tv aghampapa
ye pacanty atma-karanat

"The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin." (Bg. 3.13)

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