THE TEACHER AS SEDUCER
(1) For the same period of nine years, from the nineteenth year of my age to the twenty-eighth,1 we were seduced and we seduced others, deceived and deceiving by various desires, both openly by the so-called liberal arts2 and secretly3 in the name of a false religion, proud in the one, superstitious in the other, and everywhere vain. On the one hand, we pursued an empty fame and popularity even down to the applause of the playhouse, poetical competitions, and contests for garlands of grass, foolish plays on the stage, and unbridled lusts. On the other hand, as we desired to be cleansed from all such defilements by the help of men who wanted to be styled “the elect” and “the saints,” we brought them food from which, in the workshop of their own bellies, they would fabricate angels and gods through whom we would be set free.4 Such things did I pursue and do in company with my friends who were deceived by me and with me.
Let proud men, who have not yet for their good been cast down and broken by you, my God, laugh me to scorn, but in your praise let me confess my shame to you. Permit me, I beseech you, and enable me to follow around in present recollection the windings of my past errors, and to offer them up to you as a sacrifice of jubilation. For without you, what am I to myself but the leader of my own destruction? What am I, when all is well with me, except one sucking your milk and feeding on you, the incorruptible food?5What manner of man is any man, since he is but a man? Let the strong and mighty laugh us to scorn, and let us, the weak and needy,6 confess ourselves to you.
A SACRIFICE TO DEVILS
(2) In those years I taught the art of rhetoric, and being vanquished by greed, I sold a skill at speech designed for victories in court. I preferred, as you, Lord, know, to have good students—such, that is, as are called good—and without deceit I taught them to be deceitful, not so that they would work against the life of an innocent man, but sometimes in behalf of a guilty client. From afar, O God, you saw me falling down on slippery ground, and you saw my faith shining amid much smoke, and this faith I who was their comrade showed forth in my teaching to men who loved vanity and sought for lies.1
In those years I had a woman companion, not one joined to me in what is named lawful wedlock, but one whom my wandering passion, empty of prudence, had picked up. But I had this one only, and moreover I was faithful to her bed. With her I learned at first hand how great a distance lies between the restraint of a conjugal covenant, mutually made for the sake of begetting offspring, and the bargain of a lustful love, where a child is born against our will, although once born he forces himself upon our love.2
(3) I remember also how I once decided to enter a theatrical poetry contest and how some sort of soothsayer asked what payment I would give him in order to win the prize. As I detested and abominated such filthy rites, I told him that not even if the crown were immortal and made of gold, would I let him slay a fly to secure my triumph. It was his plan to slay certain living creatures in his sacrifices, and apparently by such acts of honor to beseech the help of demons for my cause. Yet it was not out of a chaste devotion to you, O God of my heart, that I spurned this evil thing. I did not know how to love you, for I knew only how to think upon gleaming corporeal things. When the soul sighs for such figments, does it not commit fornication against you, and trust in error, and feed the winds?3 In truth, I would not let sacrifice be made to demons in my behalf, but to those same demons by my superstition I sacrificed myself. What else is it to feed the winds but to feed the demons, that is, by our errors to become objects of pleasure and derision to them?
(4) However, I did not refrain from openly consulting those impostors whom they call astrologers, because they offered, so to speak, no sacrifices and directed no prayers to spirits for the purpose of divination. Yet true Christian devotion rightly rejects and condemns their art. To you, Lord, it is good to confess and to say: “Have mercy on me! Heal my soul, for I have sinned against you!”1 It is good not to abuse your mercy by seeking a freedom to sin, and to remember the words of the Lord, “Behold, you are made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to you.”2 All this sound health they strive to destroy when they say, “The cause of your sinning was fixed unchangeably by the heavens,” and “The planet Venus (or Saturn or Mars) has done this,” meaning that man, made up of flesh and blood and proud corruption, is free from fault and that the creator and ruler of the sky and the stars must bear the blame. Who is he unless you, our God, sweetness and source of justice, who render to every man according to his works3and do not despise a contrite and a humbled heart?4
(5) There was at that time a certain man,5 wise, most highly skilled in the art of medicine, and most renowned for it, who as proconsul placed by his own hand upon my foolish head the crown won in a contest. He did not do this as a physician, for you alone are the healer of that disease, you who resist the proud and give grace to the humble.6 But did you fail me, even in the person of that aged man, or did you refrain from healing my soul? For I became better acquainted with him and attended assiduously and earnestly to his discussions, which were without grace of language but both pleasant and solid because of his lively opinions. When he learned from my conversation that I was given to study of the books of the nativity calculators, he advised me in a kind and fatherly manner to throw them away and not to waste the care and labor needed for useful pursuits on such a worthless study. He told me that in the early years of his life he had learned the art with a view to gaining a living by it, thinking that if he could understand Hippocrates,7 he would surely be able to understand that sort of learning. However, he had later given it up and had devoted himself to medicine for the sole reason that he found such studies completely false, and as a serious man he did not want to seek a livelihood by deceiving people. “You,” he said, “have the profession of rhetoric by which to maintain yourself in the world of men, and yet you pursue this delusion, not out of any need at home but of your own accord. Hence you ought to trust me all the more in this matter, since I labored to acquire a mastery over it because I wished to make my living by it alone.”
When I inquired of him why it was that so many of the things they foretold turned out to be true, he answered, as far as he could, that the power of chance, which is diffused everywhere throughout the nature of things, brings this about. If a man consults at random the pages of some poet who sings and thinks of things far different, a verse often appears that is wonderfully appropriate to the business at hand.8 It is not to be marvelled at, then, he said, if from the human soul, by a sort of higher instinct that knows nothing of what goes on within itself, there would be uttered, not by art but by chance, something relevant to the affairs and deeds of the questioner.
(6) All this, indeed, you brought about for me either by him or through him, and you drew outlines upon my memory of what I afterwards investigated for myself. But at that time neither he nor my most dear Nebridius,9 a truly good and chaste youth, who laughed at the whole business of divination, was able to persuade me to cast aside such things, as the authority of the authors I read moved me more than they. Nor did I as yet find any sure proof, such as I looked for, from which it would appear to me without ambiguity that the true predictions made by the men consulted were spoken by fortune or chance and not by the stargazers’ art.
THE DEATH OF A FRIEND
(7) During those years, when I first began to teach—it was in the town in which I was born—I gained a friend, my equal in age, flowering like me with youth, and very dear to me because of community of interests. As a boy, he had grown up with me, we had gone to school together, and had played games together. But in childhood he was not such a friend as he became later on, and even later on ours was not a true friendship, for friendship cannot be true unless you solder it together among those who cleave to one another by the charity “poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us.”1 Yet it was sweet to us, made fast as it was by our ardor in like pursuits. I had turned him away from the true faith, which he did not hold faithfully and fully as a youth, and towards those superstitious and pernicious fables because of which my mother wept over me. This man was now wandering with me in spirit, and my soul could not endure to be without him. But behold, you were close at the back of those fleeing from you, you who are at once the God of vengeance2 and the fount of mercy, who in a marvelous manner convert us to yourself. Behold, you took the man from this life when he had scarce completed a year in my friendship, sweet to me above every sweetness of that life of mine.
(8) What one man can number all your praises which he has felt in himself alone?3 What was it that you did at that time, my God, and how unsearchable are the depths of your judgments?4 Tormented by fever, he lay for a long time senseless in a deadly sweat, and when his life was despaired of, he was baptized while unconscious. For this I cared nothing and I presumed that his soul would retain rather what it had taken from me and not what had been done to his unconscious body. But it turned out far different: he was revived and regained his strength. Immediately, upon my first chance to speak to him, and I could do this just as soon as he could talk, since I had not left him, as we relied so much upon one another, I tried to make jokes with him, just as though he would joke with me about that baptism which he had received when he was far away in mind and sense. He had already learned that he had received it. But he was horrified at me as if I were an enemy, and he warned me with a swift and admirable freedom that if I wished to remain his friend, I must stop saying such things to him. I was struck dumb and was disturbed, but I concealed all my feelings until he would grow well again and would be fit in health and strength. Then I would deal with him as I wished. But he was snatched away from my madness, so that he might be kept with you for my consolation. After a few days, while I was absent, he was attacked again by the fever and died.
(9) My heart was made dark by sorrow, and whatever I looked upon was death.5 My native place was a torment to me, and my father’s house was a strange unhappiness. Whatsoever I had done together with him was, apart from him, turned into a cruel torture. My eyes sought for him on every side, and he was not given to them. I hated all things, because they no longer held him. Nor could they now say to me, “Here he comes,” as they did in his absence from them when he lived. To myself I became a great riddle, and I questioned my soul as to why it was sad and why it afflicted me so grievously,6 and it could answer me nothing. If I said to it, “Hope in God,” it did right not to obey me, for the man, that most dear one whom she had lost, was more real and more good to her than the fantasy7 in which she was bade to hope. Only weeping was sweet to me, and it succeeded to my friend in my soul’s delights.
A SWEET SORROW
(10) Lord, these things have now passed away and time has eased my wound. Am I able to hearken to you, who are truth, and to turn my heart’s ear to your mouth, that you may tell me why weeping is sweet to those in misery? Is it that you, although present in all places, have flung our misery far away from yourself, and do you abide unchanged in yourself, while we are spun about in our trials? Yet unless we could weep into your ears, no trace of hope would remain for us. Whence is it, then, that sweet fruit is plucked from life’s bitterness, from mourning and weeping, from sighing and lamenting? Does sweetness lie there because we hope that you will graciously hear us? This rightly holds for our prayers, since they contain our desire of attaining to you. But does it hold for that grief and mourning over what was lost, with which I was overwhelmed? I did not hope that he would come back to life, nor did I beg for that by my tears; I only sorrowed and wept, for I was wretched and I had lost my joy. Or is weeping itself a bitter thing, and does it give us pleasure because of distaste for things in which we once took joy, but only at such times as we shrink back from them?
HIS LOVE FOR THE LOST FRIEND
(11) Why do I speak of these things? For now is not the time for questioning, but for confessing to you. Wretched was I, and wretched is every soul that is bound fast by friendship for mortal things, that is torn asunder when it loses them, and then first feels the misery by which it is wretched even before it loses those things. Such was I at that time, and I wept most bitterly and I found rest in my bitterness. So wretched was I that I held that life of wretchedness to be more dear to me than my friend himself. For although I wished to change it, yet I was more unwilling to lose it than I was to lose my friend. I do not know whether I would have wished its loss, even for his sake, as is told of Orestes and Pylades, if it is not a fiction, who wished to die together for one another, since to them not to live together was worse than death. But in me there had arisen I know not what sort of affection, one far different from theirs, for most heavily there weighed upon me both weariness of life and fear of dying.1 I believe that the more I loved him, the more did I hate and fear death, which had taken him away from me, as my cruelest enemy. I thought that it would speedily devour all men, since it had been able to devour him. All this I was, and I remember it.
Behold my heart, my God, behold what is within it! See this, for I remember it, O you who are my hope, who cleanse me from the uncleanness of such affections, who direct my eyes to you and pluck my feet out of the snare.2 I marveled that other men should live, because he, whom I had loved as if he would never die, was dead. I marveled more that I, his second self, could live when he was dead. Well has someone said of his friend that he is half of his soul.3 For I thought that my soul and his soul were but one soul in two bodies.4 Therefore, my life was a horror to me, because I would not live as but a half. Perhaps because of this I feared to die, lest he whom I had loved so much should wholly die.
DEPARTURE FROM THAGASTE
(12) O madness, which does not know how to love men, as men should be loved! O foolish man, who so rebelliously endures man’s lot! Such was I at that time. Therefore I raged, and sighed, and wept, and became distraught, and there was for me neither rest nor reason. I carried about my pierced and bloodied soul, rebellious at being carried by me, but I could find no place where I might put it down. Not in pleasant groves, not in games and singing, not in sweet-scented spots, not in rich banquets, not in the pleasures of the bedchamber, not even in books and in poetry did it find rest. All things grew loathsome, even the very light itself; and whatsoever was not he was base and wearisome to me—all except groans and tears, for in them alone was found a little rest. But when my soul was withdrawn from these, a mighty burden of misery weighed me down. To you, O Lord, ought it to have been lifted up,1 to be eased by you. I knew it, but I willed it not, nor was I able to will it, and this the more because for me, when I thought upon you, you were not something solid and firm. For to me then you were not what you are, but an empty phantom, and my error was my god. If I attempted to put my burden there, so that it might rest, it hurtled back upon me through the void, and I myself remained an unhappy place where I could not abide and from which I could depart. For where could my heart fly to, away from my heart? Where could I fly to, apart from my own self?2 Where would I not pursue myself? But still I fled from my native town. Less often would my eyes seek him where they were not used to seeing him, and from Thagaste I came to Carthage.8
THE HEALING POWERS OF TIME AND CHANGE
(13) Time does not take time off, nor does it turn without purpose through our senses: it works wondrous effects in our minds. See how it came and went from day to day, and by coming and going it planted in me other hopes and other memories, and little by little they filled me up again with my former sources of delight. My sorrow gave way to them, but to it succeeded not new sorrows, but yet causes of new sorrows. Why did that sorrow penetrate so easily into my deepest being, unless because I had poured out my soul upon the sand by loving a man soon to die as though he were one who would never die? Most of all, the solace of other friends restored and revived me, and together with them I loved what I loved in place of you. This was a huge fable and a long-drawn-out lie, and by its adulterous fondling, our soul, itching in its ears,1 was corrupted.
But that fable did not die for me, even when one of my friends would die. There were other things done in their company which more completely seized my mind: to talk and to laugh with them; to do friendly acts of service for one another; to read well-written books together; sometimes to tell jokes and sometimes to be serious; to disagree at times, but without hard feelings, just as a man does with himself; and to keep our many discussions pleasant by the very rarity of such differences; to teach things to the others and to learn from them; to long impatiently for those who were absent, and to receive with joy those joining us. These and similar expressions, proceeding from the hearts of those who loved and repaid their comrades’ love, by way of countenance, tongue, eyes, and a thousand pleasing gestures, were like fuel to set our minds ablaze and to make but one out of many.
A HIGHER LOVE
(14) This is what we love in our friends, and love in such wise that a man’s conscience condemns him if he does love one who returns his love, or if he does not return the love of one who loved him first, seeking nothing from that person but signs of good will. Hence the mourning, if anyone should die, the shadows cast by sorrow, the heart drenched in tears, the sweetness turned all bitter, and from the lost life of the dead, death for the living.
But blessed is the man who loves you,1 and his friend in you, and his enemy for your sake. For he alone loses no dear one to whom all are dear in him who is not lost. But who is this unless our God, the God who made heaven and earth2 and fills all things because by filling them he made them?3 No man loses you except one who forsakes you, and if he forsakes you, where does he go or where does he flee, except from you well-pleased back to you all wrathful? Where does he find your law but in his own punishment? “And your law is the truth,”4 and you are the truth.5
A CHANGING UNIVERSE
(15) “Convert us and show us your face,” O God of hosts, “and we shall be saved.”1 For whatever way the soul of man turns, it is fixed upon sorrows any place except in you, even though it is fixed upon beautiful things that are outside of you and outside itself. Yet these beauteous things would not be at all, unless they came from you. They rise and they set, and by rising, as it were, they begin to be. They increase, so as to become perfect, and when once made perfect, they grow old and die, and even though all things do not grow old, yet all die. Therefore, when they take their rise and strive to be, the more quickly they grow so that they may be, so much the faster do they hasten towards ceasing to be. This is the law of their being. So much have you given them, because they are parts of things that do not exist all at once, but all of them, by successive departures and advents, make up the universe of which they are parts. See, too, how our speech is accomplished by significant sounds. There would be no complete speech unless each word departs, when all its parts have been uttered, so that it may be followed by another. For all these things let my soul praise you, O God, creator of all things,2 but let it not be caught tight in them by the love that comes from the body’s senses. These things go where they were going so that they may cease to be, and thus they rend the soul asunder with pestilent desires. For the soul wishes to be and it loves to find rest in things that it loves. But in such things there is no place where it may find rest, for they do not endure. They flee away, and who can follow them by fleshly sense? Or who can grasp them, even when they are close at hand?
Fleshly sense is slow, because it is a fleshly sense: that is its nature. It suffices for a certain thing, for which it was made. It does not suffice for something different, namely, to hold fast things running their course from their proper beginning to their proper end. In your Word, by which they are created, they hear these words: “From here, and unto there!”
WHOLE AND PART
(16) Do not be foolish, O my soul, and do not deafen your heart’s ear with the tumult of your folly. Hear you: the Word himself cries out for you to return, and with him there is a place of quiet that can never be disturbed, where your love cannot be forsaken, if itself does not forsake that place. Behold, these present things give way so that other things may succeed to them, and that this lowest universe may be constituted out of all its parts. “But do I depart in any way?” asks the Word of God. Establish there your dwelling place. Entrust to it whatever you have, my soul, wearied at last by deceptions. Entrust to the truth whatever you have gained from the truth, and you will suffer no loss. All in you that has rotted away will flourish again; all your diseases will be healed;1all in you that flows and fades away will be restored, and made anew, and bound around you. They will not drag you down to the place to which they descend, but they will stand fast with you and will abide before the God who stands fast and abides forever.2
(17) Why, then, are you perverted, and still following after your own flesh? Let it follow you who have been converted. Whatever you perceive by means of the flesh exists but in part; you do not know that whole of which these things are parts, but yet they give you delight. But if fleshly sense had been capable of comprehending the whole, and had not, for your punishment, been restricted to but a part of the universe, you would wish that whatever exists at present would pass away, so that all things might bring you the greater pleasure. For by that same fleshly sense you hear what we speak, and you do not want the syllables to stand steady; you want them to fly away, so that others may succeed to them and you may hear the whole statement. So it is always with all things out of which some one being is constituted, and the parts out of which it is fashioned do not all exist at once. All things together bring us more delight, if they can all be sensed at once, than do their single parts. But far better than such things is he who has made all things, and he is our God, and he does not depart, for there is none to succeed to him.
LIFE AND DEATH
(18) If you find pleasure in bodily things, praise God for them, and direct your love to their maker, lest because of things that please you, you may displease him. If you find pleasure in souls, let them be loved in God. In themselves they are but shifting things; in him they stand firm; else they would pass and perish. In him, therefore, let them be loved, and with you carry up to him as many as you can. Say to them:
“Let us love him, for he has made all things, and he is not far from us.1 He did not make all things and then leave them, but they are from him and in him. Behold where he is: it is wherever truth is known. He is within our very hearts, but our hearts have strayed far from him. ‘Return, you transgressors, to the heart,’2 and cling to him who made you. Stand fast with him, and you will in truth stand fast. Rest in him, and you will in truth have rest. Whither, upon what rough ways, do you wander? Whither do you go? The good you love is from him, but only in so far as it is used for him is it good and sweet. But with justice will it become bitter, if you, as a deserter from him, unjustly love what comes from him. Whither do you walk, farther and farther along these hard and toilsome roads?3 There is no rest to be found where you seek it: seek what you seek, but it lies not where you seek it. You seek a happy life in the land of death, but it is not there. How can you find a happy life where there is no life?
(19) “But our life came down to us,4 and he took away our death, and he slew it out of the abundance of his own life. He thundered forth and cried out to us to return hence to him, into that secret place from which he came forth to us. For he came first into the Virgin’s womb, wherein our human nature, our mortal flesh, was espoused to him, lest it remain for ever mortal. And from there he came forth ‘as a bridegroom coming out of his bridal chamber,’ and he ‘rejoiced as a giant to run the way.’5 For he did not delay, but he ran forth and cried out by words and deeds, by death and life, by descent and ascension, crying out for us to return to him. And he departed from our eyes, so that we might return into our own hearts and find him there. He departed, but lo, he is here. He would not stay long with us, and yet he does not leave us. He departed from here, whence he has never departed, for ‘the world was made by him’ and ‘he was in the world,’6 and he ‘came into this world to save sinners.’7 My soul confesses to him, and he heals it, for it has sinned against him.8 ‘O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart?’9 Even now, after the descent of life to you, do you not wish to ascend and to live? But how can you ascend when you have set yourselves up high and have placed your mouth against heaven?10 Descend, so that you may ascend, so that you may ascend to God. For you have fallen by ascending against God.”
Tell this to those souls, so that they may weep in the valley of tears,11 and thus you will carry them along with you up to God. For it is of his spirit that you tell them this, if you speak while burning with the fire of charity.
(20) I did not know all this at the time, but I loved lower beautiful creatures, and I was going down into the very depths. I said to my friends: “Do we love anything except what is beautiful? What then is a beautiful thing? What is beauty? What is it that attracts us and wins us to the things that we love? Unless there were a grace and beauty in them, they could in no wise move us.” I observed with care and saw that in bodies themselves it is one thing to be a whole, as it were, and therefore beautiful, and another to be suitable, because well adapted to something else, just as a bodily part is adapted to the whole body, a shoe to the foot, and the like. This consideration welled up in my mind out of the depths of my heart, and I wrote the books called “On the Beautiful and the Fitting,” two or three, I think, in number. You know it, O God, but it now escapes my memory. We do not have them now, for they have been lost by us, how I do not know.
PROBLEMS OF REPUTATION
(21) What was it, O Lord my God, that moved me to dedicate this treatise to Hierius, an orator in the city of Rome? I did not know him even by sight, but I loved the man because of his renown for that learning which was eminent in him, and I had heard and liked certain statements of his. But I was especially pleased with him because he pleased others who raised him up by their praises. They marveled that a Syrian, first educated in Greek eloquence, should later become so wonderful a master of Latin and so deeply learned in all matters that pertain to philosophy. A man is praised and loved even though absent. Does such love pass from the praiser’s mouth into the hearer’s heart? Far from it: it is rather that one lover is inflamed by another. Hence it is that a man who is praised comes to be loved, when he is believed to be portrayed by someone who praises him with a sincere heart, that is, when someone both loves and praises him.
(22) Thus at that time I loved men upon the judgment of men, and not upon your judgments, my God, by which no one is deceived. Still, why was this not the same as in the case of a famous charioteer or hunter whose fame is made by popular acclaim? Why was it far different and more serious, and just such praise as I would like for myself? I did not want to be praised and loved as actors are, even though I myself would praise and love them. I preferred to live in obscurity rather than to be famous in that way, even to be held in hate rather than loved as they are. Where are the drives for such varied and diverse types of love distributed within a single soul? Why is it that I love in another man what I hate in myself, for unless I hated it, I would not detest and spurn it, although each of us is a man? It is not just as a fine horse is loved by a man who would not want to be a horse himself, even if he could be one, so the same thing must be asserted of an actor, for the actor holds fellowship with us in nature. Therefore, do I not love in a man what I would hate to be, precisely because I am a man? Man is a mighty deep, whose very hairs you have numbered,1 O Lord, and they are not lessened before you. But man’s hairs are easier to count than his affections and the movements of his heart.
(23) But that orator was of the sort which I loved so much that I wished myself to be such. In my pride, I wandered off and “was carried about with every wind,”2 but still most secretly was I ruled by you. How can I know and how can I confess with certainty to you that I loved him out of love for those praising him rather than for the actual things for which he was praised? For if these men had not praised him but heaped abuse upon him, and in abusing and despising him had recounted the same things of him, I would not have been inflamed and aroused towards him. Certainly, the facts would not have been different, and the man himself would have been no different; only the feelings of the speakers would have been different.
See where a man’s feeble soul lies stricken when it does not cling to the solid support of truth. Just as blasts raised by their tongues blow out of the breasts of men who think they know, so also the soul is borne about and turned around, bent this way and bent that. The light is clouded over from it, and it does not descry the truth. But look! it is before us! It was to be a great thing for me, if my style and my studies became known to that man. If he should approve of them, I would be all the more on fire. But if he disapproved of them, my heart, void and empty of your solidity, would have been deeply wounded. But yet I gladly turned over in my mind and in contemplation placed upon my lips that subject of the beautiful and the fitting upon which I wrote to him. Although there was no one to join with me in praising the book, I myself admired it.
PURSUIT OF TRUTH
(24) As yet I could not perceive that the hinge of this great issue lies in the creative wisdom of you, the almighty one, “who alone do wonderful things.”1 My mind moved among bodily forms; I defined and distinguished the beautiful, as that which is such by itself alone, and the fitting, as that which is fair because it is adapted to some other thing. I supported this by examples drawn from bodies. I turned to the nature of the mind, but the false opinion that I held concerning spiritual things did not permit me to discern the truth. Yet the force of truth itself dazzled my eyes, and I turned my flickering mind from incorporeal things to lines, colors, and expanding quantities, and because I could not perceive them in the mind, I thought that I could not perceive my mind itself. Further, since in virtue I loved peace and in vice I hated discord, I noted that there was unity in the one and division in the other. It seemed to me that the rational mind, the nature of truth, and the nature of the highest good lay in that unity. On the other hand, in my folly I thought that in the division of irrational life there was some kind of substance and nature of the highest evil. This would be not only a substance but actual life, and yet it did not come from you, my God, from whom are all things. I called the first a monad, as if it were pure, sexless mind. The second I called a dyad, like anger in cruel deeds and lust in shameful acts. But I did not know whereof I spoke. I had not as yet known or learned that evil is not a substance and that our own mind is not the highest and the incommunicable good.
(25) Crimes are committed, if the mind’s disposition for vigorous action becomes vicious and rises up in an insolent and disordered manner, and deeds of shame are done if that affection in the soul to drink in carnal pleasures is left unchecked. Just so do errors and false opinions corrupt our life if reason itself is vitiated. Such was it in me at that time. I did not know that it must be enlightened by another light in order to be a partaker in the truth, since it is not itself the essence of truth, for you will light my lamp, O Lord my God, you will enlighten my darkness,2 and of your fullness we have all received.3 For you are the true light, which enlightens every man coming into this world,4 and in you there is no change or shadow of variation.5
(26) I strove towards you, but I was driven back from you, so that I might taste of death,6 for you resist the proud.7 What more proud, than for me to assert in my strange madness that I am by nature what you are? For while I was mutable, and this was manifest to me by the fact that I wished to be wise, so that I might pass from worse to better, I yet preferred to think that even you were mutable, than that I was not that which you are. Therefore, you rejected me and you resisted my bold but fickle neck. I imagined for myself bodily forms, and being flesh, I accused the flesh. Like a wind that goes, I did not return to you,8 but I walked on and on into things that are not, neither in you, nor in me, nor in the body. And they were not created for me by your truth, but by my folly they were fancied out of a body. I spoke to your faithful little ones, my fellow citizens, from whom I was an exile, although I knew it not. Full of words and folly as I was, I said to them, “Why, then, does the soul, which God has created, fall into error?” But I did not want anyone to say to me, “Why, then, does God err?” I would rather argue that your unchangeable substance was necessitated to err than confess that my mutable nature had gone astray of its own accord and that to err was now its punishment.
(27) I was perhaps twenty-six or twenty-seven years old when I wrote those books, winding around within myself bodily figments that pounded upon my heart’s ears, although I strained those ears towards your interior melody, sweet truth. I thought all the time upon the beautiful and the fitting: I desired to stand fast and to hear you, and to “rejoice with joy because of the bridegroom’s voice.”9 I could not, because I was carried away outside myself by the voices of my error, and under the weight of my pride I sank down into the depths. You did not give to my hearing joy and gladness, nor did my bones rejoice, for they had not yet been humbled.10
FALSE CONCEPTIONS OF GOD
(28) What did it profit me that when I was scarcely twenty years old certain writings of Aristotle called The Ten Categories1 fell into my hands? I had gaped at the very name, as if in suspense at a thing somehow magnificent and divine, whenever my teacher, a rhetorician at Carthage, along with others who were considered learned men, had praised the work with cheeks bursting and booming with pride. What did it profit me that I read and understood these writings by myself alone? When I conferred with others, who said that they could hardly understand them, although taught by very learned teachers not only by lectures but also by many diagrams drawn in the dust, they were able to tell me no more than what I had grasped by myself. The book seemed to me to speak clearly enough of substances, such as a man is, and of what are in them, such as a man’s figure; of what quality he is; his stature; how many feet tall he is; his relationships, as whose brother he is; where he is placed; when he was born; whether he stands or sits; whether he is shod with shoes or armed; whether he does something or has something done to him; and the innumerable things that are found in these nine categories, of which I have set down some examples, or in the category of substance.2
(29) What did all this profit me, since it came to be a hindrance to me? I thought that whatever existed had to be included under these ten predicaments. In this way, I attempted to understand even yourself, my God, who are most wonderfully simple and incommunicable, as if you were subject to your greatness and beauty in such wise that they would be in you as in a subject, just as they are in bodies. But you yourself are your greatness and your beauty.3 On the other hand, a body is not great or beautiful in so far as it is a body, for even if it were smaller and less beautiful, it would yet remain a body. What I had conceived of you was falsity itself; it was not truth. It was a figment formed out of my own misery; it was not the firm reality of your happiness. For you had commanded it, and so it was done in me, that the earth should bring forth thorns and thistles for me and with labor should I earn my bread.4
(30) What did it profit me that I, who was then a most wicked servant of base lusts, should read and understand all the books on the liberal arts, as they are called, whatever of such books I could get to read? I found joy in those books, but I did not know the source of whatever was good and certain within them. I had my back to the light and my face turned towards the things upon which the light fell: hence my face, by which I looked upon the things that were lighted up, was not itself in the light. Whatever concerned the arts of speaking and reasoning, whatever there was on the dimensions of figures and on music and numbers, I understood without much difficulty and without instruction from men. You know this, O Lord my God, for quickness in understanding and keenness at analysis are your gift. But of that gift I made no sacrifice to you. Therefore it availed me not to my service but rather to my perdition, for I strove to keep so good a portion of my substance under my own power. I kept my strength5 not for your purposes, but I wandered away from you into a far country, so that I might waste it all upon lust and harlots.6 What did good gifts profit me if I did not put them to good use? I did not realize that those sciences are understood with great difficulty even by the studious and the intelligent, until I tried to expound them to such men, and found that he was best among them who followed me the least slowly as I explained the subjects.
(31) What did all this profit me when I thought that you, O Lord God of truth, were an immense shining body, and I a particle of that body? O deepest perversity! But such was I! My God, I do not blush to confess your mercies to me and to call upon you, I who once did not blush to profess before men all my blasphemies and to bark like a dog against you. What profited me then my abilities, so quick at all those studies, and so many most knotty books, their knots untied by me without help of human teaching, when I erred crookedly and with foul sacrilege against all holy doctrine? Or what great handicap to your little ones was a far slower mind? For they did not depart from you, but they grew their wings safe within the nest that is your Church and they strengthened the wings of charity on the food of a sound faith.
O Lord our God, under the shadow of your wings7 let us hope, and do you protect us, and carry us. You will carry us, as little ones you will carry us, and even up to our gray hairs will you carry us.8 For since you are our strength, then it is strength indeed; but when it is our own, then it is but weakness. With you our good lives forever, and because we have turned away from you, we have become perverted. Now let us return, O Lord, so that we be not overturned, for with you our good, which is yourself, lives beyond all decay. And we do not fear lest there be no place to return to, although we rushed headlong from it, for while we were far from you, our mansion, your eternity, fell not in ruin.