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Michelangelo‘s painting of the sin of Adam and Eve from the Sistine Chapel ceiling (Wiki2.org.)


bold letters are mine, except anamnesis

I may have used the word anamnesis in an earlier post. Human beings have created mythologies in an attempt to make sense of their origin and their human condition. We are mere mortals. (See Christian Mythology, Wiki2.org.)

“In philosophyanamnesis is a concept in Plato‘s epistemological and psychological theory that he develops in his dialogues Meno and Phaedo, and alludes to in his  Phaedrus.”

“It is the idea that humans possess innate knowledge (perhaps acquired from birth) and that learning consists of rediscovering that knowledge within us.”

Mythologies: the Fall

There are links between mythologies, which suggests a cross-cultural knowledge “within us.” The flood is one. However, the more frequent link is the theory of a fall from a more perfect state to a less perfect state, a fall we remember. John Milton’s Paradise Lost  (1667) is Christian Mythology. So is Alphonse de Lamartine‘s L’Homme:

Borné dans sa nature, infini dans ses vœux,
L’homme est un dieu tombé qui se souvient des cieux[.]
[Limited in his nature, infinite in his wishes,
Man is a fallen god who remembers heaven.]

In Greek mythology, as used by Jean Racine in Phèdre (Phædra), first performed in 1677, Phèdre is descended from Helios, god of the Sun, but her mother is Pasiphaë, who gave birth to the Minotaur, the son of a bull. Phasiphaë has sinned. Her husband, Minos, king of Crete, keeps the Minotaur in the Cretan Labyrinth, built by Dædalus. Ariadne falls in love with Theseus and gives him a thread and a sword. He kills the Minotaur and leaves the labyrinth using the thread. Theseus does not marry Ariadne, he marries Phèdre, Ariadne’s sister and Pasiphaë’s daughter. But Phèdre, Pasiphaë’s daughter, falls in love with Hippolytus, Theseus’ son by Antiope, an Amazon, and she cannot control her feelings. Phèdre reflects the influence Jansenism exerted on Jean Racine. (See Phèdre, Wiki2.org.)

Jean Racine’s tragedy is based on Greek mythology, but Racine had been exposed to Jansenism. According to Jansenists, human beings were predestined to be saved or suffer the torments of hell. Augustine of Hippo‘s harsh view of the consequences of the Original Sin led to a heresy, Jansenism, which throws light on Phèdre’s powerlessness, but does not make Saint Augustine a lesser theologian and father of the Christian Church. He is the author of the The City of GodOn Christian Doctrine and, especially, his Confessions. He had been a sinner, but converted at the age of 31.

The Original Sin

  • the Western Church
  • the Eastern Church

In both the Eastern and Western Churches, and in Judaism, Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, which is the Original Sin. It led to their removal from the  Garden of Eden, or Paradise. They became mere mortals, which is called the human condition. In the Western Church, humans beings are born guilty of the Original Sin.

However, the Eastern Church proposes more lenient consequences to Adam and Eve’s sin. Adam and Eve sinned, which is the first or original sin, but it does not mean that individual human beings are born guilty of the original sin and must be rushed to the baptismal font.

Matters are changing. Today “[b]oth East and West hold that each person is not called to atone for the actual sin committed by Adam and Eve.”
(See East-West Schism,Original sin, free will and the Immaculate Conception, Wiki2.org.)

The Conversion of St. Augustine by Fra Angelico (Wiki2.org.)

Augustine of Hippo

Concerning the Original Sin, one may wish to read Saint Augustine and the Original Sin.

Saint Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354 – 28 August 430 CE) was not translated into Greek until the 14th century, the 1300’s. The Christian Byzantine Empire was a Greek-language Empire.

“His works were not translated into Greek until the 14th century; as such, he had little or no influence on mainstream Orthodox thought until 17th century Ukraine and 18th century Russia, primarily through the influence of western clergy and the establishment of theological schools which relied on Latin models with respect to curricula, text books, etc.”

(See Saint Augustine and the Original Sin)

One may argue that Greek-speaking Christians who convened at the First Council of Nicaea, in 325 CE, and convened again at the Council of Constantinople (the former Byzantium), in 381 CE, both ecumenical, may have known Latin, but Saint Augustine lived between 354 and 430 CE.

“The Eastern Church makes no use at all of Augustine. Another Orthodox view is expressed by Christos Yannaras, who described Augustine as ‘the fount of every distortion and alteration in the Church’s truth in the West’.”
(See East-SchismOriginal sin, free will and the Immaculate Conception, Wiki2.org)

The East-West Schism of 1054 occurred, if not 729 (from 325 CE) years, at least 673 years (from 381), after the Christian Church was founded at the First Council of Nicaea and the Council of  Constantinople.

 “Rome must not require more from the East than had been formulated and what was lived in the first millennium.” (Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI)
(See East-West SchismTheological reconciliation, Wiki2.org.)

It should also be noted that the Western Church wanted Mary to be born untainted to the extent of making the Immaculate Conception a dogma in 1854. In 1854, Pope Pius IX, using papal infallibility, or ex cathedra issued papal bull Ineffabilis Deusmaking the  Immaculate Conception a doctrine or dogma-

On 1st November 1950, by exercising papal infallibility, Pope Pius XII issued the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus making the Assumption of Mary an article of faith, or doctrine, or dogma.

The Eastern Church rejected the Immaculate Conception. It would not be a dogma until 1854, but it was a rationalization.

“These doctrinal issues center around the Orthodox perception that the Catholic theologians lack the actual experience of God called theoria and thereby fail to understand the importance of the heart as a noetic or intuitive faculty.”
(See East-West Schism, Theological Reconciliation (Wiki2.org.)

Similarly, The Five (composers) attempted to compose distinct Russian music, an Eastern music. They composed superb music, but what they expressed was a “knowledge within them.” So their endeavour was an anamnesis. They were using the “intuitive faculty.”

As  noted in my last post, “[a] major event of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II), was the issuance by Pope Paul and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople of the Catholic–Orthodox Joint Declaration of 1965.”

This has been seen as good will on the part of both the Eastern and Western Churches. After a millenium, going further may not be a realistic goal.

“Catholics [Christians] accept as valid the Eastern Orthodox intuitive [“knowledge within us”] and mystical understanding of God and consider it complementary to the rational Western reflection.”
(See East-West Schism, cannot locate, Wiki 2.org.)

Although the Western Church’s repertoire of liturgical music contains masterpieces of spirituality, the Eastern Church is the richer source of music reflecting an “intuitive and mystical understanding of God,” “innate knowledge.”


Blaise Pascal wrote a famous pensée (thought):

Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point[.]
[The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.]


Sources and Resources

  • Augustine of Hippo’s Confessions is a Wikisource publication
  • Jean Racine’s Phèdre is a Wikisource publication
  • Phaedra is Gutenberg’s [EBook #1977]

I apologize for a rather lengthy absence. I was exhausted and had to regroup.

Love to everyone 💕

Sergei Rachmaninoff‘s Praise the Lord
performed by the USSR Ministry of Culture Chamber Choir.

augustine_confessiones (1)

St. Augustine’s Confessions, Manuscript on vellum. Germany, first half 13th century. (Wikisource)

© Micheline Walker
19 January 2019