September 2nd, 2009

Captive Dreams

Return of the Dog-Heads

St. Augustine and the Cynocephali

An alert, though anonymous reader asks regarding the Dog-Heads discussed earlier:

Could you tell us WHAT the passage from St. Augustine is?  Lewis, in one of his "losing God in outer space" essays, also cites this, but gives a somewhat different summary of it.

Ask, it is said, and you shall be answered.  Ol' Auggie discusses the dog-heads, as well as other monstrous races, in The City of God, Chap. 16, Book 8.  And he writes just as you would expect one of those religious nuts to write:

Whether Certain Monstrous Races of Men are Derived from the Stock of Adam or Noah's Sons.

It is also asked whether we are to believe that certain monstrous races of men, spoken of in secular history, have sprung from Noah's sons, or rather, I should say, from that one man from whom they themselves were descended. For it is reported that some have one eye in the middle of the forehead; some, feet turned backwards from the heel; some, a double sex, the right breast like a man, the left like a woman, and that they alternately beget and bring forth: others are said to have no mouth, and to breathe only through the nostrils; others are but a cubit high, and are therefore called by the Greeks Pigmies: they say that in some places the woman conceive in their fifth year, and do not live beyond their eighth. So, too, they tell of a race who have two feet but only one leg, and are of marvelous swiftness, though they do not bend the knee: they are called Skiopodes, because in the hot weather they lie down on their backs and shade themselves with their feet. Others are said to have no head, and their eyes in their shoulders; and other human or quasi-human races are depicted in mosaic in the harbor esplanade of Carthage, on the faith of histories of rarities. What shall I say of the Cynocephali, whose dog-like head and barking proclaim them beasts rather than men?  But we are not bound to believe all we hear of these monstrosities.  But whoever is anywhere born a man, that is, a rational, mortal animal, no matter what unusual appearance he presents in color, movement, sound, nor how peculiar he is in some power, part, or quality of his nature, no Christian can doubt that he springs from that one protoplast. We can distinguish the common human nature from that which is peculiar, and therefore wonderful.

Too bad the Cartesians began by denying there was such a thing as a single human nature.  We could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble. 

Augustine then goes on to give reason for his statement; viz., that of monstrous births among the known races, including one remarkable fellow that he remembered from his youth: "Some years ago, quite within my own memory, a man was born in the East, double in his upper, but single in his lower half — having two heads, two chests, four hands, but one body and two feet like an ordinary man; and he lived so long that many had an opportunity of seeing him."
 

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