(Augustine, Confessions. part 10)

convert into good?  But why should this be?  Was he powerless to
change the whole lump so that no evil would remain in it, if he is
the Omnipotent?  Finally, why would he make anything at all out of
such stuff?  Why did he not, rather, annihilate it by his same
almighty power?  Could evil exist contrary to his will?  And if it
were from eternity, why did he permit it to be nonexistent for
unmeasured intervals of time in the past, and why, then, was he
pleased to make something out of it after so long a time?  Or, if
he wished now all of a sudden to create something, would not an
almighty being have chosen to annihilate this evil matter and live
by himself -- the perfect, true, sovereign, and infinite Good?
Or, if it were not good that he who was good should not also be
the framer and creator of what was good, then why was that evil
matter not removed and brought to nothing, so that he might form
good matter, out of which he might then create all things?  For he
would not be omnipotent if he were not able to create something
good without being assisted by that matter which had not been
created by himself.
     Such perplexities I revolved in my wretched breast,
overwhelmed with gnawing cares lest I die before I discovered the
truth.  And still the faith of thy Christ, our Lord and Saviour,
as it was taught me by the Catholic Church, stuck fast in my
heart.  As yet it was unformed on many points and diverged from
the rule of right doctrine, but my mind did not utterly lose it,
and every day drank in more and more of it.

                           CHAPTER VI

     8.  By now I had also repudiated the lying divinations and
impious absurdities of the astrologers.  Let thy mercies, out of
the depth of my soul, confess this to thee also, O my God.  For
thou, thou only (for who else is it who calls us back from the
death of all errors except the Life which does not know how to die
and the Wisdom which gives light to minds that need it, although
it itself has no need of light -- by which the whole universe is
governed, even to the fluttering leaves of the trees?) -- thou
alone providedst also for my obstinacy with which I struggled
against Vindicianus, a sagacious old man, and Nebridius, that
remarkably talented young man.  The former declared vehemently and
the latter frequently -- though with some reservation -- that no
art existed by which we foresee future things.  But men's surmises
have oftentimes the help of chance, and out of many things which
they foretold some came to pass unawares to the predictors, who
lighted on the truth by making so many guesses.
     And thou also providedst a friend for me, who was not a
negligent consulter of the astrologers even though he was not
thoroughly skilled in the art either -- as I said, one who
consulted them out of curiosity.  He knew a good, deal about it,
which, he said, he had heard from his father, and he never
realized how far his ideas would help to overthrow my estimation
of that art.  His name was Firminus and he had received a liberal
education and was a cultivated rhetorician.  It so happened that
he consulted me, as one very dear to him, as to what I thought
about some affairs of his in which his worldly hopes had risen,
viewed in the light of his so-called horoscope.  Although I had
now begun to learn in this matter toward Nebridius' opinion, I did
not quite decline to speculate about the matter or to tell him
what thoughts still came into my irresolute mind, although I did
add that I was almost persuaded now that these were but empty and
ridiculous follies.  He then told me that his father had been very
much interested in such books, and that he had a friend who was as
much interested in them as he was himself.  They, in combined
study and consultation, fanned the flame of their affection for
this folly, going so far as to observe the moment when the dumb
animals which belonged to their household gave birth to young, and
then observed the position of the heavens with regard to them, so
as to gather fresh evidence for this so-called art.  Moreover, he
reported that his father had told him that, at the same time his
mother was about to give birth to him [Firminus], a female slave
of a friend of his father's was also pregnant.  This could not be
hidden from her master, who kept records with the most diligent
exactness of the birth dates even of his dogs.  And so it happened
to pass that -- under the most careful observations, one for his
wife and the other for his servant, with exact calculations of the
days, hours, and minutes -- both women were delivered at the same
moment, so that both were compelled to cast the selfsame
horoscope, down to the minute: the one for his son, the other for
his young slave.  For as soon as the women began to be in labor,
they each sent word to the other as to what was happening in their
respective houses and had messengers ready to dispatch to one
another as soon as they had information of the actual birth -- and
each, of course, knew instantly the exact time.  It turned out,
Firminus said, that the messengers from the respective houses met
one another at a point equidistant from either house, so that
neither of them could discern any difference either in the
position of the stars or any other of the most minute points.  And
yet Firminus, born in a high estate in his parents' house, ran his
course through the prosperous paths of this world, was increased
in wealth, and elevated to honors.  At the same time, the slave,
the yoke of his condition being still unrelaxed, continued to
serve his masters as Firminus, who knew him, was able to report.
     9.  Upon hearing and believing these things related by so
reliable a person all my resistance melted away.  First, I
endeavored to reclaim Firminus himself from his superstition by
telling him that after inspecting his horoscope, I ought, if I
could foretell truly, to have seen in it parents eminent among
their neighbors, a noble family in its own city, a good birth, a
proper education, and liberal learning.  But if that servant had
consulted me with the same horoscope, since he had the same one, I
ought again to tell him likewise truly that I saw in it the
lowliness of his origin, the abjectness of his condition, and
everything else different and contrary to the former prediction.
If, then, by casting up the same horoscopes I should, in order to
speak the truth, make contrary analyses, or else speak falsely if
I made identical readings, then surely it followed that whatever
was truly foretold by the analysis of the horoscopes was not by
art, but by chance.  And whatever was said falsely was not from
incompetence in the art, but from the error of chance.
     10.  An opening being thus made in my darkness, I began to
consider other implications involved here.  Suppose that one of
the fools -- who followed such an occupation and whom I longed to
assail, and to reduce to confusion -- should urge against me that
Firminus had given me false information, or that his father had
informed him falsely.  I then turned my thoughts to those that are
born twins, who generally come out of the womb so near the one to
the other that the short interval between them -- whatever
importance they may ascribe to it in the nature of things --
cannot be noted by human observation or expressed in those tables
which the astrologer uses to examine when he undertakes to
pronounce the truth.  But such pronouncements cannot be true.  For
looking into the same horoscopes, he must have foretold the same
future for Esau and Jacob,[181] whereas the same future did not
turn out for them.  He must therefore speak falsely.  If he is to
speak truly, then he must read contrary predictions into the same
horoscopes.  But this would mean that it was not by art, but by
chance, that he would speak truly.
     For thou, O Lord, most righteous ruler of the universe, dost
work by a secret impulse -- whether those who inquire or those
inquired of know it or not -- so that the inquirer may hear what,
according to the secret merit of his soul, he ought to hear from
the deeps of thy righteous judgment.  Therefore let no man say to
thee, "What is this?" or, "Why is that?" Let him not speak thus,
for he is only a man.

                          CHAPTER VII

     11.  By now, O my Helper, thou hadst freed me from those
fetters.  But still I inquired, "Whence is evil?" -- and found no
answer.  But thou didst not allow me to be carried away from the
faith by these fluctuations of thought.  I still believed both
that thou dost exist and that thy substance is immutable, and that
thou dost care for and wilt judge all men, and that in Christ, thy
Son our Lord, and the Holy Scriptures, which the authority of thy
Catholic Church pressed on me, thou hast planned the way of man's
salvation to that life which is to come after this death.
     With these convictions safe and immovably settled in my mind,
I eagerly inquired, "Whence is evil?"  What torments did my
travailing heart then endure!  What sighs, O my God!  Yet even
then thy ears were open and I knew it not, and when in stillness I
sought earnestly, those silent contritions of my soul were loud
cries to thy mercy.  No man knew, but thou knewest what I endured.
How little of it could I express in words to the ears of my
dearest friends!  How could the whole tumult of my soul, for which
neither time nor speech was sufficient, come to them?  Yet the
whole of it went into thy ears, all of which I bellowed out in the
anguish of my heart.  My desire was before thee, and the light of
my eyes was not with me; for it was within and I was without.  Nor
was that light in any place; but I still kept thinking only of
things that are contained in a place, and could find among them no
place to rest in.  They did not receive me in such a way that I
could say, "It is sufficient; it is well." Nor did they allow me
to turn back to where it might be well enough with me.  For I was
higher than they, though lower than thou.  Thou art my true joy if
I depend upon thee, and thou hadst subjected to me what thou didst
create lower than I.  And this was the true mean and middle way of
salvation for me, to continue in thy image and by serving thee
have dominion over the body.  But when I lifted myself proudly
against thee, and "ran against the Lord, even against his neck,
with the thick bosses of my buckler,"[182] even the lower things
were placed above me and pressed down on me, so that there was no
respite or breathing space.  They thrust on my sight on every
side, in crowds and masses, and when I tried to think, the images
of bodies obtruded themselves into my way back to thee, as if they
would say to me, "Where are you going, unworthy and unclean one?"
And all these had sprung out of my wound, for thou hadst humbled
the haughty as one that is wounded.  By my swelling pride I was
separated from thee, and my bloated cheeks blinded my eyes.

                         CHAPTER VIII

     12.  But thou, O Lord, art forever the same, yet thou art not
forever angry with us, for thou hast compassion on our dust and
ashes.[183]  It was pleasing in thy sight to reform my deformity,
and by inward stings thou didst disturb me so that I was impatient
until thou wert made clear to my inward sight.  By the secret hand
of thy healing my swelling was lessened, the disordered and
darkened eyesight of my mind was from day to day made whole by the
stinging salve of wholesome grief.

                          CHAPTER IX

     13.  And first of all, willing to show me how thou dost
"resist the proud, but give grace to the humble,"[184] and how
mercifully thou hast made known to men the way of humility in that
thy Word "was made flesh and dwelt among men,"[185] thou didst
procure for me, through one inflated with the most monstrous
pride, certain books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into
Latin.[186]  And therein I found, not indeed in the same words,
but to the selfsame effect, enforced by many and various reasons
that "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made
that was made." That which was made by him is "life, and the life
was the light of men.  And the light shined in darkness; and the
darkness comprehended it not." Furthermore, I read that the soul
of man, though it "bears witness to the light," yet itself "is not
the light; but the Word of God, being God, is that true light that
lights every man who comes into the world." And further, that "he
was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world
knew him not."[187]  But that "he came unto his own, and his own
received him not.  And as many as received him, to them gave he
power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his
name"[188] -- this I did not find there.
     14.  Similarly, I read there that God the Word was born "not
of flesh nor of blood, nor of the will of man, nor the will of the
flesh, but of God."[189]  But, that "the Word was made flesh, and
dwelt among us"[190] -- I found this nowhere there.  And I
discovered in those books, expressed in many and various ways,
that "the Son was in the form of God and thought it not robbery to
be equal in God,"[191] for he was naturally of the same substance.
But, that "he emptied himself and took upon himself the form of a
servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in
fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto
death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God also hath
highly exalted him" from the dead, "and given him a name above
every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of
things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to
the glory of God the Father"[192] -- this those books have not.  I
read further in them that before all times and beyond all times,
thy only Son remaineth unchangeably coeternal with thee, and that
of his fullness all souls receive that they may be blessed, and
that by participation in that wisdom which abides in them, they
are renewed that they may be wise.  But, that "in due time, Christ
died for the ungodly" and that thou "sparedst not thy only Son,
but deliveredst him up for us all"[193] -- this is not there.
"For thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and
hast revealed them unto babes"[194]; that they "that labor and are
heavy laden" might "come unto him and he might refresh them"
because he is "meek and lowly in heart."[195]  "The meek will he
guide in judgment; and the meek will he teach his way; beholding
our lowliness and our trouble and forgiving all our sins."[196]
But those who strut in the high boots of what they deem to be
superior knowledge will not hear Him who says, "Learn of me, for I
am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your
souls."[197]  Thus, though they know God, yet they do not glorify
him as God, nor are they thankful.  Therefore, they "become vain
in their imaginations; their foolish heart is darkened, and
professing themselves to be wise they become fools."[198]
     15.  And, moreover, I also read there how "they changed the
glory of thy incorruptible nature into idols and various images --
into an image made like corruptible man and to birds and four-
footed beasts, and creeping things"[199]: namely, into that
Egyptian food[200] for which Esau lost his birthright; so that thy
first-born people worshiped the head of a four-footed beast
instead of thee, turning back in their hearts toward Egypt and
prostrating thy image (their own soul) before the image of an ox
that eats grass.  These things I found there, but I fed not on
them.  For it pleased thee, O Lord, to take away the reproach of
his minority from Jacob, that the elder should serve the younger
and thou mightest call the Gentiles, and I had sought strenuously
after that gold which thou didst allow thy people to take from
Egypt, since wherever it was it was thine.[201]  And thou saidst
unto the Athenians by the mouth of thy apostle that in thee "we
live and move and have our being," as one of their own poets had
said.[202]  And truly these books came from there.  But I did not
set my mind on the idols of Egypt which they fashioned of gold,
"changing the truth of God into a lie and worshiping and serving
the creature more than the Creator."[203]

                           CHAPTER X

     16.  And being admonished by these books to return into
myself, I entered into my inward soul, guided by thee.  This I
could do because thou wast my helper.  And I entered, and with the
eye of my soul -- such as it was -- saw above the same eye of my
soul and above my mind the Immutable Light.  It was not the common
light, which all flesh can see; nor was it simply a greater one of
the same sort, as if the light of day were to grow brighter and
brighter, and flood all space.  It was not like that light, but
different, yea, very different from all earthly light whatever.
Nor was it above my mind in the same way as oil is above water, or
heaven above earth, but it was higher, because it made me, and I
was below it, because I was made by it.  He who knows the Truth
knows that Light, and he who knows it knows eternity.  Love knows
it, O Eternal Truth and True Love and Beloved Eternity!  Thou art
my God, to whom I sigh both night and day.  When I first knew
thee, thou didst lift me up, that I might see that there was
something to be seen, though I was not yet fit to see it.  And
thou didst beat back the weakness of my sight, shining forth upon
me thy dazzling beams of light, and I trembled with love and fear.
I realized that I was far away from thee in the land of
unlikeness, as if I heard thy voice from on high: "I am the food
of strong men; grow and you shall feed on me; nor shall you change
me, like the food of your flesh into yourself, but you shall be
changed into my likeness." And I understood that thou chastenest
man for his iniquity, and makest my soul to be eaten away as
though by a spider.[204]  And I said, "Is Truth, therefore,
nothing, because it is not diffused through space -- neither
finite nor infinite?"  And thou didst cry to me from afar, "I am
that I am."[205]  And I heard this, as things are heard in the
heart, and there was no room for doubt.  I should have more
readily doubted that I am alive than that the Truth exists -- the
Truth which is "clearly seen, being understood by the things that
are made."[206]

                          CHAPTER XI

     17.  And I viewed all the other things that are beneath thee,
and I realized that they are neither wholly real nor wholly
unreal.  They are real in so far as they come from thee; but they
are unreal in so far as they are not what thou art.  For that is
truly real which remains immutable.  It is good, then, for me to
hold fast to God, for if I do not remain in him, neither shall I
abide in myself; but he, remaining in himself, renews all things.
And thou art the Lord my God, since thou standest in no need of my

                          CHAPTER XII

     18.  And it was made clear to me that all things are good
even if they are corrupted.  They could not be corrupted if they
were supremely good; but unless they were good they could not be
corrupted.  If they were supremely good, they would be
incorruptible; if they were not good at all, there would be
nothing in them to be corrupted.  For corruption harms; but unless
it could diminish goodness, it could not harm.  Either, then,
corruption does not harm -- which cannot be -- or, as is certain,
all that is corrupted is thereby deprived of good.  But if they
are deprived of all good, they will cease to be.  For if they are
at all and cannot be at all corrupted, they will become better,
because they will remain incorruptible.  Now what can be more
monstrous than to maintain that by losing all good they have
become better?  If, then, they are deprived of all good, they will
cease to exist.  So long as they are, therefore, they are good.
Therefore, whatsoever is, is good.  Evil, then, the origin of
which I had been seeking, has no substance at all; for if it were
a substance, it would be good.  For either it would be an
incorruptible substance and so a supreme good, or a corruptible
substance, which could not be corrupted unless it were good.  I
understood, therefore, and it was made clear to me that thou
madest all things good, nor is there any substance at all not made
by thee.  And because all that thou madest is not equal, each by
itself is good, and the sum of all of them is very good, for our
God made all things very good.[207]

                         CHAPTER XIII

     19.  To thee there is no such thing as evil, and even in thy
whole creation taken as a whole, there is not; because there is
nothing from beyond it that can burst in and destroy the order
which thou hast appointed for it.  But in the parts of creation,
some things, because they do not harmonize with others, are
considered evil.  Yet those same things harmonize with others and
are good, and in themselves are good.  And all these things which
do not harmonize with each other still harmonize with the inferior
part of creation which we call the earth, having its own cloudy
and windy sky of like nature with itself.  Far be it from me,
then, to say, "These things should not be." For if I could see
nothing but these, I should indeed desire something better -- but
still I ought to praise thee, if only for these created things.
For that thou art to be praised is shown from the fact that
"earth, dragons, and all deeps; fire, and hail, snow and vapors,
stormy winds fulfilling thy word; mountains, and all hills,
fruitful trees, and all cedars; beasts and all cattle; creeping
things, and flying fowl; things of the earth, and all people;
princes, and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens,
old men and children,"[208] praise thy name!  But seeing also that
in heaven all thy angels praise thee, O God, praise thee in the
heights, "and all thy hosts, sun and moon, all stars and light,
the heavens of heavens, and the waters that are above the
heavens,"[209] praise thy name -- seeing this, I say, I no longer
desire a better world, because my thought ranged over all, and
with a sounder judgment I reflected that the things above were
better than those below, yet that all creation together was better
than the higher things alone.

                          CHAPTER XIV

     20.  There is no health in those who find fault with any part
of thy creation; as there was no health in me when I found fault
with so many of thy works.  And, because my soul dared not be
displeased with my God, it would not allow that the things which
displeased me were from thee.  Hence it had wandered into the
notion of two substances, and could find no rest, but talked
foolishly, And turning from that error, it had then made for
itself a god extended through infinite space; and it thought this
was thou and set it up in its heart, and it became once more the
temple of its own idol, an abomination to thee.  But thou didst
soothe my brain, though I was unaware of it, and closed my eyes
lest they should behold vanity; and thus I ceased from
preoccupation with self by a little and my madness was lulled to
sleep; and I awoke in thee, and beheld thee as the Infinite, but
not in the way I had thought -- and this vision was not derived
from the flesh.

                          CHAPTER XV

     21.  And I looked around at other things, and I saw that it
was to thee that all of them owed their being, and that they were
all finite in thee; yet they are in thee not as in a space, but
because thou holdest all things in the hand of thy truth, and
because all things are true in so far as they are; and because
falsehood is nothing except the existence in thought of what does
not exist in fact.  And I saw that all things harmonize, not only
in their places but also in their seasons.  And I saw that thou,
who alone art eternal, didst not _begin_ to work after unnumbered
periods of time -- because all ages, both those which are past and
those which shall pass, neither go nor come except through thy
working and abiding.

                          CHAPTER XVI

     22.  And I saw and found it no marvel that bread which is
distasteful to an unhealthy palate is pleasant to a healthy one;
or that the light, which is painful to sore eyes, is a delight to
sound ones.  Thy righteousness displeases the wicked, and they
find even more fault with the viper and the little worm, which
thou hast created good, fitting in as they do with the inferior
parts of creation.  The wicked themselves also fit in here, and
proportionately more so as they become unlike thee -- but they
harmonize with the higher creation proportionately as they become
like thee.  And I asked what wickedness was, and I found that it
was no substance, but a perversion of the will bent aside from
thee, O God, the supreme substance, toward these lower things,
casting away its inmost treasure and becoming bloated with
external good.[210]

                         CHAPTER XVII

     23.  And I marveled that I now loved thee, and no fantasm in
thy stead, and yet I was not stable enough to enjoy my God
steadily.  Instead I was transported to thee by thy beauty, and
then presently torn away from thee by my own weight, sinking with
grief into these lower things.  This weight was carnal habit.  But
thy memory dwelt with me, and I never doubted in the least that
there was One for me to cleave to; but I was not yet ready to
cleave to thee firmly.  For the body which is corrupted presses
down the soul, and the earthly dwelling weighs down the mind,
which muses upon many things.[211]  My greatest certainty was that
"the invisible things of thine from the creation of the world are
clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even
thy eternal power and Godhead."[212]  For when I inquired how it
was that I could appreciate the beauty of bodies, both celestial
and terrestrial; and what it was that supported me in making
correct judgments about things mutable; and when I concluded,
"This ought to be thus; this ought not" -- _then_ when I inquired
how it was that I could make such judgments (since I did, in fact,
make them), I realized that I had found the unchangeable and true
eternity of truth above my changeable mind.
     And thus by degrees I was led upward from bodies to the soul
which perceives them by means of the bodily senses, and from there
on to the soul's inward faculty, to which the bodily senses report
outward things -- and this belongs even to the capacities of the
beasts -- and thence on up to the reasoning power, to whose
judgment is referred the experience received from the bodily
sense.  And when this power of reason within me also found that it
was changeable, it raised itself up to its own intellectual
principle,[213] and withdrew its thoughts from experience,
abstracting itself from the contradictory throng of fantasms in
order to seek for that light in which it was bathed.  Then,
without any doubting, it cried out that the unchangeable was
better than the changeable.  From this it follows that the mind
somehow knew the unchangeable, for, unless it had known it in some
fashion, it could have had no sure ground for preferring it to the
changeable.  And thus with the flash of a trembling glance, it
arrived at _that which is_.[214]  And I saw thy invisibility
[invisibilia tua] understood by means of the things that are made.
But I was not able to sustain my gaze.  My weakness was dashed
back, and I lapsed again into my accustomed ways, carrying along
with me nothing but a loving memory of my vision, and an appetite
for what I had, as it were, smelled the odor of, but was not yet
able to eat.

                         CHAPTER XVIII

     24.  I sought, therefore, some way to acquire the strength
sufficient to enjoy thee; but I did not find it until I embraced
that "Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus,"[215]
"who is over all, God blessed forever,"[216] who came calling and
saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life,"[217] and mingling
with our fleshly humanity the heavenly food I was unable to
receive.  For "the Word was made flesh" in order that thy wisdom,
by which thou didst create all things, might become milk for our
infancy.  And, as yet, I was not humble enough to hold the humble
Jesus; nor did I understand what lesson his weakness was meant to
teach us.  For thy Word, the eternal Truth, far exalted above even
the higher parts of thy creation, lifts his subjects up toward
himself.  But in this lower world, he built for himself a humble
habitation of our own clay, so that he might pull down from
themselves and win over to himself those whom he is to bring
subject to him; lowering their pride and heightening their love,
to the end that they might go on no farther in self-confidence --
but rather should become weak, seeing at their feet the Deity made
weak by sharing our coats of skin -- so that they might cast
themselves, exhausted, upon him and be uplifted by his rising.

                          CHAPTER XIX

     25.  But I thought otherwise.  I saw in our Lord Christ only
a man of eminent wisdom to whom no other man could be compared --
especially because he was miraculously born of a virgin -- sent to
set us an example of despising worldly things for the attainment
of immortality, and thus exhibiting his divine care for us.
Because of this, I held that he had merited his great authority as
leader.  But concerning the mystery contained in "the Word was
made flesh," I could not even form a notion.  From what I learned
from what has been handed down to us in the books about him --
that he ate, drank, slept, walked, rejoiced in spirit, was sad,
and discoursed with his fellows -- I realized that his flesh alone
was not bound unto thy Word, but also that there was a bond with
the human soul and body.  Everyone knows this who knows the
unchangeableness of thy Word, and this I knew by now, as far as I
was able, and I had no doubts at all about it.  For at one time to
move the limbs by an act of will, at another time not; at one time
to feel some emotion, at another time not; at one time to speak
intelligibly through verbal signs, at another, not -- these are
all properties of a soul and mind subject to change.  And if these
things were falsely written about him, all the rest would risk the
imputation of falsehood, and there would remain in those books no
saving faith for the human race.
     Therefore, because they were written truthfully, I
acknowledged a perfect man to be in Christ -- not the body of a
man only, nor, in the body, an animal soul without a rational one
as well, but a true man.  And this man I held to be superior to
all others, not only because he was a form of the Truth, but also

(continued in part 11 ...)

file: /pub/resources/text/icp-e/epl-01: agcon-10.txt