I have read in a number of places that Augustine's Confessions is the first true autobiography, the first example of an unstinting exploration of the human interior -- not in a generic or self-serving sense, but in an intimate, critical, and confessional sense.
Note also that the dialogue is between Augustine and God; it takes place in the vertical space illuminated by the divine presence. It is not about exterior reality except insofar as it reveals the interior.
Siedentop quotes the historian Peter Brown, who observes that "The Confessions are a manifesto of the inner world: 'Men go to gape at mountain peaks, at the boundless tides of the sea, the broad sweep of rivers, the encircling ocean and the motions of stars: and yet they leave themselves unnoticed; they do not marvel at themselves.'"
Yeah, well, what about Obama? Does he ever stop marveling at himself? You see, children, that is the problem: he has the marveling down, but he is both marveler and marvelee. In other words, he excludes the Creator from the loop, which reduces to simple narcissism.
Brown continues: "A man cannot hope to find God unless he first finds himself: for this God is 'deeper than my inmost being,' [so] experience of Him becomes 'better' the more 'inward.' Above all, it is man's tragedy that he should be driven to flee 'outwards,' to lose touch with himself, to 'wander far' from his 'own heart': 'You were right before me: but I had moved away from myself. I could not find myself: how much less, then could I find You'" (he's obviously quoting Augustine in there).
Ironically, Obama made his name by [allegedly] writing his own Confessions. But although both go by the name "autobiography," it would be difficult to find two more antithetical texts. After all, Mein Kampf is an autobiography. Taking that as an extreme case, does it really tell us about Hitler, or about his pathological projections into the world?
In other words, any actual insight into Hitler himself is accidental. Being that he lacked all insight, the only way to understand him is via his external actions. What he says about himself is of no consequence, since he would be the last to understand his own real motives, which were as concrete and unexamined as rock.
Here is the orthoparadoxical deal: is it possible for man to discover and know God? Yes and no. Even prior to that, is it possible for man to discover and know anything? Yes, so long as he has the sensory equipment for the job, and his mind is able to conform to the object or reality in question.
In other words, we must make ourselves adequate to the object of knowledge. So in one sense "the world" is prior, and we must adapt to it. But in another sense, world and mind co-arise; as our knowledge increases, it is as if the mind extends deeper into reality, as, say, quantum physics goes further than classical physics.
I would say that it is no different with regard to God. Analogously, the quantum world was always "there" even before man ever discovered it. Likewise, God was always there prior to the appearance of man, of life, or even of existence itself. But in order to know this God, there must be a subject capable of knowing him. Therefore, one could say that God and man "co-arise" and "co-evolve," so to speak -- even though, like the world, God is obviously prior to our discovery and elaboration of him.
When did man discover God? In one sense this is impossible to say, since it occurred long prior to any form of written documentation. But in another sense it can only have occurred in one way, since man and God not only co-arise, but are two sides of the same coin. To say that man is the image and likeness of God is to posit this axiom. As man learns more about himself, he learns more of God; and as he learns more about God, he learns more about himself, in an ever-deepening spiral of interiority.
Siedentop: "The Confessions provide us with a story, not primarily about the development of Augustine's mind, but rather about the development of his 'heart' or 'feelings.' The search for God proves to be a search for the only 'delight' that is not precarious or illusory."
This search involves "a mysterious merger of intellect and feeling," and is very much counter to the then-prevailing idea that reason alone is sufficient to understand the world. Reason is ultimately a circular exercise, since it cannot furnish its own premises, nor does it have the power to motivate man.
Rather, motivation -- the will -- must involve the heart. Thus, "Opening oneself to the action of grace" is "the only way out of such a vicious circle." This opening is not only intersubjective, but the very foundation and possibility of intersubjectivity itself. It is an icon of the primordial Relationship that is God.
"Reconstructing the self -- by opening the self to the work of grace -- led Augustine to focus on the human will and on the conditions of its exercise." There is "almost incredible self-consciousness in his writing," which is precisely why so many have attributed "the birth of the individual to Augustine."
For just as history, in the absence of God, can be nothing more than the meaningless sound and fury of tenured tautologues, the absurcular babble of the godless rabble is just the mental masturbation of so many infertile eggheads -- heads which must be fertilized from above in order to bear good fruit...