(Augustine, Confessions. part 15)

appearance out of its secret cell.  Some things suggest themselves
without effort, and in continuous order, just as they are called
for -- the things that come first give place to those that follow,
and in so doing are treasured up again to be forthcoming when I
want them.  All of this happens when I repeat a thing from memory.
     13.  All these things, each one of which came into memory in
its own particular way, are stored up separately and under the
general categories of understanding.  For example, light and all
colors and forms of bodies came in through the eyes; sounds of all
kinds by the ears; all smells by the passages of the nostrils; all
flavors by the gate of the mouth; by the sensation of the whole
body, there is brought in what is hard or soft, hot or cold,
smooth or rough, heavy or light, whether external or internal to
the body.  The vast cave of memory, with its numerous and
mysterious recesses, receives all these things and stores them up,
to be recalled and brought forth when required.  Each experience
enters by its own door, and is stored up in the memory.  And yet
the things themselves do not enter it, but only the images of the
things perceived are there for thought to remember.  And who can
tell how these images are formed, even if it is evident which of
the senses brought which perception in and stored it up?  For even
when I am in darkness and silence I can bring out colors in my
memory if I wish, and discern between black and white and the
other shades as I wish; and at the same time, sounds do not break
in and disturb what is drawn in by my eyes, and which I am
considering, because the sounds which are also there are stored
up, as it were, apart.  And these too I can summon if I please and
they are immediately present in memory.  And though my tongue is
at rest and my throat silent, yet I can sing as I will; and those
images of color, which are as truly present as before, do not
interpose themselves or interrupt while another treasure which had
flowed in through the ears is being thought about.  Similarly all
the other things that were brought in and heaped up by all the
other senses, I can recall at my pleasure.  And I distinguish the
scent of lilies from that of violets while actually smelling
nothing; and I prefer honey to mead, a smooth thing to a rough,
even though I am neither tasting nor handling them, but only
remembering them.
     14.  All this I do within myself, in that huge hall of my
memory.  For in it, heaven, earth, and sea are present to me, and
whatever I can cogitate about them -- except what I have
forgotten.  There also I meet myself and recall myself[337] --
what, when, or where I did a thing, and how I felt when I did it.
There are all the things that I remember, either having
experienced them myself or been told about them by others.  Out of
the same storehouse, with these past impressions, I can construct
now this, now that, image of things that I either have experienced
or have believed on the basis of experience -- and from these I
can further construct future actions, events, and hopes; and I can
meditate on all these things as if they were present.  "I will do
this or that" -- I say to myself in that vast recess of my mind,
with its full store of so many and such great images -- "and this
or that will follow upon it." "O that this or that could happen!"
"God prevent this or that." I speak to myself in this way; and
when I speak, the images of what I am speaking about are present
out of the same store of memory; and if the images were absent I
could say nothing at all about them.
     15.  Great is this power of memory, exceedingly great, O my
God -- a large and boundless inner hall!  Who has plumbed the
depths of it?  Yet it is a power of my mind, and it belongs to my
nature.  But I do not myself grasp all that I am.  Thus the mind
is far too narrow to contain itself.  But where can that part of
it be which it does not contain?  Is it outside and not in itself?
How can it be, then, that the mind cannot grasp itself?  A great
marvel rises in me; astonishment seizes me.  Men go forth to
marvel at the heights of mountains and the huge waves of the sea,
the broad flow of the rivers, the vastness of the ocean, the
orbits of the stars, and yet they neglect to marvel at themselves.
Nor do they wonder how it is that, when I spoke of all these
things, I was not looking at them with my eyes -- and yet I could
not have spoken about them had it not been that I was actually
seeing within, in my memory, those mountains and waves and rivers
and stars which I have seen, and that ocean which I believe in --
and with the same vast spaces between them as when I saw them
outside me.  But when I saw them outside me, I did not take them
into me by seeing them; and the things themselves are not inside
me, but only their images.  And yet I knew through which physical
sense each experience had made an impression on me.

                          CHAPTER IX

     16.  And yet this is not all that the unlimited capacity of
my memory stores up.  In memory, there are also all that one has
learned of the liberal sciences, and has not forgotten -- removed
still further, so to say, into an inner place which is not a
place.  Of these things it is not the images that are retained,
but the things themselves.  For what literature and logic are, and
what I know about how many different kinds of questions there are
-- all these are stored in my memory as they are, so that I have
not taken in the image and left the thing outside.  It is not as
though a sound had sounded and passed away like a voice heard by
the ear which leaves a trace by which it can be called into memory
again, as if it were still sounding in mind while it did so no
longer outside.  Nor is it the same as an odor which, even after
it has passed and vanished into the wind, affects the sense of
smell -- which then conveys into the memory the _image_ of the
smell which is what we recall and re-create; or like food which,
once in the belly, surely now has no taste and yet does have a
kind of taste in the memory; or like anything that is felt by the
body through the sense of touch, which still remains as an image
in the memory after the external object is removed.  For these
things themselves are not put into the memory.  Only the images of
them are gathered with a marvelous quickness and stored, as it
were, in the most wonderful filing system, and are thence produced
in a marvelous way by the act of remembering.

                           CHAPTER X

     17.  But now when I hear that there are three kinds of
questions -- "Whether a thing is?  What it is?  Of what kind it
is?" -- I do indeed retain the images of the sounds of which these
words are composed and I know that those sounds pass through the
air with a noise and now no longer exist.  But the things
themselves which were signified by those sounds I never could
reach by any sense of the body nor see them at all except by my
mind.  And what I have stored in my memory was not their signs,
but the things signified.
     How they got into me, let them tell who can.  For I examine
all the gates of my flesh, but I cannot find the door by which any
of them entered.  FFor the eyes say, "If they were colored, we
reported that." The ears say, "If they gave any sound, we gave
notice of that." The nostrils say, "If they smell, they passed in
by us." The sense of taste says, "If they have no flavor, don't
ask me about them." The sense of touch says, "If it had no bodily
mass, I did not touch it, and if I never touched it, I gave no
report about it."
     Whence and how did these things enter into my memory?  I do
not know.  For when I first learned them, it was not that I
believed them on the credit of another man's mind, but I
recognized them in my own; and I saw them as true, took them into
my mind and laid them up, so to say, where I could get at them
again whenever I willed.  There they were, then, even before I
learned them, but they were not in my memory.  Where were they,
then?  How does it come about that when they were spoken of, I
could acknowledge them and say, "So it is, it is true," unless
they were already in the memory, though far back and hidden, as it
were, in the more secret caves, so that unless they had been drawn
out by the teaching of another person, I should perhaps never have
been able to think of them at all?

                          CHAPTER XI

     18.  Thus we find that learning those things whose images we
do not take in by our senses, but which we intuit within ourselves
without images and as they actually are, is nothing else except
the gathering together of those same things which the memory
already contains -- but in an indiscriminate and confused manner
-- and putting them together by careful observation as they are at
hand in the memory; so that whereas they formerly lay hidden,
scattered, or neglected, they now come easily to present
themselves to the mind which is now familiar with them.  And how
many things of this sort my memory has stored up, which have
already been discovered and, as I said, laid up for ready
reference.  These are the things we may be said to have learned
and to know.  Yet, if I cease to recall them even for short
intervals of time, they are again so submerged -- and slide back,
as it were, into the further reaches of the memory -- that they
must be drawn out again as if new from the same place (for there
is nowhere else for them to have gone) and must be collected
[cogenda] so that they can become known.  In other words, they
must be gathered up [colligenda] from their dispersion.  This is
where we get the word cogitate [cogitare].  For cogo [collect] and
cogito [to go on collecting] have the same relation to each other
as ago [do] and agito [do frequently], and facio [make] and
factito [make frequently].  But the mind has properly laid claim
to this word [cogitate] so that not everything that is gathered
together anywhere, but only what is collected and gathered
together in the mind, is properly said to be "cogitated."

                          CHAPTER XII

     19.  The memory also contains the principles and the
unnumbered laws of numbers and dimensions.  None of these has been
impressed on the memory by a physical sense, because they have
neither color nor sound, nor taste, nor sense of touch. I have
heard the sound of the words by which these things are signified
when they are discussed: but the sounds are one thing, the things
another.  For the sounds are one thing in Greek, another in Latin;
but the things themselves are neither Greek nor Latin nor any
other language.  I have seen the lines of the craftsmen, the
finest of which are like a spider's web, but mathematical lines
are different.  They are not the images of such things as the eye
of my body has showed me.  The man who knows them does so without
any cogitation of physical objects whatever, but intuits them
within himself.  I have perceived with all the senses of my body
the numbers we use in counting; but the numbers by which we count
are far different from these.  They are not the images of these;
they simply are.  Let the man who does not see these things mock
me for saying them; and I will pity him while he laughs at me.

                         CHAPTER XIII

     20.  All these things I hold in my memory, and I remember how
I learned them.  I also remember many things that I have heard
quite falsely urged against them, which, even if they are false,
yet it is not false that I have remembered them.  And I also
remember that I have distinguished between the truths and the
false objections, and now I see that it is one thing to
distinguish these things and another to remember that I did
distinguish them when I have cogitated on them.  I remember, then,
both that I have often understood these things and also that I am
now storing away in my memory what I distinguish and comprehend of
them so that later on I may remember just as I understand them
now.  Therefore, I remember that I remembered, so that if
afterward I call to mind that I once was able to remember these
things it will be through the power of memory that I recall it.

                          CHAPTER XIV

     21.  This same memory also contains the feelings of my mind;
not in the manner in which the mind itself experienced them, but
very differently according to a power peculiar to memory.  For
without being joyous now, I can remember that I once was joyous,
and without being sad, I can recall my past sadness.  I can
remember past fears without fear, and former desires without
desire.  Again, the contrary happens.  Sometimes when I am joyous
I remember my past sadness, and when sad, remember past joy.
     This is not to be marveled at as far as the body is
concerned; for the mind is one thing and the body another.[338]
If, therefore, when I am happy, I recall some past bodily pain, it
is not so strange.  But even as this memory is experienced, it is
identical with the mind -- as when we tell someone to remember
something we say, "See that you bear this in mind"; and when we
forget a thing, we say, "It did not enter my mind" or "It slipped
my mind." Thus we call memory itself mind.
     Since this is so, how does it happen that when I am joyful I
can still remember past sorrow?  Thus the mind has joy, and the
memory has sorrow; and the mind is joyful from the joy that is in
it, yet the memory is not sad from the sadness that is in it.  Is
it possible that the memory does not belong to the mind?  Who will
say so?  The memory doubtless is, so to say, the belly of the
mind: and joy and sadness are like sweet and bitter food, which
when they are committed to the memory are, so to say, passed into
the belly where they can be stored but no longer tasted.  It is
ridiculous to consider this an analogy; yet they are not utterly
     22.  But look, it is from my memory that I produce it when I
say that there are four basic emotions of the mind: desire, joy,
fear, sadness.  Whatever kind of analysis I may be able to make of
these, by dividing each into its particular species, and by
defining it, I still find what to say in my memory and it is from
my memory that I draw it out.  Yet I am not moved by any of these
emotions when I call them to mind by remembering them.  Moreover,
before I recalled them and thought about them, they were there in
the memory; and this is how they could be brought forth in
remembrance.  Perhaps, therefore, just as food is brought up out
of the belly by rumination, so also these things are drawn up out
of the memory by recall.  But why, then, does not the man who is
thinking about the emotions, and is thus recalling them, feel in
the mouth of his reflection the sweetness of joy or the bitterness
of sadness?  Is the comparison unlike in this because it is not
complete at every point?  For who would willingly speak on these
subjects, if as often as we used the term sadness or fear, we
should thereby be compelled to be sad or fearful?  And yet we
could never speak of them if we did not find them in our memories,
not merely as the sounds of the names, as their images are
impressed on it by the physical senses, but also the notions of
the things themselves -- which we did not receive by any gate of
the flesh, but which the mind itself recognizes by the experience
of its own passions, and has entrusted to the memory; or else
which the memory itself has retained without their being entrusted
to it.

                          CHAPTER XV

     23.  Now whether all this is by means of images or not, who
can rightly affirm?  For I name a stone, I name the sun, and those
things themselves are not present to my senses, but their images
are present in my memory.  I name some pain of the body, yet it is
not present when there is no pain; yet if there were not some such
image of it in my memory, I could not even speak of it, nor should
I be able to distinguish it from pleasure.  I name bodily health
when I am sound in body, and the thing itself is indeed present in
me.  At the same time, unless there were some image of it in my
memory, I could not possibly call to mind what the sound of this
name signified.  Nor would sick people know what was meant when
health was named, unless the same image were preserved by the
power of memory, even though the thing itself is absent from the
body.  I can name the numbers we use in counting, and it is not
their images but themselves that are in my memory.  I name the
image of the sun, and this too is in my memory.  For I do not
recall the image of that image, but that image itself, for the
image itself is present when I remember it.  I name memory and I
know what I name.  But where do I know it, except in the memory
itself?  Is it also present to itself by its image, and not by

                          CHAPTER XVI

     24.  When I name forgetfulness, and understand what I mean by
the name, how could I understand it if I did not remember it?  And
if I refer not to the sound of the name, but to the thing which
the term signifies, how could I know what that sound signified if
I had forgotten what the name means?  When, therefore, I remember
memory, then memory is present to itself by itself, but when I
remember forgetfulness then both memory and forgetfulness are
present together -- the memory by which I remember the
forgetfulness which I remember.  But what is forgetfulness except
the privation of memory?  How, then, is that present to my memory
which, when it controls my mind, I cannot remember?  But if what
we remember we store up in our memory; and if, unless we
remembered forgetfulness, we could never know the thing signified
by the term when we heard it -- then, forgetfulness is contained
in the memory.  It is present so that we do not forget it, but
since it is present, we do forget.
     From this it is to be inferred that when we remember
forgetfulness, it is not present to the memory through itself, but
through its image; because if forgetfulness were present through
itself, it would not lead us to remember, but only to forget.  Now
who will someday work this out?  Who can understand how it is?
     25.  Truly, O Lord, I toil with this and labor in myself.  I
have become a troublesome field that requires hard labor and heavy
sweat.  For we are not now searching out the tracts of heaven, or
measuring the distances of the stars or inquiring about the weight
of the earth.  It is I myself -- I, the mind -- who remember.
This is not much to marvel at, if what I myself am is not far from
me.  And what is nearer to me than myself?  For see, I am not able
to comprehend the force of my own memory, though I could not even
call my own name without it.  But what shall I say, when it is
clear to me that I remember forgetfulness?  Should I affirm that
what I remember is not in my memory?  Or should I say that
forgetfulness is in my memory to the end that I should not forget?
Both of these views are most absurd.  But what third view is
there?  How can I say that the image of forgetfulness is retained
by my memory, and not forgetfulness itself, when I remember it?
How can I say this, since for the image of anything to be
imprinted on the memory the thing itself must necessarily have
been present first by which the image could have been imprinted?
Thus I remember Carthage; thus, also, I remember all the other
places where I have been.  And I remember the faces of men whom I
have seen and things reported by the other senses.  I remember the
health or sickness of the body.  And when these objects were
present, my memory received images from them so that they remain
present in order for me to see them and reflect upon them in my
mind, if I choose to remember them in their absence.  If,
therefore, forgetfulness is retained in the memory through its
image and not through itself, then this means that it itself was
once present, so that its image might have been imprinted.  But
when it was present, how did it write its image on the memory,
since forgetfulness, by its presence, blots out even what it finds
already written there?  And yet in some way or other, even though
it is incomprehensible and inexplicable, I am still quite certain
that I also remember forgetfulness, by which we remember that
something is blotted out.

                         CHAPTER XVII

     26.  Great is the power of memory.  It is a true marvel, O my
God, a profound and infinite multiplicity!  And this is the mind,
and this I myself am.  What, then, am I, O my God?  Of what nature
am I?  A life various, and manifold, and exceedingly vast.  Behold
in the numberless halls and caves, in the innumerable fields and
dens and caverns of my memory, full without measure of numberless
kinds of things -- present there either through images as all
bodies are; or present in the things themselves as are our
thoughts; or by some notion or observation as our emotions are,
which the memory retains even though the mind feels them no
longer, as long as whatever is in the memory is also in the mind
-- through all these I run and fly to and fro.  I penetrate into
them on this side and that as far as I can and yet there is
nowhere any end.
     So great is the power of memory, so great the power of life
in man whose life is mortal!  What, then, shall I do, O thou my
true life, my God?  I will pass even beyond this power of mine
that is called memory -- I will pass beyond it, that I may come to
thee, O lovely Light.  And what art thou saying to me?  See, I
soar by my mind toward thee, who remainest above me.  I will also
pass beyond this power of mine that is called memory, desiring to
reach thee where thou canst be reached, and wishing to cleave to
thee where it is possible to cleave to thee.  For even beasts and
birds possess memory, or else they could never find their lairs
and nests again, nor display many other things they know and do by
habit.  Indeed, they could not even form their habits except by
their memories.  I will therefore pass even beyond memory that I
may reach Him who has differentiated me from the four-footed
beasts and the fowls of the air by making me a wiser creature.
Thus I will pass beyond memory; but where shall I find thee, who
art the true Good and the steadfast Sweetness?  But where shall I
find thee?  If I find thee without memory, then I shall have no
memory of thee; and how could I find thee at all, if I do not
remember thee?

                         CHAPTER XVIII

     27.  For the woman who lost her small coin[339] and searched
for it with a light would never have found it unless she had
remembered it.  For when it was found, how could she have known
whether it was the same coin, if she had not remembered it?  I
remember having lost and found many things, and I have learned
this from that experience: that when I was searching for any of
them and was asked: "Is this it? Is that it?"  I answered, "No,"
until finally what I was seeking was shown to me.  But if I had
not remembered it -- whatever it was -- even though it was shown
to me, I still would not have found it because I could not have
recognized it.  And this is the way it always is when we search
for and find anything that is lost.  Still, if anything is
accidentally lost from sight -- not from memory, as a visible body
might be -- its image is retained within, and the thing is
searched for until it is restored to sight.  And when the thing is
found, it is recognized by the image of it which is within.  And
we do not say that we have found what we have lost unless we can
recognize it, and we cannot recognize it unless we remember it.
But all the while the thing lost to the sight was retained in the

                          CHAPTER XIX

     28.  But what happens when the memory itself loses something,
as when we forget anything and try to recall it?  Where, finally,
do we search, but in the memory itself?  And there, if by chance
one thing is offered for another, we refuse it until we meet with
what we are looking for; and when we do, we recognize that this is
it.  But we could not do this unless we recognized it, nor could
we have recognized it unless we remembered it.  Yet we had indeed
forgotten it.
     Perhaps the whole of it had not slipped out of our memory;
but a part was retained by which the other lost part was sought
for, because the memory realized that it was not operating as
smoothly as usual and was being held up by the crippling of its
habitual working; hence, it demanded the restoration of what was
     For example, if we see or think of some man we know, and,
having forgotten his name, try to recall it -- if some other thing
presents itself, we cannot tie it into the effort to remember,
because it was not habitually thought of in association with him.
It is consequently rejected, until something comes into the mind
on which our knowledge can rightly rest as the familiar and
sought-for object.  And where does this name come back from, save
from the memory itself?  For even when we recognize it by
another's reminding us of it, still it is from the memory that
this comes, for we do not believe it as something new; but when we
recall it, we admit that what was said was correct.  But if the
name had been entirely blotted out of the mind, we should not be
able to recollect it even when reminded of it.  For we have not
entirely forgotten anything if we can remember that we have
forgotten it.  For a lost notion, one that we have entirely
forgotten, we cannot even search for.

                           CHAPTER XX

     29.  How, then, do I seek thee, O Lord?  For when I seek
thee, my God, I seek a happy life.  I will seek thee that my soul
may live.[340]  For my body lives by my soul, and my soul lives by
thee.  How, then, do I seek a happy life, since happiness is not
mine till I can rightly say: "It is enough.  This is it." How do I
seek it?  Is it by remembering, as though I had forgotten it and
still knew that I had forgotten it?  Do I seek it in longing to
learn of it as though it were something unknown, which either I
had never known or had so completely forgotten as not even to
remember that I had forgotten it?  Is not the happy life the thing
that all desire, and is there anyone who does not desire it at
all?[341]  But where would they have gotten the knowledge of it,
that they should so desire it?  Where have they seen it that they
should so love it?  It is somehow true that we have it, but how I
do not know.
     There is, indeed, a sense in which when anyone has his desire
he is happy.  And then there are some who are happy in hope.
These are happy in an inferior degree to those that are actually
happy; yet they are better off than those who are happy neither in
actuality nor in hope.  But even these, if they had not known
happiness in some degree, would not then desire to be happy.  And
yet it is most certain that they do so desire.  How they come to
know happiness, I cannot tell, but they have it by some kind of
knowledge unknown to me, for I am very much in doubt as to whether
it is in the memory.  For if it is in there, then we have been
happy once on a time -- either each of us individually or all of
us in that man who first sinned and in whom also we all died and
from whom we are all born in misery.  How this is, I do not now
ask; but I do ask whether the happy life is in the memory.  For if
we did not know it, we should not love it.  We hear the name of
it, and we all acknowledge that we desire the thing, for we are
not delighted with the name only.  For when a Greek hears it
spoken in Latin, he does not feel delighted, for he does not know
what has been spoken.  But we are as delighted as he would be in
turn if he heard it in Greek, because the thing itself is neither
Greek nor Latin, this happiness which Greeks and Latins and men of
all the other tongues long so earnestly to obtain.  It is, then,
known to all; and if all could with one voice be asked whether
they wished to be happy, there is no doubt they would all answer
that they would.  And this would not be possible unless the thing
itself, which we name "happiness," were held in the memory.

                          CHAPTER XXI

     30.  But is it the same kind of memory as one who having seen
Carthage remembers it?  No, for the happy life is not visible to
the eye, since it is not a physical object.  Is it the sort of
memory we have for numbers?  No, for the man who has these in his
understanding does not keep striving to attain more.  Now we know
something about the happy life and therefore we love it, but still
we wish to go on striving for it that we may be happy.  Is the
memory of happiness, then, something like the memory of eloquence?
No, for although some, when they hear the term eloquence, call the
thing to mind, even if they are not themselves eloquent -- and
further, there are many people who would like to be eloquent, from
which it follows that they must know something about it --
nevertheless, these people have noticed through their senses that
others are eloquent and have been delighted to observe this and
long to be this way themselves.  But they would not be delighted
if it were not some interior knowledge; and they would not desire
to be delighted unless they had been delighted.  But as for a
happy life, there is no physical perception by which we experience
it in others.
     Do we remember happiness, then, as we remember joy?  It may
be so, for I remember my joy even when I am sad, just as I
remember a happy life when I am miserable.  And I have never,
through physical perception, either seen, heard, smelled, tasted,
or touched my joy.  But I have experienced it in my mind when I
rejoiced; and the knowledge of it clung to my memory so that I can
call it to mind, sometimes with disdain and at other times with
longing, depending on the different kinds of things I now remember
that I rejoiced in.  For I have been bathed with a certain joy
even by unclean things, which I now detest and execrate as I call
them to mind.  At other times, I call to mind with longing good
and honest things, which are not any longer near at hand, and I am
therefore saddened when I recall my former joy.
     31.  Where and when did I ever experience my happy life that
I can call it to mind and love it and long for it?  It is not I
alone or even a few others who wish to be happy, but absolutely
everybody.  Unless we knew happiness by a knowledge that is
certain, we should not wish for it with a will which is so
certain.  Take this example: If two men were asked whether they
wished to serve as soldiers, one of them might reply that he
would, and the other that he would not; but if they were asked
whether they wished to be happy, both of them would unhesitatingly
say that they would.  But the first one would wish to serve as a
soldier and the other would not wish to serve, both from no other

(continued in part 16 ...)

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