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Book 1, Chapter 6 & 7

One chapter per week study of a book that profoundly influenced C. S. Lewis.

Book 1, Chapter 6 & 7

Postby magpie » 22 Jul 2005, 23:48

First a procedural note: When Rudif began this forum, the idea was to do one prose and poem per thread. Since the rest of the originals have drifted away, we can change this as we begin Book 2. Should we stick with the original pattern or take larger sections?

Poem 6 recalls Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, for everything there is a season, with the added caution that it is useless to try to alter this. Modern technology routinely defies this admonition, but at what cost?

In Prose 6 the spiritual diagnostic which Philosophy administers yields an interesting result. Boethius seems to have three problems:

1. He doesn't know how God governs all things.
2. He doesn't know why (to what purpose) God governs.
3. He doesn't know (or has forgotten) who he is.

The third point relates to the question which ultimately lies behind all philosophical endeavor, but can we ever really know the answer to the first two? Philosophy seems to imply that we can and should.

In Poem 7 the Stoic theme is restated.
If you want to see the truth in clear light, and follow the right road, you must cast off all joy and fear. Fly from hope and sorrow. When these things rule, the mind is clouded and bound to earth.
It would appear that joy is as much a deterent to wisdom as fear. I am not sure that I would agree with that. And flying from hope seems to contradict 1 Corinthians 13:13. Why would joy and hope be presented as negatives?
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Re: Book 1, Chapter 6 & 7

Postby Air of Winter » 24 Jul 2005, 06:59

magpie wrote:First a procedural note: When Rudif began this forum, the idea was to do one prose and poem per thread. Since the rest of the originals have drifted away, we can change this as we begin Book 2. Should we stick with the original pattern or take larger sections?


I'm happy enough to do either. I think perhaps that his thought comes clearer in larger sections; I don't always see where he's going if I only read a short one.


Poem 6 recalls Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, for everything there is a season, with the added caution that it is useless to try to alter this. Modern technology routinely defies this admonition, but at what cost? ...

In Poem 7 the Stoic theme is restated. If you want to see the truth in clear light, and follow the right road, you must cast off all joy and fear. Fly from hope and sorrow. When these things rule, the mind is clouded and bound to earth. It would appear that joy is as much a deterent to wisdom as fear. I am not sure that I would agree with that. And flying from hope seems to contradict 1 Corinthians 13:13. Why would joy and hope be presented as negatives?


Well, 'joy' is one of the most positive words in English; I don't think I've ever heard it used in a fashion with any negative note at all. But I wonder if that's true of Boethius' original Latin word? (Even if I knew what it was and knew its base meaning, I couldn't answer this question.)

I think I can give you an example of a misuse of hope, and it hinges on a refusal to respect the seasons.

I have an old relative who has Parkinson's disease. She is, by the account of someone I trust to make such judgments, failing; she has been physically miserable for a fair time now. She knows she's going to die in the fairly near future; she's a Christian; she wants to talk about death and about Heaven.

Her daughter, also a Christian, but apparently not a wise one, seems to be unwilling to acknowledge her mother's true situation. The daughter also seems to have absorbed certain modern ideas about psychology a bit too uncritically. You've perhaps noticed that some people have a tendency to call every severe sorrow 'depression' -- they don't save the term for the real malady, but behave as if it's a mental illness to be gravely unhappy for any reason?

So it is here. Let the poor old woman try to talk about what she knows perfectly well is happening, and she's 'mentally ill -- she's depressed.' Let her not eat, and her daughter claims that she's 'suicidal' and trying to starve herself to death -- although what's very probably going on is that she's reaching the stage where her body is slowly fading toward shutdown. At the time in her life when she most needs the support of her family, she is instead bearing the burden of their refusal to look reality in the face. They are putting an inhuman burden on her, in expecting her to behave as if she might live for years yet when she hasn't the strength.

A hope sufficiently unrealistic, sufficiently out of accord with reason, can be an evil. I'm not sure that this is what Boethius was getting at, though. It still sounds as if he's disapproving overmuch of emotion.
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Re: Book 1, Chapter 6 & 7

Postby magpie » 26 Jul 2005, 02:35

Air of Winter wrote:A hope sufficiently unrealistic, sufficiently out of accord with reason, can be an evil. I'm not sure that this is what Boethius was getting at, though. It still sounds as if he's disapproving overmuch of emotion.


As far as Boethius is concerned, I think you are on the right track. It fits in with his generally Stoic tone, and in this sense he would not be referring to Christian hope, but rather a secular hope in the transitory things of this world.

The example you cited, however, very much interested me. You state that the daughter is a Christian, yet she shows a very pagan attitude toward death. What she would consider a "hopeful" stance strikes me as fear, an unreasoning panic-filled denial of the untimate experience which must come to us all. The mother, on the other hand, exhibits the Christian hope that death is not the end, and while she most likely has great anxiety about the process of dying, for her death itself would be the gateway to eternal joy.

Likewise in the reference to "joy," I suspect that Boethius is talking about the joy derived from temporary worldly pleasures and attainments, not the eternal joy to be experienced in God. Thus, while temporal hope and joy would be frail reeds to a Stoic, Boethius as a Christian could still anticipate ultimate beatitude.
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Re: Book 1, Chapter 6 & 7

Postby Air of Winter » 26 Jul 2005, 06:34

magpie wrote:Likewise in the reference to "joy," I suspect that Boethius is talking about the joy derived from temporary worldly pleasures and attainments, not the eternal joy to be experienced in God. Thus, while temporal hope and joy would be frail reeds to a Stoic, Boethius as a Christian could still anticipate ultimate beatitude.


That makes sense.
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