Saint Augustine

Augustinian Knowledge Theory


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The Objectives Of Augustinian Knowledge Theory

Knowledge is the true understanding of reality and it provides a rational basis on which to act. Behaviours based on knowledge lead to the achievement of personal and cultural objectives and general progress. Behaviours based on false understandings of reality are  self-defeating and dangerous, and are the first cause of many of the evils that beset humanity.  

Western culture has no agreed theory of knowledge and what is taught in the secular schools and universities is based on opinions and ideologies. This teaching reflects, broadly speaking, the principles of the eighteenth century Enlightenment. One of these principles is atheism and students are subjected to ideological pressures to conform to atheist beliefs. 

The Enlightenment position is that theists cannot, and therefore do not, know of any god and that Christianity does not qualify as knowledge. The obvious response is to show, in the form of a theory of knowledge, how Christians can and do know of God. A further advantage follows from the possession of a valid theory of knowledge. Since the atheists themselves do not have a theory of knowledge it becomes possible to insist that the teaching in the culture is based on true knowledge and not opinions. 

The Augustinian Theory of Knowledge therefore has two objectives. One is to show how knowledge of all kinds is achieved, and how therefore true reality may be discovered. The second is to provide the groundwork for the reform of cultural education to ensure the proper development of the people through the teaching of knowledge.


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The Approach to Knowledge Theory

God created the world and the study of the world and its constituents is at the same time the study of the handiwork of God. The study of God's creative acts through experience results in knowledge of created reality.

For Augustinian theory the world comprises a set of problems. By selecting problems for solution and coming to understand those problems through investigation the problem solver gains solutions which are understandings of those parts of reality being studied.

Problems and solutions are not physical objects but entities of the mind which is, equally with the universe, the creation of God and therefore part of the God-given reality. The study and understanding of problems and their solutions leads both to the understanding of the teaching system of God and to the Christian theory of knowledge.

Christian knowledge theory and scientific method are very similar since science emulates the way the mind works. The pursuit of scientific knowledge comes eventually to the point of trying to solve the problem of how solutions are produced and new knowledge is created.  

By treating the question of innovation of ideas as a problem the problem solver finds himself in communication with another intelligence coexisting outside his intellect. Further investigation of this intelligent entity leads to the understandings of both God as the Teacher and God as the Creator. Religious knowledge is therefore the ultimate achievement of the scientific programme.


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The General Purpose Problem Solving System

Problems of experience are a normal feature of life and no human being or animal could function in the world without a given or innate means of solving problems. The individual, of whatever species, enters the world psychologically equipped with a general purpose problem solving system which allows it to determine its behaviours in any difficulties which may occur. This system may be utilised, quite legitimately, to solve, among other problems, the questions arising from the search for knowledge. The methodology of knowledge is based on this general purpose system.


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The Methodology of Knowledge

Mental behaviour is usually called thinking. Thinking is often associated by psychologists with problem solving. In successful thinking the individual moves from the awareness of a problem to the achievement of the solution. Problems occur in the experience of the individual. The form for problem solving is given by:- 


The solution determines the mental and physical behaviours of the individual with regard to the problem. Mental and physical behaviours are parts of the same behavioural program. The form is:- 


Further experience tells the individual if those behaviours were successful and therefore appropriate. Inappropriate and unsuccessful behaviours bring the validity of the thinking process into question.

To successfully manipulate reality to achieve specific ends the behaviours must be correct. The individual must understand reality through the careful observation and analysis of experience to achieve correct behaviours. The thinking process must be based on a valid problem solving method that takes all relevant experience into consideration. The correct solution to the problem of experience is called knowledge. The form is then:- 


Knowledge is therefore the consequence of the correct execution of the problem solving method applied to the problems of experience and the behaviours required by knowledge are those most likely to be successful.


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The Creation of Knowledge

St.Augustine did not define the method of Divine illumination of the intellect and such explanations as exist in his writings have the appearance of being rather sketchy and superficial. St.Augustine and his immediate successors would have seen the matter as one of practice and not of theory. It is the demand of objective knowledge for an explanation of the method that makes the theory necessary.

As developed by St.Augustine, Christian knowledge theory was based on Divine teaching. Neo-Augustinian theory sees this teaching to comprise both experience and intellectual illumination. Problem solutions in the form of new ideas are explained as the result of a creative activity which occurs in the psychological dimension in which the intellect exists. The problem solving procedure initiates the psychological process which returns the new solution to the subconscious level of the intellect, to be found and brought into conscious consideration.. 

By treating the psychological processes as problems of experience of reality the problem solving procedure may be employed to requisition solutions in the form of explanations. The explanations reveal the existence of an intelligent entity which  explains itself as unlimited creative power. By other studies this power is found to be the Holy Spirit, called Wisdom by St.Augustine. The Christian concept of the Holy Spirit is that of a Teacher and the implication of John 26:14 is that the Teacher does not differentiate between spiritual and secular knowledge. The system of the Holy Spirit teaches everything.

The intellect is therefore in contact with fundamental reality through the psychological processes. It follows that the human intellect has a valid path to the exploration of supernatural reality and that Revelation is a legitimate possibility. The Augustinian theory shows that knowledge of God is possible, and possible, in principle, to every intellect which can formulate the appropriate problem definition and question.

St.Augustine's claims that knowledge has a Divine Source and is experienced as intellectual illumination can therefore be explained by the psychology of knowledge.


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Experience and Enlightenment

The problems of experience are the raw materials of intellect development. The human individual has only a set of experiences to work with, and endeavours to correctly understand these experiences. These experiences, in suitable form, constitute the input to the process of intellectual enlightenment described by St.Augustine. In other words, experience is understood through creative enlightenment. All knowledge, both subjective and objective, is given by the Holy Spirit.

Human experience is given by a source external to the subjective intellect, and this source is called reality. Reality, as the source of experience, is ultimately defined by the set of experiences, correctly understood. Analysis of experience shows that it may be arranged into five classes which are:- 

1. Physical experience 

2. Intellectual or ideal experience 

3. Cultural experience 

4. Moral experience 

5. Religious or spiritual experience 



Reality is the explanation for the origin of experience. Since he has experiences of physical, intellectual, spiritual, moral, and societal events, the individual may come, through the problem solving method, into understandings of the realities which gave rise to those experiences. Reality is therefore more than the physical environment.

Christian objective knowledge theory sees five subdivisions of reality, based on the types of common subjective experience. The individual builds models of these divisions of reality in his intellect. The individual may describe aspects of reality when not actually observing them by referring to his internal models.

The natural divisions or environments of reality are:- 

1. The Physical subreality. 

2. The Universe of minds and thought. 

3. The human created reality which is the Culture. 

4. The Moral Universe 

5. The Supernatural reality in the Christian experience 

Each of these subrealities, or natural environments, is valid in that true knowledge of the environment can be obtained by the correct application of the methods of knowledge.

The cultural subreality is explained as the set of objective knowledge, both formal and informal, and theoretical and applied, resulting from the solutions of problems common to all members of a group. Ideal reality, or the Universe of Meaning, is the reality of the rationalist tradition, as described by Rene Descartes. There are few responsible individuals who would deny the fact of morality. Moral experience is a consequence of living a life and moral considerations are primary in all behavioural decision making. Moral experience translates to moral knowledge when processed by normal problem solving methods. Religion recognises and explains the supernatural reality and the relationship of humanity to this reality. Religious experience is transformed to religious knowledge by correct problem solving.

These five subrealities account for the totality of human experience. They form parts of a more fundamental reality which links the universe of experience with the ultimate or absolute. Knowledge of these subrealities, or natural environments, can be achieved by the correct application of the Augustinian method.

Through the use of the problem solving method coupled to the process of intellectual enlightenment all common human experience may, in principle, be explained objectively. The objective method for solving problems is science. Western science was developed in the 13th century by Robert Grosseteste and his fellow Franciscans at Oxford and their aim was to provide a knowledge methodology that was open to experience of reality. This development, eight centuries after the work of St.Augustine, enabled the generalisation of the Augustinian paradigm into all areas of knowledge of reality.


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The Fundamental Theory

The scientific approach to problem solving recommends the subdivision of problems to facilitate the problem solving process. The classification of experience into natural divisions is compatible with this approach. The implication underlying this approach is that at any time, should it become necessary, the problem may be reconstituted. In the case of reality, there is a demand that the understanding of reality as a whole should not be lost in the search for understanding of its parts. 

In the Christian system of knowledge God the Infinite Spirit is ultimate reality and the Holy Trinity of God is the fundamental reality of the Christian system of knowledge. The theology of the Holy Trinity explains the relationships of the Persons of God to the Primitive Infinite God. It describes the world of the Intellect and knowledge in terms of the Holy Spirit. It sees Life and the creation of species and individuals in terms of the Christ. It explains Love and power in the world as the province of God the Father.

Primitive Infinite Spirit, Who is ultimate reality, can be known only through revelation. Knowledge of God is given by God the Interior Teacher and placed within the subconscious intellect as the Divine response to intellectual inquiry. Christian knowledge is based on this Self-Revelation of God. Revelation is possible through the scientific problem solving method and this method provides an ongoing opportunity to learn about ultimate reality. 

Fundamental reality which results from the first act of creation is the bridge between the Infinite and His Creation. The comprehensive understanding of reality is given by the Fundamental theory, which is based on the theology of the Holy Trinity. 

The definition of fundamental reality provides the "Theory of Everything" which is the primary theory of the Christian system of knowledge. The fundamental theory is secured in ultimate reality, and absolute truth is a function of this theory. Knowledge is the true understanding of any part of the five subdivisions of reality, and of the total or fundamental reality.


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The System of Rational Scientific Knowledge

The System of Rational Knowledge gives an integrated corpus of knowledge resting on a common reality platform and conforming to a single truth standard.


Diagram 5.1.1

Diagram 5.1.1 shows the system of rational knowledge. At the topmost level is the understanding of ultimate reality which is given through revelation. Below that is the definition of fundamental reality which is derived from the revelation of ultimate reality. At the next level down are the five environmental or philosophical theories. The framework for research for these theories is given by the fundamental theory. Their descriptive and predictive content is defined by the rational scientific theories on the lowest level of the schema. For the first three levels the flow of understanding is downwards as indicated by the direction of the arrows but the flow of rational theories downwards to the last level is counter-balanced by the flow of empirical knowledge upwards. This is in conformity with the rational principle of theorising downwards and testing upwards.

Since the knowledge given by the corpus of scientific theories is taken up into the philosophical theories the definition of created reality is given, at any time, by the fundamental theory plus the five environmental theories.

The Integration of All Knowledge

Reality is a unified whole and the fundamental theory is a single truthful explanation which integrates the system of scientific knowledge. The fundamental theory allows a unified body of knowledge into which the environmental theories and their constituency of experiential theories are integrated.

The rational scientific approach is to proceed with the study of all the subdivisions of reality, including physics, as far as they can be taken. Each division of reality is explained by a scientific theory and these theories are bound together by the fundamental theory which explains total reality. The environmental theories map their environments and determine the truth status of all their subsidiary theories. The fundamental theory maps total reality and determines the truth status of the environmental theories. All derivative theories are defined as part of the Rational System of Knowledge. All rational scientific theories which rely upon the fundamental theory of reality, either directly or through intermediate theories, are absolutely true, subject to the condition that they are not contradicted by experience.


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The Philosophy of Rational Knowledge 

Knowledge is the power to solve human problems at both the cultural and individual levels. Knowledge is the product of the problem-solving method applied to the problems of experience. However, misapplying the epistemological rules leads to different, erroneous, and often conflicting solutions, and from there to confusion. Errors and confusions arise because of different views of reality and truth, differences in the application of the problem solving method, and the differences in understanding of problem solvers.

Objective knowledge is the philosophical solution to the problems of ignorance, error, and confusion within the culture. Knowledge is created in the psychological problem solving processes and achieves the status of objective knowledge as a secondary stage. A further problem of confusion arises over the competing and conflicting claims of theories to the status of objective knowledge. The method by which candidate theories are evaluated and awarded the status of objective knowledge is rational science. 

The purpose of objective knowledge is the intellectual development of the people. Intellectual development may also be called 'soul making'. The development of intellects is accelerated by the culture, which is objective knowledge. It is the business of rational science to provide that objective knowledge necessary to the correct development of the culture, and to the disseminating of that knowledge in the best manner to achieve the correct development of the set of member intellects. Rational scientific development of knowledge is directed towards what humanity needs to know.


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The World as a Development System

It would be incorrect to think of the World as an evolutionary system. The record of the development of lifeforms shows that revolutionary events, such as the mass extinctions of species and the mass emergence of new forms of life, also occur. It can be shown in the history of cultures that both evolutionary and revolutionary development take place, and the same is true in the field of objective knowledge. Where the record shows both revolutionary and evolutionary events occurring it is better to speak of a development system.

The various development systems dealing with lifeforms, cultures, and knowledge can be integrated into one system which covers physical, biological, psychological, and cultural development.

The development system for human beings is based on the general purpose problem solving system through which problems of experience  are transformed into problem solutions which occur as intellectual understandings. Individual experience is small compared to that of the group and human progress would be slow and uncertain if it depended solely on individual progress. It is the development of the group which determines the development of the mass of its members, although some individuals may, using the same development system, achieve a greater level of progress in specialised fields.

Problems of experience which are common to all members of a group may be solved and these solutions may form a part of the group culture, to be employed in the education of group members. The group culture may therefore be seen as the development reality, which is the ideal counterpart to physical evolution, and it is the normal extension of the evolutionary/ revolutionary process which produces change and progress.

The Cultural Development of Intellects

Created reality is that reality which is known to human beings through experience. Where there are problems with created reality as it is experienced, those problems may be solved and the better understanding that results also changes, through education, the intellects of all members of the group. 

Karl Popper has stated that individuals, attempting to build their intellects independently from the initial tabla rasa state, could progress no further than Neanderthal Man in a single lifetime. The idea that each individual should independently search for truth and knowledge is impractical. Progress in knowledge depends on human cooperation, and this cooperation must be through the normal associative groups. To a large extent the set of intellects is formed by education and training based on group cultural solutions to the problems of experience. 

Intellects are, broadly speaking,  the products of the group culture and they see reality as the culture sees it. This works to the advantage of the individual since the intellect is adapted to the present state of the culture and benefits from cultural progress. Intellects that become seriously out of step with their culture may be suspected of madness. Conformity to cultural knowledge is an advantage for member intellects.

If the culture is based on knowledge then education will be based on knowledge and the set of member intellects will be founded on knowledge. At the individual level knowledge, whether culturally given or personally achieved, empowers the individual.

The Shared Common Reality

Human association, communication, cooperation and progress depend on a shared common reality. The understanding of this shared reality is cultural knowledge. Cultural knowledge is based on that part of subjective experience which is common to every individual in the culture. Knowledge of the common reality is built upon the truths achieved subjectively by individuals, and checked, subsequently, by scientific method. Scientifically validated truths are objective knowledge.

Objective reality, as shared reality, exists independently of individuals in the forms of theoretical and applied knowledge. Knowledge is developed as a consequence of the purposes of the culture to understand common reality and to behave in a manner consistent with that reality.

Objective reality, as created reality, is the consequence of choice, where that choice is made on the bases of purpose and knowledge. Better realities may be chosen. The more perfect objective reality, which philosophy endeavours to grasp intellectually and to choose, is one which supports human survival and offers the best conditions for all individuals to lead personally satisfactory lives.

Cultural Knowledge

The culture is the set of solutions to the common problems of the group and it determines the nature of the group and its institutions through the selection and definition of problems for solution. The State, for example, is the solution to certain problems of the culture. The culture is formed, extended, and improved by new solutions to common problems.

Cultural solutions may rest on opinions, which may be ideological, or irrational. When an ideology is substituted for knowledge the ideology then determines the common understanding of reality and how individuals will think and act in that reality. If the ideological understanding of reality departs significantly from knowledge the behaviours that follow will be incorrect. In terms of power to achieve purposes the usefulness of the ideology depends on the extent to which it is knowledge compliant.

Understandings of reality which are at variance with knowledge of reality may be classed as illusions and cultural behaviours based on illusions have unpredictable consequences. If the culture rests on illusions  member intellects will comprise collections of ideas of doubtful worth.

When the culture insists on true solutions to its problems it requires conformity to the standards of knowledge and cultural decision making is then driven by knowledge. Knowledge is the correct solution to the problems of reality, and cultural knowledge is the set of correct solutions to the problems of cultural reality. Knowledge enables the correct behaviours for dealing with reality and the successful achievement of cultural purposes follows from knowledge. Knowledge is therefore a form of power. 

At the cultural level CULTURE = KNOWLEDGE = POWER


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The Development of the Culture

The Stages of Cultural Development

The analysis of human experience of reality shows that the range of recognised experience expands from small awareness at birth to an ability to recognise and deal with the full experiential range in middle life. This has been mapped by Hugh of St.Victor. According to Hugh's scheme, firstly as immature individuals, we see only the physical world; secondly, we learn to think as rational beings, and thirdly we turn our minds to think about God. Hugh's theory is that there are therefore three stages on the path to the knowledge of God, beginning with

1. sensible knowledge,

2. then rational knowledge, and finally

3. the achievement of spiritual knowledge.

The path of cultural development parallels that of the intellect. Sensible knowledge is the first field of study of the emerging culture. The problems of human groups require the understanding of truth and morality, which are rational concerns. Rational knowledge may be seen as a more advanced form of knowledge, built upon the base of sensible knowledge. Similarly, spiritual knowledge ranks as the most advanced form of rational knowledge. 

Each stage of development opens up a natural environment or subdivision of reality. Sensible knowledge is gained from the physical universe. Rational knowledge proceeds from the ideal reality and spiritual knowledge is the result of the exploration of ultimate reality.

Cultures, to be successful, must address themselves to real problems. Primitive cultures are concerned with problems of survival. They need to appropriate, exploit, and defend their means of survival. Primitive cultures are therefore philosophically materialist. They are concerned with 'know-how' rather than knowledge. Know-how comprises techniques for manipulating reality for material gain whereas knowledge is the true understanding of reality.

Rational cultures are concerned with the problems of social and economic organisation and methods, and truth and morality are important considerations in problem solving in these environments. Truth and morality can only be applied within cultures that have knowledge of these subrealities. However, rational cultures also depend on the prior existence of successful materialist cultures. Knowledge and education, in all forms, physical, cultural, intellectual, moral, and religious, have to be paid for.

Spiritual cultures are concerned with the meaning of life. Cultural survival and moral and efficient group organisation and procedures are insufficient in themselves to justify the effort and cost of life. Successful spiritual cultures rest on the knowledge achieved by prior successful rational cultures. Spiritual cultures which are irrational are often unprogressive and oppressive and are sometimes dangerous. Conflicts between religious groups may often be traced to ignorance of the truths given by rational knowledge of reality.

In the 20th century several societies have tried to evolve a more moral and efficient culture but have employed irrational and immoral ideological means. The result has been failure and disaster. The correct path of cultural development is from the sensible reality, through the rational, to the spiritual, and it must be based on true knowledge of reality. The evidence of the historical record indicates that most cultures never evolve past the materialist stage and are ultimately extinguished by cultural competition.

Rational Objective Knowledge

By the time of Descartes Western culture had developed to the threshold of rationality but the available methods were inadequate to support full rationality. As it was, the world of learning had to wait another 250 years for workable methods. The development of rational science in the 20th century has created those methods.

Rational science is the key to the development of a comprehensive system of knowledge. The scientific claim is not that knowledge can be achieved through the exercise of the intellect's logical powers but that knowledge follows problem solving which is based on understanding the problems of experience first.

The Cartesian contribution to knowledge is the idea of rationality and the rational intellect as the platform for the achievement of knowledge. This standard of rationality forms the strategy of the epistemological project. Rene Descartes has shown that intellectual rationality is the result of the formation of a subjective philosophy which sees the purpose to develop and improve the personal culture as of prime importance. The achievement of a rational intellect is the prerequisite to any contribution by the individual to objective knowledge.

Cultural Improvement

Intellects develop within the group culture and rational intellectual philosophy sees the purpose to develop and improve the culture as the prerequisite to human progress. The understanding of the problems of Western culture and the development of the best solutions in the form of a rational culture is a principal field of study of rational philosophy.

In a progressive culture it is understood that reality can be changed by better knowledge. Science has the task of developing that better knowledge. Objective knowledge is the tool by which the culture, through its cultural philosophy, manipulates reality. In a rational culture science works to realise better states of that culture.


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The Epistemological Development of Knowledge

The advance of the people is directly related to the quality and rational progress of their culture. The advance of cultures is geared directly to the achievement of knowledge, and indirectly to improvements in the epistemological understanding.

Epistemologies define the thought world of the culture. Epistemologies and theories function as a complex system, where the epistemology describes the possibilities and methods for knowledge and the set of theories represents the achievement of that knowledge.

The development of the cultural reality depends on knowledge, and knowledge is a function of epistemological theory. Epistemologies, whether as meta-narratives or as scientific theories, define knowledge and describe how it may be achieved. The direction and methods of development of cultural reality depend on the capabilities given by the epistemology in current use. 

More Perfect Realities

The rational scientific epistemology specifies the first stage of the development of human rationality. Stages of development are an essential feature of human progress. Human beings cannot come into the full set of knowledge in a single step since the natures of the culture and the intellect disallow this possibility and progress is always through problems and solutions.

The fact that reality can be changed to some extent by improved knowledge, means that it can be developed, within limits, to the advantage of humanity. If philosophy can picture a better reality humanity can work towards its realisation. Too often, in the modern world, a better reality means an economic one in which the fruits of mankind's efforts are better distributed. It is a very narrow concept and its implementation is often seen to be through struggle and force, with a heavy price to be paid in terms of human and cultural destruction.

In a more rational world, in which every individual is educated to lead the life he or she wants, always within moral limits, the need to accumulate power to force people into the patterns of behaviour desired by ideological elites, becomes unnecessary and undesirable. Real human progress is always through knowledge and education.

The choices available to humanity are in principle almost unlimited, but in practice they are constrained by the problems that confront humanity. A set of necessary problems confronts the mature intellect and the rational culture in the search for real power. The path to power, and the freedom of choice given by power, is through creative problem solving. The path into the distant future is marked by problems and the epistemology in current use  should  provide the conditions which allow problem solving. 

The Advantages of the Augustinian Epistemology

The neo-Augustinian epistemology offers a superior universe of thought to that given by the 18th century Enlightenment, based on the principle  that CULTURE = KNOWLEDGE = POWER. The test of a better epistemology is the increased power it gives to solve the problems of humanity. The most advanced and best epistemology is that which allows and enables the greatest range of desirable possibilities for mankind. The Augustinian philosophy of knowledge sees an unlimited future for mankind, both as individuals and as a group, dependent only on willingness to solve real problems intelligently.

Higher power is conditional on rational and moral advances. If humanity cannot solve its urgent problems of truth and morality and develop the ideal common reality which is civilisation, all dreams of changing the fundamental conditions of life are futile. The difference between the materialist and the rational realities is that difference between continuous conflicts and struggles which are decided by the mass destruction of human beings and their cultural supports, and cooperation and peace with all issues decided on the basis of truth and knowledge. It is the difference between the world of animals and the world of intellects. The rational alternative requires humanity to think its way forward into the future.

The concept of truth is enhanced with each succeeding stage of development of theoretical reality. Each succeeding state of reality in a progressive development is more desirable to humanity and each succeeding version of truth is more perfect. Perfection therefore functions as the meta-truth, and perfect truth and absolute truth are the same. Absolute truth and perfect experiential truth meet as a unity in infinity since God is, for humanity, the absolutely desirable reality and God is also the perfect truth.

With the implementation of the Augustinian Epistemology the culture may begin to control its own future. Humanity will be taking a step towards self-responsibility and self-development and in doing so, it will begin to consciously influence its own evolution.


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These studies confirm the Augustinian claim that the road to knowledge of every kind is through intellectual interaction with a source external to the intellect and that this source is a function of God. Knowledge and truth cannot be gained in any other way.  


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Spiritual Knowledge

The Rational Epistemology represents the second stage of knowledge development according to the Victorine Schema. The first stage is materialist knowledge, the second rationalist knowledge, and the third and last is spiritual knowledge, where each succeeding stage is a more advanced form of knowledge built upon the base given by the preceding stage. The Spiritual understanding must be viewed as a higher level of intellectual achievement in the same way that the PhD qualification is more advanced than earlier degrees.

This epistemology has, therefore, little to say about spiritual knowledge which is the province of Theology. At this level of enquiry the theologian is learning at the feet of God, and the warrant of truth is given by the love and morality of God and not by experience of the world. The relationship between the two levels is that Rational knowledge theory represents the necessary foundation and spiritual knowledge is the edifice that is built upon it. 

Spiritual knowledge projects may redefine certain problems and arrive at different conclusions to those of the rationalist programme. For example, the self-creation principle allows individuals to define who and what they are and what they want out of life. So some will choose survival after death, and others, perhaps unable to believe in that possibility, will not, even though they might wish for it.

Here the distinction is between wanting and wishing, where we may wish for many seemingly impossible goods, but can only want, pursue, and choose what is possible and which of the two that obtains in any specific situation is often a matter of history. The situation that results is that only some people can survive death and who these people are is often circumstantially predetermined. This led St.Augustine to distinguish between the Elect and the Lost.

Spiritual thinkers, however, offer a number of reasons why conclusions based on experience, as in this example, can be wrong. They argue that God, to quote Einstein's dictum, does not play dice with human lives, and since He cannot fail in His purposes, all will be saved. They further argue that Love is, when fully understood, the factor that determines the human future, both as individuals and as a group, and Love demands that all are saved. They further point to the saving acts of the Christ in Jesus as the evidence that the structures for eternal life for all are now in place, although some theologians insist that the principle of individual self-determination still holds and individuals must signify their choice of eternal life by faith in Christ.

A more advanced epistemology than that offered here, is necessary to describe the possibilities for spiritual knowledge and to define the method by which its truth may be tested. All that can be said from the position of the rational epistemology is that, on the basis of rational knowledge of the character, power and purposes of God,  spiritual knowledge is possible through the normal problem solving methodology. 


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Further Information

This page ends the overview of the Augustinian method of Divine Illumination and the Christian concept of Revelation. The reader is invited, subject to copyright conditions, to download the supporting text entitled 


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