(Augustine, Confessions. part 5)

mock at others.  These are the major forms of iniquity that spring
out of the lust of the flesh, and of the eye, and of power.[75]
Sometimes there is just one; sometimes two together; sometimes all
of them at once.  Thus we live, offending against the Three and
the Seven, that harp of ten strings, thy Decalogue, O God most
high and most sweet.[76]  But now how can offenses of vileness
harm thee who canst not be defiled; or how can deeds of violence
harm thee who canst not be harmed?  Still thou dost punish these
sins which men commit against themselves because, even when they
sin against thee, they are also committing impiety against their
own souls.  Iniquity gives itself the lie, either by corrupting or
by perverting that nature which thou hast made and ordained.  And
they do this by an immoderate use of lawful things; or by lustful
desire for things forbidden, as "against nature"; or when they are
guilty of sin by raging with heart and voice against thee,
rebelling against thee, "kicking against the pricks"[77]; or when
they cast aside respect for human society and take audacious
delight in conspiracies and feuds according to their private likes
and dislikes.
     This is what happens whenever thou art forsaken, O Fountain
of Life, who art the one and true Creator and Ruler of the
universe.  This is what happens when through self-willed pride a
part is loved under the false assumption that it is the whole.
Therefore, we must return to thee in humble piety and let thee
purge us from our evil ways, and be merciful to those who confess
their sins to thee, and hear the groanings of the prisoners and
loosen us from those fetters which we have forged for ourselves.
This thou wilt do, provided we do not raise up against thee the
arrogance of a false freedom -- for thus we lose all through
craving more, by loving our own good more than thee, the common
good of all.

                          CHAPTER IX

     17.  But among all these vices and crimes and manifold
iniquities, there are also the sins that are committed by men who
are, on the whole, making progress toward the good.  When these
are judged rightly and after the rule of perfection, the sins are
censored but the men are to be commended because they show the
hope of bearing fruit, like the green shoot of the growing corn.
And there are some deeds that resemble vice and crime and yet are
not sin because they offend neither thee, our Lord God, nor social
custom.  For example, when suitable reserves for hard times are
provided, we cannot judge that this is done merely from a hoarding
impulse.  Or, again, when acts are punished by constituted
authority for the sake of correction, we cannot judge that they
are done merely out of a desire to inflict pain.  Thus, many a
deed which is disapproved in man's sight may be approved by thy
testimony.  And many a man who is praised by men is condemned --
as thou art witness -- because frequently the deed itself, the
mind of the doer, and the hidden exigency of the situation all
vary among themselves.  But when, contrary to human expectation,
thou commandest something unusual or unthought of -- indeed,
something thou mayest formerly have forbidden, about which thou
mayest conceal the reason for thy command at that particular time;
and even though it may be contrary to the ordinance of some
society of men[78] -- who doubts but that it should be done
because only that society of men is righteous which obeys thee?
But blessed are they who know what thou dost command.  For all
things done by those who obey thee either exhibit something
necessary at that particular time or they foreshow things to come.

                           CHAPTER X

     18.  But I was ignorant of all this, and so I mocked those
holy servants and prophets of thine.  Yet what did I gain by
mocking them save to be mocked in turn by thee?  Insensibly and
little by little, I was led on to such follies as to believe that
a fig tree wept when it was plucked and that the sap of the mother
tree was tears.  Notwithstanding this, if a fig was plucked, by
not his own but another man's wickedness, some Manichean saint
might eat it, digest it in his stomach, and breathe it out again
in the form of angels.  Indeed, in his prayers he would assuredly
groan and sigh forth particles of God, although these particles of
the most high and true God would have remained bound in that fig
unless they had been set free by the teeth and belly of some
"elect saint"[79]!  And, wretch that I was, I believed that more
mercy was to be shown to the fruits of the earth than unto men,
for whom these fruits were created.  For, if a hungry man -- who
was not a Manichean -- should beg for any food, the morsel that we
gave to him would seem condemned, as it were, to capital

                          CHAPTER XI

     19.  And now thou didst "stretch forth thy hand from
above"[80] and didst draw up my soul out of that profound darkness
[of Manicheism] because my mother, thy faithful one, wept to thee
on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed to weep for the
bodily deaths of their children.  For by the light of the faith
and spirit which she received from thee, she saw that I was dead.
And thou didst hear her, O Lord, thou didst hear her and despised
not her tears when, pouring down, they watered the earth under her
eyes in every place where she prayed.  Thou didst truly hear her.
     For what other source was there for that dream by which thou
didst console her, so that she permitted me to live with her, to
have my meals in the same house at the table which she had begun
to avoid, even while she hated and detested the blasphemies of my
error?  In her dream she saw herself standing on a sort of wooden
rule, and saw a bright youth approaching her, joyous and smiling
at her, while she was grieving and bowed down with sorrow.  But
when he inquired of her the cause of her sorrow and daily weeping
(not to learn from her, but to teach her, as is customary in
visions), and when she answered that it was my soul's doom she was
lamenting, he bade her rest content and told her to look and see
that where she was there I was also.  And when she looked she saw
me standing near her on the same rule.
     Whence came this vision unless it was that thy ears were
inclined toward her heart?  O thou Omnipotent Good, thou carest
for every one of us as if thou didst care for him only, and so for
all as if they were but one!
     20.  And what was the reason for this also, that, when she
told me of this vision, and I tried to put this construction on
it: "that she should not despair of being someday what I was," she
replied immediately, without hesitation, "No; for it was not told
me that 'where he is, there you shall be' but 'where you are,
there he will be'"?  I confess my remembrance of this to thee, O
Lord, as far as I can recall it -- and I have often mentioned it.
Thy answer, given through my watchful mother, in the fact that she
was not disturbed by the plausibility of my false interpretation
but saw immediately what should have been seen -- and which I
certainly had not seen until she spoke -- this answer moved me
more deeply than the dream itself.  Still, by that dream, the joy
that was to come to that pious woman so long after was predicted
long before, as a consolation for her present anguish.
     Nearly nine years passed in which I wallowed in the mud of
that deep pit and in the darkness of falsehood, striving often to
rise, but being all the more heavily dashed down.  But all that
time this chaste, pious, and sober widow -- such as thou dost love
-- was now more buoyed up with hope, though no less zealous in her
weeping and mourning; and she did not cease to bewail my case
before thee, in all the hours of her supplication.  Her prayers
entered thy presence, and yet thou didst allow me still to tumble
and toss around in that darkness.

                          CHAPTER XII

     21.  Meanwhile, thou gavest her yet another answer, as I
remember -- for I pass over many things, hastening on to those
things which more strongly impel me to confess to thee -- and many
things I have simply forgotten.  But thou gavest her then another
answer, by a priest of thine, a certain bishop reared in thy
Church and well versed in thy books.  When that woman had begged
him to agree to have some discussion with me, to refute my errors,
to help me to unlearn evil and to learn the good[81] -- for it was
his habit to do this when he found people ready to receive it --
he refused, very prudently, as I afterward realized.  For he
answered that I was still unteachable, being inflated with the
novelty of that heresy, and that I had already perplexed divers
inexperienced persons with vexatious questions, as she herself had
told him.  "But let him alone for a time," he said, "only pray God
for him.  He will of his own accord, by reading, come to discover
what an error it is and how great its impiety is." He went on to
tell her at the same time how he himself, as a boy, had been given
over to the Manicheans by his misguided mother and not only had
read but had even copied out almost all their books.  Yet he had
come to see, without external argument or proof from anyone else,
how much that sect was to be shunned -- and had shunned it.  When
he had said this she was not satisfied, but repeated more
earnestly her entreaties, and shed copious tears, still beseeching
him to see and talk with me.  Finally the bishop, a little vexed
at her importunity, exclaimed, "Go your way; as you live, it
cannot be that the son of these tears should perish." As she often
told me afterward, she accepted this answer as though it were a
voice from heaven.

                          BOOK FOUR

     This is the story of his years among the Manicheans.  It
includes the account of his teaching at Tagaste, his taking a
mistress, the attractions of astrology, the poignant loss of a
friend which leads to a searching analysis of grief and
transience.  He reports on his first book, De pulchro et apto, and
his introduction to Aristotle's  Categories and other books of
philosophy and theology, which he mastered with great ease and
little profit.

                           CHAPTER I

     1.  During this period of nine years, from my nineteenth year
to my twenty-eighth, I went astray and led others astray.  I was
deceived and deceived others, in varied lustful projects --
sometimes publicly, by the teaching of what men style "the liberal
arts"; sometimes secretly, under the false guise of religion.  In
the one, I was proud of myself; in the other, superstitious; in
all, vain!  In my public life I was striving after the emptiness
of popular fame, going so far as to seek theatrical applause,
entering poetic contests, striving for the straw garlands and the
vanity of theatricals and intemperate desires.  In my private life
I was seeking to be purged from these corruptions of ours by
carrying food to those who were called "elect" and "holy," which,
in the laboratory of their stomachs, they should make into angels
and gods for us, and by them we might be set free.  These projects
I followed out and practiced with my friends, who were both
deceived with me and by me.  Let the proud laugh at me, and those
who have not yet been savingly cast down and stricken by thee, O
my God.  Nevertheless, I would confess to thee my shame to thy
glory.  Bear with me, I beseech thee, and give me the grace to
retrace in my present memory the devious ways of my past errors
and thus be able to "offer to thee the sacrifice of
thanksgiving."[82]  For what am I to myself without thee but a
guide to my own downfall?  Or what am I, even at the best, but one
suckled on thy milk and feeding on thee, O Food that never
perishes?[83]  What indeed is any man, seeing that he is but a
man?  Therefore, let the strong and the mighty laugh at us, but
let us who are "poor and needy"[84] confess to thee.

                          CHAPTER II

     2.  During those years I taught the art of rhetoric.
Conquered by the desire for gain, I offered for sale speaking
skills with which to conquer others.  And yet, O Lord, thou
knowest that I really preferred to have honest scholars (or what
were esteemed as such) and, without tricks of speech, I taught
these scholars the tricks of speech -- not to be used against the
life of the innocent, but sometimes to save the life of a guilty
man.  And thou, O God, didst see me from afar, stumbling on that
slippery path and sending out some flashes of fidelity amid much
smoke -- guiding those who loved vanity and sought after
lying,[85] being myself their companion.
     In those years I had a mistress, to whom I was not joined in
lawful marriage.  She was a woman I had discovered in my wayward
passion, void as it was of understanding, yet she was the only
one; and I remained faithful to her and with her I discovered, by
my own experience, what a great difference there is between the
restraint of the marriage bond contracted with a view to having
children and the compact of a lustful love, where children are
born against the parents' will -- although once they are born they
compel our love.
     3.  I remember too that, when I decided to compete for a
theatrical prize, some magician -- I do not remember him now --
asked me what I would give him to be certain to win.  But I
detested and abominated such filthy mysteries,[86] and answered
"that, even if the garland was of imperishable gold, I would still
not permit a fly to be killed to win it for me." For he would have
slain certain living creatures in his sacrifices, and by those
honors would have invited the devils to help me.  This evil thing
I refused, but not out of a pure love of thee, O God of my heart,
for I knew not how to love thee because I knew not how to conceive
of anything beyond corporeal splendors.  And does not a soul,
sighing after such idle fictions, commit fornication against thee,
trust in false things, and "feed on the winds"[87]?  But still I
would not have sacrifices offered to devils on my behalf, though I
was myself still offering them sacrifices of a sort by my own
[Manichean] superstition.  For what else is it "to feed on the
winds" but to feed on the devils, that is, in our wanderings to
become their sport and mockery?

                          CHAPTER III

     4.  And yet, without scruple, I consulted those other
impostors, whom they call "astrologers" [mathematicos], because
they used no sacrifices and invoked the aid of no spirit for their
divinations.  Still, true Christian piety must necessarily reject
and condemn their art.
     It is good to confess to thee and to say, "Have mercy on me;
heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee"[88] -- not to abuse
thy goodness as a license to sin, but to remember the words of the
Lord, "Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing
befall you."[89]  All this wholesome advice [the astrologers]
labor to destroy when they say, "The cause of your sin is
inevitably fixed in the heavens," and, "This is the doing of
Venus, or of Saturn, or of Mars" -- all this in order that a man,
who is only flesh and blood and proud corruption, may regard
himself as blameless, while the Creator and Ordainer of heaven and
the stars must bear the blame of our ills and misfortunes.  But
who is this Creator but thou, our God, the sweetness and
wellspring of righteousness, who renderest to every man according
to his works and despisest not "a broken and a contrite
     5.  There was at that time a wise man, very skillful and
quite famous in medicine.[91]  He was proconsul then, and with his
own hand he placed on my distempered head the crown I had won in a
rhetorical contest.  He did not do this as a physician, however;
and for this distemper "only thou canst heal who resisteth the
proud and giveth grace to the humble."[92]  But didst thou fail me
in that old man, or forbear from healing my soul?  Actually when I
became better acquainted with him, I used to listen, rapt and
eager, to his words; for, though he spoke in simple language, his
conversation was replete with vivacity, life, and earnestness.  He
recognized from my own talk that I was given to books of the
horoscope-casters, but he, in a kind and fatherly way, advised me
to throw them away and not to spend idly on these vanities care
and labor that might otherwise go into useful things.  He said
that he himself in his earlier years had studied the astrologers'
art with a view to gaining his living by it as a profession.
Since he had already understood Hippocrates, he was fully
qualified to understand this too.  Yet, he had given it up and
followed medicine for the simple reason that he had discovered
astrology to be utterly false and, as a man of honest character,
he was unwilling to gain his living by beguiling people.  "But
you," he said, "have the profession of rhetoric to support
yourself by, so that you are following this delusion in free will
and not necessity.  All the more, therefore, you ought to believe
me, since I worked at it to learn the art perfectly because I
wished to gain my living by it." When I asked him to account for
the fact that many true things are foretold by astrology, he
answered me, reasonably enough, that the force of chance, diffused
through the whole order of nature, brought these things about.
For when a man, by accident, opens the leaves of some poet (who
sang and intended something far different) a verse oftentimes
turns out to be wondrously apposite to the reader's present
business.  "It is not to be wondered at," he continued, "if out of
the human mind, by some higher instinct which does not know what
goes on within itself, an answer should be arrived at, by chance
and not art, which would fit both the business and the action of
the inquirer."
     6.  And thus truly, either by him or through him, thou wast
looking after me.  And thou didst fix all this in my memory so
that afterward I might search it out for myself.
     But at that time, neither the proconsul nor my most dear
Nebridius -- a splendid youth and most circumspect, who scoffed at
the whole business of divination -- could persuade me to give it
up, for the authority of the astrological authors influenced me
more than they did.  And, thus far, I had come upon no certain
proof -- such as I sought -- by which it could be shown without
doubt that what had been truly foretold by those consulted came
from accident or chance, and not from the art of the stargazers.

                          CHAPTER IV

     7.  In those years, when I first began to teach rhetoric in
my native town, I had gained a very dear friend, about my own age,
who was associated with me in the same studies.  Like myself, he
was just rising up into the flower of youth.  He had grown up with
me from childhood and we had been both school fellows and
playmates.  But he was not then my friend, nor indeed ever became
my friend, in the true sense of the term; for there is no true
friendship save between those thou dost bind together and who
cleave to thee by that love which is "shed abroad in our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who is given to us."[93]  Still, it was a
sweet friendship, being ripened by the zeal of common studies.
Moreover, I had turned him away from the true faith -- which he
had not soundly and thoroughly mastered as a youth -- and turned
him toward those superstitious and harmful fables which my mother
mourned in me.  With me this man went wandering off in error and
my soul could not exist without him.  But behold thou wast close
behind thy fugitives -- at once a God of vengeance and a Fountain
of mercies, who dost turn us to thyself by ways that make us
marvel.  Thus, thou didst take that man out of this life when he
had scarcely completed one whole year of friendship with me,
sweeter to me than all the sweetness of my life thus far.
     8.  Who can show forth all thy praise[94] for that which he
has experienced in himself alone?  What was it that thou didst do
at that time, O my God; how unsearchable are the depths of thy
judgments!  For when, sore sick of a fever, he long lay
unconscious in a death sweat and everyone despaired of his
recovery, he was baptized without his knowledge.  And I myself
cared little, at the time, presuming that his soul would retain
what it had taken from me rather than what was done to his
unconscious body.  It turned out, however, far differently, for he
was revived and restored.  Immediately, as soon as I could talk to
him -- and I did this as soon as he was able, for I never left him
and we hung on each other overmuch -- I tried to jest with him,
supposing that he also would jest in return about that baptism
which he had received when his mind and senses were inactive, but
which he had since learned that he had received.  But he recoiled
from me, as if I were his enemy, and, with a remarkable and
unexpected freedom, he admonished me that, if I desired to
continue as his friend, I must cease to say such things.
Confounded and confused, I concealed my feelings till he should
get well and his health recover enough to allow me to deal with
him as I wished.  But he was snatched away from my madness, that
with thee he might be preserved for my consolation.  A few days
after, during my absence, the fever returned and he died.
     9.  My heart was utterly darkened by this sorrow and
everywhere I looked I saw death.  My native place was a torture
room to me and my father's house a strange unhappiness.  And all
the things I had done with him -- now that he was gone -- became a
frightful torment.  My eyes sought him everywhere, but they did
not see him; and I hated all places because he was not in them,
because they could not say to me, "Look, he is coming," as they
did when he was alive and absent.  I became a hard riddle to
myself, and I asked my soul why she was so downcast and why this
disquieted me so sorely.[95]  But she did not know how to answer
me.  And if I said, "Hope thou in God,"[96] she very properly
disobeyed me, because that dearest friend she had lost was as an
actual man, both truer and better than the imagined deity she was
ordered to put her hope in.  Nothing but tears were sweet to me
and they took my friend's place in my heart's desire.

                           CHAPTER V

     10.  But now, O Lord, these things are past and time has
healed my wound.  Let me learn from thee, who art Truth, and put
the ear of my heart to thy mouth, that thou mayest tell me why
weeping should be so sweet to the unhappy.  Hast thou -- though
omnipresent -- dismissed our miseries from thy concern?  Thou
abidest in thyself while we are disquieted with trial after trial.
Yet unless we wept in thy ears, there would be no hope for us
remaining.  How does it happen that such sweet fruit is plucked
from the bitterness of life, from groans, tears, sighs, and
lamentations?  Is it the hope that thou wilt hear us that sweetens
it?  This is true in the case of prayer, for in a prayer there is
a desire to approach thee.  But is it also the case in grief for a
lost love, and in the kind of sorrow that had then overwhelmed me?
For I had neither a hope of his coming back to life, nor in all my
tears did I seek this.  I simply grieved and wept, for I was
miserable and had lost my joy.  Or is weeping a bitter thing that
gives us pleasure because of our aversion to the things we once
enjoyed and this only as long as we loathe them?

                          CHAPTER VI

     11.  But why do I speak of these things?  Now is not the time
to ask such questions, but rather to confess to thee.  I was
wretched; and every soul is wretched that is fettered in the
friendship of mortal things -- it is torn to pieces when it loses
them, and then realizes the misery which it had even before it
lost them.  Thus it was at that time with me.  I wept most
bitterly, and found a rest in bitterness.  I was wretched, and yet
that wretched life I still held dearer than my friend.  For though
I would willingly have changed it, I was still more unwilling to
lose it than to have lost him.  Indeed, I doubt whether I was
willing to lose it, even for him -- as they tell (unless it be
fiction) of the friendship of Orestes and Pylades[97]; they would
have gladly died for one another, or both together, because not to
love together was worse than death to them.  But a strange kind of
feeling had come over me, quite different from this, for now it
was wearisome to live and a fearful thing to die.  I suppose that
the more I loved him the more I hated and feared, as the most
cruel enemy, that death which had robbed me of him.  I even
imagined that it would suddenly annihilate all men, since it had
had such a power over him.  This is the way I remember it was with
     Look into my heart, O God!  Behold and look deep within me,
for I remember it well, O my Hope who cleansest me from the
uncleanness of such affections, directing my eyes toward thee and
plucking my feet out of the snare.  And I marveled that other
mortals went on living since he whom I had loved as if he would
never die was now dead.  And I marveled all the more that I, who
had been a second self to him, could go on living when he was
dead.  Someone spoke rightly of his friend as being "his soul's
other half"[98] -- for I felt that my soul and his soul were but
one soul in two bodies.  Consequently, my life was now a horror to
me because I did not want to live as a half self.  But it may have
been that I was afraid to die, lest he should then die wholly whom
I had so greatly loved.

                          CHAPTER VII

     12.  O madness that knows not how to love men as they should
be loved!  O foolish man that I was then, enduring with so much
rebellion the lot of every man!  Thus I fretted, sighed, wept,
tormented myself, and took neither rest nor counsel, for I was
dragging around my torn and bloody soul.  It was impatient of my
dragging it around, and yet I could not find a place to lay it
down.  Not in pleasant groves, nor in sport or song, nor in
fragrant bowers, nor in magnificent banquetings, nor in the
pleasures of the bed or the couch; not even in books or poetry did
it find rest.  All things looked gloomy, even the very light
itself.  Whatsoever was not what he was, was now repulsive and
hateful, except my groans and tears, for in those alone I found a
little rest.  But when my soul left off weeping, a heavy burden of
misery weighed me down.  It should have been raised up to thee, O
Lord, for thee to lighten and to lift.  This I knew, but I was
neither willing nor able to do; especially since, in my thoughts
of thee, thou wast not thyself but only an empty fantasm.  Thus my
error was my god.  If I tried to cast off my burden on this
fantasm, that it might find rest there, it sank through the vacuum
and came rushing down again upon me.  Thus I remained to myself an
unhappy lodging where I could neither stay nor leave.  For where
could my heart fly from my heart?  Where could I fly from my own
self?  Where would I not follow myself?  And yet I did flee from
my native place so that my eyes would look for him less in a place
where they were not accustomed to see him.  Thus I left the town
of Tagaste and returned to Carthage.

                         CHAPTER VIII

     13.  Time never lapses, nor does it glide at leisure through
our sense perceptions.  It does strange things in the mind.  Lo,
time came and went from day to day, and by coming and going it
brought to my mind other ideas and remembrances, and little by
little they patched me up again with earlier kinds of pleasure and
my sorrow yielded a bit to them.  But yet there followed after
this sorrow, not other sorrows just like it, but the causes of
other sorrows.  For why had that first sorrow so easily penetrated
to the quick except that I had poured out my soul onto the dust,
by loving a man as if he would never die who nevertheless had to
die?  What revived and refreshed me, more than anything else, was
the consolation of other friends, with whom I went on loving the
things I loved instead of thee.  This was a monstrous fable and a
tedious lie which was corrupting my soul with its "itching
ears"[99] by its adulterous rubbing.  And that fable would not die
to me as often as one of my friends died.  And there were other
things in our companionship that took strong hold of my mind: to
discourse and jest with him; to indulge in courteous exchanges; to
read pleasant books together; to trifle together; to be earnest
together; to differ at times without ill-humor, as a man might do
with himself, and even through these infrequent dissensions to
find zest in our more frequent agreements; sometimes teaching,
sometimes being taught; longing for someone absent with impatience
and welcoming the homecomer with joy.  These and similar tokens of
friendship, which spring spontaneously from the hearts of those
who love and are loved in return -- in countenance, tongue, eyes,
and a thousand ingratiating gestures -- were all so much fuel to
melt our souls together, and out of the many made us one.

                          CHAPTER IX

     14.  This is what we love in our friends, and we love it so
much that a man's conscience accuses itself if he does not love
one who loves him, or respond in love to love, seeking nothing
from the other but the evidences of his love.  This is the source
of our moaning when one dies -- the gloom of sorrow, the steeping
of the heart in tears, all sweetness turned to bitterness -- and
the feeling of death in the living, because of the loss of the
life of the dying.
     Blessed is he who loves thee, and who loves his friend in
thee, and his enemy also, for thy sake; for he alone loses none
dear to him, if all are dear in Him who cannot be lost.  And who
is this but our God: the God that created heaven and earth, and
filled them because he created them by filling them up?  None
loses thee but he who leaves thee; and he who leaves thee, where
does he go, or where can he flee but from thee well-pleased to
thee offended?  For where does he not find thy law fulfilled in
his own punishment?  "Thy law is the truth"[100] and thou art

                           CHAPTER X

     15.  "Turn us again, O Lord God of Hosts, cause thy face to

(continued in part 6 ...)

file: /pub/resources/text/icp-e/epl-01: agcon-05.txt