St. Augustine of Hippo- Confessions BOOK XI
AUTHOR: Augustine
PUBLISHED ON: March 27, 2003

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

St. Augustine of Hippo




eternity is Thine, art Thou ignorant of the things which I say
unto Thee? Or seest Thou at the time that which cometh to pass in
time? Why, therefore, do I place before Thee so many relations of
things? Not surely that Thou mightest know them through me, but that
I may awaken my own love and that of my readers towards Thee, that
we may all say, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” t I
have already said, and shall say, for the love of Thy love do I
this. For we also pray, and yet Truth says, “Your Father knoweth
what things ye have need of before ye ask Him.. Therefore do we
make known unto Thee our love, in confessing unto Thee our own
miseries and Thy mercies upon us, that Thou mayest free us
altogether, since Thou hast begun, that we may cease to be wretched
in ourselves, and that we may be blessed in Thee; since Thou hast
called us, that we may be poor in spirit, and meek, and mourners,
and hungering and athirst after righteousness, and merciful, and
pure in heart, and peacemakers? Behold, I have told unto Thee many
things, which I could and which I would, for Thou first wouldest that I should
confess unto Thee, the Lord my God, for Thou art good, since Thy
“mercy endureth for ever.”


2. But when shall I suffice with the tongue of my pen to express all
Thy exhortations, and all Thy terrors, and comforts, and guidances,
whereby Thou hast led me to preach Thy Word and to dispense Thy
Sacramen. unto Thy people? And if I suffice to utter these things
in order, the drop. of time are dear to me. Long time have I burned
to meditate in Thy law, and in it to confess to Thee my knowledge
and ignorance, the beginning of Thine enlightening, and the remains
of thy darkness, until infirmity be swallowed up by strength. And I
would not that to aught else those hours should flow away, which I
find free from the necessities of refreshing my body, and the care
of my mind, and of the service which we owe to men, and which,
though we owe not, even yet we pay.’

3. O Lord my God, hear my prayer, and let Thy mercy regard my
longing, since it bums not for myself alone, but because it desires
to benefit brotherly charity; and Thou seest into my heart, that so
it is. I would sacrifice to Thee the service of my thought and
tongue; and do Thou give what I may offer unto Thee. For “I am poor
and needy,’ Thou rich unto all that call upon Thee? who free from
care carest for us. Circumcise from all rashness and
from all lying my inward and outward lips. Let Thy Scriptures be my
chaste delights. Neither let me be deceived in them, nor deceive out
of them. Lord, hear and pity, 0 Lord my God, light of the blind,
and strength of the weak; even also light of those that see, and
strength of the strong, hearken unto my soul, and hear it crying
“out of the depths.’ a For unless Thine ears be present in the
depths also, whither shall we go? whither shall we cry? “The day is
Thine, and the night also is Thine.. At Thy nod the moments flee
by. Grant thereof space for our meditations amongst the hidden
things of Thy law, nor close it against us who knock. For not in
vain hast Thou willed that the obscure secret of so many pages
should be written. Nor is it that those forests have not their
harts. betaking themselves therein, and ranging, and walking, and
feeding, lying down, and ruminating. Perfect me, O Lord, and reveal
them unto me. Behold, Thy voice is my joy, Thy voice surpasseth the
abundance of pleasures. Give that which I love, for I do love; and
this hast Thou given. Abandon not Thine own gifts, nor despise Thy
grass that thirsteth. Let me confess unto Thee whatsoever I shall
have found in Thy books, and let me hear the voice of praise, and
let me imbibe Thee, and reflect on the wonderful things of Thy law;
even from the beginning, wherein Thou madest the heaven and the
earth, unto the everlasting kingdom of Thy holy city that is with

4. Lord, have mercy on me and hear my desire. For I think that it
is not of the earth, nor of gold and silver, and precious stones,
nor gorgeous apparel, nor honours and powers, nor the pleasures of
the flesh, nor necessaries for the body, and this life of our
pilgrimage all which are added to those that seek Thy kingdom and
Thy righteousness. Behold, O Lord my God, whence is my desire. The
unrighteous have told me of delights, but not such as Thy law, O
Lord.s Behold whence is my desire. Behold, Father, look and see, and
approve; and let it be pleasing in the sight of Thy mercy, that I
may find grace before Thee, that the secret things of Thy Word may
be opened unto me when I knock? I beseech, by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Thy Son, “the Man of Thy right hand, the Son of man, whom Thou
madest strong for Thyself, as Thy Mediator and ours, through whom
Thou hast sought us, although not seeking Thee, but didst seek us
that we might seek Thee,–Thy Word through whom Thou hast made all
things, and amongst them me also,Thy Only-begotten, through whom
Thou hast called to adoption the believing people, and therein me
also. I beseech Thee through Him, who sitteth at Thy right hand, and
“maketh intercession for us,”. “in whom are hid all treasures of
wisdom and knowledge.”  Him. do I seek in Thy books. Of Him did
Moses write;  this saith Himself; this saith the Truth.


5. Let me hear and understand how in the beginning Thou didst
make the heaven and the earth.. Moses wrote this; he wrote and
departed,–passed hence from Thee to Thee. Nor now is he before me;
for if he were I would hold him, and ask him, and would adjure him
by Thee that he would open unto me these things, and I would lend
the ears of my body to the sounds bursting forth from his mouth. And
should he speak in the Hebrew tongue, in vain would it beat on my
senses, nor would aught touch my mind; but if in Latin, I should
know what he said. But whence should I know whether he said what was
true? But if I knew this even, should I know it from him? Verily
within me, within in the chamber of my thought,

Truth, neither Hebrew, nor Greek, nor Latin, nor barbarian,
without the organs of voice and tongue, without the sound of
syllables, would say, “He speaks the truth,” and I, forthwith
assured of it, confidently would say unto that man of Thine, “Thou
speakest the truth.” As, then, I cannot inquire of him, I beseech
Thee, — Thee, O Truth, full of whom he spake truth, — Thee, my
God, I beseech, forgive my sins; and do Thou, who didst give to that Thy
servant to speak these things, grant to me also to understand them.


6. Behold, the heaven and earth are; they proclaim that they were
made, for they are changed and varied. Whereas whatsoever hath not
been made, and yet hath being, hath nothing in it which there was
not before; this is what it is to be changed and varied. They also
proclaim that they made not themselves; “therefore we are, because
we have been made; we were not therefore before we were, so that we
could have made ourselves.” And the voice of those that speak is in
itself an evidence. Thou, therefore, Lord, didst make these things;
Thou who art beautiful, for they are beautiful; Thou who art good,
for they are good; Thou who art, for they are. Nor even so are they
beautiful, nor good, nor are they, as Thou their Creator art;
compared with whom they are neither beautiful, nor good, nor are at
all. These things we know, thanks be to Thee. And our knowledge,
compared with Thy knowledge, is ignorance.


7. But how didst Thou make the heaven and the earth, and what was
the instrument of Thy so mighty work? For it was not as a human
worker fashioning body from body, according to the fancy of his
mind, in somewise able to assign a form which it perceives in itself
by its inner eye. And whence should he be able to do this, hadst not
Thou made that mind? And he assigns to it already existing, and as
it were having a being, a form, as clay, or stone, or wood, or gold,
or such like. And whence should these things be, hadst not Thou
appointed them? Thou didst make for the workman his body, — Thou
the mind commanding the limbs, — Thou the matter whereof he makes
anything, — Thou the capacity whereby he may apprehend his art, and
see within what he may do without, — Thou the sense of his body, by
which, as by an interpreter, he may from mind unto matter convey
that which he doeth, and report to his mind what may have been done,
that it within may consult the truth, presiding over itself, whether
it be well done. All these things praise Thee, the Creator of all.
But how dost Thou make them? How, O God, didst Thou make heaven and
earth? Truly, neither in the heaven nor in the earth didst Thou make
heaven and earth; nor in the air, nor in the waters, since these
also belong to the heaven and the earth; nor in the whole world
didst Thou make the whole world; because there was no place wherein
it could be made before it was made, that it might be; nor didst
Thou hold anything in Thy hand wherewith to make heaven and earth.
For whence couldest Thou have what Thou hadst not made, whereof to
make anything? For what is, save because Thou art? Therefore Thou
didst speak and they were made, and in Thy Word Thou madest these


8. But how didst Thou speak? Was it in that manner in which the
voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son”? For
that voice was uttered and passed away, began and ended. The
syllables sounded and passed by, the second after the first, the
third after the second, and thence in order, until the last after
the rest, and silence after the last. Hence it is clear and plain
that the motion of a creature expressed it, itself temporal, obeying
Thy Eternal will. And these thy words formed at the time, the outer
ear conveyed to the intel
ligent mind, whose inner ear lay attentive to Thy eternal word. But
it compared these words sounding in time with Thy eternal word in
silence, and said, “It is different, very different. These words are
far beneath me, nor are they, since they flee and pass away; but the
Word of my Lord remaineth above me for ever.” If, then, in sounding
and fleeting words Thou didst say that heaven and earth should be
made, and didst thus make heaven and earth, there was already a
corporeal creature before heaven and earth by whose temporal motions
that voice might take its course in time. But there was nothing
corporeal before heaven and earth; or if there were, certainly Thou
without a transitory voice hadst created that whence Thou wouldest
make the passing voice, by which to say that the heaven and the
earth should be made. For whatsoever that were of which such a voice
was made, unless it were made by Thee, it could not be at all. By
what word of Thine was it decreed that a body might be made, whereby
these words might be made?


9. Thou callest us, therefore, to understand the Word, God with
Thee, God, which is spoken eternally, and by it are all things
spoken eternally. For what was spoken was not finished, and another
spoken until all were spoken; but all things at once and for ever.
For otherwise have we time and change, and not a true eternity, nor
a true immortality. This I know, O my God, and give thanks. I know,
I confess to Thee, O Lord, and whosoever is not unthankful to
certain truth, knows and blesses Thee with me. We know, O Lord, we
know; since in proportion as anything is not what it was, and is
what it was not, in that proportion does it die and arise. Not
anything, therefore, of Thy Word giveth place and cometh into place
again, because it is truly immortal and eternal. And, therefore,
unto the Word co-eternal with Thee, Thou dost at once and for ever
say all that Thou dost say; and whatever Thou sayest shall be made,
is made; nor dost Thou make otherwise than by speaking; yet all
things are not made both together and everlasting which Thou makest
by speaking.


10. Why is this, I beseech Thee, O Lord my God? I see it,
however; but how I shall express it, I know not, unless that
everything which begins to be and ceases to be, then begins and
ceases when in Thy eternal Reason it is known that it ought to begin
or cease where nothing beginneth or ceaseth. The same is Thy Word,
which is also “the Beginning,” because also It speaketh unto us.
Thus, in the gospel He speaketh through the flesh; and this sounded
outwardly in the ears of men, that it might be believed and sought
inwardly, and that it might be found in the eternal Truth, where the
good and only Master teacheth all His disciples. There, O Lord, I
hear Thy voice, the voice of one speaking unto me, since He speaketh
unto us who teacheth us. But He that teachth us not, although He
speaketh, speaketh not to us. Moreover, who teacheth us, unless it
be the immutable Truth? For even when we are admonished through a
changeable creature, we are led to the Truth immutable. There we
learn truly while we stand and hear Him, and rejoice greatly
“because of the Bridegroom’s voice,” restoring us to that whence we
are. And, therefore, the Beginning, because unless It remained,
there would not, where we strayed, be whither to return. But when we
return from error, it is by knowing that we return. But that we may
know, He teacheth us, because He is the Beginning and speaketh unto


11. In this Beginning, O God, hast Thou made heaven and earth, –
in Thy Word, in Thy Son, in Thy Power, in Thy Wisdom, in Thy Truth,
wondrously speaking and wondrously making. Who shall comprehend? who
shall relate it? What is that which shines through me, and strikes
my heart without injury, and I both shudder and burn? I shudder
inasmuch as I am unlike it; and I burn inasmuch as I am like it. It
is Wisdom itself that shines through me, clearing my cloudiness,
which again overwhelms me, fainting from it, in the darkness and
amount of my punishment. For my strength is brought down in need, so
that I cannot endure my blessings, until Thou, O Lord, who hast
been gracious to all mine iniquities, heal also all mine
infirmities; because Thou shalt also redeem my life from corruption,
and crown me with Thy loving-kindness and mercy, and shalt satisfy
my desire with good things, because my youth shall be renewed like
the eagle’s. For by hope we are saved; and through patience we await
Thy promises. Let him that is able hear Thee discoursing within. I
will with confidence cry out from Thy oracle, How wonderful are Thy
works, O Lord, in Wisdom hast Thou made them all. And this Wisdom is
the Beginning, and in that Beginning hast Thou made heaven and


12. Lo, are they not full of their ancient way, who say to us,
“What was God doing before He made heaven and earth? For if,” say
they, “He were unoccupied, and did nothing, why does He not for ever
also, and from henceforth, cease from working, as in times past He
did? For if any new motion has arisen in God, and a new will, to
form a creature which He had never before formed, however can that
be a true eternity where there ariseth a will which was not before?
For the will of God is not a creature, but before the creature;
because nothing could be created unless the will of the Creator were
before it. The will of God, therefore, pertaineth to His very
Substance. But if anything hath arisen in the Substance of God which
was not before, that Substance is not truly called eternal. But if
it was the eternal will of God that the creature should be, why was
not the creature also from eternity?”


13. Those who say these things do not as yet understand Thee, O
Thou Wisdom of God, Thou light of souls; not as yet do they
understand how these things be made which are made by and in Thee.
They even endeavour to comprehend things eternal; but as yet their
heart flieth about in the past and future motions of things, and is
still wavering. Who shall hold it and fix it, that it may rest a
little, and by degrees catch the glory of that everstanding
eternity, and compare it with the times which never stand, and see
that it is incomparable; and that a long time cannot become long,
save from the many motions that pass by, which cannot at the same
instant be prolonged; but that in the Eternal nothing passeth away,
but that the whole is present; but no time is wholly present; and
let him see that all time past is forced on by the future, and that
all the future followeth from the past, and that all, both past and
future, is created and issues from that which is always present? Who
will hold the heart of man, that it may stand still, and see how the
still-standing eternity, itself neither future nor past, uttereth
the times future and past? Can my hand accomplish this, or the hand
of my mouth by persuasion bring about a thing so great?


14. Behold, I answer to him who asks, “What was God doing before
He made heaven and earth?” I answer not, as a certain person is
reported to have done facetiously (avoiding the pressure of the
question), “He was preparing hell,” saith he, “for those who pry
into mysteries.” It is one thing to perceive, another to laugh, –
these things I answer not. For more willingly would I have answered,
“I know not what I know not,” than that I should make him a
laughing-stock who asketh deep things, and gain praise as one who
answereth false things. But I say that Thou, our God, art the
Creator of every creature; and if by the term “heaven and earth”
every creature is understood, I boldly say, “That before God made
heaven and earth, He made not anything. For if He did, what did He
make unless the creature?” And would that I knew whatever I desire
to know to my advantage, as I know that no creature was made before
any creature was made.


15. But if the roving thought of any one should wander through
the images of bygone time, and wonder that Thou, the God Almighty,
and All-creating, and All-sustaining, the Architect of heaven and
earth, didst for innumerable ages refrain from so great a work
before Thou wouldst make it, let him awake and consider that he
wonders at false things. For whence could innumerable ages pass by
which Thou didst not make, since Thou art the Author and Creator of
all ages? Or what times should those be which were not made by Thee?
Or how should they pass by if they had not been? Since, therefore,
Thou art the Creator of all times, if any time was before Thou
madest heaven and earth, why is it said that Thou didst refrain from
working? For that very time Thou madest, nor could times pass by
before Thou madest times.

But if before heaven and earth there was no time, why is it
asked, What didst Thou then? For there was no “then” when time was

16. Nor dost Thou by time precede time; else wouldest not Thou
precede all times. But in the excellency of an ever-present
eternity, Thou precedest all times past, and survivest all future
times, because they are future, and when they have come they will be
past; but “Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end.” Thy
years neither go nor come; but ours both go and come, that all may
come. All Thy years stand at once since they do stand; nor were they
when departing excluded by coming years, because they pass not away;
but all these of ours shall be when all shall cease to be. Thy years
are one day, and Thy day is not daily, but today; because Thy today
yields not with tomorrow, for neither doth it follow yesterday. Thy
today is eternity; therefore didst Thou beget the Co-eternal, to
whom Thou saidst, “This day have I begotten Thee.” Thou hast made
all time; and before all times Thou art, nor in any time was there
not time.


17. At no time, therefore, hadst Thou not made anything, because
Thou hadst made time itself. And no times are co-eternal with Thee,
because Thou remainest for ever; but should these continue, they
would not be times. For what is time? Who can easily and briefly
explain it? Who even in thought can comprehend it, even to the
pronouncing of a word concerning it? But what in speaking do we
refer to more familiarly and knowingly than time? And certainly we
understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it
spoken of by another. What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I
know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not. Yet I say
with confidence, that I know that if nothing passed away, there
would not be past time; and if nothing were coming, there would not
be future time; and if nothing were, there would not be present
time. Those two times, therefore, past and future, how are they,
when even the past now is not; and the future is not as yet? But
should the present be always present, and should it not pass into
time past, time truly it could not be, but eternity. If, then, time
present — if it be time — only comes into existence because it
passes into time past, how do we say that even this is, whose cause
of being is that it shall not be — namely, so that we cannot truly
say that time is, unless because it tends not to be?


18. And yet we say that “time is long and time is short;” nor do
we speak of this save of time past and future. A long time past, for
example, we call a hundred years ago; in like manner a long time to
come, a hundred years hence. But a short time past we call, say, ten
days ago: and a short time to come, ten days hence. But in what
sense is that long or short which is not? For the past is not now,
and the future is not yet. Therefore let us not say, “It is long;”
but let us say of the past, “It hath been long,” and of the future,
“It will be long.” O my Lord, my light, shall not even here Thy
truth deride man? For that past time which was long, was it long
when it was already past, or when it was as yet present? For then it
might be long when there was that which could be long, but when past
it no longer was; wherefore that could not be long which was not at
all. Let us not, therefore, say, “Time past hath been long;” for we
shall not find what may have been long, seeing that since it was
past it is not; but let us say “that present time was long, because
when it was present it was long.” For it had not as yet passed away
so as not to be, and therefore there was that which could be long.
But after it passed, that ceased also to be long which ceased to be.

19. Let us therefore see, O human soul, whether present time can
be long; for to thee is it given to perceive and to measure periods
of time. What wilt thou reply to me? Is a hundred years when present
a long time? See, first, whether a hundred years can be present. For
if the first year of these is current, that is present, but the
other ninety and nine are future, and therefore they are not as yet.
But if the second year is current, one is already past, the other
present, the rest future. And thus, if we fix on any middle year of
this hundred as present, those before it are past, those after it
are future; wherefore a hundred years cannot be present. See at
least whether that year itself which is current can be present. For
if its first month be current, the rest are future; if the second,
the first hath already passed, and the remainder are not yet.
Therefore neither is the year which is current as a whole present;
and if it is not present as a whole, then the year is not present.
For twelve months make the year, of which each individual month
which is current is itself present, but the rest are either past or
future. Although neither is that month which is current present, but
one day only: if the first, the rest being to come, if the last, the
rest being past; if any of the middle, then between past and future.

20. Behold, the present time, which alone we
found could be called long, is abridged to the space scarcely of one
day. But let us discuss even that, for there is not one day present
as a whole. For it is made up of four-and-twenty hours of night and
day, whereof the first hath the rest future, the last hath them
past, but any one of the intervening hath those before it past,
those after it future. And that one hour passeth away in fleeting
particles. Whatever of it hath flown away is past, whatever
remaineth is future. If any portion of time be conceived which
cannot now be divided into even the minutest particles of moments,
this only is that which may be called present; which, however, flies
so rapidly from future to past, that it cannot be extended by any
delay. For if it be extended, it is divided into the past and
future; but the present hath no space. Where, therefore, is the time
which we may call long? Is it nature? Indeed we do not say, “It is
long,” because it is not yet, so as to be long; but we say, “It will
be long.” When, then, will it be? For if even then, since as yet it
is future, it will not be long, because what may be long is not as
yet; but it shall be long, when from the future, which as yet is
not, it shall already have begun to be, and will have become
present, so that there could be that which may be long; then doth
the present time cry out in the words above that it cannot be long.


21. And yet, O Lord, we perceive intervals of times, and we
compare them with themselves, and we say some are longer, others
shorter. We even measure by how much shorter or longer this time may
be than that; and we answer, “That this is double or treble, while
that is but once, or only as much as that.” But we measure times
passing when we measure them by perceiving them; but past times,
which now are not, or future times, which as yet are not, who can
measure them? Unless, perchance, any one will dare to say, that that
can be measured which is not. When, therefore, time is passing, it
can be perceived and measured; but when it has passed, it cannot,
since it is not.


22. I ask, Father, I do not affirm. O my God, rule and guide me.
“Who is there who can say to me that there are not three times (as
we learned when boys, and as we have taught boys), the past,
present, and future, but only present, because these two are not? Or
are they also; but when from future it becometh present, cometh it
forth from some secret place, and when from the present it becometh
past, doth it retire into anything secret? For where have they, who
have foretold future things, seen these things, if as yet they are
not? For that which is not cannot be seen. And they who relate
things past could not relate them as true, did they not perceive
them in their mind. Which things, if they were not, they could in no
wise be discerned. There are therefore things both future and past.


23. Suffer me, O Lord, to seek further; O my Hope, let not my
purpose be confounded. For if there are times past and future, I
desire to know where they are. But if as yet I do not succeed, I
still know, wherever they are, that they are not there as future or
past, but as present. For if there also they be future, they are not
as yet there; if even there they be past, they are no longer there.
Wheresoever, therefore, they are, whatsoever they are, they are only
so as present. Although past things are related as true, they are
drawn out from the memory, — not the things themselves, which have
passed, but the words conceived from the images of the things which
they have formed in the mind as footprints in their passage through
the senses. My childhood, indeed, which no longer is, is in time
past, which now is not; but when I call to mind its image, and speak
of it, I behold it in the present, because it is as yet in my
memory. Whether there be a like cause of foretelling future things,
that of things which as yet are not the images may be perceived as
already existing, I confess, my God, I know not. This certainly I
know, that we generally think before on our future actions, and that
this premeditation is present; but that the action whereon we
premeditate is not yet, because it is future; which when we shall
have entered upon, and have begun to do that which we were
premeditating, then shall that action be, because then it is not
future, but present.

24. In whatever manner, therefore, this secret preconception of
future things may be, nothing can be seen, save what is. But what
now is is not future, but present. When, therefore, they say that
things future are seen, it is not themselves, which as yet are not
(that is, which are future); but their causes or their signs perhaps
are seen, the which already are. Therefore, to those already
beholding them, they are not future, but present, from which future
things conceived in the mind are foretold. Which conceptions again
now are, and they who foretell those things behold these conceptions
present before them. Let now so multitudinous a variety of things
afford me some example. I

behold daybreak; I foretell that the sun is about to rise. That
which I behold is present; what I foretell is future, — not that
the sun is future, which already is; but his rising, which is not
yet. Yet even its rising I could not predict unless I had an image
of it in my mind, as now I have while I speak. But that dawn which I
see in the sky is not the rising of the sun, although it may go
before it, nor that imagination in my mind; which two are seen as
present, that the other which is future may be foretold. Future
things, therefore, are not as yet; and if they are not as yet, they
are not. And if they are not, they cannot be seen at all; but they
can be foretold from things present which now are, and are seen.


25. Thou, therefore, Ruler of Thy creatures, what is the method
by which Thou teachest souls those things which are future? For Thou
hast taught Thy prophets. What is that way by which Thou, to whom
nothing is future, dost teach future things; or rather of future
things dost teach present? For what is not, of a certainty cannot be
taught. Too far is this way from my view; it is too mighty for me, I
cannot attain unto it; but by Thee I shall be enabled, when Thou
shalt have granted it, sweet light of my hidden eyes.


26. But what now is manifest and clear is, that neither are there
future nor past things. Nor is it fitly said, “There are three
times, past, present and future;” but perchance it might be fitly
said, “There are three times; a present of things past, a present of
things present, and a present of things future.” For these three do
somehow exist in the soul, and otherwise I see them not: present of
things past, memory; present of things present, sight; present of
things future, expectation. If of these things we are permitted to
speak, I see three times, and I grant there are three. It may also
be said, “There are three times, past, present and future,” as usage
falsely has it. See, I trouble not, nor gainsay, nor reprove;
provided always that which is said may be understood, that neither
the future, nor that which is past, now is. For there are but few
things which we speak properly, many things improperly; but what we
may wish to say is understood.


27. I have just now said, then, that we measure times as they
pass, that we may be able to say that this time is twice as much as
that one, or that this is only as much as that, and so of any other
of the parts of time which we are able to tell by measuring.
Wherefore, as I said, we measure times as they pass. And if any one
should ask me, “Whence dost thou know?” I can answer, “I know,
because we measure; nor can we measure things that are not; and
things past and future are not.” But how do we measure present time,
since it hath not space? It is measured while it passeth; but when
it shall have passed, it is not measured; for there will not be
aught that can be measured.

But whence, in what way, and whither doth it pass while it is
being measured?

Whence, but from the future? Which way, save through the present?
Whither, but into the past? From that, therefore, which as yet is
not, through that which hath no space, into that which now is not.
But what do we measure, unless time in some space? For we say not
single, and double, and triple, and equal, or in any other way in
which we speak of time, unless with respect to the spaces of times.
In what space, then, do we measure passing time? Is it in the
future, whence it passeth over? But what yet we measure not, is not.
Or is it in the present, by which it passeth? But no space, we do
not measure. Or in the past, whither it passeth? But that which is
not now, we measure not.


28. My soul yearns to know this most entangled enigma. Forbear to
shut up, O Lord my God, good Father, — through Christ I beseech
Thee, — forbear to shut up these things, both usual and hidden,
from my desire, that it may be hindered from penetrating them; but
let them dawn through Thy enlightening mercy, O Lord. Of whom shall
I inquire concerning these things? And to whom shall I with more
advantage confess my ignorance than to Thee, to whom these my
studies, so vehemently kindled towards Thy Scriptures, are not
troublesome? Give that which I love; for I do love, and this hast
Thou given me. Give, Father, who truly knowest to give good gifts
unto Thy children. Give, since I have undertaken to know, and
trouble is before me until Thou dost open it. Through Christ, I
beseech Thee, in His name, Holy of Holies, let no man interrupt me.
For I believed, and therefore do I speak. This is my hope; for this
do I live, that I may contemplate the delights of the Lord. Behold,
Thou hast made my days old, and they pass away, and
in what manner I know not. And we speak as to time and time, times
and times, — “How long is the time since he said this?” “How long
the time since he did this?” and, “How long the time since I saw
that?” and, “This syllable hath double the time of that single short
syllable.” These words we speak, and these we hear; and we are
understood, and we understand. They are most manifest and most
usual, and the same things again lie hid too deeply, and the
discovery of them is new.


29. I have heard from a learned man that the motions of the sun,
moon, and stars constituted time, and I assented not. For why should
not rather the motions of all bodies be time? What if the lights of
heaven should cease, and a potter’s wheel run round, would there be
no time by which we might measure those revolutions, and say either
that it turned with equal pauses, or, if it were moved at one time
more slowly, at another more quickly, that some revolutions were
longer, others less so? Or while we were saying this, should we not
also be speaking in time? Or should there in our words be some
syllables long, others short, but because those sounded in a longer
time, these in a shorter? God grant to men to see in a small thing
ideas common to things great and small. Both the stars and
luminaries of heaven are “for signs and for seasons, and for days
and years.” No doubt they are; but neither should I say that the
circuit of that wooden wheel was a day, nor yet should he say that
therefore there was no time.

30. I desire to know the power and nature of time, by which we
measure the motions of bodies, and say (for example) that this
motion is twice as long as that. For, I ask, since “day” declares
not the stay only of the sun upon the earth, according to which day
is one thing, night another, but also its entire circuit from east
even to east, — according to which we say, “So many days have
passed” (the nights being included when we say “so many days,” and
their spaces not counted apart), — since, then, the day is finished
by the motion of the sun, and by his circuit from east to east, I
ask, whether the motion itself is the day, or the period in which
that motion is completed, or both?

For if the first be the day, then would there be a day although
the sun should finish that course in so small a space of time as an
hour. If the second, then that would not be a day if from one
sunrise to another there were but so short a period as an hour, but
the sun must go round four-and-twenty times to complete a day. If
both, neither could that be called a day if the sun should run his
entire round in the space of an hour; nor that, if, while the sun
stood still, so much time should pass as the sun is accustomed to
accomplish his whole course in from morning to morning. I shall not
therefore now ask, what that is which is called day, but what time
is, by which we, measuring the circuit of the sun, should say that
it was accomplished in half the space of time it was wont, if it had
been completed in so small a space as twelve hours; and comparing
both times, we should call that single, this double time, although
the sun should run his course from east to east sometimes in that
single, sometimes in that double time. Let no man then tell me that
the motions of the heavenly bodies are times, because, when at the
prayer of one the sun stood still in order that he might achieve his
victorious battle, the sun stood still, but time went on. For in
such space of time as was sufficient was that battle fought and
ended. I see that time, then, is a certain extension. But do I see
it, or do I seem to see it? Thou, O Light and Truth, wilt show me.


31. Dost Thou command that I should assent, if any one should say
that time is “the motion of a body?” Thou dost not command me. For I
hear that no body is moved but in time. This Thou sayest; but that
the very motion of a body is time, I hear not; Thou sayest it not.
For when a body is moved, I by time measure how long it may be
moving from the time in which it began to be moved till it left off.
And if I saw not whence it began, and it continued to be moved, so
that I see not when it leaves off, I cannot measure unless,
perchance, from the time I began until I cease to see. But if I look
long, I only proclaim that the time is long, but not how long it may
be because when we say, “How long,” we speak by comparison, as,
“This is as long as that,” or, “This is double as long as that,” or
any other thing of the kind. But if we were able to note down the
distances of places whence and whither cometh the body
which is moved, or its parts, if it moved as in a wheel, we can say
in how much time the motion of the body or its part, from this place
unto that, was performed. Since, then, the motion of a body is one
thing, that by which we measure how long it is another, who cannot
see which of these is rather to be called time? For, although a body
be sometimes moved, sometimes stand still, we measure not its motion
only, but also its standing still, by time; and we say, “It stood
still as much as it moved;” or, “It stood still twice or thrice as
long as it moved;” and if any other space which our measuring hath
either determined or imagined, more or less, as we are accustomed to
say. Time, therefore, is not the motion of a body.


32. And I confess unto Thee, O Lord, that I am as yet ignorant as
to what time is, and again I confess unto Thee, O Lord, that I know
that I speak these things in time, and that I have already long
spoken of time, and that very “long” is not long save by the stay of
time. How, then, know I this, when I know not what time is? Or is
it, perchance, that I know not in what wise I may express what I
know? Alas for me, that I do not at least know the extent of my own
ignorance! Behold, O my God, before Thee I lie not. As I speak, so
is my heart. Thou shalt light my candle; Thou, O Lord my God, wilt
enlighten my darkness.


33. Doth not my soul pour out unto Thee truly in confession that
I do measure times? But do I thus measure, O my God, and know not
what I measure? I measure the motion of a body by time; and the time
itself do I not measure? But, in truth, could I measure the motion
of a body, how long it is, and how long it is in coming from this
place to that, unless I should measure the time in which it is
moved? How, therefore, do I measure this very time itself? Or do we
by a shorter time measure a longer, as by the space of a cubit the
space of a crossbeam? For thus, indeed, we seem by the space of a
short syllable to measure the space of a long syllable, and to say
that this is double. Thus we measure the spaces of stanzas by the
spaces of the verses, and the spaces of the verses by the spaces of
the feet, and the spaces of the feet by the spaces of the syllables,
and the spaces of long by the spaces of short syllables; not
measuring by pages (for in that manner we measure spaces, not
times), but when in uttering the words they pass by, and we say, “It
is a long stanza because it is made up of so many verses; long
verses, because they consist of so many feet; long feet, because
they are prolonged by so many syllables; a long syllable, because
double a short one.” But neither thus is any certain measure of time
obtained; since it is possible that a shorter verse, if it be
pronounced more fully, may take up more time than a longer one, if
pronounced more hurriedly. Thus for a stanzas, thus for a foot, thus
for a syllable. Whence it appeared to me that time is nothing else
than protraction; but of what I know not. It is wonderful to me, if
it be not of the mind itself. For what do I measure, I beseech Thee,
O my God, even when I say either indefinitely, “This time is longer
than that;” or even definitely, “This is double that?” That I
measure time, I know. But I measure not the future, for it is not
yet; nor do I measure the present, because it is extended by no
space; nor do I measure the past, because it no longer is. What,
therefore, do I measure? Is it times passing, not past? For thus had
I said.


34. Persevere, O my mind, and give earnest heed. God is our
helper; He made us, and not we ourselves. Give heed, where truth
dawns. Lo, suppose the voice of a body begins to sound, and does
sound, and sounds on, and lo! it ceases, — it is now silence, and
that voice is past and is no longer a voice. It was future before it
sounded, and could not be measured, because as yet it was not; and
now it cannot, because it longer is. Then, therefore, while it was
sounding, it might, because there was then that which might be
measured. But even then it did not stand still, for it was going and
passing away. Could it, then, on that account be measured the more?
For, while passing, it was being extended into some space of time,
in which it might be measured, since the present hath no space. If,
therefore, then it might be measured, lo! suppose another voice hath
begun to sound, and still soundeth, in a continued tenor without any
interruption, we can measure it while it is sounding; for when it
shall have ceased to sound, it will be already past, and there will
not be that which can be measured. Let us measure it truly, and let
us say how much it is. But as yet it sounds, nor can it be measured,
save from that instant in which it began to sound, even to the end
in which it left off. For the interval itself we measure from
some beginning unto some end. On which account, a voice which is not
yet ended cannot be measured, so that it may be said how long or how
short it may be; nor can it be said to be equal to another, or
single or double in respect of it, or the like. But when it is
ended, it no longer is. In what manner, therefore, may it be
measured? And yet we measure times; still not those which as yet are
not, nor those which no longer are, nor those which are protracted
by some delay, nor those which have no limits. We, therefore,
measure neither future times, nor past, nor present, nor those
passing by; and yet we do measure times.

35. Deus Creator omnium; this verse of eight syllables alternates
between short and long syllables. The four short, then, the first,
third, fifth and seventh, are single in respect of the four long,
the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth. Each of these hath a double
time to every one of those. I pronounce them, report on them, and
thus it is, as is perceived by common sense. By common sense, then,
I measure a long by a short syllable, and I find that it has twice
as much. But when one sounds after another, if the former be short
the latter long, how shall I hold the short one, and how measuring
shall I apply it to the long, so that I may find out that this has
twice as much, when indeed the long does not begin to sound unless
the short leaves off sounding? That very long one I measure not as
present, since I measure it not save when ended. But its ending is
its passing away. What, then, is it that I can measure? Where is the
short syllable by which I measure? Where is the long one which I
measure? Both have sounded, have flown, have passed away, and are no
longer; and still I measure, and I confidently answer (so far as is
trusted to a practised sense), that as to space of time this
syllable is single, that double. Nor could I do this, unless because
they have past, and are ended. Therefore do I not measure
themselves, which now are not, but something in my memory, which
remains fixed.

36. In thee, O my mind, I measure times. Do not overwhelm me with
thy clamour. That is, do not overwhelm thyself with the multitude of
thy impressions. In thee, I say, I measure times; the impression
which things as they pass by make on Thee, and which, when they have
passed by, remains, that I measure as time present, not those things
which have passed by, that the impression should be made. This I
measure when I measure times. Either, then, these are times, or I do
not measure times. What when we measure silence, and say that this
silence hath lasted as long as that voice lasts? Do we not extend
our thought to the measure of a voice, as if it sounded, so that we
may be able to declare something concerning the intervals of silence
in a given space of time? For when both the voice and tongue are
still, we go over in thought poems and verses, and any discourse, or
dimensions of motions; and declare concerning the spaces of times,
how much this may be in respect of that, not otherwise than if
uttering them we should pronounce them. Should any one wish to utter
a lengthened sound, and had with forethought determined how long it
should be, that man hath in silence verily gone through a space of
time, and, committing it to memory, he begins to utter that speech,
which sounds until it be extended to the end proposed; truly it hath
sounded, and will sound. For what of it is already finished hath
verily sounded, but what remains will sound; and thus does it pass
on, until the present intention carry over the future into the past;
the past increasing by the diminution of the future, until, by the
consumption of the future, all be past.


37. But how is that future diminished or consumed which as yet is
not? Or how doth the past, which is no longer, increase, unless in
the mind which enacteth this there are three things done? For it
both expects, and considers, and remembers, that that which it
expecteth, through that which it considereth, may pass into that
which it remembereth. Who, therefore, denieth that future things as
yet are not? But yet there is already in the mind the expectation of
things future. And who denies that past things are now no longer?
But, however, there is still in the mind the memory of things past.
And who denies that time present wants space, because it passeth
away in a moment? But yet our consideration endureth, through which
that which may be present may proceed to become absent. Future time,
which is not, is not therefore long; but a “long future” is “a long
expectation of the future.” Nor is time past, which is now no
longer, long; but a long past is “a long memory of the past.”

38. I am about to repeat a psalm that I know. Before I begin, my
attention is extended to the whole; but when I have begun, as much
of it as becomes past by my saying it is extended in my memory; and
the life of this action of mine is divided between my memory, on
account of what I have repeated, and my expectation, on account of
what I am about to repeat; yet my consideration is present with me,
through which that which was future may be carried over so that it
may become past. Which the more it is done and repeated, by so much
(expectation being shortened) the memory is enlarged, until the
whole expectation be exhausted, when that whole action being ended
shall have passed into memory. And what takes place in the entire
psalm, takes place also in each individual part of it, and in each
individual syllable: this holds in the longer action, of which that
psalm is perchance a portion; the same holds in the whole life of
man, of which all the actions of man are parts; the same holds in
the whole age of the sons of men, of which all the lives of men are


39. But “because Thy loving-kindness is better than life,”
behold, my life is but a distraction, and Thy right hand upheld me
in my Lord, the Son of man, the Mediator between Thee, The One, and
us the many, — in many distractions amid many things, — that
through Him I may apprehend in whom I have been apprehended, and may
be re-collected from my old days, following The One, forgetting the
things that are past; and not distracted, but drawn on, not to those
things which shall be and shall pass away, but to those things which
are before, not distractedly, but intently, I follow on for the
prize of my heavenly calling, where I may hear the voice of Thy
praise, and contemplate Thy delights, neither coming nor passing
away. But now are my years spent in mourning. And Thou, O Lord, art
my comfort, my Father everlasting. But I have been divided amid
times, the order of which I know not; and my thoughts, even the
inmost bowels of my soul, are mangled with tumultuous varieties,
until I
flow together unto Thee, purged and molten in the fire of Thy love.


40. And I will be immoveable, and fixed in Thee, in my mould, Thy
truth; nor will I endure the questions of men, who by a penal
disease thirst for more than they can hold, and say, “What did God
make before He made heaven and earth?” Or, “How came it into His
mind to make anything, when He never before made anything?” Grant to
them, O Lord, to think well what they say, and to see that where
there is no time, they cannot say “never.” What, therefore, He is
said “never to have made,” what else is it but to say, that in no
time was it made? Let them therefore see that there could be no time
without a created being, and let them cease to speak that vanity.
Let them also be extended unto those things which are before, and
understand that thou, the eternal Creator of all times, art before
all times, and that no times are co-eternal with Thee, nor any
creature, even if there be any creature beyond all times.


41. O Lord my God, what is that secret place of Thy mystery, and
how far thence have the consequences of my transgressions cast me?
Heal my eyes, that I may enjoy Thy light. Surely, if there be a
mind, so greatly abounding in knowledge and foreknowledge, to which
all things past and future are so known as one psalm is well known
to me, that mind is exceedingly wonderful, and very astonishing;
because whatever is so past, and whatever is to come of after ages,
is no more concealed from Him than was it hidden from me when
singing that psalm, what and how much of it had been sung from the
beginning, what and how much remained unto the end. But far be it
that Thou, the Creator of the universe, the Creator of souls and
bodies,–far be it that Thou shouldest know all things future and
past. Far, far more wonderfully, and far more mysteriously, Thou
knowest them. For it is not as the feelings of one singing known
things, or hearing a known song, are –through expectation of future
words, and in remembrance of those that are past–varied, and his
senses divided, that anything happeneth unto Thee, unchangeably
eternal, that is, the truly eterna. Creator of minds. As, then,
Thou in the Beginning knewest the heaven and the earth without any
change of Thy knowledge, so in the Beginning didst Thou make heaven
and earth without any distraction of Thy action? Let him who
understandeth confess unto Thee; and let him who understandeth not,
confess unto Thee. Oh, how exalted art Thou, and yet the humble in
heart are Thy dwelling-place; for Thou raisest up those that are
bowed down. and they whose exaltation Thou art fall not.

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