Augustine’s doctrine of participation is intimately tied in with his teaching concerning the divine Ideas, which in turn is linked closely to his entire theory of creation, knowledge, truth, analogy, being. But it is the first connection with which we are presently concerned. For Augustine, the Ideas are the uncreated archetypes of every species and of every individual thing created by God;1 by sharing in them unequally and hierarchically all things possess their proper perfection.2 Since the Ideas subsist in the mind of the Creator, they necessarily participate in His own attributes; like Him they are eternal, immutable, necessary.3 Now things simultaneously enjoy two modes of existence: one in their own natures; the other in the Ideas.4 If this is the teaching of the Bible, it is also, according to Augustine, the doctrine of Plotinus. For Augustine tells us that having for the first time in his life read certain treatises of Plotinus he discovered in them, in so many words, the very God of Christianity, with all His essential attributes:5 Plotinus’s One is equivalent to God the Father; his Intelligence (voũς) is the Son, the Word announced in St. John’s Prologue, “by Whom all things were made.”


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  1. 1.
    Book of Eighty-Three Questions, q. 46, 1-2 (PL 33, 29-31).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cf. The City of God, XII, 2 (PL 41, 350); Unfinished Literal Commentary on “Genesis,” XVI, 57 (PL 34, 24); Sermon II, 8.9 (PL 38, 31-32); Retractions, I, 26 (PL 32, 624-630).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Book of Eighty-Three Questions, loc. cit.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    On St. John’s Gospel, I, 17 (PL 35, 1387); On the True Religion, XXII, 42 (PL 34, 140); On “Genesis” Against the Manicheans, I, 8.13 (PL 34, 179).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Confessions, VII, 9.13 (PL 32, 740); The City of God, X, 23 (PL 41, 300).Google Scholar
  6. 1.
    Enneads, V, 1.6; in Ennéades (ed. Bréhier, Paris: Société d’Edition “Les Belles Lettres,” 1925). Translations made by me from this work.Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    Enneads, V, 2.1.5Google Scholar
  8. 3.
    Enneads, V, 5.10.Google Scholar
  9. 4.
    Enneads, V, 3.7; V, 4.9; VI, 4.12.Google Scholar
  10. 1.
    Enneads, VI, 5.4. The derivation of all things from the One Plotinus describes as a kind of overflow neads, V, 2.1).Google Scholar
  11. 2.
    Enneads, III, 8.10-11.Google Scholar
  12. 3.
    Enneads, III, 8.10.Google Scholar
  13. 4.
    Enneads, V, 2.2.Google Scholar
  14. 5.
    Enneads, V, 5.9.Google Scholar
  15. 6.
    Enneads, VI, 4.8.Google Scholar
  16. 1.
    Enneads, V, 1.7.Google Scholar
  17. 2.
    Enneads, VI, 4.11.Google Scholar
  18. 3.
    E.g., by F. Thonnard, Oeuvres de saint Augustin VI: Dialogues philosophiques, III: “De l’âme à Dieu,” in Bibliothèque Augustinienne, VI (Paris: Desclée, 1952), PP. 525-527; same author: “Caractères platoniciens de l’ontologie augustinienne,” in Augustinus Magister (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1954) I, p. 321. See especially Augustine’s A Literal Commentary on “Genesis” IV, 12.22 (PL 34, 304).Google Scholar
  19. 4.
    “Ex ipso enim caelum et terra, quia ipse fecit ea; non autem de ipso, quia non de substantia sua.” On the Nature of the Good, I (PL 42, 551); cf. Incomplete Work Against Julian V, 42 (PL 45, 1478-79).Google Scholar
  20. 1.
    On the Christian Way of Life, I, 4.6 (PL 32, 1313).Google Scholar
  21. 2.
    Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 22; II, 52, II 8.Google Scholar
  22. 3.
    Cf. St. Augustine, On the Nature of the Good, III (PL 42, 553).Google Scholar
  23. 4.
    Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, I, 45, 4, ad 1; In VIII Phys., 1.2, n. 5; De. Pot., III, 1, ad 17.Google Scholar
  24. 5.
    The City of God, XII, 2 (PL 41, 359); cf. Sermon XXIX, 1 (PL 38, 185); Commentary on Psalm CXXXIV, 3 (PL 37, 1740).Google Scholar
  25. 6.
    That is why contrary interpretations, however plausible at first glance, are in the last analysis inadmissible. E.g., see A. Gardeil, O.P. La structure de l’âme et l’expérience mystique (Paris: Lecoffre, 1927), II, p. 321, n. 1, and p. 325).Google Scholar
  26. 1.
    On Freedom of Choice, II, 17.45 (PL 32, 1264).Google Scholar
  27. 2.
    Augustine, On the Manichean Way of Life, II, 1 (PL 32, 1345).Google Scholar
  28. 3.
    Confessions, XIII, 31.46 (PL 32, 865).Google Scholar
  29. 4.
    Confessions, loc. cit.Google Scholar
  30. 5.
    The City of God, VIII, 6 (PL 41, 231); see above Chapter V.Google Scholar
  31. 6.
    E.g., see Against the Adversary of the Law and the Prophets, I, 8 (PL 42, 609).Google Scholar
  32. 7.
    The Book of Eighty-Three Questions, q. 46, 2 (PL 33, 30-31).Google Scholar
  33. 8.
    It may be remarked that the verbs “to make” (facere), “to establish (condere), “to form” (formare), and “to create” (creare) all refer to God’s efficient causation of things. Cf. On Freedom of Choice, II, 17.45-56 (PL 32, 1265); Confessions, XI, 4.6 (PL 32, 311); A Literal Commentary on “Genesis,” IV, 20.37 (PL 34, 310).Google Scholar
  34. 1.
    The City of God, XII, 25 (PL 41, 375).Google Scholar
  35. 2.
    It is noteworthy that in his treatment of exemplarity (De Ideis), in the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas expressly follows the doctrine of Augustine as laid down in his Book of Eighty-Three Questions, q.46; Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, 15, 1-3.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1965

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Villanova UniversityUSA

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