Soquiño: Understanding Augustine’s Notion of “Community” from the Perspective of “Loob”

By Rev. Fr. Tito Discaya Soquiño, OSA
(This was originally published in the Augustinian Initial Formation Congress 2021 Document. )

So much has been written about Augustine and Augustine’s thought.  Theological exploration has certainly not been wanting.  In a sense, this thematic study of unity-community in Augustine’s writings can hardly be considered as original.  It is a summing up, but one that is done for the purpose of transposing it in lowland Filipino terms.  The richness of Augustine’s thought needs to be communicated in culturally intelligible terms.  If we are inextricably cultural, then this step is necessary to make Augustine’s mind accessible to Filipinos.

A. Loob

            1. Introduction

            In the Filipino context, there are several indigenous concepts that may render the Augustinian concept of anima-cor indigenously.  Puso (heart), isip (mind), diwa (spirit), kaluluwa (soul), are terms.  If we take the literal translation of cor as “heart,” the Filipino equivalent could be puso.  Like cor, puso is also a metaphor.  But in general, puso belongs to the affective or emotional dimension of a person.  It would not be difficult to find examples.  Consider its varied use in many Filipino love songs.  However, cor in Augustine‘s view, is not merely an emotional notion, and much less is it a romantic concept in the manner of puso.

            Anima, on the other hand, transliterated into Filipino would be kaluluwa, the “soul.”  In traditional Christian theology, the “soul” is a constitutive element of a human being together with the body.  At death, the soul goes to either “heaven” or “hell” after being separated from the “human body” in order to experience “eternal life” or “eternal damnation.”  But for the ancestors of the lowland Filipinos, the kaluluwa was essentially good and makes the person good. Kaluluwa could refer to the whole person (kaluluwang dalisay, kaluluwang kawawa, kaluluwang maawain, kaluluwang malupit, etc.).  It also, as we have seen refers to the core of a person which does not die.  Kaluluwa has also a moral element, which can be deduced in the phrases, “taong may kaluluwa,” or “taong walang kaluluwa.”  The former phrase, however, is not widely used.  The positive expression is usually “taong may mabuting kalooban.”  Unlike loob, kaluluwa, in itself, does not have a relational dimension, or, at least, not as strong as that of loob.

            Diwa, another notion worth looking into, refers to “essence and identity” and “image and likeness.”  When we speak for example, of the diwa ng Pasko, we mean the “essence” of Christmas.  It would be interesting to ask whether diwa could also be interpreted as Augustine’s idea of the mens (which is part of the anima), where the imago Dei (image and likeness of God) is found.  However, diwa, does not give a relational interpretation the way loob does.

            Isip, for its part, stands for mind, the rational or intellectual part of a person.  Its difficulty, however, is it does not capture the essence of the Augustinian understanding of mens, which is also the locus of the imago dei because isip is only limited to the intellectual aspect.  Isip, moreover, is not a relational concept, unlike the mens which has a spiritual and relational dimension as well.  The above Filipino concepts have no doubt their own strengths.  In particular contexts, their usage would be appropriate.  Because of Augustine’s stress on the relational character of unity/community, the indigenous notion of loob seems to offer more possibilities.  Let us take a closer look.

            Loob is a lowland Filipino term that is rich in meaning.  Consider some of the many uses of this word:

looban, kalooban, pagloloob, panloloob, pinaglooban, pinakaloob, kaloob-looban,kaloob, loobin, pagbabalik-loob, kusang-loob, kapalagayang-loob, lamang-loob, kabutihang-loob, kasamaang-loob, utang na loob, buong  loob,  tamang loob, maling loob, malakas ang loob, mahina ang loob, sirangloob, maayos na loob na loob, etc. (Miranda, 1989).

            The varied uses of loob in its many different connotations make it difficult to define the concept.  There is truth to the observation that loob is best described rather than defined (Miranda, 1989).

            Loob has been analyzed from different perspectives; Fr. Leonardo Mercado, SVD, sees loob in its metalinguistic interpretation (Mercado, 1974). His research is anchored in the consciousness of the Filipino from which come his/her words and actions.  A person’s way of thinking can be deduced from his language and behavior because words and actions are products of the human mind.  An analysis of Philippine languages and behavior, therefore, can lead to understanding the Filipino mind (Mercado, 1974). Mercado is convinced that the Filipino has a holistic world view, seen in the interconnection of words and actions.  For example, the phrase: makasakit ang loob involves sorrow and pain of one’s entire being (Mercado, 1974).

            Zeus Salazar views loob from a psycholinguistic standpoint.   For Salazar, the question is not “What is the meaning of ‘loob’ but how is the concept ‘loob’ used (Alejo, 1990)? Salazar brackets the influence of Christianity and modern thinking.  With the help of ethnography, he discovered that indigenous concepts such as ginhawa, ulirat, damdam and others are interrelated with each other.  He believes that these concepts revolve around the concept of loob (Alejo, 1990).

Loob. Lahat ng ito ay kaugnay o nasasaklaw ng loob yamang ang kanilang pangkalahatang tawag bilang damdam ay “niloloob.” Ang loob mismo ay mayroon pang kahulugan liban sa “emosyon” na nagsisimula sa ginhawa at damdam. Ito ang “lagay ng loob,” “saloobin,” “kalooban,” “boluntad”… Samakatuwid, ang lahat ng nabanggit na mga galaw ng kamalayan,  at iba pa ay nilalagom sa konsepto ng loob.  Gayunman, ang loob ay may sarili pa ring katangian na nagbibigay rito ng kaibahan ng mga konseptong nabanggit (Salazar, 1982).

            He further differentiates loob, which is anchored in emotions, from budhi (conscience) which has moral and intellectual aspects.  If budhi is to understanding, loob is to action.

            Emmanuel Lacaba and Reynaldo Ileto see loob from a historical perspective.  Ileto studied the meanings of loob in millenarian movements as well as their significance for Philippine history (Ileto, 1979).  While Ileto did not intend to present a philosophical analysis, he does show a bit of it in his desire to present the view of the revolutionaries during the Philippine Revolution of 1898.  He discovered the world of the Katipuneros in their language and literature, the context of which is the struggle of people to live in dignity amidst poverty, oppression of the masses by the privileged few (Alejo, 1990).

            For Ileto, the Revolution brought out the essence of the loob.  Because of the difficulties involved, the revolutionaries got to know the real loob of each one.  The real pagkatao (personhood) emerged; loob was revealed.  For loob is the locus of the true self of the person.  Thus, in those trying times of patriotism and self-sacrifice, love of country or betrayal of it surfaced from the loob.

            Lacaba for his part, sees loob in relation to our colonial experience.  He believes that the experience of colonization pushed the Filipino psyche towards an interior labyrinth, to a deep and complex “cave” (yungib) like that of Bernardo Carpio, the hero of Philippine legends.

Hindi sa tayo ay nagmumukmok sa loob, kundi dahil sa panghihimasok ng mga dayuhan, tayo ay nawalan ng tahanan, napalabastayosaatingsarili, nawalatayosaatingloob (Alejo, 1990).

It was the experience of foreign domination that forced the Filipino to “shrink to the inner self.” “Ang loob,” writes Lacaba, “ang kalooban ay ang yungib na naging kaayusan ng kaisipang Filipino” (Lacaba, 1981).

            Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD, investigates loob from a moral anthropological point of view.  Miranda describes loob as “interiority, the inner principle of affection, disposition, feeling, attitudes, thought, decision, and responsibility.” Loob, in all its usages, implies personal involvement, an engaging of the self.  Miranda makes a distinction between the psychological personality of loob and its moral character.  The difference may be illustrated, for example, by analyzing an action such as “giving.”  The term bigay requires the concerted action of the indicative, imperative and decisive will, which can be discharged by a purely physical movement, involving a command from the inner person, but signifying only a minimal sense of personal charge or content (Miranda, 1989).

            On the other hand, “the same act of giving can be seen morally, as pagkakaloob, which requires an act of the indicative-imperative-decisive will, discharged indeed through physical movement, but also investing such movements with greater personal content precisely through a qualitatively different involvement.  The difference lies, therefore, in the ‘qualification of its voluntariness’ in the psychological and moral dimension (Miranda, 1989).” For example, maluwag sa kalooban, mabigat sa loob, bukal sa loob, salungat sa loob involve both the psychological and moral.  The extent of its being maluwag, mabigat, bukal, salungat carries with it the moral aspect.  But before it is considered a philosophical and moral concept, it is before all else, a metaphor, in the same manner as the Augustinian concept of anima-cor.  Loob, in general, refers to the core or center of our personhood.  It is the human interiority.

            2. Intrapersonal

            “Ang loob ay ang tao sa kanyang kalaliman (Alejo, 1990).” This statement can be considered as a summary of what loob is all about.  Loob is a person in his/her innermost self; the core of one’s personhood (Ileto, 1979). It is the most authentic self of the lowland Filipino; the locus of the true worth of a person (De Mesa, 1987). Loob, in the words of Ileto, is the “larangan ng totoo; ng tunay at tapat na pagkatao (Alejo, 1990).” Loob is what makes the Filipino what he/she is as a person. Further, it is the ultimate organizing center of human reality.

            An interesting point is presented by Ileto when he connects the state of one’s loob and military defeats during the Philippine Revolution. He recalls in a letter of Andres Bonifacio to Emilio Jacinto, that the frequent enemy attacks on certain towns are attributed to the lack of unity among the leaders who continue to have the hardness of loob (matitigas ang kalooban) (Ileto, 1979).  Bonifacio’s point is that inner transformation is a condition for a successful revolution (Ileto, 1979).

            Loob is the very zone of creaturehood which is the substratum of ideas, feelings and behaviors (De Mesa, 1987).  According to Miranda, it is also “the seat of the moral qualities by which we measure the goodness or badness of a person in his attitudes and activities (Miranda, 1989).” A person, for instance, is said to have a magandang kalooban or mabuting loob if he relates well and positively towards others (De Mesa, 1987).  On the other hand, if the opposite is said, it means the person has a masamang loob.  In fact, thieves are known as masasamang loob.

            Apart from this, loob has also a rational dimension.  Pagsasaloob, for example, does not only mean the process of interiorizing or internalization, but an intellectual grasp of what is being considered.  Perhaps, insight is a close equivalent.

            Thanks to the influence of Christianity loob has also acquired a spiritual meaning.  Loob is seen in the image and likeness of God.  For instance, in a speech delivered by Aguinaldo before local “principales” who were to form “revolutionary municipal councils,” he explains that the idea of unity is ultimately based not on the experience of unity but on the fact that each inhabitant of the nation is an image of God (“anac ni bathala, isang larawan niya”) (Ileto, 1979). Loob, cannot be fully defined without reference to God.  During the Second Plenary  Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) in India in 1978, prayer which was the theme of the convention, was defined as “the first expression of man’s interior truth;” prayer first becomes the Christian’s acknowledgment and awareness of the true nature of the loob.  And the nature of the loob is its essential relatedness to God as “image and likeness” (De Mesa, 1987).  From a Christian perspective, loob can be said to be made “in the image and likeness of God.”  As such, this loob is a gift and a grace freely given.  God is found in the profoundest depths of our humanity.  “Ang kalooban ng tao ay ang sinapupunan ng Diyos.” Indeed St Thomas would say: God is in the innermost of our innermost being (Aquinas). The loob is not just made in the image and likeness of God as if God were a separate entity from a distance.  The loob is made for God.  As Augustine would put it solemnly: “You have made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in You (Confessions, 1, 1).” Thus, the loob’s search for truth is realized when it dwells in God.  Being the locus of the most authentic self, loob always seeks for the truth.  The nature of loob is the search for truth.  And the truth is to be found in God.  But if God is to be found within the person, the search for God is the search for a person.  Conversely, the search for a person is the search for God.  The authentic self is the self that searches for God.

            Since God “resides” in the loob, then, it is but natural for human beings to reach for their inner self as they search for God, who is their fulfillment and happiness.  The more they search for their kalooban, the nearer they are to the truth, the very self of God.  To speak of pagbabalik-loob is not just a “pagtalikod sa masamang landas” and “pag-uwi muli sa pagkaligaw,” but a “muling pag-uugat sa naunang kabutihan (Alejo, 1990).  It’s a re-rooting of life to its primordial goodness.  It is a return to the image from which were formed.  This search for the Good eventually ends in the search for the Supreme Good, who is God Himself/Herself. 

            In order to truly know a person, it is not enough to know someone through his/her external appearance and behavior.  It is imperative to gain insight into the person’s heart, so to speak.  This is why the Filipino always wants to know what is in the kalooban of the other in sizing a person up.  More often than not, the Filipino emphasizes the katangiang panloob rather than the katangiang panlabas (Miranda, 1989). The loob, we recall, is the most authentic self and core of our personhood.

            A disjunction between the loob and the labas is possible.  The labas can veil or obscure the reality of the loob.  We are aware of the palabas people can engage in or the pakitang tao which they may employ.  Still, the loob needs the labas to express itself.  The labas can be revelatory of the loob.  Moreover, there is continuity between the state of one’s loob and a person’s external appearance and acts (Ileto, 1979).  In his study of the pasyon, a popular account of the passion of Christ sung during Lent, Ileto discovered that the state of people’s loob has an immediate effect in this world.  For example, “Judas is treacherous because his loob is “disoriented” and “hard as rock;” in the end he hangs himself.  On the other hand, those whose loob are pure, serene and controlled have “special powers” granted to them by Christ.  They can control its elements, cure the sick, speak in different tongues, interpret signs, and foretell the future (Ileto, 1979).”

            Hence, it is through external behavior that loob, the inner self, is manifested.  Behavior in an authentic person emanates from the loob.  Indeed, we can say, an authentic external manifestation of harmony is an indication of inner harmony.

            The phenomenon of the anting-anting (amulets) reinforces this connection between the loob and the labas.  The power of an amulet is dependent on the state of one’s loob.  For an amulet to take effect, the loob of its possessor must have undergone renewal and purification (Ileto, 1979).The objective of the anting-anting is to possess these “powers.”  It is interesting to note in connection with this point that the first libritos –prayers to San Agustin and others, were actually regarded as anting-anting (Ileto, 1979).

            Loob, however, is not only an intrapersonal reality.  It is also an appropriate term to describe a person in relationship with others.  Modern studies in psychology strongly point out that person is defined by relationships with others (Lindzey, 1978).  Relationships provide an insight into loob; loob provides an insight into relationships.

            3. Interpersonal

            Loob is essentially a relational and social notion before it is a privately personal concept (Miranda, 1989). Dr. de Mesa himself has repeatedly stressed that loob is a relational concept.  In other words, we cannot truly encounter a person and gain insight into the inner self of a person except in relationships. We cannot define or explain what loob is apart from human interaction.  Even a cursory survey of the relational uses of loob reveals this:  pagbubukas-loob, pakikipagpalagay ang loob, pagmamagandang–loob, ipagkaloob, etc. Kagandahang-loob (kindness, generosity, benevolence, helpfulness) for instance, is only recognized through relationships.  It is a term which stands for all that is good in a person, a trait valued by all Filipinos.  In the words of Dr. de Mesa: “It is a quality of being which has its roots in the very heart of a person and which is given expression in the totality of one’s life of interrelationship (De Mesa, 1987).”

            Since loob is pure interiority it is impossible for it to be known if it remains within itself (Miranda, 1989). Loob can manifest itself only through some form of externalization (Miranda, 1989). ‘Conversion’ (pagbabalik-loob) for example, cannot be called such, unless there is a real change of heart.  It necessitates a complete turnabout, of leaving the past behind and living a “new life.”  This process cannot be seen in isolation, as an internal movement of change.  Change must be manifested externally.  Although external acts can conceal what is really happening inside the person, it is the only way to know one’s loob.

Nakikilalala man ang loob sa pamamagitan ng pagpapakilala.  Ang pagpapakilala ay nagaganap lamang sa mga sangkap ng panlabas.  At bagama’t ang panlabas ay maaring magkubli sa halip na maglinaw, ang panlabas na rin ang siyang natatanging daan sa pagpapakilala ng loob (Miranda, 1989).

            A pagbabalik-loob (sa sarili) is also a pagbabalik-loob sa kapwa. “Hindi lamang sarili ko ang aking naisasaloob, pati ang aking kapwa ay nasaloob ko (Alejo, 1990). Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  is an effort to conceal his relationship with Abel.  But the question itself betrays a deep consciousness of his relationship with his brother.  He knows Abel is within him.  This consciousness of the other is termed by Alejo as malay- kapwa (Alejo, 1990).

            It would be hypocritical to have a pagbabalik-loob without a pagbabalik-loob sa kapwa.  It is even the other person who will attest if there was indeed a pagbabalik-loob.  Therefore, an authentic pagbabalik-loob is also a pakikipagkapwa-loob.  When loob reaches out to another loob in an authentic relationship, where there is kagandahang-loob, a pagpapalagayang-loob ensues.  According to Alejo, pakikipagpalagayang-loob is:

Patuloy na pagbubuo ng matalik na ugnayang nakabatay sa malalim na pakikilanlan sa isa’t-isa (Alejo, 1990).

            The gradual understanding of Jesus’ mission by his disciples is an example of pakikipagpalagayang-loob.  His disciples saw what Jesus did, how with their own very eyes they saw the good deeds of Jesus and how they heard him speak of the good news, especially to the poor.  Their (disciples) constant interaction with Jesus shows a gradual unfolding of who Jesus is and his “tunay niyang niloloob (De Mesa, 1987).”

            4. Communal-Societal

            From an intrapersonal loob and interpersonal loob we move on to the common loob.  Loob as a relational concept is not confined to either the intrapersonal of the interpersonal aspect.  It goes beyond a person-to-person relationship.  It includes a communal dimension as well.  The communal-societal dimension refers to the larger community which is the society itself.  An example of the communal aspect of loob is found in the same speech of Aguinaldo to the local principales, where he exhorts them to be one in loob (magcaisang loob) for the benefit of the Motherland (Ileto, 1979). Furthermore, the Katipunan idea of unity is accomplished through the transformation and “direction” of each Filipino’s loob (Ileto, 1979). Consequently, a vacillation of loob results in disunity, and in the case of the revolutionaries, military defeats.  Ileto, in quoting Hermano Pule (Ileto, 1979), warns the members of his Cofradia, that there are some whose loob waver in their commitment to our union (loob na nag uurong sulong ng paquequesama sa ating kaisahan) (Ileto, 1979).

            Utang na loob also exhibits this communal-societal aspect of loob.  Utang na loob (debt of gratitude), popularly conceived, refers to the reciprocity of a favor previously given.  It may be unsolicited as for example, saving someone’s life from a fatal accident.  Although repayment may not be expected, it is somehow spontaneously, gratefully and willingly given (Miranda, 1989).  Since it was given buhat sa loob, its reception does not merely mean tanggap but isinasaloob (Miranda, 1989).  The person receiving the favor has a malalim na pagtanaw ng utang na loob to the one who extends the favor.  However, utang na loob presents some difficulties due to the nature of the debt, the circumstances which it was contracted and the expected terms of repayment (De Mesa, 1987). Utang na loob can be easily exploited as can be seen in many examples such as tenant-landlord, employee-employer, parent-child, patron-client relationships.  A sacada (sugarcane worker), for example, who was extended financial assistance by his amo (landlord) because of his dying child will have utang na loob to his landlord.  Because of such debt of gratitude the landlord could exact absolute loyalty from tenants like this.  A situation of perpetual bondage of the workers can arise.

            In an authentic relationship, the pagtanaw ng utang na loob becomes not a burden but an open zone of creative relating and responding in graciousness and gratitude (Miranda, 1989). Utang na loob, however, has a more fundamental meaning than the “debt of gratitude.”  Dr. de Mesa gives a positive orientation to this value.  Although it can be considered as an extension of favor, the granting of this favor, however, springs not merely from the generosity of the person from the imperatives arising from our common loob, our common humanity, and hence, solidarity.  The meaning of utang na loob as a debt of human solidarity comes out in situation of extreme need or tight situations.  A person about to be ‘salvaged’ (summary execution) cries out in mercy: Utang na loob, maawa kayo sa akin! In situations of this sort, the appeal is: Utang na loob!, an appeal to common humanity.  The plea of utang na loob is addressed to someone, or whoever is capable or has the power to help them of their predicament.  This plea is made in the name of common humanity, and therefore, of solidarity. Utang na loob, in this sense, can also be translated as “debt of prime obligation.”  “What obligation can be more ‘prime’ than that of acknowledging the human solidarity of all persons? (De Mesa, 1987)”

            The issue of solidarity is as valid today as in the revolution of 1896.  Philippine society is currently experiencing many crises which demand solidarity as the solution.  In a world of uncertainties, it is a consolation to know that there are still people who are willing to stand by you in times of difficulties.  Where poverty is as prevalent as ever, utang na loob easily becomes a tool of subservience.  There is a need to understand and re-orient certain Filipino values for it to respond positively to the demands of humanity.  As Dr. de Mesa explains:

Utang na loob as a debt of gratitude is too tame (or should we rather say, domesticating) to live up to the challenges of the present socio-economic disequilibrium prevailing in the country today.  If this Filipino value is to function at all in the context of poverty, injustice and exploitation, utang na loob must be understood in a different way; it ought to be re-oriented to serve the well-being of people (De Mesa, 1987).

            Interpreting utang na loob would then be the debt of human solidarity to fellow human beings, whoever they are, especially if they are disinherited (De Mesa, 1987).  Against the background of the Filipino’s awareness of equality as human beings (De Mesa, 1987), utang na loob as the debt of human solidarity makes  sense.  It implies that each one of us owes everyone else and all human beings owe us also.  The equality which arises from our common humanity (De Mesa, 1987), requires that we at least respect a fellow human being.  Respect is the recognition of the human-ness of a person (dangal).  Educational attainment, social class and economic  standing  cannot be used as an excuse to refuse “what one owes another as a human being (Miranda, 1989).”  The Tagalog proverb says it clearly:  “Ang paggalang ay di dapat ipinamimiling balat.” The appeal of utang na loob is a contemporary plea that many Filipinos, especially the disinherited, utter.  It can be a plea to seek justice, but also a plea for compassion.  In this sense, utang na loob can interpreted as debt of human solidarity.

B. Augustine and “Loob”

            1. Introduction

            One of the reasons Augustine is hailed as man for all seasons is not only because of his tremendous influence on Western theology, but because, as the words of the former Prior General of the Augustinian Order:

He (Augustine) still appeals to a lot of people because he was so fully human in the best sense of the word.  He gives us valuable psychological insight into ourselves; his own personal odyssey is that of so many of us, his thirst for God and the difficulties he experienced in finding and holding on to God relate to a basic human need…He has bared his soul, his mind, his feelings and his Christian heritage in such a way that people are honest with themselves can still find in Augustine some reflection of their own inner life and struggle (Tack, 1988).

            If one would follow Augustine’s life in his Confessions, one immediately notices Augustine’s journey to his dynamic innermost self, to his loob. Anima-cor  for him stands for the living self as its deepest reality.  Anima is the vital force in human beings, the principle in life.  One is reminded here of the expression “buhay ang loob” to refer to a person who is lively, animated, inspired and strong.  Cor is what makes persons who they truly are, in their truest and profoundest depths; the real core of who they truly are. For Augustine, these two terms stand for the person himself/herself.  Combined, they present a holistic picture of a dynamic person.

            Looking back, the combined Augustinian concepts of anima-cor is similar to the Filipino loob.  Both terms speak of persons in their innermost selves.  While loob is seen as the seat of the moral values by which we measure the goodness or badness of a person, anima-cor is the root of the self being good and evil.  The spiritual dimension is also stressed.  Both terms, obviously from a Christian perspective, indicate a person’s being in the “image of God.”  However, Augustine makes a distinction of the imago Dei.  Strictly speaking, only Christ is the image of God. The person is made to the image of God (ad imaginem dei) (Bell, 1984). The person is not the image in the same way that Christ is.  Augustine believes that a person must become the image of God.  Hence, the preposition ad.  While loob is the locus of the true worth of a person, anima-cor is not only the indwelling place of the Truth, but it continually seeks for the Truth. 

            Both furthermore are relational concepts capable of expressing interpersonal as well as communal-societal relationships.  Where Augustine speaks of intimate friendships, loob offers pakikipagpalagayang-loob.  Although, anima-cor initially gives an impression of an individualistic, non-collective interpretation, we should remember that Augustine used this combination whenever he quotes Acts 4:32-35, the biblical basis of his monastic community.  Loob, too, is communal and social.  Pagkakaisang-loob, the unity of the deepest selves of people, and utang na loob as debt of human solidarity speak of relationships within community and society.  We shall later explore in this section Augustine’s thoughts on unity/community through the central Filipino notion of loob in the hope that Augustine can be understood indigenously.

2. Intrapersonal

            “Loob” ay ang tao sa kanyang kalaliman.  It is the locus of the true worth of a person.  With this mindset, a pagbabalik-loob, a return to the depths of ourselves is rightly deemed as a positive and desirable move.  Augustine says this himself:  “Do not go outside, but return within yourself; for the truth dwells in the interior man (OnTrue Religion, 39, 72).” The movement from the exterior to the interior is a patently Augustinian approach.  In Augustine, it is a question of going beyond the exterior person, in order to concentrate on the interior (Ramirez, 1981). Augustine took this expression from St. Paul; “If the exterior fades away, the interior person is renewed day by day (2Cor 4.  16).”  Persons are interior in so far as they are renewed, in so far as they are transformed, in so far as they transcend the corruptibility of the exterior person (Ramirez, 1981).

            But this process of renewal and transformation involves a struggle within one’s loob. Augustine says this in his Commentary on Psalm 63:

Look to yourself; it is within yourself that you have to fight.  With some part of yourself you search for God; with some other part you are allured by the world.  That part which delights in the world fights against that which searches for God.  Let your soul search.  Let it stick.  Let it not weaken.  Let it not give way.  By persevering in fighting, the soul will conquer that part of itself which is in rebellion against itself (Expositions on the Psalms 63, 9).

He likens the heart to a battlefield:

The human heart is a battle field.  There, man, and he alone, fights a host of foes.  There he is besieged by the insinuations of avarice, by the stimuli of lust, by the attraction of greed (Expositions on the Psalm, 63, 9).

            This struggle is a continuous process until one discovers the truth.  It does not stop till it reaches its destiny.  It is always “restless,” constantly searching, journeying for its real self.  For Augustine, the discovery of truth was itself a discovery of God, as he puts it in a later book of the Confessions “Where I found truth, there I found my God, the Truth itself (Confessions, 10, 24).” And the person cannot find God unless he finds his loob (Cf. Confessions, 3, 6, 11). Human beings must first return to their loob, that they may be able to return to God (City of God 11, 38). For it is within that God speaks: “Enter into your heart, and if you have faith, you will find Christ there.  There he speaks to you (Sermon 102, 2).” Augustine’s exploration of the inner self is an exploration of God; his study of God is a study of the self.  He sees God in the depths of a person, and sees the person in relation to God.

Augustine’s conversion, as an internal movement of change can be described as a pagbabalik-loob.  In the words of Alejo:  Pagbabalik loob is a pagtalikod sa masamang landas at muling pag-uugat sa sinaunang kabutihan.  This was precisely the experience of Augustine’s conversion:  his turnabout from the saeculum and his re-rooting of life to its primordial goodness.  And this “goodness” is to be found in the Supreme Good God Himself/Herself (Cf. Concerning the Nature of Good Against the Manicheans 1).

            3. Interpersonal

            Augustine’s experience with his friends can be said to be a pakikipagpalagayang-loob. We have noted that Augustine could not live without friends.  He regarded friendship as one of the necessities of life:

In this world, two things are essential:  life and friendship.  Both should be highly prized and we must not undervalue them.  Life and friendship are nature’s gifts.  God created man that he might exist and live: this is life.  But if man is not to remain solitary there must be friendship (Sermon 16, 1).

            The basis of this friendship is love:  amicitia ex amore (Bavel, 1980). Ang pagkakaibigan ay dapat nakabatay sa pakikipagpalagayang-loob.  The condition palagayangloob only exists if there is reciprocity, that is, a mutual trust of one person for another.  Friendship means that love which has been given requires love in return (In Reply to the Two Letters of the Pelagians 1, 1). This reciprocity brings with it a close relationship (kalapitang-loob) where two people become one (kaisang –loob).  Augustine has given voice to this thought by speaking of:  “My Other Self,” “My Second Heart,” The “other Half of my Soul” (Horace) “As you are my Other Half of my soul, what better topic of conversation could there be, than one already held with myself (Letter 38, 1)?”

            Only when true friendship reaches the depths of another person, when it pierces the loob, there is malalim na pagkikilanlan sa isa’t isa.  Rightly has Augustine said, “No one can be truly known except through friendship (On 83 Various Questions 71, 5).”

            On this level of relationship, there is identification with the actions of another person; his/her thoughts and deeds become my own.  When asked about what point someone is admitted to friendship, Augustine replied:  “When trust is great enough for us to share all our thoughts (On 83 Various Questions 71, 6).”  Thus, for Augustine, the experience of pakikipagpalagayang-loob, entails trust and faith, which are essential ingredients in any deep personal relationship like friendship.  Trust must always be the irreplaceable condition for any human relationship, whether between parents and children, or between friends.

            In spite of this ideal situation, Augustine sees the limitations of actual friendship.  Friends may come to a point when their deeply held convictions conflict.  To one of his friends, Martianus, Augustine writes:

Dearest Friend, at one time we were in complete agreement about material things, where I wanted to enjoy those things in the ways of the world, but in the more important things (those of the spirit), there was something lacking in our relationship (Letter 258, 4).

In friendship, there is moreover, the possibility of a serious mistake.  At seventy, Augustine wrote:  “In this wretched life of ours, we frequently mistake a friend for an enemy and an enemy for a friend (City of God 19, 8).

            In this life, the good and the bad, love and hatred are mingled.  There is within us the presence of mutually opposed forces.  Everything finite is subject to change: it cannot remain static for an instant; it slides away from us, and escapes.  That is the reason why Augustine did not like to be far from his friends.  Someone who might seem full of promise might vanish, to become one of the worst, whereas another already written off could change and become the best of friends.  It is precisely this mutability of which we can be most certain; it would really be imprudent to feel perfectly sure of another person (The Catechizing of the Uninstructed 25, 49).

            It is necessary to add that two people can never be in complete state of pakikipagpalagayang-loob; this would be contrary to the nature of love itself.  Love respects fully the individual life and thinking of the other and the other person must be loved as another person.  Neither physical proximity nor harmony of mind could make two people wholly one.  Love always goes hand in hand with pain and is like a wound that never heals, because there is always something let to long for.  Elsewhere, he says: “Every heart is closed to every heart (Expositions on the Psalms 55, 9).” This does not mean Augustine is contradicting himself.  What he meant was our inmost thoughts remain our own, not because we do not want to share them, but because we cannot.  Psychologically speaking, he was right.  We read in the Confessions:

You alone, O God, knew what I was suffering and not a single person.  How little could I succeed in explaining this to my closest friends!  How could I possible describe the whole turmoil in my soul? Time did not suffice to tell them and words failed me (Confessions 7, 7).

            The human person is a mystery then.  And the mystery becomes more unfathomable if we consider that we cannot succeed in fully penetrating another’s loob.  In his Expositions on Psalms 41, Augustine described the abyss that is the human heart.

If abyss means bottomless depth, what else can better called an abyss than the human heart?  Is there anything deeper and more bottomless that this?  Men can talk to one another and express themselves by signs; but who can penetrate and see the human heart? Who is able to register what s hidden in it, its machinations, its depths, its likes and dislikes (Expositions on the Psalms 4, 1)?

            4. Communal-Societal

            We have earlier seen the development of Augustine’s thought from an individualistic to a communitarian interpretation of “unity of minds and hearts.”  He never opted for a solitary life.  It was always his desire to live out his religious commitment with others in community.  His friendly nature, most likely, led him to it.

            Furthermore, Augustine did not limit the application of this quotation from Acts 4 to his religious community.  He intended the unity of minds and hearts for the broader community as well.  He sees the religious community as a paradigm for the larger community (Brockwell, 1977).

            Union of minds and hearts for Augustine does not have any meaning if there is no theocentric dimension.  In any community, God is always included.  He cannot envision a coming together of people without God’s involvement.  This is precisely why he describes the person as imago Dei.  The basis of this union is our being God’s involvement.  This is precisely why he describes the person as imago Dei.  The basis of this union is our being God’s image and likeness.  As mentioned earlier, community is not merely a sociological need to bind people together, say, for a security or peace treaty, but from the beginning an explicit recognition of the religious dimension is part and parcel of it.  God is essential in any relationship, be it personal, interpersonal or communitarian.

            We have seen also that Augustine’s ideal of “unity of mind and heart” has a material demand, that is, the sharing of goods in common.  Sharing one’s possessions is seen from the perspective of building up of community with one another.  It becomes the expression of relationship between persons.  Community of goods is not merely an economic question nor even of a gesture of detachment.  It is seen primarily as an orientation towards a life which seeks to end all self-seeking in order to find happiness in love for the other in community (Bavel T. J., 1984).

            Sharing of goods is not merely a condition for love of one another.  Community of goods belongs to the essence of love itself.  The strange power of love is that whatever a person has becomes the common property of all (Bavel T. J., 1984). “Take envy away, and what I have is yours.  Take envy away, and what you have is mine.  Possess love, and you possess everything (Homilies on the Gospel of St. John 32, 8). Indeed, Augustine is deeply convinced that self-giving love never diminishes or wanes.  It all the more grows and the more people to whom love is extended, the more loving one becomes (Cf. Letter 192, 1-2). But pagkakaisang-loob is not merely a spiritual ideal.  For Augustine it must be concretized in the sharing of goods.  Again, we see a facet of loob related to this point.  We saw how loob needs to be externalized in order to be known.  The possible disjunction between labas and loob (or katawan and loob) must be overcome.  For Augustine, the sharing of material goods (labas) was an expression of the genuine inner unity.

            When Augustine speaks about sharing of goods in the Rule, he intends material goods in the first place.  It would be mistaken, however, to limit the concept of sharing of goods to this.  Certainly, Augustine also had in mind spiritual goods.  The term “spiritual  goods” is very broad and difficult to describe.  But definitely, it includes one’s talents, character, temperament, thoughts and ideas, inspiration and faith (Bavel T. J., 1984). Although the Rule does not directly express it, the sharing of community of goods seems presupposed when Augustine says that in the dealings with one another “their hearts should seek the nobler things, not vain earthly appearances (Cf. Rule 1, 6).”

            The idea of pagkakaisang-loob for Augustine does not mean necessarily uniformity.  In the Rule, where he quotes again Acts: “to each person be given what he personally needs” is an acknowledgment that there are personal differences.  Augustine is not making a caricature of a community wherein everyone must be and receive the same, that all must and not wish the same things.  They are far from the ideal Augustine wished for.  It is quite significant that Augustine greatly acknowledged the importance of individual personality differences but also paid attention to the sort of respect the person is to be approached.  Uniformity reduces people to mere numbers and destroys the personality of an individual.  This is not Augustine’s interpretation of pagkakaisang–loob.

            For Augustine, sharing of goods takes a radical position.  He goes further by obliging the members of his community to “call nothing his own.”  Among them there should be no question of personal property.Private possessions become a hindrance towards a building up of an authentic community.

            There is a possibility that we might see a hardline position in Augustine.  Let us not forget that Augustine views the monastic community as a model of living for the Church.  He does not discount the fact that the broader community might not take his dose of medicine.  But nevertheless, he hopes that the City of Humans will become the City of God.  Augustine did not expect all Christians to embrace the religious life or to become monks.  But he certainly asked ordinary Christians to live highly disciplined lives characterized by stern renunciation (Chadwick, 1986).

            It is interesting to note that Augustine‘s community is an odd mixture of different economic classes: the rich and the poor, freemen and slaves.  Obviously, we could surmise the presence of some forms of tension in such a community.  What Augustine envisaged, then, was a religious community as an alternative form of living together.  In such a community, it is possible for the rich and poor, the lowly and the mighty, to relate to each other as equals and brothers.

            Such is Augustine’s concept of pagkakaisang-loob.  The acceptance of ex-slaves in his monastery is a concrete manifestation of Augustine’s awareness of the equality of human beings as they are imagines Dei.  In this sense, Augustine’s idea is seen within the context of the Filipino utang na loob as interpreted by Dr. de Mesa as debt of human solidarity.

            Not only with slaves did Augustine express human solidarity but the mere fact that he was the bishop of Hippo can we deduce his pastoral concern for his flock.  From Possidius’ Life of Augustine we know that the bishop of Hippo never forgot his “companions” in poverty:

When the funds of the church gave out he announced this to his flock, telling them that they had nothing to bestow upon the needy.  It even happened that he ordered some of the sacred vessels to be broken up and melted down, and the proceeds distributed for the benefit of captives and of as many of the poor as possible.  I (Possidius) would not mention this, if I had not seen that it was done against the all too human greed of some.  Ambrose of revered memory also said and wrote that it was unquestionably a thing that ought to be done in such extremities (Possidius, 1986).

It will not be surprising, then, for the Filipino loob to find its way to Augustine’s heart.  It can be surmised that Augustine would not find difficulty in agreeing with the concept of loob.


Primary Sources:

Augustine. Concerning the Nature of Good Against the Manicheans. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church vol. 4.Edited by Philip Schaff. USA: Kessinger Publishing, 2004

_____________. Confessions. Translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin. USA: Penguin Classics, 1961.

_____________. Expositions on the Psalms (Ennarationes in Psalmos, 391-430). CCL 38-40. PL 37.

_____________. Homilies on the Gospel of St. John (Tractatus in Johannis Evangelium, 416-417). CCL 36.

_____________. In Reply to the Two Letters of the Pelagians (Contra duas epistulas Pelagianorum, 420).CSEL 60.

_____________. Letters (Epistolae, 386-430).CSEL 34, 44, 57.

_____________. On Eighty-three Various Questions (De diversis questionibus LXXXIII, 388-395). PL 40.

_____________. Sermons (Sermones, 391-430). PL 38.

_____________.The Catechizing of the Uninstructed (De catechizandis rudibus, 399). PL 40.

_____________. The City of God (De civitate Dei, 413-427).CCL 47, 48.

_____________. True Religion (De vera religion, 390). CSEL 77.

Secondary Sources:

Alejo, Albert E. Tao po! Tuloy!: Isang Landas ng Pag-unawa sa Loob ng Tao. Quezon City: Office of Research and Publications, Ateneo de Manila University, 1990.

Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica. New York: Benziger Brothers, n. d.

Bavel, Tarsicius J. Van. Christians in the World.Ed. John E. Rotelle. New York: Catholic Publishing, 1980.

_____________. The Rule of St. Augustine. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1984.

Bell, David N. The Image and Likeness: The Augustinian Spirituality of William of Thierry. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1984.

Chadwick, Henry. Augustine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Ileto, Reynaldo Clemeña. “Pasyon” and Revolution: Popular Movements in the Philippines, 1840-1910. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1979.

Lacaba, Emmanuel. “Ang Loob: Ilang Tala sa Pagliliming Pilipino,” In Komunikasyon at Lipunan. Ed. Lilia F. Antonio et al. Quezon: Departamento ng Pilipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas, 1981.

Lindzey, Garner. Theories of Personality 3rd edition. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1978.

Mercade, Leonardo. Elements of Filipino Philosophy. Tacloban City: Divine Word University Publications, 1974.

Miranda, Dionisio. Loob. The Filipino Within: A Preliminary Investigation into a Pre-theological Moral Anthropology. Manila: Divine World Publications, 1989.

Ramirez, Esteban. “The Way of Interiority in the Search for God.” In Searching for God: The Contemplative Dimension of the Augustinian Experience. Rome: Augustinian Publications, 1981.

Salazar, Zeus. “Ang Kamalayan at Kaluluwa: Isang Paglunaw ng Ilang Konsepto sa Kinagisnang Sikolohiya.” In Sikolohiyang Pilipino: Teorya, Metodo at Gamit. Ed. Rogelia Pe-pua. Quezon City: Surian ng Sikolohiyang Pilipino, 1982.

Tack, Theodore. If Augustine Were Alive. New York: Alba House, 1988.

Possidius.“Vita Augustini.”Trans. Adolar Zumkeller.In Augustine’s Ideal of the Religious Life. New York: Fordham University Press, 1986.

Journal Articles:

Brockwell, C. Jr. “Augustine’s Ideal of Monastic Community: A Paradigm for his Doctrine of the Church.” Augustinian Studies 20 (1977). Villanova, PA: Villanova University.

De Mesa, Jose M. “Understanding God’s Kagandahang Loob.” Maryhill Studies no. 4 (1987). Quezon City: Maryhill School of Theology.

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