Augustine’s Contrapasso

Obviously, I am working through Confessions – again. I try to teach it roughly once a year. I always find new things when I read it; what I find engaging is not the narrative of his life, per se, but his meditations on it. I find the contrapasso of the following line quite striking:

For you have imposed order, and so it is that the punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder. (1.xii [19]; trans. Chadwick)

God is a God of order – Augustine is very much a Platonist on this one – but if our mind (the thing in us that is closest to God), is disordered, its disorderliness is the punishment. Our disorder creates evermore disorder in a downward spiral – and perhaps that is what he is foreshadowing for the rest of the narrative, much like he signals his “restlessness” in the opening lines: “you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in you.”  Disorderliness and restlessness are symptoms of estrangement from God; it is equivalent of saying sinfulness is its own punishment, that it is both means and end in a cycle of self-destructive behavior.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: