Monday, May 26, 2014


Boethius (c.480—c.526) is a philosopher who was born into an aristocratic family in Rome. He became known for his theological tracts, and for his poetic work, The Consolation of Philosophy, which he wrote while imprisoned. He was also known as an Aristotle scholar, and for his theories on mathematics and music. The Consolation of Philosophy became one of the most popular and influential philosophical works of the Middle Ages. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, "The main argument of the discourse is the transitoriness and unreality of all earthly greatness and the superior desirability of the things of the mind."

Eventually Boethius was executed by King Theodoric the Great who thought he was conspiring against him with the Eastern Roman Empire.

Margaret Avison, in her 1993 Pascal Lectures at the University of Waterloo, quoted Boethius as saying, "Eternity, then, is clearly a property of the mind of God. God ought not to be considered as older than the created world in the extent of time, but rather in the immediacy of his nature."

The following passage was translated by David R. Stavitt.

from The Consolation of Philosophy

What strife breaks the civil bonds
of the things of this world? What God would set
such incompatible truths loose
to struggle thus with one another?
Either could stand alone, but together
how can their contradictions be joined?
Or is there some way that they can get on
that the human mind, enmeshed in flesh,
cannot discern? The flame is covered,
and in the darkness the world's subtle
connections are hidden. And yet we feel
the warmth of the love that holds together
all that there is in eternal truth
that knows what it seeks and has its end
in its beginning. But which of us yearns
to learn those things he already knows?
And is that wisdom or is it blindness?
(And how do we know that we not know
what we do not know?) If it were found,
could the ignorant seeker recognize it?
From our minds to the mind of God
is an awesome leap: the infinite number
of separate truths that are yet all one
leave us breathless. The body's dense
flesh obscures our recollection
of the separate truths and the one truth
and yet allows us at least to suspect
that we all live in an awkward state
with inklings of our ignorance
that turn out to be our greatest wisdom—
as if we had long ago ascended
and beheld from on high the exalted vision
of which we now retain nothing
but the sense of loss of that exaltation.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.