A Freudian analysis of St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine rejected pantheism, and would no doubt have rejected pandeism. This Freudian analysis may help us understand the psychological reasons for such a rejection:

“Freudian studies of Augustine place his life within the Oedipal complex. Bakan states: “The Oedipal elements in Augustine are patent. There is a great attachment to the mother. The father is reproached for not being a Christian, for his sexuality, for his anger, etc. His mother’s sexual relations with the father are conceived of as a sufferance on her part and impiety on his.”
Oedipal articulations of Augustine’s familial and religious life and
their interconnection pose my question concerning the working out of the Oedipus complex in Augustine’s adult relations with his father, mother, and God. Do the Confessions present us with a neurotic outcome? In response I will analyze Augustine’s life as recorded in the Confessions in terms of Ricoeur’s interpretation of the Oedipus complex. Then, I will present the necessary processes for non-neurotic resolution of the Oedipus complex and apply them to Augustine. Finally, I will analyze Augustine’s relations with God in terms of the Oedipal complex. In the course of the examination, I will raise not only autobiographical questions but also theological issues. Dittes considers that Augustine’s persistent adult Oedipal conflict adversely affects his teaching on creation and sovereignty, redemption, church authority, the problem of evil, grace, original sin, and predestination, the sacraments, and his dealings with the Manicheans, Donatists, and Pelagians. For Dittes, the Oedipal conflict influences every position Augustine holds: “The utter dependence of man on God, his own virtual impotence and ineffectiveness before God – this is the theme on which each of the positions insists. A parallel theme is that of the remoteness, aloofness, absoluteness, impersonality, unapproachability – except in abject humility, of confession – of this controlling God.” Dittes’s view requires us to trace the history of Augustine’s relations with God in terms of the development of his libido. The first question is one of fact: When Augustine wrote the Confessions, was the outcome of his Oedipal relations with his parents neurotic? Ricoeur believes that “the sphere of competence of psychoanalysis is defined by the presence and interplay of life and death instincts.”
The field on which these instincts are played out is the Oedipus complex: “The critical point of the Oedipus complex is to be sought for in the initial constitution of desire, namely, its infantile omnipotence. From this proceeds the phantasm of a father who would retain the privileges which the son must seize if he is to be himself.”
Augustine identifies the infantile desire for omnipotence in Book 1 of the Confessions: “And when I did not get what I wanted . . . I was in a rage with my parents as though I had a right to their submission, with free human beings as though they had been bound to serve me; and I took my revenge in screams” (1.6.8).
The Freudian interpreters believe that Augustine did not deal successfully with infantile megalomania. They offer ample evidence, some of the evidence ingenious; the essential thrust is the “great attachment to the mother,” who is the object of omnipotent infantile desire: “The usual dynamics of the oedipal situation were apparently enhanced in the case of Augustine. Augustine suffered the added misfortune of having ‘won’ the oedipal conflict with his father, sealed by the death of his father when he was sixteen.”
Dittes offers detailed evidence to support his claim and concludes:
It does not take an esoteric or subtle psychological theory to suppose that a boy raised by such an insistent woman would develop a strong attachment and dependence upon her. Nor does it take sly psychoanalytic sleuthing to find evidence for such dependence in the Confessions. Augustine’s attachment to his mother seems clear both in his words about her and in the behavior he reports.
Kligerman makes the same point:
We see the impossible position Monica forced on Augustine. Emotionally alienated from her husband, she had grown especially close to her oldest son and pinned her hopes on him. . . . Frigid hyper-moral women frequently find concealed incestuous gratification in such stormy emotional scenes with their sons. For him it must have been an extremely seductive yet frustrating process, and shed light on the turbulence of his adolescence.”

From The Theology of Augustine’s Confessions by Paul Rigby

St. Augustine taught “the utter dependence of man on God, his own virtual impotence and ineffectiveness before God”, which is clearly at odds with the pandeistic view that God became the Universe and bestowed his consciousness on finite beings.

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