JOY AND HOPE
(1) I shall know you, my knower, I shall know you, “even as I am known.”1 Power of my soul, enter into it and fit it for yourself, so that you may have it and hold it “without spot or wrinkle.”2 This is my hope. Therefore I speak out, and in this hope I rejoice3when I rejoice in a wholesome way. As for other things in this life, so much the less should they be wept for, the more they are wept over, and all the more must they be wept over, the less we weep when among them. “For behold, you have loved truth,”4 since “he who does truth comes to the light.”5 This I wish to do in my heart, before you in confession, and in my writing before many witnesses.
THE SOUL SEEN PLAIN
(2) Lord, before whose eyes the abyss of man’s conscience lies naked,1 what thing within me could be hidden from you, even if I would not confess it to you? I would be hiding you from myself, not myself from you. But now, since my groans bear witness that I am a thing displeasing to myself, you shine forth, and you are pleasing to me, and you are loved and longed for, so that I may feel shame for myself, and renounce myself, and choose you, and please neither you nor myself except because of you.
Therefore, before you, O Lord, am I manifest, whatever I may be. With what profit I may confess to you, I have already said. Nor do I this with bodily words and sounds but with words uttered by the soul and with outcry of thought, of which your ear has knowledge. When I am evil, to confess to you is naught else but to be displeased with myself; when I am upright of life, naught else is it to confess to you but to attribute this in no wise to myself. For you bless the just man,2 O Lord, but first you justify him as one who has been ungodly.3 Hence my confession is made in silence before you, my God, and yet not in silence. As to sound, it is silent, but it cries aloud with love. Nor do I say any good thing to men except what you have first heard from me; nor do you hear any such thing from me but what you have first spoken to me.
THE EARS OF MEN
(3) What have I to do with men, that they should hear my confessions, as if they were to “heal all my diseases?”1 A race eager to know about another man’s life, but slothful to correct their own! Why do they seek to hear from me what I am, men who do not want to hear from you what they themselves are? When they hear me speak about myself, how do they know if I speak the truth, since none among men knows “what goes on within a man but the spirit of man which is in him?”2 But if they should hear about themselves from you, they cannot say, “The Lord lies!” What else is it for them to hear from you about themselves except to know themselves? Who knows anything and yet says, “It is false,” unless he is a liar? But because “charity believes all things”3 among them whom it unites by binding them to itself, I too, O Lord, will confess to you in such manner that men may hear, although I cannot prove to them that I confess truly. But those men whose ears charity opens to me believe me.
(4) Do you, my inmost physician, make clear to me with what profit I do these things. For when they are read and heard, these confessions of my past sins—which “you have forgiven and covered over,”4 so that you may make me blessed in you, changing my soul by faith and your sacrament—stir up the heart. Then it will not sleep in despair and say, “I cannot,” but it will awaken in love of your mercy and in your sweet grace. Through this grace whosoever is weak is strong,5 when by its means he comes to know his own weakness. Good people like to hear about the past misdeeds of others who are now rid of such things, not because those deeds are present evils, but because once they were but no longer are.
With what fruit, then, O my Lord, to whom my conscience each day makes confession—more secure in its hope of your mercy than from any innocence of its own—with what fruit, I ask, do I confess, not only in your presence but to men also by these writings, what I now am, not what once I was? That other advantage I have seen and spoken of. But as to what I am now, at this very time when I make my confessions, many men wish to know about this, both men who have known me and others who have not known me. They have heard something from me or about me, but their ear is not placed close to my heart, where I am whatever I am. Therefore, they wish to hear me confess what I am within myself, where they can extend neither their eye nor ear nor mind. This they desire, as men ready to believe; how otherwise could they know it? Charity, by reason of which they are good men, tells them that I do not lie when I make my confession: it is charity in them that believes in me.
HELP MEN TO HEAR ME ARIGHT
(5) But with what benefit do they wish to hear me? Do they wish to share my thanksgiving, when they hear how close it is by your gift that I approach to you, and to pray for me, when they hear how I am held back by my own weight? To such men I will reveal myself. It is no small benefit, O Lord my God, that “thanks may be given to you by many in our behalf,”1 and that many should pray to you for us. Let a brother’s mind love in me what you teach us must be loved, and lament in me what you teach us must be lamented. Let a brother’s mind do this, not a stranger’s mind, not the mind “of strange children, whose mouth has spoken vanity, and their right hand is the right hand of iniquity.”2 Let it be that brotherly mind which, when it approves me, rejoices over me, and when it disapproves of me, is saddened over me, for the reason that, whether it approves or disapproves, it loves me. To such men will I reveal myself. May they sigh for my good deeds, and may they sigh over my evil deeds. All my goods are things that you have established and they are your gifts; my evils are my own misdeeds and your judgments upon me. May they sigh for the one, and sigh over the other. May hymns and weeping ascend in your sight from the hearts of my brethren, your censers.3 Be pleased, O Lord, with the odor of your holy temple, and “have mercy on me according to your great mercy”4 for your name’s sake. Do not abandon in any way what you have begun in me, but make perfect my imperfections.
(6) Such is the benefit from my confessions, not of what I have been, but of what I am, that I may confess this not only before you in secret exultation with trembling5 and in secret sorrow with hope, but also in the ears of believing sons of men, partakers of my joy and sharers in my mortality, my fellow citizens and pilgrims with me, those who go before me and those who follow me, and those who are companions on my journey. They are your servants, my brothers, whom you will to be your sons; my masters, whom you have commanded me to serve if I would live by you. Yet this your Word would be but little to me, if he had given his precepts in speech alone and had not gone on before me by deeds.6 I do this service by deeds as well as by words: I do this “under your wings,”7 with too grave a peril unless “under your wings” my soul had been subdued to you and my infirmity made known to you. I am but a little one, but my Father lives forever, and my protector is sufficient for me. He is the Selfsame, who begot me and watches over me. You are all my goods, you the almighty, who are with me even before I am with you. Therefore, to such as you command me to serve I will reveal not what I have been but what I now am and what I still am. “But neither do I judge myself.”8 In this manner, then, let me be heard.
GOD’S KNOWLEDGE AND MAN’S IGNORANCE
(7) You judge me, O Lord, for, although no one “knows the things of a man but the spirit of man which is in him,”1 there is something further in man which not even that spirit of man which is in him knows. But you, Lord, who made him, know all things that are in him. Although I despise myself before your sight, and account myself but dust and ashes,2 yet I know something of you which I do not know about myself. In truth, “we see now through a glass in a dark manner,” and not yet “face to face.”3 Therefore, as long as I journey apart from you,4 I am more present to myself than to you. Yet I have known that you are in no wise subject to violation, whereas for myself, I do not know which temptations I can resist and which I cannot. Even so, there is hope, for you are “faithful, who will not suffer” us “to be tempted above that which we are able to bear,” but you “make also with temptation issue, that” we “may be able to bear it.”5 Let me confess, then, what I know about myself. Let me confess also what I do not know about myself, since that too which I know about myself I know because you enlighten me. As to that which I am ignorant of concerning myself, I remain ignorant of it until my “darkness shall be made as the noonday in your sight.”6
THE LIFE OF LIFE
(8) Not with doubtful but with sure knowledge do I love you, O Lord. By your Word you have transfixed my heart, and I have loved you. Heaven and earth and all things in them, behold! everywhere they say to me that I should love you. They do not cease from saying this to all men, “so that they are inexcusable.”1 But in a deeper way you will have mercy on him on whom you will have mercy, and you will show mercy to him to whom you will show mercy,2 for otherwise heaven and earth proclaim your praises to the deaf. What is it then that I love when I love you? Not bodily beauty, and not temporal glory, not the clear shining light, lovely as it is to our eyes, not the sweet melodies of many-moded songs, not the soft smell of flowers and ointments and perfumes, not manna and honey, not limbs made for the body’s embrace, not these do I love when I love my God.
Yet I do love a certain light, a certain voice, a certain odor, a certain food, a certain embrace when I love my God: a light, a voice, an odor, a food, an embrace for the man within me, where his light, which no place can contain, floods into my soul; where he utters words that time does not speed away; where he sends forth an aroma that no wind can scatter; where he provides food that no eating can lessen; where he so clings that satiety does not sunder us. This is what I love when I love my God.
(9) And what is this? I asked the earth, and it said, “I am not he!” And all things in it confessed the same. I asked the sea and the deeps, and among living animals the things that creep, and they answered, “We are not your God! Seek you higher than us!” I asked the winds that blow: and all the air, with the dwellers therein, said, “Anaximenes3 was wrong. I am not God!” I asked the heavens, the sun, the moon, and the stars: “We are not the God whom you seek,” said they. To all the things that stand around the doors of my flesh I said, “Tell me of my God! Although you are not he, tell me something of him!” With a mighty voice they cried out, “He made us!”4 My question was the gaze I turned on them; the answer was their beauty.
I turned then to myself, and I said to myself, “Who are you?” I answered, “A man!” See, body and soul await my service, one without, the other within. From which of these ought I to have sought my God, whom I had already searched for through bodily things, from the earth up to the heavens, as far as I could project the radiant messengers of my eyes? Better indeed is that inner being. For to it, as that which rules over other things and passes judgment upon them, all those bodily messengers reported back answers of heaven and earth and all things that are in them, as they said: “We are not God!” and again, “He made us!” The inner man knows such things through the ministry of the outer man. I, the inner man, know these things; I, I, the mind, by means of my bodily senses. I asked the whole fabric of the world about my God, and it answered me, “I am not he, but he has made me!”
(10) Is not this beauty apparent to all men whose senses are sound and whole? Why then does it not speak the same to all men? Animals both great and small see it, but they cannot question it. In them, reason has not been placed in judgment over the senses and their reports. But men can ask questions, so that they may clearly see the invisible things of God, “being understood by the things that are made.”5
However, through love for such things they become subject to them, and in subjection they cannot pass judgment on them. Nor do things answer those who ask unless they are men of judgment. They do not change their voice, that is, their beauty, when one man merely looks at them and another both looks and questions, so as to appear one thing to this man, another to that. It appears the same to both: it is silent to one, but speaks to the other. Nay rather, it speaks to all, but only those understand who compare its voice taken in from outside with the truth within them. Truth says to me: “Your God is not heaven and earth, nor any bodily thing.” Their very nature proclaims this. Men see that the world is a vast mass, smaller in any part than in its whole. But I say to you, O my soul, that you are already my better part, for you quicken the body’s mass and give it life, and this a body cannot give to a body. But your God is for you even the life of life.
THE POWER OF SENSATION
(11) What, therefore, do I love when I love my God? Who is he who is above the head of my soul? By my soul itself will I ascend to him. I will pass beyond that power of mine by which I adhere to the body and fill the body’s frame with life. Not by that power do I find my God. For “the horse and the mule in which there is no understanding”1 would likewise find him, since in them there is that same power, and by it their bodies also live. But there is another power, by which I not only give life but sensation as well to my flesh, which the Lord has fashioned for me, commanding the eye that it should not hear, and the ear that it should not see, but giving to the first power so that I may see by it, and the other power so that I hear by it, and singly to each of the other senses powers proper to their organs and purposes. I, who am one single mind, perform these diverse things through the senses.2 But I will pass beyond this power of mine, for this too the horse and the mule possess. They too sense things by means of the body.
THE FIELDS OF MEMORY
(12) Therefore, I will pass also beyond this power of my nature, and ascending by steps to him who made me, I come into the fields and spacious palaces of my memory, where are treasures of countless images of things of every manner, brought there from objects perceived by sense. Hidden away in that place is also whatever we think about, whether by increasing or by lessening or somehow altering the things that sense attains to. There also is whatever else has been entrusted to it and stored up within it, which forgetfulness has not yet swallowed up and buried away.
When I am in that realm, I ask that whatsoever I want be brought forth. Certain things come forth immediately. Certain other things are looked for longer, and are rooted out as it were from some deeper receptacles. Certain others rush forth in mobs, and while some different thing is asked and searched for, they jump in between, as if to say, “Aren’t we perhaps the ones?” By my heart’s hand I brush them away from the face of my remembrance until what I want is unveiled and comes into sight from out of its hiding place. Others come out readily and in unbroken order, just as they are called for: those coming first give way to those that follow. On yielding, they are buried away again, to come forth when I want them. All this takes place when I recount anything by memory.
(13) In memory, all things are kept distinct and according to kind. Each is brought in through its own proper entrance: as light and all colors and bodily shapes through the eyes; all varieties of sound through the ears; all odors by the portal of the nostrils; all tastes by the portal of the mouth; and, by the sense diffused throughout the whole body, what is hard, what is soft, what is hot or cold, smooth or sharp, heavy or light, whether outside or inside the body. The great cave of memory, and I know not what hidden and inexpressible recesses within it, takes in all these things to be called up and brought forth when there is need for them. All these enter in, each by its own gateway, and are laid away within it. The things themselves do not enter there, but images of things perceived by sense are kept ready there for the thought of the one recalling them. Although it is apparent by which senses they are seized and stored away there, who can say how these images are formed? For even when I dwell in darkness and silence, I bring forth colors in my memory, if I wish, and I distinguish between white and black and between what others as I will. Nor do sounds rush in and disturb the thing drawn in by the eyes as I reflect upon it, although sounds too are there and lie hidden and set apart, as it were. These also I call for, if I please, and immediately they are there on the spot. Although my tongue is at rest and my throat silent, yet I sing as much as I wish. Those images of color, although they are nonetheless there, do not interpose or interrupt, when another stock of images, which flowed in through the ears, is drawn forth. So also other things, which were carried in and heaped up by other senses, I recall at pleasure. I distinguish the breath of lilies from violets, although smelling neither one. I prefer honey to must,1 the smooth to the sharp, although not tasting and touching them at the time, but simply by recalling them in memory.
(14) These acts I perform within myself in the vast court of my memory. Within it are present to me sky, earth, and sea, together with all things that I could perceive in them, aside from all the things I have forgotten. There too I encounter myself and recall myself, and what, and when, and where I did some deed, and how I was affected when I did it. There are all those things which I remember either as experienced by me or as taken on trust from others. From that same abundant stock, also, I combine one and another of the likenesses of things, whether things actually known by experience or those believed in from those I have experienced, with things past, and from them I meditate upon future actions, events, and hopes, and all these again as though they were actually present. “I will do this or that,” I say to myself within that vast recess of my mind, filled with images, so many and so great, and this deed or that then follows. “Oh, that this or that could be!” “May God forbid this or that!” I say such things within myself, and as I speak, the images of all the things I name are ready at hand, out of that same treasure house of memory. Nor would I utter any of them, if their images were absent.
(15) Great is the power of memory, exceeding great is it, O God, an inner chamber, vast and unbounded! Who has penetrated to its very bottom? Yet it is a power of my mind and it belongs to my nature, and thus I do not comprehend all that I am. Is the mind, therefore, too limited to possess itself? Must we ask, “Where is this power belonging to it which it does not grasp?” “Is it outside it, and not within it?” “How then does it not comprehend it?” Great wonder arises within me at this. Amazement seizes me. Men go forth to marvel at the mountain heights, at huge waves in the sea, at the broad expanse of flowing rivers, at the wide reaches of the ocean, and at the circuits of the stars, but themselves they pass by. They do not marvel at the fact that while I was speaking of all these things, I did not look upon them with my own eyes. Yet I would never have spoken of them, unless within me, in my memory, in such vast spaces as though I were looking at them outside, I could gaze upon mountains, waves, rivers, and stars, which I have seen, and that ocean, which I believe to be. Yet when I saw them with my eyes I did not draw them into myself by looking at them. Nor are the things themselves present to me, but only their images, and in each instance I have known what has been impressed on me by each bodily sense.2
A HIGHER MEMORY
(16) But not these things alone does that immeasurable capacity of my memory encompass. Here also are all those things learned from the liberal studies which have not yet slipped away, and are put back as it were into an interior place that is yet not a place. Of these things it is not images that I carry about, but the things themselves. For what literature is, what skill in disputation is, how many kinds of questions there are, and whatever else of such subjects I know, all this is in my memory in such wise that I have not retained the image while leaving the reality outside. Nor is it a sound that has passed away, after the manner of an utterance that makes its impression through the ears, leaving some trace of itself, whereby it may be recalled, as if to make sound although it no longer does make sound. It is not like an odor, which, as it passes and vanishes with the wind, affects the sense of smell, and thence conveys into memory an image of itself, which we repeat by remembrance of it. Nor is it like food, which surely has no taste when once in the stomach, but still has a sort of taste in memory. Nor is it like anything perceived by bodily touch, which is imaged in memory even when the object is kept apart from us. These things indeed are not themselves transmitted into memory: only images of them are seized with marvelous speed and are put away as if into wondrous cells, and are wonderfully brought forth by acts of memory.
LEARNING AS REMEMBRANCE
(17) But when I hear that there are three kinds of questions—Does a certain thing exist? What is it? What are its properties?1—I retain the images of the sounds out of which these words have been fashioned, and I know that they passed with ordered sound through the air, and that they no longer exist. But as to the things themselves which are signified by those sounds, I neither attained to them by any bodily sense nor did I descry them anywhere except in my mind. Yet I stored away in my memory not their images but the things themselves. Let such things tell how they entered into me if they can. For I check over all the portals of my flesh, and I do not discover any through which they have entered.
The eyes indeed say, “If those images were colored, we reported them to you.” The ears say, “If they had sound, they have been declared by us.” The nostrils say, “If they had odor, they passed through us.” The sense of taste says, “If there was no savor in them, do not ask me.” Touch says, “If the thing had no bodily shape, I have not handled it. If I have not handled it, I have not reported it.” Whence and how did these things enter into my memory? How, I do not know, for when I learned them I did not give credence to another’s heart, but I recognized them within my own, and I approved them as true, and I entrusted them to my heart. It was as if I stored them away there, whence I would bring them forth when I wanted them. Therefore they were there even before I learned them, but they were not in memory. Where, then, or why, when they were uttered, did I recognize them, and say, “So it is; it is true,” if not because they were already in memory, but so removed and pushed back as it were in more hidden caverns that, unless they were dug up by some reminder, I would perhaps have been unable to conceive them.2
THOUGHT AND MEMORY
(18) For this reason, we find that to learn such things, images of which we do not take in through the senses, and which apart from images we discern within us, just as they are in themselves, is simply this: by acts of thought we gather together and collect as it were things that memory contained here and there and without any order, and then observe them and see to it that they be placed near at hand as it were in that very memory, where they previously lay scattered and neglected. Thus they will occur easily to a mind already made familiar with them.
How numerous are the things of this kind that my memory contains! Things that have already been discovered, and, as I said, placed ready at hand, as it were, things which we are said to have learned and to have come to know! If I cease to recall these things for a short space of time, they are again submerged and slip down into still deeper hiding places, so that they must again be thought of as if new, and again from that same place—there is no other region for them—they must be brought together (cogenda) so that they may be known. That is, they must be collected together (colligenda) as it were out of a sort of scattered state. Hence it is termed cogitation. For cogo (I bring together) and cogito (I cogitate) have the same mutual relation as ago (I do) and agito (I do constantly) and facio (I make) and factito (I make often). But the mind has appropriated this word to itself, so that what is collected together (colligitur), that is, brought together (cogitur), in the mind but in no other place, is now properly said to be cogitated.
MATHEMATICS AND MEMORY
(19) Again, memory contains the principles and countless laws of numbers and dimensions, none of which any bodily sense has impressed upon it, since they are not colored, nor do they give out sound or odor, nor are they tasted or touched. I have heard the sound of the words by which such things are signified when they are discussed, but the sounds are one thing and the things are another. The sounds are of one kind in Greek and of another in Latin, but the things are neither Greek, nor Latin, nor any other kind of language. I have seen lines drawn by builders, even lines so fine as to be like a spider’s threads. But those other lines are different: they are not images of things of which the fleshly eye has told me. Anyone who perceives them within himself, without the conception of any body whatsoever, knows those things. Also, by means of all the bodily senses I have perceived the numbers that we enumerate, but those numbers with which we enumerate are something different.1 They are not the images of the other ones, and yet they truly exist. Let him who does not perceive them laugh at me for making these statements; I will pity him for laughing at me.
MEMORY OF MEMORIES
(20) I retain these things in memory, and in memory I retain how I learned them. Again, I have heard many things that have been most fallaciously argued against them, and I retain them in memory. Even if those things are false, it is not false that I have remembered them. Further, I remember that I distinguished between those true doctrines and the false things said against them. It is one thing that I now perceive that I make this distinction and another to remember that I often made the distinction when I thought about them. Therefore, I both remember that I have often understood these things, and I store away in memory what I now discern and understand, so that hereafter I may remember that I have understood at the present time. I have remembered that I have remembered, just as hereafter, if I shall recall that I have now been able to remember these things, I shall in truth recall it by the power of memory.
PROBLEMS OF MEMORY
(21) This same memory likewise contains the affections of my mind, not in that manner in which the mind itself has them at the time it experiences them, but in a far different manner, after the fashion in which the power of memory retains memory itself. For without being actually joyful, I remember myself to have been joyful; without being actually sad, I recall my past sorrow. Without fear, I recollect that I was at one time fearful; and without desire, I am mindful of previous desire. Contrariwise, at times I remember with joy my bygone sorrow, and with sorrow I remember past joy. This is not to be wondered at, as far as the body is concerned, for mind is one thing, and body is another. Hence it is not so strange a thing if I remember with joy past bodily pain. But in the present case, the mind is even memory itself. For when we order that a thing be committed to memory, we say, “See that you keep this in mind,” and when we forget something, we say, “It was not in my mind,” and “It slipped out of my mind.” Thus we give the name of mind to memory itself. Therefore, since this is so, how is it that when I remember with joy my past sorrow, the mind contains joy, while the memory contains sadness, and that the mind rejoices from the fact that there is joy within it, whereas memory is not saddened by the fact that there is sadness within it? Is it perhaps because memory does not belong to the mind? Who would admit such a thing? No doubt, therefore, memory is the mind’s stomach, as it were, and joy and sadness are like sweet and bitter food. When they are committed to memory, they are as it were passed into the stomach and they can be stored away there, but they cannot be tasted. It is absurd to think that these things are like one another, and yet they are not entirely different.
(22) But note, when I say that there are four passions of the mind, I bring forth from memory desire, joy, sadness, and fear. From memory I bring forth whatever I say in disputation concerning them, by dividing the individual instances into species belonging to their own genus, and by defining them. Whatever I say about them I discover in memory and it is from memory that I produce it. Yet I am disturbed by none of these passions when I call them back to mind by remembrance of them. Even before they were recalled and brought back by me, they were there, and for that reason they could be brought back from there by recollection.
Perhaps, then, just as food is brought up from the stomach by rumination, so such things are brought up from memory by recollection. Why then are not the sweetness of joy and the bitterness of sorrow tasted in the mouth of thought by one discoursing, that is, reminiscing, upon these matters? Or is it in this that these two, which are not completely alike, really differ? Which of us would willingly speak of such matters if, whenever we name sadness or fear, we would be constrained to be sad or fearful? Yet we could not speak of this unless we found within our memory not only the sounds of their names, in keeping with the images impressed by bodily senses, but also conceptions of the things themselves, which we did not receive through any fleshly door. The mind itself, perceiving them by experience of its own passions, committed them to memory, or memory itself retained them for itself, even though they had not been committed to it.
IMAGE AND REALITY
(23) But who can easily say whether this is by means of images or not? I name a stone, for instance, or I name the sun, and although the things themselves are not present to my senses, certainly their images are present within my memory. I name bodily pain; it is not present to me as long as nothing is causing me pain. However, if its image were not present in my memory, I would not know what word to use, nor could I distinguish it from pleasure when discussing it. I name bodily health, when I am sound in body. The reality itself is present to me, but truly unless its image were also in my memory, I could in no wise recollect what the sound of this name should signify. When the word health is used, the sick would not understand what was said unless the same image were retained by force of memory, even though the reality itself is absent from the body.
I name the numbers by which we calculate, and note that not their images but they themselves are present in my memory. I name the image of the sun, and it is present in my memory. I do not recall the image of its image, but the image itself. It is present to me as I engage in reminiscence. I name memory, and I recognize what I name. Where do I recognize it unless in memory itself? Is it also present to itself by means of its own image, and not by itself?
THE PROBLEM OF FORGETTING
(24) When I name forgetfulness and at the same time recognize what I name, how do I recognize the reality unless I remember it? I do not speak of the name’s sound but of the thing that it signifies. If I had forgotten that, I would surely be unable to recognize what the sound should impart. When I remember memory, memory itself is present to itself through itself. But when I remember forgetfulness, both memory and forgetfulness are present: memory by which I remember and forgetfulness which I remember.
What is forgetfulness, unless it be privation of memory? How then is it present so that I can remember it, since when it is present I am unable to remember? But if we retain in memory what we remember, and unless we remember forgetfulness, when we hear the word we are in no wise able to recognize the thing signified by the word, then forgetfulness is retained in memory. Therefore it is present, so that we are not forgetful of it, yet when it is present we are actually forgetful. Or do we understand from this fact that when we remember it, it is not present in memory in itself, but by means of its image? For if forgetfulness were present in itself, would it not cause us not to remember but to forget? What man will search this out? Who can comprehend how it is?
(25) Lord, I truly labor at this task, and I labor upon myself. I have become for myself a soil hard to work and demanding much sweat.1 We do not now explore the regions of the sky; we do not measure the distances of the stars; nor do we search out the weight of the earth. It is I who remember, I the mind. It is no matter for wonder that what I am not is far distant from me; but what is closer to me than I myself? Consider: the power of my own memory is not understood by me, and yet apart from it I cannot even name myself. What shall I say when it is certain to me that I have remembered forgetfulness? Am I to assert that what I remember is not in my memory? Am I to say that forgetfulness is in my memory to the end that I do not forget? Both answers are most absurd. What third answer is there? How can I say that the image of forgetfulness is retained in my memory, but not forgetfulness itself, when I remember it?
How could I say this, since, when the image of anything is impressed on memory, it is first necessary that the thing itself be present, whence that image may be impressed? Thus do I remember Carthage, thus all places where I have been, thus men’s faces that I have seen, and things reported by the other senses, thus health or pain in the body itself. When these things were present, memory acquired images from them, which as present with me I could look upon and turn about in my mind when I would remember those things in their absence.
Therefore, if forgetfulness is retained in memory not through itself but through its image, surely it was itself once present so that its image might be acquired. But when it was present, how did it inscribe its image on memory, since by its very presence forgetfulness wipes away whatever it finds already noted there? Yet in some manner, although this manner is incomprehensible and inexplicable, I am certain that I have remembered forgetfulness itself, whereby what we remember is destroyed.
(26) Great is the power of memory! An awesome thing, my God, deep and boundless and manifold in being! And this thing is the mind, and this am I myself: What then am I, O my God? What is my nature? A life varied and manifold and mightily surpassing measurement. Behold! in the fields and caves and caverns of my memory, innumerable and innumerably filled with all varieties of innumerable things, whether through images, as with all bodies, or by their presence, as with the arts, or by means of certain notions and notations, as with the passions of the mind—for these memory retains even when the mind does not experience them, although whatever is in memory is also in the soul—through all these I run, I fly here and there, and I penetrate into them as far as I can, and there is no end to them. So great is the power of memory! So great is the power of life, even in man’s mortal life!
What then shall I do, O you who are my true life, my God? I will pass beyond even this power of mine which is called memory, desiring to reach you, where you may be reached, and to cling to you there where you can be clung to.
Even the beasts of the field and the birds have memory. Elsewise they could not seek out again their dens and nests, nor the many other places which they have grown to know. Indeed, they could not grow used to any other things except through memory. Therefore, I will pass beyond even memory, so that I may attain to him who has set me apart from four-footed animals and made me wiser than the birds of the air.1 Even beyond memory will I pass, so that I may find you—where? O truly good and certain delight, so that I may find you where? If I find you apart from memory, I am unmindful of you. How then shall I find you, if I do not remember you?
LOST THINGS FOUND AGAIN
(27) The woman who had lost the drachma and searched for it with a lamp would not have found it unless she had remembered it.1 When it was found, how would she know whether it was the same one if she had not remembered it? I remember that I have looked for many lost articles and have found them again. I know this from the fact that if, while I was looking for something and someone would say to me, “Is this it?” or “Is that it?” I kept saying “It is not,” until what I was looking for was brought to me. Unless I remembered it, whatever it was, even if it were brought to me, I would not have found it because I could not identify it. This is always the way when we search for a lost article and find it again.
If a thing, such as any visible body, should happen to disappear from sight, but not from memory, its image is retained within us, and the thing is searched for until it is restored to sight. When it is found, it is recognized by the image which is within. We do not say that we have found what was lost, unless we recognize it, and we cannot recognize it, if we do not remember it. It was lost to sight but kept in memory.
THE FORGOTTEN NAME
(28) What? When memory itself loses a thing, as happens when we forget and try to remember it, where after all do we look except in memory itself? There, if one thing chances to be offered instead of the other, we reject it until what we are looking for occurs to us, and when it does occur, we say, “This is it.” We would not say this unless we recognized it, and we would not recognize it unless we remembered it. But surely we had forgotten it. Or was it that the entire matter had not slipped from us, but because of a part that was retained, the other part was looked for? Was memory thus conscious that it did not retain all it was accustomed to, and limping as it were from this loss of familiar knowledge, did it demand the return of what was lacking? For instance, we see or think of some man we know, and as we have forgotten his name, we try to recall it. Any other name that occurs is not assigned to him, because it is not associated with him in thought. Hence, each one is rejected, until that name presents itself which our knowledge without objection accepts as familiar to it. Whence does this name present itself, unless from memory itself? For even when we recognize the name after being reminded of it by another person, it is from there that it presents itself. We do not assent to it as it were something new, but since we remember it, we agree that the one spoken is the name. If it had been completely wiped out of the mind, we would not remember it even when reminded of it. For we have not as yet completely forgotten what we still remember to have forgotten. Therefore, what we have completely forgotten we cannot even look for if it is lost.
WHAT ALL MEN SEEK
(29) How then do I seek you, O Lord? For when I seek you, my God, I seek the happy life. Let me seek you “so that my soul may live.”1 My body lives by my soul, and my soul lives by you. How then do I seek the happy life? For I do not possess it until I can say, “Enough! It is there!” Here I ought to tell how I seek it, whether through remembrance, as if I had forgotten it but still held to the fact that I had forgotten it, or out of desire to learn a thing unknown, whether one I never knew or one I had forgotten so completely that I did not remember I had forgotten it. Is not the happy life that which all men will to have, and no man entirely wills against? Where have they known it, that they in such wise will to possess it? Where have they seen it, so that they love it? Truly, we have it, but how I do not know.
There is a certain other way by which a man is happy when he has the happy life, and there are also those who are happy because of hope. These last have happiness in a lower way than do those who already are happy in very reality, but they are better than those who are happy neither in fact nor in hope. Yet even these latter men would not thus desire to be happy unless they possessed it in some fashion, and that they do desire it is most certain. They have known it, how I do not know, and therefore they have it with I know not what kind of knowledge. Concerning this knowledge, I am perplexed as to whether it is in memory, for if it is there, then all of us have already been happy at some period, either each of us individually, or all of us together in that man2 who first sinned, in whom we all died,3 and from whom we are all born in misery. Of this last I do not now inquire, but I inquire whether the happy life is in the memory.
Unless we knew it, we would not love it. We have heard this name, and we all confess that we all desire the reality: we do not take delight in the mere sound of the word. When a Greek hears it in Latin, he finds no delight in it, since he does not know what has been said. We are delighted, just as he is also if he hears it in Greek. For neither Greek nor Latin is that reality which Greeks and Latins and men of other tongues long to possess. Therefore, it is known to all men, for if they could be asked in one language whether they wish to be happy, they would answer without hesitation that they wish this. This could not be unless that very thing for which this is the name were retained in their memory.
THE LONGED-FOR LIFE
(30) Is this just as one who has seen Carthage remembers it? No, for the happy life is not seen by the eyes, since it is not a body. Is it like the way we remember numbers? No, for one who holds them in knowledge does not still seek to acquire them, whereas we possess the happy life in knowledge, and therefore love it, but still wish to obtain it so that we may be actually happy. Is it like the way we remember the arts of speech? No, for even those who are not skilled speakers recall the thing itself when they hear the word. Also, many men desire to be eloquent: hence it is apparent that this is in their knowledge. However, by means of their bodily senses they have taken note of other men who are finished speakers, have been pleased by them, and desire to be such themselves. At the same time, they would not have been pleased unless because of some inner knowledge, nor would they have wanted to be eloquent unless they had been pleased, whereas we do not perceive the happy life in others by means of any bodily sense.
Is it like the way we remember joy? Perhaps so, for even when I am sad, I remember my joys, just as when wretched I remember the happy life. But I never saw, or heard, or smelled, or tasted, or touched joy by a bodily sense. I have experienced it in my mind, when I have rejoiced, and knowledge of it has clung to my memory. Hence I could remember it, sometimes with disgust, sometimes with desire, in keeping with the different things in which I recalled myself to have taken joy. For I have been plunged into a sort of joy even from foul deeds, which joy I now abhor and execrate as I recall it, and at other times from good and virtuous things. This latter joy I recall with desire, although perhaps the things are no longer present. Therefore, with sadness do I recall past joy.
(31) Where, then, and when did I have experience of my happy life, so that I remember it, and love it, and long for it? It is not merely myself along with a few others, but all of us without exception want to be happy. Unless we knew this with sure knowledge, we would not want it with so sure a will. But what is this? If two men are asked whether they want to serve as soldiers, it may well be that one of them will reply that he wants to, while the other will reply that he does not. However, if they are asked whether they want to be happy, both will say immediately and without hesitation that they want to. Moreover, one man wants to be a soldier and the other does not want to be one for no reason except that they may be happy. Is it perhaps because one finds joy in one course and the other in a different one? Just so, all men agree that they want to be happy, just as they would agree, if they were asked, that they want to be joyful, and this very joy they call the happy life. Although one man seeks it in one way and the other in a different way, there is one thing that they all strive to attain, that is, to have joy. Since this is the case, and no one can deny that he has felt this way, it is therefore found in memory and recognized when the words “happy life” are heard.
THE ONLY HAPPINESS
(32) Far be it, Lord, far be it from the heart of your servant who confesses to you, far be it that, no matter with what joy I may rejoice, I should think myself happy. There is a joy that is not granted to the wicked, but only to those who worship you for your own sake, and for whom you yourself are joy. This is the happy life, to rejoice over you, to you, and because of you: this it is, and there is no other. Those who think that there is another such life pursue another joy and it is not true joy. Yet their will is not turned away from a certain image of joy.
TRUTH AND HAPPINESS
(33) Is it uncertain, then, that all men desire to be happy, seeing that they do not truly desire the happy life, who do not desire to have joy in you, which is the only happy life? Or do all men indeed desire this? But, since “the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh,”1 so that they do not do what they wish, do they fall down to what they are able to take, and are they satisfied with that? Is this because what they are unable to do they do not desire with sufficient strength to accomplish?
Of each and every man I ask, whether he would rather have joy in truth or in falsity. They no more hesitate to say they prefer to have joy in truth than they hesitate to say they desire to be happy. In fact, joy in the truth is the happy life. This is joy in you who are the truth,2 O God, “my light,”3 “the salvation of my countenance, my God.”4 This happy life all men desire; this life which alone is happy all men desire; all men desire joy in the truth.
I have known many men who would like to deceive, but none who wants to be deceived. Where then have they known this happy life, except where they knew truth as well? They love it too because they do not want to be deceived. When they love the happy life, which is no different from joy in the truth, then indeed they love the truth as well. They would not love it unless there were some knowledge of it in their memory. Why then do they not rejoice in it? Why are they unhappy? It is because they are more strongly taken up with other things, which have more power to make them wretched, than has that which they remember so faintly to make them happy. Yet a little while there is light among men. Let them walk, let them walk, lest the darkness overtake them.5
(34) Why is it, then, that “truth begets hatred?”6 Why is your man who preaches truth to men become an enemy in their eyes,7 even though there is love for the happy life, which is naught else but joy in the truth? Can such things be except because truth is loved in such wise that men who love some other object want what they love to be the truth, and because they do not want to be deceived, they refuse to be convinced that they have been deceived? Therefore, they hate the truth for the sake of that very thing which they have loved instead of the truth. They love the truth because it brings light to them; they hate it in as much as it reproves them. Because they do not wish to be deceived but wish to deceive, they love it when it shows itself to them, and they hate it when it shows them to themselves.8
Thus does it repay them, so that those who do not desire to be made manifest by it, it makes manifest as unwilling, while it is not itself made manifest to them. Thus, thus, yea, thus does the human soul, even thus blind and diseased and foul and degraded, desire to lie hidden, but it does not desire that anything lie hidden from itself. Against it judgment is rendered, that while it does not lie hidden from the truth, the truth can be hidden from it. Yet even so, while man’s soul is thus wretched, it prefers to have joy in true things rather than in false. Happy, therefore, will it be, when no obstacle stands between and it shall find joy in that sole truth by which all things are true.
GOD, TRUTH ITSELF
(35) Behold, how far within my memory have I traveled in search of you, Lord, and beyond it I have not found you! Nor have I found anything concerning you except what I have kept in memory since I first learned of you. For since I learned of you, I have not forgotten you. Wheresoever I found truth, there I found my God, truth itself, and since I first learned the truth I have not forgotten it. Therefore, ever since I learned about you, you abide in my memory, and I find you there when I recall you to mind and take delight in you. These are my holy delights which you have given to me out of your mercy, having regard for my poverty.
LORD OF MIND AND MEMORY
(36) But where within my memory do you abide, Lord, where do you abide? What kind of abode have you fashioned for yourself? What manner of sanctuary have you built for yourself? So great an honor have you given to my memory as to abide within it. In what part of it you abide, this do I now consider. As soon as I brought you up in memory, I passed beyond such parts of it as the beasts also possess, for I did not find you there amid images of bodily things. I came to those of its parts to which I entrusted my mind’s affections, and yet I did not find you there.
I entered even into the very seat of my mind, which lies within my memory, since the mind also remembers itself. You were not there. For you are not a bodily image, nor are you an affection of a living thing, such as obtains when we rejoice, feel sad, desire, fear, remember, forget, or do anything of that kind. Nor are you the mind itself, because you are the Lord God of the mind. All these things undergo change, but you remain unchangeable above all things. And you have deigned to dwell in my memory, whence I have learned of you. Why then do I seek in what place you dwell therein, as if forsooth there were places there? Truly, you dwell in my memory, since I have remembered you from the time I learned of you, and I find you there when I call you to mind.
THE FIRST PETITION
(37) Where then did I find you, so that I might learn to know you? You were not in my memory before I learned to know you. Where then have I found you, if not in yourself and above me? There is no place, both backward do we go and forward, and there is no place. Everywhere, O Truth, you give hearing to all who consult you, and at one and the same time you make answer to them all, even as they ask about varied things. You answer clearly, but all men do not hear you clearly. All men ask counsel about what they wish, but they do not all hear what they wish. Your best servant is he who looks not so much to hear from you what he wants to hear, but rather to want what he hears from you.
THE EVERLASTING LOVE
(38) Too late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you! Behold, you were within me, while I was outside: it was there that I sought you, and, a deformed creature, rushed headlong upon these things of beauty which you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you. They kept me far from you, those fair things which, if they were not in you, would not exist at all. You have called to me, and have cried out, and have shattered my deafness. You have blazed forth with light, and have shone upon me, and you have put my blindness to flight! You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant after you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst after you. You have touched me, and I have burned for your peace.
LIFE IS A WARFARE
(39) When I shall cleave to you with all my being, no more will there be pain and toil for me. My life will be life indeed, filled wholly with you. But now, since you lift up him whom you fill with yourself, and since I am not yet filled with you, I am a burden to myself. Joys that I should bewail contend with sorrows at which I should rejoice, but on which side victory may rest I do not know. My evil sorrows contend with my virtuous joys, and on which side victory may rest I do not know. Alas for me! Lord, have mercy on me!1 Alas for me! See, I do not hide my wounds. You are the physician; I am a sick man. You are merciful; I am in need of mercy. Is not “the life of man upon earth a trial?”2
What man wants trouble and hardship? You command that they be endured, not that they be liked. No man likes what he endures, although he likes to endure it. Yet, even though he may rejoice that he endures hardship, he prefers rather that there be nothing to endure. In the midst of adversities, I desire prosperous days; in the midst of prosperity, I dread adversity. Between these two, is there no middle ground where the life of man is not a trial? Woe to the prosperity of this world, once and again, both from fear of adversity and from corruption of joy! Woe to the adversities of this world, once and again, and a third time, from desire for prosperity, and because adversity itself is hard, and because it can make wreck of endurance! Is not the life of man upon earth a trial, without any relief whatsoever?
COMMAND WHAT YOU WILL
(40) All my hope is found solely in your exceeding great mercy. Give what you command, and command what you will. You enjoin continence. “And as I knew,” says a certain man, “that no one could be continent except God gave it, and this also was a point of wisdom to know whose gift it was.”1 By continence we are gathered together and brought back to the One, from whom we have dissipated our being into many things.2 So much the less does he love you who loves anything else, even together with you, which he does not love for your sake. O Love, who are forever aflame and are never extinguished, O Charity, my God, set me aflame! You enjoin continence: give what you command, and command what you will.
PERSISTENCE OF TEMPTATION
(41) In truth, you command me to be continent with regard to “the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the ambition of the world.”1 You have commanded me to abstain from concubinage, and in place of marriage itself, which you permit, you have counseled something better.2 Since you granted this to me, it has been fulfilled even before I became a dispenser of your sacrament.3 Yet in my memory, of which I have said many things, there still live images of such things as my former habits implanted there. When I am awake, they assail me but lacking in strength; in sleep they assail me not only so as to arouse pleasure, but even consent and something very like the deed itself. So great a power have these deep images over my soul and my flesh that these false visions persuade me when asleep to do what true sights cannot persuade me to when awake.
At such times am I not myself, O Lord my God? Yet so great a difference is there between myself and that same self of mine within the moment when I pass from waking to sleep or return hither from sleep! At such times where is reason, by which a man awake resists those suggestions, and remains unshaken even if the very deeds themselves are urged upon him? Is it closed, together with my eyes? Is it asleep, together with the body’s senses? How is it that even in sleep we often resist, and mindful of our resolution, persist in it most chastely, and yield no assent to such allurements? Yet so great a difference obtains that, when it happens otherwise, we return on awaking to peace of conscience. By that very contrast we discover that it was not ourselves who did what we yet grieve over as in some manner done within us.
(42) Is not your hand, O God all-powerful, powerful to heal all diseases4 of my soul, and, by your more abundant grace,5 to quench even the lustful movements of my sleep. Lord, more and more will you increase in me your gifts, so that my soul, freed from the clinging mire of concupiscence, may follow me to you, so that it may not rebel against itself, so that even in sleep it will not commit those base corrupting deeds, brought on through corporeal images even to bodily pollution, so that it will not even consent to them. For that such a thing may give no pleasure at all, or so little as may be curbed easily even in the chaste affection of one asleep, not only in this life but even at my present age—this is no great thing to the Almighty, for you are “able to do more than we desire and understand.”6
But what I still may be in this type of evil I have now said to my good Lord, “rejoicing with trembling”7 for what you have given to me, lamenting in that in which I remain incomplete, hoping that you will make perfect in me your mercies even unto the fullness of peace, which my inward and outward members will have with you, when “death is swallowed up in victory.”8
PROBLEMS OF FOOD AND DRINK
(43) There is another evil of the day, and would that it were sufficient for the day!1 We rebuild each day’s decay within the body by eating and drinking, until that time when “you shall destroy both the food and the stomach,”2 when you shall kill my hunger by a wondrous satiety, and “clothe this corruptible with an incorruption”3 that will last forever. But now this need is sweet to me, and against such sweetness I fight, lest I be captured by it, and I wage daily warfare by fastings, more frequently “bringing my body into subjection,”4 and my pains are driven out by pleasure. For hunger and thirst are a kind of pain: they burn and they kill like fever, unless the medicine that is food brings them relief. Since this medicine is at hand, out of the consolation of your gifts, in which earth and water and sky come to help our infirmity, our very misfortune is called delight.
(44) You have taught me this, so that I may come to take food just as I take medicine. But while I pass from the discomfort of hunger to repletion and content, a snare of concupiscence is laid for me in that very process. For the passage itself is pleasurable, and there is no other way whereby we can make that passage which our need forces us to make. Since good health is the reason for eating and drinking, a dangerous pleasure makes herself my companion. Frequently she strives to go on ahead, so that for her sake I may do what I either say I do or wish to do for reasons of health. Nor is there one standard for both of them: for what is enough for health is too little for pleasure. Often it becomes a matter of doubt whether it is the care needed by the body that seeks help or a deceitful desire for pleasure that demands service. The unhappy soul finds cheer in this uncertainty, and in it prepares an excuse and a self-defense. It rejoices that what suffices to maintain health is not evident, so that under pretense of health it may disguise a pursuit of pleasure. Each day I strive to resist such temptations, and I call upon your right hand for help. To you do I refer all my doubts, because as yet I have no settled counsel upon this problem.
(45) I hear the voice of my God as he commands me, “Let not your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness.”5 Drunkenness is far from me: you will be merciful so that it does not come close to me. But sometimes gluttony creeps upon your servant: you will be merciful so that it may be put far from me. “No one can be continent unless you give it.”6 Many things you give to us when we pray for them, and whatever good we have received before we prayed for it, we have received from you. This too we have received from you, that we should afterwards know that we received it from you. I was never a drunkard, but I have known drunkards made into sober men by you. Therefore, you have accomplished this, that men who have never been drunkards might be what they are; and this also have you done, that men who were drunkards should cease to be such; and this further you have done, that both classes might know by whom all this has been wrought.
I have heard another word of yours: “Do not go after your lusts, but turn away from your own will.”7 By your gift, I have heard that word which I have much loved: “For neither if we eat shall we have the more, nor if we do not eat shall we have the less.”8 This is to say: neither will the one course make me richer nor will the other make me wretched. I have heard another word: “For I have learned in whatever state I am to be constant therein … and I have known both to abound and to suffer need … I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”9 Behold a soldier of the heavenly encampments, not the dust that we are! But remember, Lord, “that we are dust,”10 and that you have made man of dust,11 and that “he was lost and is found.”12 Nor was that man able to do anything of himself, for he himself was dust, he whom I loved, when through the breath of your inspiration, he said these words, “I can do all things,” he said, “in him who strengthens me.”13 Strengthen me, so that I can do all things! Grant what you command, and command what you will! He confesses that he has received this from you, and that “when he glories, he glories in the Lord.”14 I have heard another man as he prayed that he might receive help from you: “Take from me,” he said, “the greediness of the belly.”15Hence it is apparent, O holy God, that you give it all when men accomplish what you command to be done.
(46) You have taught me, good Father, that “all things are clean to the clean,” “but it is evil for the man who eats with offense,”16 and that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected that is received with thanksgiving,”17 and that “meat does not commend us to God,”18 and that “no man should judge” us “in food or drink,”19 and that “he who eats should not despise him who does not eat, and he who does not eat should not judge him who eats.”20 I have learned these things, praise to you, my God, my teacher, who knock upon my ears, who enlighten my heart. Deliver me from all temptation!
I do not fear uncleanness of food, but uncleanness of desire. I know that Noah was permitted to use every kind of flesh that could be used for food,21 and that Elias was fed with flesh,22 and that John, who was gifted with wondrous abstinence, was not defiled by the living things, the locusts, that he fed upon.23 I know that Esau was deceived by his lust for lentils,24 that David blamed himself for desiring a drink of water,25 and that our King was tempted not by flesh meat but by bread.26 Therefore the people in the desert deserved to be reproved, not because they desired flesh meat, but because out of desire for food they murmured against the Lord.27
(47) Set in the midst of such temptations, I struggle each day against concupiscence in eating and drinking. It is not something that I can resolve to cut off once and for all and touch no more, as I could concubinage. The bridle put upon the throat must be held with both moderate looseness and moderate firmness. Who is it, Lord, who is not carried a little beyond the limits of his need? Whoever he is, he is great indeed: let him magnify your name. Not such a one am I, “for I am a sinful man.”28 Yet I too magnify your name, and he who has overcome the world29 intercedes with you for my sins,30 numbering me among the weak members of his body. For “your eyes have seen my imperfect being, and in your book shall all be written.”31
INNER DOUBT AND DARKNESS
(48) With the allurements of sweet odors I am not much troubled: when they are absent, I do not seek them, and when they are present, I do not reject them, but I am prepared to do entirely without them. So do I seem to myself, but perhaps I am deceived. Within me are those lamentable dark areas wherein my own capacities lie hidden from me. Hence, when my mind questions itself about its own powers, it is not easy for it to decide what should be believed.1 For even what is within it is for the most part hidden away unless brought to light by some experience. In this life, the whole of which is termed a trial,2 no man should be sure whether one who can pass from worse to better might not also pass from better to worse. One hope, one trust, one firm promise—your mercy!
MUSIC AS MEANS AND END
(49) The delights of the ear had more firmly entangled and subdued me, but you broke them and set me free.1 I confess that when melodies that your words bring to life are sung by a sweet and well-trained voice, I now find therein a little rest, not such that I cling to them, but such that I may rise up when I wish. But along with the words from which they take life, so that they are granted entry into me, they call for a place of some honor in my heart, and I can hardly offer one that is suitable to them.
Sometimes I think that I grant them more honor than is proper. This is when I feel our spirits aroused to a flaming piety more devoutly and ardently by such sacred words when they are sung well than if they are not so chanted, and when I see that all our spiritual affections, in keeping with their diversity, have corresponding modes of voice and song and are stirred up by a kind of secret propriety. But this sensual pleasure, to which the soul must not be delivered so as to be weakened, often leads me astray, when sense does not accompany reason in such wise as to follow patiently after it, but, having won admittance for reason’s sake, even tries to run ahead and lead reason on. Thus in such things I unconsciously sin, but later I am conscious of it.
(50) Sometimes I avoid this very error in an intemperate fashion, and I err by an excess of severity. Then I strongly desire that all the melodies and sweet chants with which David’s psalter is accompanied should be banished from my ears and from the Church itself. Then I think that the safer course is what I remember has often been related to me about Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. He made the reader of the psalm utter it with so slight a vocal inflection that it was more like speaking than singing. But again, when I recall the tears I poured out on hearing the Church’s songs in those first days of my recovered faith, and how even now I am not moved by the singing but by the things sung, when they are sung with clear voices and fitting modulation, I again recognize the great utility of this institution.
Thus do I waver between the danger of sensual pleasure and wholesome experience. I am inclined rather to approve the practice of singing in church, although I do not offer an irrevocable opinion on it, so that through the pleasure afforded the ears the weaker mind may rise to feelings of devotion. However, when it so happens that I am moved more by the singing than by what is sung, I confess that I have sinned, in such wise as to deserve punishment, and at such times I should prefer not to listen to a singer.
See how I stand! Weep with me, and weep for me, you who in this matter bring about within yourselves some good from which like deeds issue. For you who do not do this, these problems do not affect you.2 But do you, O Lord my God, graciously hear me, and turn your gaze upon me, and see me, and have mercy on me, and heal me.3 For in your sight I have become a riddle to myself, and that is my infirmity.
CUSTODY OF THE EYES
(51) There remains the pleasure of these fleshly eyes of mine, concerning which I voice confessions to which the ears of your temple,1 ears devout and brotherly, may listen. Thus may we conclude the temptations arising from concupiscence of the flesh that still assail me, groaning and “desiring to be clothed upon with my habitation that is from heaven.”2 The eyes love fair and varied forms and bright and beauteous colors. Let not such things possess my soul: may God who made these things good, yea, very good,3may he possess it. He is my good, not they. Each day they affect me all the while I am awake. No rest from them is granted to me, such as is granted at times of silence from singing voices, sometimes from all voices. For this queen of colors, this light which bathes all the things we look upon, drops down in many ways wherever I may be throughout the day, and beguiles me while engaged in some other task and not even observing it. So strongly does it entwine itself about me, that if it is suddenly withdrawn, it is sought for with longing, and if it is long absent, it causes mental depression.
(52) O Light, which Tobias saw, when with closed bodily eyes he taught his son the way of life, and never straying, went before him on the feet of charity!4 O Light which Isaac saw with fleshly eyes burdened down and closed by old age, when he unknowingly blessed his sons, but by blessing them merited to know them!5 O Light, which Jacob saw, although he too was bereft of sight because of old age, and with an enlightened heart beheld tribes of men yet to come prefigured in his sons, and laid hands mystically crossed upon his grandchildren by Joseph, not as their father outwardly corrected them but as he himself inwardly perceived them!6 This is the Light! It is one, and all who see it and love it are one!
But that corporeal light of which I spoke seasons for its blind lovers this world’s life with an alluring and perilous sweetness. But they who know how to praise you for it, O God, creator of all things,7 take over this light when they sing your hymn, and they are taken over by it in their sleep. Such do I desire to be. I resist these seductions of the eyes, lest my feet, wherewith I walk upon your path, be ensnared, and I raise up my unseen eyes to you so that you may “pluck my feet out of the snare.”8 Again and again do you pluck them out, for they become ensnared. You never cease to pluck them out, for I often get caught in the snares scattered on every side, for “you do not sleep, nor will you sleep, you who keep Israel.”9
(53) Beyond count are the things made by various arts and crafts in garments, shoes, utensils, and implements of every sort, in pictures, too, and divers images, far exceeding all necessary and temperate use and devout purpose! Men have added all these to the allurements of the eyes, outwardly pursuing the things they make, but inwardly forsaking him by whom they themselves have been made, and destroying what they themselves have been made to be. But I, O my God and my glory, I also proclaim a hymn to you, and I sacrifice praise to him who is my sacrificer, for the beautiful things transmitted through the artists’ souls into their hands all come from that beauty which is above their souls,10 and for which my soul sighs by day and by night.
The makers and pursuers of external beauties derive therefrom a norm of judging, but they do not derive therefrom a norm for use. It is present there, although they do not see it, so that they do not wander farther away but keep their strength for you,11 and they do not scatter it on delights that weary. I say these things and see their truth, yet I too entangle my steps in such outward beauties. But you pluck me out, Lord, you pluck me out, “for your mercy is before my eyes.”12 For I am caught most wretchedly, and you mercifully pluck me out. Sometimes I feel nothing, because I had not fallen deep into those snares; sometimes it is with pain, because I was already caught firmly therein.
EMPTY CURIOSITY AND FRIVOLOUS INTERESTS
(54) To this is joined another form of temptation, perilous in many ways. In addition to that concupiscence of the flesh present in delight in all the senses and in every pleasure—and its slaves put themselves far from you and perish utterly—by reason of those same bodily senses, there is present in the soul a certain vain and curious desire, cloaked over with the title of knowledge and science, not to take pleasure in the flesh but to acquire new experiences through the flesh. Since this is rooted in the appetite for knowledge, and since the eyes are the princely sense,1 it is called in God’s Scriptures concupiscence of the eyes.2
Seeing belongs properly to the eyes. However, we also apply this word to other senses when we set them to the acquisition of knowledge. We do not say, “Listen how it sparkles,” or “Smell how red it glows,” or “Taste how it shines,” or “Feel how it gleams.” All these are said to be seen. But we say not only, “See how it shines,” which the eyes alone can see, but we also say, “See how it sounds,” “See how it smells,” “See how it tastes,” “See how hard it is.” Hence, as has been noted, sense experience in general is called concupiscence of the eyes, because the function of sight, in which the eyes hold primacy, even the other senses appropriate in an analogous way when they investigate any object of knowledge.
(55) From this fact we can have a clearer perception of the place of pleasure and curiosity in sense activity: pleasure seeks things that are beautiful, melodious, fragrant, tasty, and soft, while curiosity seeks even their opposites, with a view to trying them out, not in order to suffer disgust but out of a desire for experience and knowledge. What pleasure is there in looking at a mangled corpse that causes you to shudder? Yet if one lies somewhere or other, men rush there to be made sad and to turn pale. They are even afraid of seeing the same object in their sleep—as if someone were forcing them to look at it while they are awake, or some report of its beauty had drawn them there!
Thus also with regard to the other senses, but it is a long task to review them all. Because of this morbid curiosity, monstrous sights are exhibited in the show places. Because of it, men proceed to search out the secrets of nature, things beyond our end, to know which profits us nothing, and of which men desire nothing but the knowing. Such curiosity is also the motive when things are investigated by magic arts and with the same purpose of perverted science. Because of this, God is tempted in religion itself, when signs and wonders are demanded of him, and are desired not for some wholesome purpose but only for experience of them.
(56) In this vast forest, filled with snares and dangers, see how many of them I have cut away and thrust out of my heart, even as you have granted me to do, O God of my salvation.3 Yet when may I dare to say, while so many things of this kind make uproar around our daily life on its every side, when dare I say that nothing of this sort makes me intent to gaze at it or to be captured by idle interest? True it is, the theater no longer sweeps me away.4 I do not care now to know the courses of the stars, nor has my soul ever sought answers from the shades of the dead.5 I detest all sacrilegious rites. But, O Lord my God, to whom I owe humble and single-minded service, by how many tricks and suggestions does the enemy work upon me, so that I might seek some sign from you!6 I beseech you by our King, and by our pure and chaste fatherland, Jerusalem, that even as consent to such things is far from me, so may it ever be far and still farther away. But when I pray to you for the salvation of any man, far different is my end and purpose, and you grant, and you will continue to grant me to follow you freely, while you do what you will.
(57) Even so, who can number in how many trivial and contemptible things our curiosity is daily tempted, and how often we fall! How often we do first as it were tolerate tellers of empty tales, so as not to offend the weak, and then little by little listen willingly to them. I no longer watch a dog running after a rabbit when it is put on at the circus, but out in the field, if I happen to be passing, such a chase will perhaps draw me away from some important thought and draw me to itself. It does not force me to deviate by the body of the beast I am riding, but rather by an inclination within my heart. Unless you show me my weakness and quickly warn me, either to rise up to you from the sight through some reflection, or to spurn the whole incident and pass it by, I stand there vacant-minded. When I am sitting at home and a lizard is catching flies or a spider is trapping them as they blunder into its web, how often does this catch my attention!7 Is the activity any different, merely because the animals are small? From these incidents I advance to praising you, O wondrous creator and orderer of all things, but I did not begin by being concerned with this. It is one thing to rise quickly, another thing not to fall. My life is filled with such incidents, and my one hope is your exceeding great mercy. For when our heart is made a receptacle for such things, and carries about throngs of abundant vanity, then our prayers are often interrupted and disturbed, and while in your sight we direct our heart’s voice into your ears, so great a project is broken off by worthless thoughts rushing in from I know not where.8
THE PRIDE OF LIFE
(58) Shall we therefore account this also among things to be despised? Or shall anything restore us to hope, unless it be your known mercy, since you have begun to change us? You know how greatly you have already changed me, you who first healed me from the passion for self-vindication, so that you might also forgive all my other iniquities, and heal all my diseases, and redeem my life from corruption, and crown me with mercy and compassion, and satisfy my desires with good things,1 you who subdued my pride by your fear and tamed my neck to your yoke?2Now I bear that yoke, and it is light upon me, for this have you promised, and thus have you made it be. Truly, it was this, but I did not know it when I was afraid to submit to it.
(59) Lord, you who alone dominate over others without pride, for you are the sole true God,3 you who have no lord, I ask you, has this third kind of temptation ceased for me, or can it cease throughout all my life, this wish to be feared and to be loved by men, for no reason but that from it there may come a joy that is yet no joy? A miserable life is this, and a foul boast! Hence most of all it comes that I neither love you nor have a chaste fear of you. Therefore, you “resist the proud, but give grace to the humble,”4 and you thunder down upon the ambitions of the world, and the foundations of the mountains tremble.5
But now, since by reason of certain official positions in human society, it is necessary for us to be both loved and feared by men, the adversary of our true happiness keeps after us, and on every side amidst his snares he scatters the words, “Well done! Well done!” He does this so that, as we greedily gather up these words, we may be caught unawares, displace our joy from the truth, and place it among the deceits of men, and so that it may afford us pleasure to be feared and to be loved, not because of you but in place of you. In such wise would he possess for himself those who have become like himself, not for a union in charity but for comradeship in punishment. This is he who has decreed to put his throne to the north, so that, darkling and cold, such men may serve him who in a perverse and tortured way imitates you.6
But we, Lord, behold, we are your little flocks:7 keep us for your own! Spread forth your wings, and let us flee under them. Be our glory! Let us be loved for your sake, and in us let only your Word be held in fear. Whosoever wishes to be praised by men, while you hold him worthy of blame, is not defended by men when you judge him, nor will he be rescued by men when you condemn him. But there are times when it is not “the sinner that is praised in the desires of his soul, nor the unjust man who is blessed,”8 but a man is praised for some gift that you have given to him, and he rejoices more because he is praised for his own sake than because he possesses that gift for which he is praised. In this case also is a man praised while you blame him, and better then is he who gave the praise than he who received it. For the one is pleased at God’s gift to a man, whereas the other is more pleased by a man’s gift than by God’s.
PROBLEMS OF PRAISE
(60) By these temptations are we tempted daily, Lord, without ceasing we are tempted. Our daily furnace is the human tongue.1 In this way, too, you impose continence upon us. Give what you command, and command what you will! You know the groans of my heart2 with regard to this matter, and the tears that flood from my eyes. For I do not gather with ease to what extent I have been made more clean of this disease, and I much fear my secret sins,3 which your eyes know but mine do not.
For other types of temptation I have some kind of ability for self-examination, but for this scarcely any. With regard to fleshly pleasures and curiosity to know idle things, I perceive to what extent I have attained the power of restraining my mind when I am free of such things, either voluntarily or because they are not present. Then I ask myself whether not having them is more annoying or less annoying to me. Riches, again, are sought for the purpose of providing for one or another of these three lusts, or for two of them, or for all of them. If the mind cannot perceive distinctly whether it despises them when it possesses them, they can be rejected and it may thus put itself to the test.
But to be without any praise whatsoever, and to test ourselves in this condition, how can we manage it? Must we not live an evil life, so abandoned and so inhuman a life that no one can know us without detesting us? What greater madness can be named or conceived than this? If praise usually is, and should be, companion to a good life and good deeds, we should no more abandon such accompaniment than the good life itself. Yet I do not know whether I can do without a thing with a calm or with a distressed mind unless by its being absent.4
(61) What, then, do I confess to you with regard to this kind of temptation? What else, except that I find delight in being praised, but more with truth than with praise. For if the question is put to me whether I would prefer to be a madman or a man at fault in everything and yet be praised by men, or to be steady and absolutely right in truth but yet reviled by all men, I see which I should choose. Yet I should not wish the approval of another man’s mouth to increase my joy over any good that may be in me. But I admit not only that it increases it, but that condemnation lessens it.
When I am distressed at this misery of mine, an excuse steals into my mind. What its value is, you know, O God, although it leaves me uncertain. You have commanded upon us not only continence, that is, to withhold our love from certain things, but also justice, that is, whereon we are to bestow our love. You have willed not only that you yourself be loved by us, but our neighbor also. Often, when I am pleased by the praises of someone who clearly understands a matter, I think that I am pleased at my neighbor’s progress or promise. Again, when I hear him condemn something that he does not understand or that is good, I think that I am made sad by his wrong deed. Sometimes I am depressed at my own praises, either when things are praised in me over which I am displeased with myself, or when lesser or trifling goods are rated higher than they should be. Again, how do I know whether I am thus affected because I do not like the man praising me to differ from me concerning myself, not because I am motivated by his advantage but because those very goods which please me in myself are all the sweeter to me when they please another man also? In some fashion, I am not praised when my own opinion of myself is not praised, whenever things that displease me are praised, or else things that please me less are praised more highly. Am I not therefore doubtful of myself concerning this matter?
(62) Behold, O Truth, I see in you that I ought not to be moved by my praises on account of myself, but for my neighbor’s good. Whether I am so, I do not know. Concerning this matter I know less about myself than you do. I beseech you, my God, show me to myself, so that to my brothers, who will pray for me, I may confess what wounds I find in me. Let me examine myself once again, and more diligently. If in my own praises I am moved by the utility of my neighbor, why am I less moved if someone else is unjustly reviled than if it is I who am reviled? Why am I hurt more by abuse cast upon myself than by that cast in my presence with the equal injustice upon another? Am I in ignorance of this also? Does it amount to this, that I deceive myself,5 and do not do the truth6 before you in my heart and on my tongue? Put this madness far from me, Lord, lest my own mouth be to me “the sinner’s oil to make fat my head.”7
(63) “I am needy and poor,”1 but I am a better man so long as by secret groans I displease myself and seek your mercy, until my defect is made over again and is made whole again, unto that peace which the proud man’s eye does not perceive.
But words coming out of man’s mouths and deeds known to men contain a most perilous temptation. This arises from love of praise which, to build up a sort of private superiority, begs for and hoards up marks of approval. Even when this is rebuked within myself by myself, it affords temptation by the very fact that it is rebuked. Often, out of very contempt of glory a man derives an emptier glory.2 No longer, therefore, does he glory in contempt of vainglory: he does not despise it, in as much as he glories over it.
PRESUMPTION AND SELFISHNESS
(64) There is a further evil within us included in this same type of temptation. By it those men grow in conceit who are complacent with themselves and because of themselves, although they either do not please others or displease them, and even make no effort to please them. While they please themselves, they are greatly displeasing to you, not only by reason of things not good that are looked upon as good, but also by reason of goods belonging to you that they think to be their own, and even by reason of goods seen to be yours but looked upon as due to their own merits, or by reason of things known to be your free gifts but not rejoiced over with brotherly love and begrudged by them to other men. In all such things and in like perils and hardships, you behold my trembling heart. Over and over, I feel my wounds, not so much as inflicted upon me, but rather as healed by you.
LIGHT AND LOVE
(65) When is it that you have not walked with me, O Truth, teaching me what to shun and what to seek, while I would refer to you the baser things that I have seen, as far as I could, and would consult you about them? By means of sense I gazed upon the outside world, as far as I could, and I looked upon this bodily life of mine, and so too upon these very senses of mine. From there I entered into the recesses of my memory, those manifold and spacious chambers filled with marvelous varieties of countless rich stores. I considered them, and I stood aghast; I could discern nothing of these things without you, and I found nothing of these things to be you.
And I myself, who found all this, who went over all these things, and strove to mark off and value each thing in accordance with its excellence, taking some things as senses reported them, questioning about others that I felt were intermingled with myself, numbering off and distinguishing the very messengers of sense, and then in the wide treasuries of memory scanning certain things, laying away certain others, and drawing forth others still—I myself was not you. Not even when I did these deeds, that is, not even that power of mine by which I did them, not even that was you. For you are that abiding light which I consulted concerning all these things, as to whether they were, as to what they were, and as to what value they possessed. I heard you as you directed and commanded me. This I often do; this brings me delight, and as far as I can be relieved of necessary duties, in this delight I take refuge. In all these things which I review as I consult you, I can find no safe place for my soul except in you. In you may my scattered longings be gathered together, and from you may no part of me ever depart. Sometimes you admit me in my innermost being into a most extraordinary affection, mounting within me to an indescribable sweetness. If this is perfected in me, it will be something, I know not what, that will not belong to this life. But under my burdens of misery I sink down to those other things, and I am drawn back again by former ways and held fast by them. Much do I weep over them, but much am I caught by them. Such is the strength of onerous habit! Here I can abide, although I would not; there I wish to be, but cannot; in both ways am I wretched.
TRUTH AND THE LIE
(66) Thus, therefore, I have considered the sicknesses of my sins in that threefold concupiscence,1 and I have called your right hand to bring me health. With a wounded heart I have looked upon your splendor, and struck back by it, I have said: Who can attain to it? “I am cast away from before your eyes.”2 You are the truth who preside over all things. In my greed, I did not want to lose you, but together with you I wanted to possess a lie, just as no one wants to speak falsehood such that he himself does not know the truth. Thus did I lose you, because you disdain to be possessed together with a lie.
A FALSE MEDIATOR
(67) Whom could I find to reconcile me to you? Was I to turn to angels? By what prayers? By what rites?1 Many men who strive to return to you, and are unable to do so by their own strength, have tried such things, so I have heard, and have fallen victim to desire for curious visions, and have been accounted fit for delusions. Lifted aloft, they have sought you by pride of learning, thrusting out their chests rather than smiting their breasts. By similarity of heart they have attracted to themselves fellow conspirators and partners in their pride, “the powers of this air,”2 by whose potent magic they have been deceived. For they were seeking a mediator by whom they might be cleansed, and none such was there. “For the devil was transforming himself into an angel of light.”3Much did it entice proud flesh that he was not embodied in flesh. For they were mortal and sinners, but you, Lord, to whom they sought to be reconciled, are immortal and without sin. But “the mediator between God and man”4 must have something like to God and something like to men, lest being in both things like to men, he should be far from God, or being in both ways like to God, he should be far from men, and so not be a mediator.
Therefore, that false mediator, by whom in your secret judgments pride merited to be deluded, had one thing in common with men, which is sin. He wishes to appear as if he had the other thing common with God, so that, since he is not clothed with mortal flesh, he might show himself as an immortal. But because “the wages of sin is death,”5 he has in common with men that for which he is condemned to death along with them.
THE ONE MEDIATOR
(68) The true mediator, whom in your secret mercy you have shown to the humble, whom you have sent to them, that by his example they also might learn humility, that “mediator of God and man, the man Christ Jesus,”1 appeared between mortal sinners and the immortal just one, mortal with men, just with God. Because the wages of justice is life and peace,2 he thus appeared that, being joined through justice to God, he might make void3 the death of sinners now justified, which death he willed to have in common with them. He was shown forth to saints of old, so that they might be saved through faith in his coming passion, even as we are saved by faith in his passion now past. For as man, he is mediator, but as the Word, he is in no middle place, since he is equal to God, and God with God, and together one God.4
(69) How have you loved us, O good Father, who did not spare your only Son, but delivered him up for us sinners.5 How have you loved us, from whom he who “did not think it robbery to be equal to you” became “obedient even unto death, even to the death of the cross,”6 he alone being “free among the dead,”7 having power of laying down his life, and having power of taking it up again.8 For us, he is before you both victor and victim, and therefore victor for the reason that he is victim. For us, before you, he is both priest and sacrifice, and therefore priest because sacrifice, making us your sons instead of servants, by being born of you, and by becoming servant to us.
Rightly is my hope strong in him, because you will heal all my diseases,9 through him “who sits at your right hand and makes intercession for us,”10 elsewise I would despair. Many and great are those infirmities of mine, many they are and great, but more potent is your medicine. We could think that your Word is far from union with men, and we could despair of ourselves, unless he had been “made flesh and dwelt amongst us.”11
(70) Struck with terror at my sins and at the burden of my misery, I had been tormented at heart and had pondered flight into the desert. But you forbade me, and comforted me, saying: “Therefore Christ died for all: that they who live may now live not to themselves but to him who died for them.”12 Behold, Lord, I cast my cares upon you,13 so that I may live, and “I will consider the wondrous things of your law.”14 You know my lack of wisdom and my infirmity, teach me, and heal me.15 He, your only Son “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,”16 has redeemed me by his blood. “Let not the proud calumniate me,”17 for I think upon my ransom, and I eat and drink, and share it with others,18 and as a pauper I desire to be filled from him amid those who eat and are filled, “and they shall praise the Lord that seek him.”19