St. Augustine of Hippo- Confessions BOOK IV
AUTHOR: Augustine
PUBLISHED ON: March 26, 2003

St. Augustine of Hippo: CONFESSIONS
“New Advent Catholic Supersite”

St. Augustine of Hippo




1. DURING this space of nine years, then, from my nineteenth to
my eight and twentieth year, we went on seduced and seducing,
deceived and deceiving, in divers lusts; publicly, by sciences which
they style “liberal” — secretly, with a falsity called religion.
Here proud, there superstitious, everywhere vain! Here, striving
after the emptiness of popular fame, even to theatrical applauses,
and poetic contests, and strifes for grassy garlands, and the
follies of shows and the intemperance of desire. There, seeking to
be purged from these our corruptions by carrying food to those who
were called “elect” and “holy,” out of which, in the laboratory of
their stomachs, they should] make for us angels and gods, by whom
we; might be delivered. These things did I follow eagerly, and
practise with my friends — by me and with me deceived. Let the
arrogant, and such as have not been yet savingly cast] down and
stricken by Thee, O my God, laugh at me; but notwithstanding I would
confess to Thee mine own shame in Thy praise. Bear with me, I
beseech Thee, and give me grace to retrace in my present remembrance
the circlings of my past errors, and to “offer to Thee the sacrifice
of thanksgiving.” For what am I to myself without Thee, but a guide
to mine own downfall? Or what am I even at the best, but one sucking
Thy milk? and feeding upon Thee, the meat that perisheth not? But
what kind of man is any man, seeing that he is but a man? Let, then,
the strong and the mighty laugh at us, but let us who are “poor and
needy” confess unto Thee.


2. In those years I taught the art of rhetoric, and, overcome by
cupidity, put to sale a loquacity by which to overcome. Yet I
preferred — Lord, Thou knowest — to have honest scholars (as they
are esteemed); and these I, without artifice, taught artifices, not
to be put in practise against the life of the guiltless, though
sometimes for the life of the guilty. And Thou, O God, from afar
sawest me stumbling in that slippery path, and amid much smoke
sending out some flashes of fidelity, which I exhibited in that my
guidance of such as loved vanity and sought after leasing, I being
their companion. In those years I had one (whom I knew not in what
is called lawful wedlock, but whom my wayward passion, void of
understanding, had discovered), yet one only, remaining faithful
even to her; in whom I found out truly by my own experience what
difference there is between the restraints of the marriage bonds,
contracted for the sake of issue, and the compact of a lustful love,
where children are born against the parents will, although, being
born, they compel love.

3. I remember, too, that when I decided to compete for a
theatrical prize, a soothsayer demanded of me what I would give him
to win; but I, detesting and abominating such foul mysteries,
answered, “That if the garland were of imperishable gold, I would
not suffer a fly to be destroyed to secure it for me.” For he was to
slay certain living creatures in his sacrifices, and by those
honours to invite the devils to give me their support. But this ill
thing I also refused,
not out of a pure love for Thee, O God of my heart; for I knew not
how to love Thee, knowing not how to conceive aught beyond corporeal
brightness. And doth not a soul, sighing after such-like fictions,
commit fornication against Thee, trust in false things, and nourish
the wind? But I would not, forsooth, have sacrifices offered to
devils on my behalf, though I myself was offering sacrifices to them
by that superstition. For what else is nourishing the, wind but
nourishing them, that is, by our wanderings to become their
enjoyment and derision?


4. Those impostors, then, whom they designate Mathematicians, I
consulted without hesitation, because they used no sacrifices, and
invoked the aid of no spirit for their divinations, which art
Christian and true piety fitly rejects and condemns? For good it is
to confess unto Thee, and to say, “Be merciful unto me, heal my
soul, for I have sinned against Thee;” and not to abuse Thy
goodness for a license to sin, but to remember the words of the
Lord, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing
come unto thee.” T All of which salutary advice they endeavour to
destroy when they say, “The cause of thy sin is inevitably
determined in heaven;” and, “This did Venus, or Saturn, or Mars;” in
order that man, forsooth, flesh and blood, and proud corruption, may
be blameless, while the Creator and Ordainer of heaven and stars is
to bear the blame. And who is this but Thee, our God, the sweetness
and well-spring of righteousness, who renderest “to every man
according to his deeds,” and despisest not “a broken and a contrite

5. There was in those days a wise man, very skilful in medicine,
and much renowned therein, who had with his own proconsular hand put
the Agonistic garland upon my distempered head, not, though, as a
physician; for this disease Thou alone healest, who resistest the
proud, and givest grace to the humble.u But didst Thou fail me even
by that old man, or forbear from healing my soul? For when I had
become more familiar with him, and hung assiduously and fixedly on
his conversation (for though couched in simple language, it was
replete with vivacity, life, and earnestness), when he had perceived
from my discourse that I was given to books of the
horoscope-casters, he, in a kind and fatherly manner, advised me to
throw them away, and not vainly bestow the care and labour necessary
for useful things upon these vanities; saying that he himself in his
earlier years had studied that art with a view to gaining his living
by following it as a profession, and that, as he had understood
Hippocrates, he would soon have understood this, and yet he had
given it up, and followed medicine, for no other reason than that he
discovered it to be utterly false, and he, being a man of character,
would not gain his living by beguiling people. “But thou,” saith
he,” who hast rhetoric to support thyself by, so that thou followest
this of free will, not of necessity — all the more, then, oughtest
thou to give me credit herein, who laboured to attain it so
perfectly, as I wished to gain my living by it alone.” When I asked
him to account for so many true things being foretold by it, he
answered me (as he could) “that the force of chance, diffused
throughout the whole order of nature, brought this about. For if
when a man by accident opens the leaves of some poet, who sang and
intended something far different, a verse oftentimes fell out
wondrously apposite to the present business, it were not to be
wondered at,” he continued, “if out of the soul of man, by some
higher instinct, not knowing what goes on within itself, an answer
should be given by chance, not art, which should coincide with the
business and actions of the questioner.”

6. And thus truly, either by or through him, Thou didst look
after me. And Thou didst delineate in my memory what I might
afterwards search out for myself. But at that time neither he, nor
my most dear Nebridius, a youth most good and most circumspect, who
scoffed at that whole stock of divination, could persuade me to
forsake it, the authority of the authors influencing me still more;
and as yet I had lighted upon no certain proof — such as I sought
— whereby it might without doubt appear that what had been truly
foretold by those consulted was by accident or chance, not by the
art of the star-gazers.


7. In those years, when I first began to teach rhetoric in my
native town, I had acquired a very dear friend, from association in
our studies, of mine own age, and, like myself, just rising up into
the flower of youth. He had grown up with me from childhood, and we
had been both school-fellows and play-fellows. But he was not then
my friend, nor, indeed, afterwards, as true friendship is; for true
it is not but in such as Thou bindest together, cleaving unto Thee
by that love which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost,
which is given unto us. But yet it was too sweet, being ripened by
the fervour of similar studies. For, from the true a faith (which
he, as a youth, had not soundly and t thoroughly become master of),
I had turned him aside towards those superstitious and pernicious
fables which my mother mourned in me. With me this man’s mind now
erred, nor could my soul exist without him. But behold, Thou weft
close behind Thy fugitives — at once God of vengeance and Fountain
of mercies, who turnest us to Thyself by wondrous means. Thou
removedst that man from this life when he had scarce completed one
whole year of my t, friendship, sweet to me above all the sweetness
of that my life.

8. “Who can show forth all Thy praise” which he hath experienced
in himself alone? What was it that Thou didst then, O my God, and
how unsearchable are the depths of Thy judgments! For when, sore
sick of a fever, he long lay unconscious in a death-sweat, and all
despaired of his recovery, he was baptized without his knowledge;
myself meanwhile little caring, presuming that his soul would retain
rather what it had imbibed from me, than what was done to his
unconscious body. Far different, however, was it, for he was revived
and restored. Straightway, as soon as I could talk to him (which I
could as soon as he was able, for I never left him, and we hung too
much upon each other), I attempted to jest with him, as if he also
would jest with me at that baptism which he had received when mind
and senses were in abeyance, but had now learnt that he had
received. But he shuddered at me, as if I were his enemy; and, with
a remarkable and unexpected freedom, admonished me, if I desired to
continue his friend, to desist from speaking to him in such a way.
I, confounded and confused, concealed all my emotions, till he
should get well, and his health be strong enough to allow me to deal
with him as I wished. But he was withdrawn from my frenzy, that with
Thee he might be preserved for my comfort. A few days after, during
my absence, he had a return of the fever, and died.

9. At this sorrow my heart was utterly darkened, and whatever I
looked upon was death. My native country was a torture to me, and my
father’s house a wondrous unhappiness; and whatsoever I had
participated in with him, wanting him, turned into a frightful
torture. Mine eyes sought him everywhere, but he was not granted
them; and I hated all places because he was not in them; nor could
they now say to me, “Behold; he is coming,” as they did when he was
alive and absent. I became a great puzzle to myself, and asked my soul why she was so
sad, and why she so exceedingly disquieted me; but she knew not
what to answer me. And if I said, “Hope thou in God,” she very
properly obeyed me not; because that most dear friend whom she had
lost was, being man, both truer and better than that phantasms she
was bid to hope in. Naught but tears were sweet to me, and they
succeeded my friend in the dearest of my affections.


10. And now, O Lord, these things are passed away, and time hath
healed my wound. May I learn from Thee, who art Truth, and apply the
ear of my heart unto Thy mouth, that Thou mayest tell me why weeping
should be so sweet to the unhappy. Hast Thou — although present
everywhere — cast away far from Thee our misery? And Thou abidest
in Thyself, but we are disquieted with divers trials; and yet,
unless we wept in Thine ears, there would be no hope for us
remaining. Whence,. then, is it that such sweet fruit is plucked
from the bitterness of life, from groans, tears, sighs, and
lamentations? Is it the hope that Thou hearest us that sweetens it?
This is true of prayer, for therein is a desire to approach unto
Thee. But is it also in grief for a thing lost, and the sorrow with
which I was then overwhelmed? For I had neither hope of his coming
to life again, nor did I seek this with my tears; but I grieved and
wept only, for I was miserable, and had lost my joy. Or is weeping a
bitter thing, and for distaste of the things which aforetime we
enjoyed before, and even then, when we are loathing them, does it
cause us pleasure?


11. But why do I speak of these things? For this is not the time
to question, but rather to confess unto Thee. Miserable I was, and
miserable is every soul fetter. ed by the friendship of perishable
things — he is torn to pieces when he loses them, and then is
sensible of the misery which he had before ever he lost them. Thus
was it at that time with me; I wept most bitterly, and found rest in
bitterness. Thus was I miserable, and that life of misery I
accounted dearer than my friend. For though I would willingly have
changed it, yet I was even more unwilling to lose it than him; yea,
I knew not whether I was willing to lose it even for him, as is
handed down to us (if not an invention) of Pylades and Orestes, that
they would gladly have died one for another, or both together, it
being worse than death to them not to live together. But there had
sprung up in me some kind of feeling, too, contrary to this, for
both exceedingly wearisome was it to me to live, and dreadful to
die, I suppose, the more I loved him, so much the more did I hate
and fear, as a most cruel enemy, that death which had robbed me of
him; and I imagined it would suddenly annihilate all men, as it had
power over him. TItus, I remember, it was with me. Behold my heart,
O my God! Behold and look into me, for I remember it well, O my
Hope! who cleansest me from the uncleanness of such affections,
directing mine eyes towards Thee, and plucking my feet out of the
net. For I was astonished that other mortals lived, since he whom I
loved, as if he would never die, was dead; and I wondered still more
that I, who was to him a second self, could live when he was dead.
Well did one say of his friend, “Thou half of my soul,” for I felt
that my soul and his soul were but one soul in two bodies; and,
consequently, my life was a horror to me, because I would not live
in half. And therefore, perchance, was I afraid to die. lest he
should die wholly whom I had so greatly loved.


12. O madness, which knowest not how to love men as men should be
loved! O foolish man that I then was, enduring with so much
impatience the lot of man So I fretted, sighed, wept, tormented
myself, and took neither rest nor advice. For I bore about with me a
rent and polluted soul, impatient of being borne by me, and where to
repose it I found not. Not
in pleasant groves, not in sport or song, not in fragrant spots, nor
in magnificent banquetings, nor in the pleasures of the bed and the
couch, nor, finally, in books and songs did it find repose. All
things looked terrible, even the very light itself; and whatsoever
was not what he was, was repulsive and hateful, except groans and
tears, for in those alone found I a little repose. But when my soul
was withdrawn from them, a heavy burden of misery weighed me down.
To Thee, O Lord, should it have been raised, for Thee to lighten and
avert it. This I knew, but was neither willing nor able; all the
more since, in my thoughts of Thee, Thou wert not any solid or
substantial thing to me. For Thou wert not Thyself, but an empty
phantasm and my error was my god. If I attempted to discharge my
burden thereon, that it might find rest, it sank into emptiness, and
came rushing down again upon me, and I remained to myself an unhappy
spot, where I could neither stay nor depart from. For whither could
my heart fly from my heart? Whither could I fly from mine own self?
Whither not follow myself? And yet fled I from my country; for so
should my eyes look less for him where they were not accustomed to
see him. And thus I left the town of Thagaste, and came to Carthage.


13. Times lose no time, nor do they idly roll through our senses.
They work strange operations on the mind? Behold, they came and went
from day to day, and by coming and going they disseminated in my
mind other ideas and other remembrances, and by little and little
patched me up again with the former kind of delights, unto which
that sorrow of mine yielded. But yet there succeeded, not certainly
other sorrows, yet the causes of other sorrows. For whence had that
former sorrow so easily penetrated to the quick, but that I had
poured out my soul upon the dust, in loving one who must die as if
he were never to die? But what revived and refreshed me especially
was the consolations of other friends,s with whom I did love what
instead of Thee I loved. And this was a monstrous fable and
protracted lie, by whose adulterous contact our soul, which lay
itching in our ears, was being polluted. But that fable would not
die to me so oft as any of my friends died. There were other things
in them which did more lay hold of my mind, — to discourse and jest
with them; to indulge in an interchange of kindnesses; to read
together pleasant books; together to trifle, and together to be
earnest; to differ at times without ill-humour, as a man would do
with his own self; and even by the infrequency of these differences
to give zest to our more frequent consentings; sometimes teaching,
sometimes being taught; longing for the absent with impatience, and
welcoming the coming with joy. These and similar expressions,
emanating from the hearts of those who loved and were beloved in
return, by the countenance, the tongue, the!eyes, and a thousand
pleasing movements, were! so much fuel to melt our souls together,
and out of many to make but one.


14. This is it that is loved in friends; and so loved that a
man’s conscience accuses itself if he love not him by whom he is
beloved, or love not again him that loves him, expecting nothing
from him but indications of his love. Hence that mourning if one
die, and gloom of sorrow, that steeping of the heart in tears, all
sweetness turned into bitterness, and upon the loss of the life of
the dying, the death of the living. Blessed be he who loveth Thee,
and his friend in Thee, and his enemy for Thy sake. For he alone
loses none dear to him to whom all are dear in Him who cannot be
lost. And who is this but our God, the God that created heaven and
earth, and filleth them, because by filling them He created them?
None loseth Thee but he who leaveth Thee. And he who leaveth Thee,
whither goeth he, or whither fleeth he, but from Thee well pleased
to Thee angry? For where doth not he find Thy law in his own
punishment? “And Thy law is the truth,” and truth Thou?


15. “Turn us again, O Lord God of Hosts,
cause Thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.” For whithersoever
the soul of man turns itself, unless towards Thee, it is affixed to
sorrows, yea, though it is affixed to beauteous things without Thee
and without itself. And yet they were not unless they were from
Thee. They rise and set; and by rising, they begin as it were to be;
and they grow, that they may become perfect; and when perfect, they
wax old and perish; and all wax not old, but all perish. Therefore
when they rise and tend to be, the more rapidly they grow that they
may be, so much the more they hasten not to be. This is the way of
them. Thus much hast Thou given them, because they are parts of
things, which exist not all at the same time, but by departing and
succeeding they together make up the universe, of which they are
parts. And even thus is our speech accomplished by signs emitting a
sound; but this, again, is not perfected unless one word pass away
when it has sounded its part, in order that another may succeed it.
Let my soul praise Thee out of all these things, O God, the Creator
of all; but let not my soul be affixed to these things by the glue
of love, through the senses of the body. For they go whither they
were to go, that they might no longer be; and they rend her with
pestilent desires, because she longs to be, and yet loves to rest in
what she loves. But in these things no place is to be found; they
stay not — they flee; and who is he that is able to follow them
with the senses of the flesh? Or who can grasp them, even when they
are near? For tardy is the sense of the flesh, because it is the
sense of the flesh, and its boundary is itself. It sufficeth for
that for which it was made, but it is not sufficient to stay things
running their course from their appointed starting-place to the end
appointed. For in Thy word, by which they were created, they hear
the fiat, “Hence and hitherto.”


16. Be not foolish, O my soul, and deaden not the ear of thine
heart with the tumult of thy fully. Hearken thou also. The word
itself invokes thee to return; and there is the place of rest
imperturbable, where love is not abandoned if itself abandoneth not.
Behold, these things pass away, that others may succeed them, and so
this lower universe be made complete in all its parts. But do I
depart anywhere, saith the word of God? There fix thy habitation.
There commit whatsoever thou hast thence, O my soul; at all events
now thou art tired out with deceits. Commit to truth whatsoever thou
hast from the truth, and nothing shall thou lose; and thy decay
shall flourish again, and all thy diseases be healed, and thy
perishable parts shall be reformed and renovated, and drawn together
to thee; nor shall they put thee down where themselves descend, but
they shall abide with thee, and continue for ever before God, who
abideth and continueth for ever?

17. Why, then, be perverse and follow thy flesh? Rather let it be
converted and follow thee. Whatever by her thou feelest, is but in
part; and the whole, of which these are portions, thou art ignorant
of, and yet they delight thee. But had the sense of thy flesh been
capable of comprehending the whole, and not itself also, for thy
punishment, been justly limited to a portion of the whole, thou
wouldest that whatsoever existeth at the present time should pass
away, that so the whole might please thee more. For what we speak,
also by the same sense of the flesh thou hearest; and yet wouldest
not thou that the syllables should stay, but fly away, that others
may come, and the whole be heard. Thus it is always, when any
single thing is composed of many, all of which exist not together,
all together would delight more than they do simply could all be
perceived at once. But far better than these is He who made all; and
He is our God, and He passeth not away, for there is nothing to
succeed Him. If bodies please thee, praise God for them, and turn
back thy love upon their Creator, lest in those things which please
thee thou displease.


18. If souls please thee, let them be loved in God; for they also
are mutable, but in Him are they firmly established, else would they pass, and pass away. In
Him, then, let them be beloved; and draw unto Him along with thee as
many souls as thou canst, and say to them, “Him let us love, Him let
us love; He created these, nor is He far off. For He did not create
them, and then depart; but they are of Him, and in Him. Behold,
there is He wherever truth is known. He is within the very heart,
but yet hath the heart wandered from Him. Return to your heart, O
ye transgressors, and cleave fast unto Him that made you. Stand
with Him, and you shall stand fast. Rest in Him, and you shall be at
rest. Whither go ye in rugged paths? Whither go ye? The good that
you love is from Him; and as it has respect unto Him it is both good
and pleasant, and justly shall it be embittered,s because whatsoever
cometh from Him is unjustly loved if He be forsaken for it. Why,
then, will ye wander farther and farther in these difficult and
toilsome ways? There is no rest where ye seek it. Seek what ye seek;
but it is not there where ye seek. Ye seek a blessed life in the
land of death; it is not there. For could a blessed life be where
life itself is not?”

19. But our very Life descended hither, and bore our death, and
slew it, out of the abundance of His own life; and thundering He
called loudly to us to return hence to Him into that secret place
whence He came forth to us — first into the Virgin’s womb, where
the human creature was married to Him, — our mortal flesh, that it
might not be for ever mortal, — and thence “as a bridegroom coming
out of his chamber, rejoicing as a strong man to run a race.” For
He tarried not, but ran crying out by words, deeds, death, life,
descent, ascension, crying aloud to us to return to Him. And He
departed from our sight, that we might return to our heart, and
there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here. He would
not be long with us, yet left us not; for He departed thither,
whence He never departed, because “the world was made by Him.” And
in this world He was, and into this world He came to save sinners,
unto whom my soul doth confess, that He may heal it, for it hath
sinned against Him. O ye sons of men, how long so slow of heart?
Even now, after the Life is descended to you, will ye not ascend and
live? But whither ascend ye, when ye are on high, and set your
mouth against the heavens? Descend that ye may ascend,n and ascend
to God. For ye have fallen by” ascending against Him.” Tell them
this, that they may weep in the valley of tears, and so draw them
with thee to God, because it is by His Spirit that thou speakest
thus unto them, if thou speakest burning with the fire of love.


20. These things I knew not at that time, and I loved these lower
beauties, and I was sinking to the very depths; and I said to my
friends, “Do we love anything but the beautiful? What, then, is the
beautiful? And what is beauty? What is it that allures and unites us
to the things we love; for unless there were a grace and beauty in
them, they could by no means attract us to them?” And I marked and
perceived that in bodies themselves there was a beauty from their
forming a kind of whole, and another from mutual fitness, as one
part of the body with its whole, or a shoe with a foot, and so on.
And this consideration sprang up in my mind out of the recesses of
my heart, and I wrote books (two or three, I think) “on the fair and
fit.” Thou knowest, O Lord, for it has escaped me; for I have them
not, but they have strayed from me, I know not how.


21. But what was it that prompted me, O Lord my God, to dedicate
these books to Hierius, an orator of Rome, whom I knew not by
sight, but loved the man for the fame of his learning, for which he
was renowned, and some words of his which I had heard, and which had
pleased me?

But the more did he please me in that he pleased others, who
highly extolled him, astonished that a native of Syria, instructed
first in Greek eloquence, should afterwards become a wonderful Latin
orator, and one so well versed in studies pertaining unto wisdom.
Thus a man is commended and loved when absent.

Doth this love enter into the heart of the hearer from the mouth
of the commender? Not so. But through one who loveth is another
inflamed. For hence he is loved who is commended when the commender
is believed to praise him with an unfeigned heart; that is, when he that loves him praises him.

22. Thus, then, loved I men upon the judgment of men, not upon
Thine, O my God, in which no man is deceived. But yet why not as the
renowned charioteer, as the huntsman? known far and wide by a
vulgar popularity — but far otherwise, and seriously, and so as I
would desire to be myself commended?

For I would not that they should commend and love me as actors
are, – although I myself did commend and love them, — but I would
prefer being unknown than so known, and even being hated than so
loved. Where now are these influences of such various and divers
kinds of loves distributed in one soul?

What is it that I am in love with in another, which, if I did not
hate, I should not detest and repel from myself, seeing we are equally men?
For it does not follow that because a good horse is loved by him who
would not, though he might, be that horse, the same should therefore
be affirmed by an actor, who partakes of our nature. Do I then love
in a man that which I, who am a man, hate to be? Man himself is a
great deep, whose very hairs Thou numberest, O Lord, and they fall
not to the ground without Thee? And yet are the hairs of his head
more readily numbered than are his affections and the movements of
his heart.

23. But that orator was of the kind that I so loved as I wished
myself to be such a one; and I erred through an inflated pride, and
was “carried about with every wind,” but yet was piloted by Thee,
though very secretly. And whence know I, and whence confidently
confess I unto Thee that I loved him more because of the love of
those who praised him, than for the very things for which they
praised him? Because had he been upraised, and these self-same men
had dispraised him, and with dispraise and scorn told the same
things of him, I should never have been so inflamed and provoked to
love him. And yet the things had not been different, nor he himself
different, but only the affections of the narrators. See where lieth
the impotent soul that is not yet sustained by the solidity of
truth! Just as the blasts of tongues blow from the breasts of
conjecturers, so is it tossed this way and that, driven forward and
backward, and the light is obscured to it and the truth not
perceived. And behold it is before us. And to me it was a great
matter that my style and studies should be known to that man; the
which if he approved, I were the more stimulated, but if he
disapproved, this vain heart of mine, void of Thy solidity, had been
offended. And yet that “fair and fit,” about which wrote to him, I
reflected on with pleasure, and contemplated it, and admired it,
though none joined me in doing so.


24. But not yet did I perceive the hinge on which this impotent
matter turned in Thy wisdom, O Thou Omnipotent, “who alone doest
great wonders;” and my mind ranged through corporeal forms, and I
defined and distinguished as “fair,” that which is so in itself, and
“fit,” that which is beautiful as it corresponds to some other
thing; and this I supported by corporeal examples. And I turned my
attention to the nature of the mind, but the false opinions which I
entertained of spiritual things prevented me from seeing the truth.
Yet the very power of truth forced itself on my gaze, and I turned
away my throbbing soul from incorporeal substance, to lineaments,
and colours, and bulky magnitudes. And not being able to perceive
these in the mind, I thought I could not perceive my mind. And
whereas in virtue I loved peace, and in viciousness I hated discord,
in the former I distinguished unity, but in the latter a kind of
division. And in that unity I conceived the rational soul and the
nature of truth and of the chief good to consist. But
in this division I, unfortunate one, imagined there was I know not
what substance of irrational life, and the nature of the chief evil,
which should not be a substance only, but real life also, and yet
not emanating from Thee, O my God, from whom are all things. And yet
the first I called a Monad, as if it had been a soul without sex,
but the other a Duad, — anger in deeds of violence, in deeds of
passion, lust, — not knowing of what I talked. For I had not known
or learned that neither was evil a substance, nor our soul that
chief and unchangeable good.

25. For even as it is in the case of deeds of violence, if that
emotion of the soul from whence the stimulus comes be depraved, and
carry itself insolently and mutinously; and in acts of passion, if
that affection of the soul whereby carnal pleasures are imbibed is
unrestrained, — so do errors and false opinions contaminate the
life, if the reasonable soul itself be depraved, as it was at that
time in me, who was ignorant that it must be enlightened by another
light that it may be partaker of truth, seeing that itself is not
that nature of truth. “For Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord my
God will enlighten my darkness; and “of His fulness have all we
received,” for “that was the true Light which lighted every man
that cometh into the world;” for in Thee there is “no variableness,
neither shadow of turning.”

26. But I pressed towards Thee, and was repelled by Thee that I
might taste of death, for Thou “resistest the proud.” But what
prouder than for me, with a marvellous madness, to assert myself to
be that by nature which Thou art? For whereas I was mutable, — so
much being clear to me, for my very longing to become wise arose
from the wish from worse to become better, — yet chose I rather to
think Thee mutable, than myself not to be that which Thou art.
Therefore was I repelled by Thee, and Thou resistedst my changeable
stiffneckedness; and I imagined corporeal forms, and, being flesh, I
accused flesh, and, being “a wind that passeth away,” I returned
not to Thee, but went wandering and wandering on towards those
things that have no being, neither in Thee, nor in me, nor in the
body. Neither were they created for me by Thy truth, but conceived
by my vain conceit out of corporeal things. And I used to ask Thy
faithful little ones, my fellow-citizens, — from whom I
unconsciously stood exiled, — I used flippantly and foolishly to
ask, “Why, then, doth the soul which God created err?” But I would
not permit any one to ask me, “Why, then, doth God err?” And I
contended that Thy immutable substance erred of constraint, rather
than admit that my mutable substance had gone astray of free will,
and erred as a punishment?

27. I was about six or seven and twenty years of age when I wrote
those volumes — meditating upon corporeal fictions, which clamoured
in the ears of my heart. These I directed, O sweet

  Truth, to Thy inward melody, pondering on the “fair and fit,” and
longing to stay and listen to Thee, and to rejoice greatly at the
Bridegroom’s voice, and I could not; for by the voices of my own
errors was I driven forth, and by the weight of my own pride was I
sinking into the lowest pit. For Thou didst not “make me to hear joy
and gladness;” nor did the bones which were not yet humbled rejoice?


28. And what did it profit me that, when scarce twenty years old,
a book of Aristotle’s, entitled The Ten Predicaments, fell into my
hands, — on whose very name I hung as on something great and
divine, when my rhetoric master of Carthage, and others who were
esteemed learned, referred to it with cheeks swelling with pride, –
I read it alone and understood it? And on my conferring with others,
who said that with the assistance of very able masters — who not
only explained it orally, but drew many things in the dust — they
scarcely understood it, and could tell me no more about it than I
had acquired in reading it by myself alone? And the book appeared to
me to speak plainly enough of substances, such as man is, and of
their qualities, — such as the figure of a man, of what kind it is;
and his stature, how many feet high; and his relationship, whose
brother he is; or where placed, or when born; or whether he stands
or sits, or is shod or armed, or does or suffers anything; and
whatever innumerable things might be classed under these nine

  — of which I have given some examples,– or under that chief
category of substance.

29. What did all this profit me, seeing it even hindered me,
when, imagining that whatsoever existed was comprehended in those
ten categories, I tried so to understand, O my God, Thy wonderful
and unchangeable unity as if Thou also hadst been subjected to Thine
own greatness or beauty, so that they should exist in Thee as their
subject, like as in bodies, whereas Thou Thyself art Thy greatness
and beauty? But a body is not great or fair because it is a body,
seeing that, though it were less great or fair, it should
nevertheless be a body. But that which I had conceived of Thee was
falsehood, not truth, — fictions of my misery, not the supports of
Thy blessedness. For Thou hadst commanded, and it was done in me,
that the earth should bring forth briars and thorns to me, and that
with labour I should get my bread.

30. And what did it profit me that I, the base slave of vile
affections, read unaided, and understood, all the books that I could
get of the so-called liberal arts? And I took delight in them, but
knew not whence came whatever in them was true and certain. For my
back then was to the light, and my face towards the things
enlightened; whence my face, with which I discerned the things
enlightened, was not itself enlightened. Whatever was written either
on rhetoric or logic, geometry, music, or arithmetic, did I, without
any great difficulty, and without the teaching of any man,
understand, as Thou knowest, O Lord my God, because both quickness
of comprehension and acuteness of perception are Thy gifts. Yet did
I not thereupon sacrifice to Thee. So, then, it served not to my
use, but rather to my destruction, since I went about to get so good
a portion of my substance into my own power; and I kept not my
strength for Thee, but went away from Thee into a far country, to
waste it upon harlotries. For what did good abilities profit me, if
I did not employ them to good uses? For I did not perceive that
those arts were acquired with great difficulty, even by the studious
and those gifted with genius, until I endeavoured to explain them to
such; and he was the most proficient in them who followed my
explanations not too slowly.

31. But what did this profit me, supposing that Thou, O Lord God,
the Truth, wert a bright and vast body, and I a piece of that
body? Perverseness too great! But such was I. Nor do I blush, O my
God, to confess to Thee Thy mercies towards me, and to call upon
Thee — I, who blushed not then to avow before men my blasphemies,
and to bark against Thee. What profited me then my nimble wit in
those sciences and all those knotty volumes, disentangled by me
without help from a human master, seeing that I erred so odiously,
and with such sacrilegious baseness, in the doctrine of piety? Or
what impediment was it to Thy
little ones to have a far slower wit, seeing that they departed not
far from Thee, that in the nest of Thy Church they might safely
become fledged, and nourish the wings of charity by the food of a
sound faith? O Lord our God, under the shadow of Thy wings let us
hope, defend us, and carry us. Thou wilt carry us both when little,
and even to grey hairs wilt Thou carry us; for our firmness, when
it is Thou, then is it firmness; but when it is our own, then it is
infirmity. Our good lives always with Thee, from which when we are
averted we are perverted. Let us now, O Lord, return, that we be not
overturned, because with Thee our good lives without any eclipse,
which good Thou Thyself art. And we need not fear lest we should
find no place unto which to return because we fell away from it; for
when we were absent, our home — Thy Eternity — fell not.

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