St. Augustine

The Teaching System of God

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The World as the Teaching System

God created the world as a Development System to produce intelligent forms of life. This system has two components which are concerned respectively with physical and mental development.

The following discussion considers the world as a system for developing the mental capabilities of intelligent life forms, and of human beings in particular.


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Knowledge Starts With Experience

St.Thomas Aquinas argued that knowledge starts with experience. St.Thomas took the senses and sense impressions to be the starting point for knowledge. St.Thomas recognised that raw sense data was not the stuff of thought and proposed a psychological process whereby sense data became understandable in itself and then intelligible to the intellect as a part of the understanding of reality.

The conscious intellect can deal only with understandings, and experience of reality always takes the form of understanding within the intellect. Individuals either understand the events of experience or they understand that they have a problem of understanding an experience in a way that would allow them respond with correct behaviours, both mental and physical. The set of intellectual understandings may therefore be divided into two subsets which are:- 

1. understandings of the existence of problems of experience, and 

2. understandings of solutions to problems of experience. 


Knowledge is the correct solution to these problems of experience.



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Knowledge as the Gift of God

The Augustinian method starts with the problems of experience which must be considered and understood. Once the problem is correctly understood the solution appears in the intellect in the form of new ideas. The intellect is unable to create, invent, or otherwise to discover the truth from within itself. It cannot look out over a field of ideas and abstract or otherwise annex the truth. The truth as understanding is placed within the intellect from an external source. This agrees with common experience among problem solvers generally that after a period of thought concerning a problem, its solution simply appears within the intellect. How it has been formed or where it came from are not usually clear to the newly enlightened intellect.

All individuals learn through experience. The Holy Spirit gives the problems of experience and also gives the solutions to those problems in the form of understandings. The combination of problems and solutions is necessary to intellectual development. This is the only way that human beings can learn. They must first understand the problem and then the solution becomes meaningful. Problems without solutions serve only to demonstrate the extent of ignorance. Solutions without the understanding of the problems that they solve cannot be grasped intellectually and are therefore without any real meaning. Reality, which is the creation of the Holy Spirit, is the source of the problems of experience, and the Inner Light or Interior Teacher, which is a function of the Spirit, is the origin of the solutions or understandings. The Inner Light is therefore the Source of all knowledge both of God and the world.


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The Problem Solving System

The examination of the problem solving system shows that it is a general purpose system for solving any and all real problems. Every animal meets with problems in its search for food and in its avoidance of predators, and it would be impossible for animal life to function in the world without the ability to solve problems. The same system is used by a chimpanzee to solve the problem of how to reach a banana just beyond his grasp and by an astronautical engineer to solve the problem of how to put a space vehicle into orbit around the moon.   Survival and success follow from careful observance of the rules of the system.

The same problem solving system may be used successfully by the epistemologist to solve the problems of knowledge theory, and by the seeker after truth to discover the spiritual reality.


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Thinking is Problem Solving Behaviour

Mental behaviour is usually called thinking. Thinking is often associated by psychologists with problem solving. Problems occur in the experience of the individual. In successful thinking the individual moves from the awareness of a problem to the achievement of the solution. 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. 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. Knowledge is therefore the consequence of the correct execution of a valid problem solving method applied to the problems of experience.


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The Understanding is formed by Problem solving

Problems are solved every day by everybody. Most problem solving is intuitive and informal but this does not prevent successful solutions. In important and complex matters the individual will attempt to structure the problem as best he can, as a basis for rational working. Problem investigation and analysis involves behaviour aimed at the better understanding of the problem as the precursor to problem solution and the determination of the best course of action.

The areas where the problem of formal problem solving can be studied are science and technology, education and business. A survey of these areas will show that failures to reach correct solutions may be ascribed to errors like not understanding the reality in which the problem reveals itself, trying to solve the wrong problem, trying to solve a problem that was not properly understood, making assumptions which are not valid, and failing to test intermediate conclusions as well as end solutions. 

Ignorance of true reality implies that problem solving is carried out in a universe of illusions and the resulting 'solutions' will have unpredictable consequences in the real world. A valid problem solving method will require procedures that will effectively prevent these errors. A valid problem solving method gives true solutions to real problems.

A complete and correct understanding of the problem is necessary to correct problem solving. This is achieved by careful execution of the problem solving method. Problem-Solution theory shows how a problem is structured and carried to a solution, which is new understanding. The omission of any stage of the problem investigation reduces the problem solver's ability to understand the problem. If all the stages are omitted the problem-solver can only resort to that pseudo problem-solving process usually associated with armchair philosophy, opinion and other forms of non-factual speculation.

There is a valid method for the solving of problems, which, if it is applied rigorously, will result in the development of knowledge. The problems of objective knowledge are solved at the subjective level and the problem solving method discussed here is applicable to both subjective and objective problem solving.


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The Solving of Problems

The method for solving problems consists of a number of stages which are:- 

* Problem Determination:   

       Problem detection : Problem identification 


* Problem Understanding:   

       Problem investigation : Problem analysis : Problem definition 


* Solution Formation:     

       Solution specification : Solution creation : Solution recognition

In the real world the individual is rarely conscious of passing through specific stages of problem solving. However, no rational individual would consider himself as being in a position to attempt a solution without first being assured that his understanding of the problem was complete and correct. Each stage of the problem solving method is necessary to the full understanding of the problem.

The result of the problem solving process is both an understanding of the problem solution and a new or modified model of reality. Better understandings are achieved through better models and the continual need to improve understanding results in increasing depth of environmental modelling. Models are subject to continual improvement in interaction with the flow of experience. 

Problems lie outside the horizon of understanding given by the existing set of models of reality and the aim of the intellect is to solve them and to assimilate their solutions into an existing more general model, or failing that, to include the new problem solution as an addition to the set or library of particular understandings. The set of understandings available to the intellect develops in range and power with each correct solution to problems of experience.

The problem solving method is also the self-programming method and produces those procedures which are executed as intellectual and physical behaviour. These procedures form behavioural programs which are based on models of reality. The solution to a real problem of experience, based on a model of reality and amounting to an executable procedure or program, is called an understanding. As an understanding it is annexed to the database of understandings which is the intellect.

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Transforming the Problem into its Solution

The problem definition and solution specification are transformed by the problem solving method into the new understanding or solution. The new solution is found in the intellect at some time subsequent to the attempt to solve the problem. 

The description of  how the Holy Spirit transforms the problem understanding into the solution understanding through  the psychological processes is given below. 


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The Problem Solving Path

The problems of experience are transformed into understanding and knowledge through a psychological process. The path that problems for solution follow through the intellectual and psychological processes may be investigated and defined. The problem solving process is uniform for all problems, both simple and complex. Simple problems pass through the process very quickly and are therefore difficult to observe. Complex scientific or theological problems are much slower in their passage through the psychological processes and some observation is possible. More generally, the existence and functions of the processes come to light when problems such as failures to arrive at solutions or arriving at false solutions are subjected to the problem solving procedure. 

The path of the problem through the intellect may be traced from the first consideration of its presence to the final achievement of the solution.

Diagram FT5.1 illustrates the problem solving path in the intellect in which problems for solution are submitted to the problem solving process. The problem of experience, as defined by the problem solving method, is relegated to the subconscious. From there it is processed psychologically to achieve the creation of the solution which is then deposited in the subconscious. The individual becomes intuitively aware that he knows the solution without knowing precisely what that solution is. The solution may then be retrieved into the conscious for full understanding and consideration.

The emergence of the solution into the intellect may be described as intellectual enlightenment. Enlightenment, in complex matters, is often an observable event of experience which has been described as a 'flash of intuition'. 

That new ideas are generated in response to the solution specification implies a relationship between two logical entities which may be called The Required Idea Set and the Idea Generator. The nature of the relationship is one of learning, choosing, and specifying by the individual and the creation of the required ideas by the source of new ideas.

In the broad picture the Creation appears as a set of problems of experience which may be solved and understood. The solutions to the problems are given by an Inner Resource consisting of logical entities and psychological processes, which lies beyond the bounds of the intellect. When the problem solving method has been correctly applied the solutions given by the Inner Resource are true and satisfy the conditions for knowledge.

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The Problem of Innovation  

he stages of problem solving up to and including the solution specification present no special problems. However, the leap from the solution specification to the solution involves a logical discontinuity. It is not possible to trace the ideas incorporated in the solution back to the solution specification or the problem definition. These ideas are new. The problem of innovation is concerned with where new ideas, in the forms of solutions or answers, come from and how they are formed into the meaningful logical constructions which are the solutions.

There is a pattern common to all complex problem solving which may be analysed into a number of steps. These are 


- an unsolved problem understanding and its solution specification are resident in the intellect but not necessarily in the conscious.


- there is usually some delay between the formulation of that problem understanding and the occurrence of the solution.


- the intellect is suddenly aware of the occurrence of the solution without any immediately prior thought about the problem.


- the conscious intellect is aware of the event of the occurrence of the solution, but not necessarily of the details of the solution. The solution then resides in the intellect but not in the conscious part of that intellect.


- the solution may be drawn into the consciousness at leisure and examined in detail.

The significant omission from the pattern is an account of how the solution was put together. In fact, this constructive or formative process doesn't happen in the intellect. The solution appears in the intellect of the problem solver at some time subsequent to the attempt to solve the problem. It occurs as an event of experience, which is to say, it is not a conscious construction of the intellect but simply appears as a complete solution at a point in time. The view that solutions are man-made interpretations of given data cannot be sustained.


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Investigating the Source of Knowledge

The process of enlightenment involves an interaction between the intellect and an anonymous Source from which ideas and understandings come. The character of the Source of new ideas is no more than another problem and as a problem it is open to attack in the normal problem solving manner.

Where false answers or no answers are given to problems these failures constitute problems within the problem solving reality and their solutions expand the understanding of that reality. From these answers the investigator builds an understanding of those psychological processes that play a role in knowledge projects.

Further study leads to questions about how solutions are formed from problem definitions and produces the understanding of creativity. Pressing further questions on this answer leads to the understanding that the enquirer is transacting with an entity of unlimited creative power.

The Creative Function 

The function of the Creative Power in the psychological processes is shown in diagram FT4.1 below.


Diagram FT4.1 illustrates the process by which problems are converted to solutions. Problems occur in the experience of the individual. These problems are understood through the problem solving method and submitted to the Creative Source of new understandings. This process results in knowledge when the problem solving method is followed correctly.

Investigating the Creative Power

Questions regarding the nature of the Source may be put to the Source. In other words it is possible to get the Inner Source to explain its own character, by approaching it with the right understanding of the problem, and a carefully designed set of questions. The basic formula for achieving understanding of the Source is the problem solving method. The first step towards problem definition is, therefore, to overview the record of this source in experience and define in outline its power to innovate and its method of operation.

The answers that emerge from the study are 

firstly, that the Source represents unlimited creative power, 


secondly, that unlimited creative power cannot be further analysed, 


thirdly, that this creative power has no purposes of its own except to supply knowledge and understanding. In pursuit of this purpose the Source functions as a Teacher in situations where the individual has the purpose of learning. 


fourthly, that the conditions under which knowledge and understanding are given, are items of knowledge and understanding and may be discovered, 


fifthly, that the rules for discovery are the ability to understand the answer, and the confidence to requisition it, always subject to moral rules, 


sixthly, that the creative power is an aspect of a wider reality and can only be understood fully from within a model of that reality. By other studies it is found that the Source of knowledge is a function of the Holy Spirit. St.Augustine refers to this Source as the 'Interior Master", and it is otherwise known to philosophers and theologians as the Light of Reason and the Inner Light. 


Lastly, it is given that the Creative Source represents the fulfilment, in part, of a moral obligation to human beings.

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The Functions of the Creative Source

The theory of the Creative Source explains the rules which govern the communication of understanding and truth between the Source and the Intellect. The thesis is that all ideas, understandings, concepts and theories originate from this one source and appear in the human intellect as completed constructions. The Creative Source is an entity which can, of its own power, create the solution to any problem. The Source is the point of origin of all new ideas ever thought. The Source is the only possible origin of all future ideas and future possibilities for individuals and for the culture.

The practical rule by which the process works is that the Source can impart answers to any question, providing both the question and answer can be understood. This is a requirement imposed by the nature of the intellect. Answers that cannot be understood are useless and understanding the problem is the way to understanding the answer. There is no understanding which is directly obtainable from sense data, but all new sense experiences, as problems, are processed by the problem solving method and the solution is returned by the Source as understanding.

The Source has access to the intellect and draws from it the specification of the knowledge that is wanted. The Source therefore answers the purposes of the problem-solver, and this is equivalent to co-operation. The development of the intellect is a function of its relationship with the Source and proceeds most efficiently when it is viewed as a cooperative interaction. The Source fulfils its obligations, at least initially, by giving answers that provide opportunities for further questions. These answer-question links are found to move logically from basic understanding to the more advanced. By this procedure the Source takes the role of the Teacher.

The Source does not judge nor correct unless the solution specification demands the truth and can define the meaning of the term. For an intellect with no understanding of the truth and a non-rigorous method of working the answers given by the Source can be false. This provides the incentive to consider purposes and methods carefully.


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The Relationship of the Source to God

The specific problem being investigated is the understanding of the character of the source of ideas and the solution to this problem is obtained from the source itself. Its essential character is found to be unlimited creative power which may be seen as a definition of God. The identification of the Creative Source as a system of the Holy Spirit, or God the Mother, corroborates St.Augustine's theory of knowledge by Divine Illumination. All knowledge, sensible, rational, and spiritual arises from the one Divine Source and this confirms the statement of St.John that the Holy Spirit teaches everything. The intellect has a direct communication path with the Holy Spirit through the psychological processes which results in Divine Illumination.


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The Teaching System of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit teaches by experience. The Spirit gives the problems of experience and also gives the solutions to the problems in the form of understandings. The combination of problems and solutions is necessary to intellectual development. If the problems are not understood the solutions cannot be understood. Reality, which is the creation of the Holy Spirit, is the source of the problems of experience, and the Source of knowledge, variously called the Interior Teacher, the Light of Reason, and the Inner Light, which is a function of the Holy Spirit, is the origin of the solutions or understandings.

The teaching system of the Holy Spirit is set out in diagram FT3.1 This is the basic system of intellectual development, referred to in the religious context as 'soulmaking'.


The problem solving method ensures that the individual understands the problem as given by the Holy Spirit. In the problem solving process the problems of experience, as understood by the individual, are processed psychologically to achieve understanding and knowledge. This process is the interaction between the individual, as the problem-solver, and the Holy Spirit as the giver of understanding. The solving of the problems of experience results in understanding, or in greater understanding where some understanding already exists. This process accounts for all human understanding, both of spiritual and secular matters.


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The Authority of God the Teacher

God is the Ultimate Authority in all matters of Truth and Knowledge. However, knowledge is the consequence of the Problem and Solution method. Human disagreements follow from trying to solve different problems and wrong problems, defining problems differently, not fully understanding problems, and asking questions which are not fully understood. If the problem solving process is executed correctly the answer of God is consistent. Disagreements may always be traced to mistakes and other inadequacies in applying the method or to ignoring that method.

Karl Popper made the point that the problem to be solved must be real. A real problem stands in the path of a valid knowledge objective. The problem of the number of angels on a pinhead cannot be real. The test is the reason for wanting to know. However, knowledge projects based on invalid assumptions also cannot be real. The objective to understand the human situation in the world is valid. The assumption that the material universe constitutes the whole of reality is false. Whatever follows from it is, in terms of the knowledge objective, also false and any problems based on that assumption are not real. St.Augustine refused to accept that knowledge of the material universe offered any path to the truth.

The world, as the creation of God, is the source of problems. Problems of morality, truth, human nature, and group culture, as well as physical problems, occur in the intellect as the consequence of the observation of the events of experience of the world. If the problem given by experience is fully and correctly understood the solution given by the Holy Spirit will be correct. It is this consistency of truth which enables the building of a corpus of knowledge, spiritual and secular, and permits human progress towards ever-better understandings.


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Learning about God

The Revelation of God, which is the foundation of the Christian system of knowledge, is also given through intellectual enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. How God is discovered is described on the Next Page.






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