Charles Williams on jealousy and adultry

After being reminded of it by Capon, I got a couple chapters through Charles William’s The Figure of Beatrice before I had to admit that I just don’t know Dante well enough to deserve it. Maybe again some time later.

Nevertheless, I came across this interesting passage:

St. Augustine is reported to have said that he often could not make adulterers understand that they where doing wrong. There was perhaps more excuse for them than the great doctor altogether guessed, especially if among the cares of the church (and there was every excuse for him) he had forgotten his African love, or had perhaps loved her without the quality of the new life. However much excuse, they were still wrong. But perhaps denunciation is not the best way of correcting the error; or perhaps the error cannot be properly corrected until jealousy is denounced as strongly as adultery (whether with or without divorce).

-Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice, p.50-ish

Williams, like Dante, sees in romantic love a divine dimension beyond just raw lust. There is that too, but that isn’t all there is and some of what drives our desire for the other (be it the mystery of the female figure or whatnot) is really quite special and in it’s own category. He sees Augustine, for all his greatness, being a bit allergic to this truth due to his circumstances.

Here and in other places he iterates, and Capon follows suite in Bed and Board, that divorce is actually impossible. It doesn’t do what it claims to do. The relationship with the spouse cannot be metaphysically annihilated, only neglected or nurtured.

The last sentence is of interest to me as something Girard would whole-heartedly agree with. The reason we cannot preach effectively against lust is because we have failed to preach against jealousy. The second part of the ten commandments are inverted. The tenth is the most important, not the least. Instead, we have chopped it off as a given. Envy is our economic, social, and emotional engine.