Saturday, March 22, 2014

"City of God" VI.10-12

Chapter 10:
Where Varro had only obliquely attacked the Civil Theology (being afraid of punishment by the state), the Stoic philosopher Seneca gave it both barrels. Feeling that he was set 'free' by his submission to fate (a common theme among the Stoics--this is a great listen if you want to know more on that), Seneca could criticize the falsity and excess of the pagan religion. And yet, even then he encouraged people to go along with it publicly in order that they not give offense to the masses or be punished by the government:
But this man, whom philosophy had made, as it were, free, nevertheless, because he was an illustrious senator of the Roman people, worshipped what he censured, did what he condemned, adored what he reproached, because, forsooth, philosophy had taught him something great,—namely, not to be superstitious in the world, but, on account of the laws of cities and the customs of men, to be an actor, not on the stage, but in the temples,—conduct the more to be condemned, that those things which he was deceitfully acting he so acted that the people thought he was acting sincerely.  But a stage-actor would rather delight people by acting plays than take them in by false pretences.
So much for the "freedom" of philosophy.

Chapter 11:
This is reinforced by Seneca's treatment of the Jews, and his silence about the Christians. Interestingly, as Augustine was well aware, there was a tradition of apocryphal correspondence between Paul and Seneca spurred on in part by the fact that Seneca's brother was the judge in Paul's Corinthian trial. Though Seneca did write many letters, he did not write these.

Chapter 12:
And so we have seen that the Civil and Mythical gods can provide neither temporal nor eternal blessing, and so should not be worshiped.

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