Understanding Augustine's On the Trinity as a Mystical Work

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Howells, Edward
  • Publisher: Ashgate Publishing Ltd

Augustine’s great speculative work, On the Trinity, is something of a conundrum for scholars interested in his mysticism. Is On the Trinity a work of doctrinal clarification or intended for contemplative transformation? Probably both, but if so, how are doctrine and mysticism linked? In this chapter, the text is read as one intended for personal appropriation on the journey towards contemplation. The possibility is alluded to by modern scholars, but little explored (in contrast to mystical readings by Augustine’s medieval readers). What does it mean to seek to appropriate this explicitly trinitarian and doctrinal form of mysticism? How does it ‘work’ and where does it lead? The focus is on Augustine’s ‘image of God’ theology and his ‘psychological analogy’ for the Trinity in the human mind, as practical tools for human transformation. This appropriative and mystical reading of the text is contrasted with readings that approach the text primarily for doctrinal explanation, at an impersonal level.
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