(Augustine, Confessions. part 17) the purpose of experiencing the discomfort that often accompanies them, but out of a passion for experimenting and knowledge. For what pleasure is there in the sight of a lacerated corpse, which makes you shudder? And yet if there is one lying close by we flock to it, as if to be made sad and pale. People fear lest they should see such a thing even in sleep, just as they would if, when awake, someone compelled them to go and see it or if some rumor of its beauty had attracted them. This is also the case with the other senses; it would be tedious to pursue a complete analysis of it. This malady of curiosity is the reason for all those strange sights exhibited in the theater. It is also the reason why we proceed to search out the secret powers of nature -- those which have nothing to do with our destiny -- which do not profit us to know about, and concerning which men desire to know only for the sake of knowing. And it is with this same motive of perverted curiosity for knowledge that we consult the magical arts. Even in religion itself, this prompting drives us to make trial of God when signs and wonders are eagerly asked of him -- not desired for any saving end, but only to make trial of him. 56. In such a wilderness so vast, crammed with snares and dangers, behold how many of them I have lopped off and cast from my heart, as thou, O God of my salvation, hast enabled me to do. And yet, when would I dare to say, since so many things of this sort still buzz around our daily lives -- when would I dare to say that no such motive prompts my seeing or creates a vain curiosity in me? It is true that now the theaters never attract me, nor do I now care to inquire about the courses of the stars, and my soul has never sought answers from the departed spirits. All sacrilegious oaths I abhor. And yet, O Lord my God, to whom I owe all humble and singlehearted service, with what subtle suggestion the enemy still influences me to require some sign from thee! But by our King, and by Jerusalem, our pure and chaste homeland, I beseech thee that where any consenting to such thoughts is now far from me, so may it always be farther and farther. And when I entreat thee for the salvation of any man, the end I aim at is something more than the entreating: let it be that as thou dost what thou wilt, thou dost also give me the grace willingly to follow thy lead. 57. Now, really, in how many of the most minute and trivial things my curiosity is still daily tempted, and who can keep the tally on how often I succumb? How often, when people are telling idle tales, we begin by tolerating them lest we should give offense to the sensitive; and then gradually we come to listen willingly! I do not nowadays go to the circus to see a dog chase a rabbit, but if by chance I pass such a race in the fields, it quite easily distracts me even from some serious thought and draws me after it -- not that I turn aside with my horse, but with the inclination of my mind. And unless, by showing me my weakness, thou dost speedily warn me to rise above such a sight to thee by a deliberate act of thought -- or else to despise the whole thing and pass it by -- then I become absorbed in the sight, vain creature that I am. How is it that when I am sitting at home a lizard catching flies, or a spider entangling them as they fly into her webs, oftentimes arrests me? Is the feeling of curiosity not the same just because these are such tiny creatures? From them I proceed to praise thee, the wonderful Creator and Disposer of all things; but it is not this that first attracts my attention. It is one thing to get up quickly and another thing not to fall -- and of both such things my life is full and my only hope is in thy exceeding great mercy. For when this heart of ours is made the depot of such things and is overrun by the throng of these abounding vanities, then our prayers are often interrupted and disturbed by them. Even while we are in thy presence and direct the voice of our hearts to thy ears, such a great business as this is broken off by the inroads of I know not what idle thoughts. CHAPTER XXXVI 58. Shall we, then, also reckon this vain curiosity among the things that are to be but lightly esteemed? Shall anything restore us to hope except thy complete mercy since thou hast begun to change us? Thou knowest to what extent thou hast already changed me, for first of all thou didst heal me of the lust for vindicating myself, so that thou mightest then forgive all my remaining iniquities and heal all my diseases, and "redeem my life from corruption and crown me with loving-kindness and tender mercies, and satisfy my desires with good things." It was thou who didst restrain my pride with thy fear, and bowed my neck to thy "yoke." And now I bear the yoke and it is "light" to me, because thou didst promise it to be so, and hast made it to be so. And so in truth it was, though I knew it not when I feared to take it up. 59. But, O Lord -- thou who alone reignest without pride, because thou alone art the true Lord, who hast no Lord -- has this third kind of temptation left me, or can it leave me during this life: the desire to be feared and loved of men, with no other view than that I may find in it a joy that is no joy? It is, rather, a wretched life and an unseemly ostentation. It is a special reason why we do not love thee, nor devotedly fear thee. Therefore "thou resistest the proud but givest grace to the humble." Thou thunderest down on the ambitious designs of the world, and "the foundations of the hills" tremble. And yet certain offices in human society require the officeholder to be loved and feared of men, and through this the adversary of our true blessedness presses hard upon us, scattering everywhere his snares of "well done, well done"; so that while we are eagerly picking them up, we may be caught unawares and split off our joy from thy truth and fix it on the deceits of men. In this way we come to take pleasure in being loved and feared, not for thy sake but in thy stead. By such means as this, the adversary makes men like himself, that he may have them as his own, not in the harmony of love, but in the fellowship of punishment -- the one who aspired to exalt his throne in the north, that in the darkness and the cold men might have to serve him, mimicking thee in perverse and distorted ways. But see, O Lord, we are thy little flock. Possess us, stretch thy wings above us, and let us take refuge under them. Be thou our glory; let us be loved for thy sake, and let thy word be feared in us. Those who desire to be commended by the men whom thou condemnest will not be defended by men when thou judgest, nor will they be delivered when thou dost condemn them. But when -- not as a sinner is praised in the wicked desires of his soul nor when the unrighteous man is blessed in his unrighteousness -- a man is praised for some gift that thou hast given him, and he is more gratified at the praise for himself than because he possesses the gift for which he is praised, such a one is praised while thou dost condemn him. In such a case the one who praised is truly better than the one who was praised. For the gift of God in man was pleasing to the one, while the other was better pleased with the gift of man than with the gift of God. CHAPTER XXXVII 60. By these temptations we are daily tried, O Lord; we are tried unceasingly. Our daily "furnace" is the human tongue. And also in this respect thou commandest us to be continent. Give what thou commandest and command what thou wilt. In this matter, thou knowest the groans of my heart and the rivers of my eyes, for I am not able to know for certain how far I am clean of this plague; and I stand in great fear of my "secret faults," which thy eyes perceive, though mine do not. For in respect of the pleasures of my flesh and of idle curiosity, I see how far I have been able to hold my mind in check when I abstain from them either by voluntary act of the will or because they simply are not at hand; for then I can inquire of myself how much more or less frustrating it is to me not to have them. This is also true about riches, which are sought for in order that they may minister to one of these three "lusts," or two, or the whole complex of them. The mind is able to see clearly if, when it has them, it despises them so that they may be cast aside and it may prove itself. But if we desire to test our power of doing without praise, must we then live wickedly or lead a life so atrocious and abandoned that everyone who knows us will detest us? What greater madness than this can be either said or conceived? And yet if praise, both by custom and right, is the companion of a good life and of good works, we should as little forgo its companionship as the good life itself. But unless a thing is absent I do not know whether I should be contented or troubled at having to do without it. 61. What is it, then, that I am confessing to thee, O Lord, concerning this sort of temptation? What else, than that I am delighted with praise, but more with the truth itself than with praise. For if I were to have any choice whether, if I were mad or utterly in the wrong, I would prefer to be praised by all men or, if I were steadily and fully confident in the truth, would prefer to be blamed by all, I see which I should choose. Yet I wish I were unwilling that the approval of others should add anything to my joy for any good I have. Yet I admit that it does increase it; and, more than that, dispraise diminishes it. Then, when I am disturbed over this wretchedness of mine, an excuse presents itself to me, the value of which thou knowest, O God, for it renders me uncertain. For since it is not only continence that thou hast enjoined on us -- that is, what things to hold back our love from -- but righteousness as well -- that is, what to bestow our love upon -- and hast wished us to love not only thee, but also our neighbor, it often turns out that when I am gratified by intelligent praise I seem to myself to be gratified by the competence or insight of my neighbor; or, on the other hand, I am sorry for the defect in him when I hear him dispraise either what he does not understand or what is good. For I am sometimes grieved at the praise I get, either when those things that displease me in myself are praised in me, or when lesser and trifling goods are valued more highly than they should be. But, again, how do I know whether I feel this way because I am unwilling that he who praises me should differ from me concerning myself not because I am moved with any consideration for him, but because the good things that please me in myself are more pleasing to me when they also please another? For in a way, I am not praised when my judgment of myself is not praised, since either those things which are displeasing to me are praised, or those things which are less pleasing to me are more praised. Am I not, then, quite uncertain of myself in this respect? 62. Behold, O Truth, it is in thee that I see that I ought not to be moved at my own praises for my own sake, but for the sake of my neighbor's good. And whether this is actually my way, I truly do not know. On this score I know less of myself than thou dost. I beseech thee now, O my God, to reveal myself to me also, that I may confess to my brethren, who are to pray for me in those matters where I find myself weak. Let me once again examine myself the more diligently. If, in my own praise, I am moved with concern for my neighbor, why am I less moved if some other man is unjustly dispraised than when it happens to me? Why am I more irritated at that reproach which is cast on me than at one which is, with equal injustice, cast upon another in my presence? Am I ignorant of this also? Or is it still true that I am deceiving myself, and do not keep the truth before thee in my heart and tongue? Put such madness far from me, O Lord, lest my mouth be to me "the oil of sinners, to anoint my head." CHAPTER XXXVIII 63. "I am needy and poor." Still, I am better when in secret groanings I displease myself and seek thy mercy until what is lacking in me is renewed and made complete for that peace which the eye of the proud does not know. The reports that come from the mouth and from actions known to men have in them a most perilous temptation to the love of praise. This love builds up a certain complacency in one's own excellency, and then goes around collecting solicited compliments. It tempts me, even when I inwardly reprove myself for it, and this precisely because it is reproved. For a man may often glory vainly in the very scorn of vainglory -- and in this case it is not any longer the scorn of vainglory in which he glories, for he does not truly despise it when he inwardly glories in it. CHAPTER XXXIX 64. Within us there is yet another evil arising from the same sort of temptation. By it they become empty who please themselves in themselves, although they do not please or displease or aim at pleasing others. But in pleasing themselves they displease thee very much, not merely taking pleasure in things that are not good as if they were good, but taking pleasure in thy good things as if they were their own; or even as if they were thine but still as if they had received them through their own merit; or even as if they had them through thy grace, still without this grace with their friends, but as if they envied that grace to others. In all these and similar perils and labors, thou perceivest the agitation of my heart, and I would rather feel my wounds being cured by thee than not inflicted by me on myself. CHAPTER XL 65. Where hast thou not accompanied me, O Truth, teaching me both what to avoid and what to desire, when I have submitted to thee what I could understand about matters here below, and have sought thy counsel about them? With my external senses I have viewed the world as I was able and have noticed the life which my body derives from me and from these senses of mine. From that stage I advanced inwardly into the recesses of my memory -- the manifold chambers of my mind, marvelously full of unmeasured wealth. And I reflected on this and was afraid, and could understand none of these things without thee and found thee to be none of them. Nor did I myself discover these things -- I who went over them all and labored to distinguish and to value everything according to its dignity, accepting some things upon the report of my senses and questioning about others which I thought to be related to my inner self, distinguishing and numbering the reporters themselves; and in that vast storehouse of my memory, investigating some things, depositing other things, taking out still others. Neither was I myself when I did this -- that is, that ability of mine by which I did it -- nor was it thou, for thou art that never-failing light from which I took counsel about them all; whether they were what they were, and what was their real value. In all this I heard thee teaching and commanding me. And this I often do -- and this is a delight to me -- and as far as I can get relief from my necessary duties, I resort to this kind of pleasure. But in all these things which I review when I consult thee, I still do not find a secure place for my soul save in thee, in whom my scattered members may be gathered together and nothing of me escape from thee. And sometimes thou introducest me to a most rare and inward feeling, an inexplicable sweetness. If this were to come to perfection in me I do not know to what point life might not then arrive. But still, by these wretched weights of mine, I relapse into these common things, and am sucked in by my old customs and am held. I sorrow much, yet I am still closely held. To this extent, then, the burden of habit presses us down. I can exist in this fashion but I do not wish to do so. In that other way I wish I were, but cannot be -- in both ways I am wretched. CHAPTER XLI 66. And now I have thus considered the infirmities of my sins, under the headings of the three major "lusts," and I have called thy right hand to my aid. For with a wounded heart I have seen thy brightness, and having been beaten back I cried: "Who can attain to it? I am cut off from before thy eyes." Thou art the Truth, who presidest over all things, but I, because of my greed, did not wish to lose thee. But still, along with thee, I wished also to possess a lie -- just as no one wishes to lie in such a way as to be ignorant of what is true. By this I lost thee, for thou wilt not condescend to be enjoyed along with a lie. CHAPTER XLII 67. Whom could I find to reconcile me to thee? Should I have approached the angels? What kind of prayer? What kind of rites? Many who were striving to return to thee and were not able of themselves have, I am told, tried this and have fallen into a longing for curious visions and deserved to be deceived. Being exalted, they sought thee in their pride of learning, and they thrust themselves forward rather than beating their breasts. And so by a likeness of heart, they drew to themselves the princes of the air, their conspirators and companions in pride, by whom they were deceived by the power of magic. Thus they sought a mediator by whom they might be cleansed, but there was none. For the mediator they sought was the devil, disguising himself as an angel of light. And he allured their proud flesh the more because he had no fleshly body. They were mortal and sinful, but thou, O Lord, to whom they arrogantly sought to be reconciled, art immortal and sinless. But a mediator between God and man ought to have something in him like God and something in him like man, lest in being like man he should be far from God, or if only like God he should be far from man, and so should not be a mediator. That deceitful mediator, then, by whom, by thy secret judgment, human pride deserves to be deceived, had one thing in common with man, that is, his sin. In another respect, he would seem to have something in common with God, for not being clothed with the mortality of the flesh, he could boast that he was immortal. But since "the wages of sin is death," what he really has in common with men is that, together with them, he is condemned to death. CHAPTER XLIII 68. But the true Mediator, whom thou in thy secret mercy hast revealed to the humble, and hast sent to them so that through his example they also might learn the same humility -- that "Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus," appeared between mortal sinners and the immortal Just One. He was mortal as men are mortal; he was righteous as God is righteous; and because the reward of righteousness is life and peace, he could, through his righteousness united with God, cancel the death of justified sinners, which he was willing to have in common with them. Hence he was manifested to holy men of old, to the end that they might be saved through faith in his Passion to come, even as we through faith in his Passion which is past. As man he was Mediator, but as the Word he was not something in between the two; because he was equal to God, and God with God, and, with the Holy Spirit, one God. 69. How hast thou loved us, O good Father, who didst not spare thy only Son, but didst deliver him up for us wicked ones! How hast thou loved us, for whom he who did not count it robbery to be equal with thee "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross"! He alone was "free among the dead." He alone had power to lay down his life and power to take it up again, and for us he became to thee both Victor and Victim; and Victor because he was the Victim. For us, he was to thee both Priest and Sacrifice, and Priest because he was the Sacrifice. Out of slaves, he maketh us thy sons, because he was born of thee and did serve us. Rightly, then, is my hope fixed strongly on him, that thou wilt "heal all my diseases" through him, who sitteth at thy right hand and maketh intercession for us. Otherwise I should utterly despair. For my infirmities are many and great; indeed, they are very many and very great. But thy medicine is still greater. Otherwise, we might think that thy word was removed from union with man, and despair of ourselves, if it had not been that he was "made flesh and dwelt among us." 70. Terrified by my sins and the load of my misery, I had resolved in my heart and considered flight into the wilderness. But thou didst forbid me, and thou didst strengthen me, saying that "since Christ died for all, they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them." Behold, O Lord, I cast all my care on thee, that I may live and "behold wondrous things out of thy law." Thou knowest my incompetence and my infirmities; teach me and heal me. Thy only Son -- he "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" -- hath redeemed me with his blood. Let not the proud speak evil of me, because I keep my ransom before my mind, and eat and drink and share my food and drink. For, being poor, I desire to be satisfied from him, together with those who eat and are satisfied: "and they shall praise the Lord that seek Him." BOOK ELEVEN The eternal Creator and the Creation in time. Augustine ties together his memory of his past life, his present experience, and his ardent desire to comprehend the mystery of creation. This leads him to the questions of the mode and time of creation. He ponders the mode of creation and shows that it was de nihilo and involved no alteration in the being of God. He then considers the question of the beginning of the world and time and shows that time and creation are cotemporal. But what is time? To this Augustine devotes a brilliant analysis of the subjectivity of time and the relation of all temporal process to the abiding eternity of God. From this, he prepares to turn to a detailed interpretation of Gen. 1:1, 2. CHAPTER I 1. Is it possible, O Lord, that, since thou art in eternity, thou art ignorant of what I am saying to thee? Or, dost thou see in time an event at the time it occurs? If not, then why am I recounting such a tale of things to thee? Certainly not in order to acquaint thee with them through me; but, instead, that through them I may stir up my own love and the love of my readers toward thee, so that all may say, "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised." I have said this before and will say it again: "For love of thy love I do it." So also we pray -- and yet Truth tells us, "Your Father knoweth what things you need before you ask him." Consequently, we lay bare our feelings before thee, that, through our confessing to thee our plight and thy mercies toward us, thou mayest go on to free us altogether, as thou hast already begun; and that we may cease to be wretched in ourselves and blessed in thee -- since thou hast called us to be poor in spirit, meek, mourners, hungering and athirst for righteousness, merciful and pure in heart. Thus I have told thee many things, as I could find ability and will to do so, since it was thy will in the first place that I should confess to thee, O Lord my God -- for "Thou art good and thy mercy endureth forever." CHAPTER II 2. But how long would it take for the voice of my pen to tell enough of thy exhortations and of all thy terrors and comforts and leadings by which thou didst bring me to preach thy Word and to administer thy sacraments to thy people? And even if I could do this sufficiently, the drops of time are very precious to me and I have for a long time been burning with the desire to meditate on thy law, and to confess in thy presence my knowledge and ignorance of it -- from the first streaks of thy light in my mind and the remaining darkness, until my weakness shall be swallowed up in thy strength. And I do not wish to see those hours drained into anything else which I can find free from the necessary care of the body, the exercise of the mind, and the service we owe to our fellow men -- and what we give even if we do not owe it. 3. O Lord my God, hear my prayer and let thy mercy attend my longing. It does not burn for itself alone but longs as well to serve the cause of fraternal love. Thou seest in my heart that this is so. Let me offer the service of my mind and my tongue -- and give me what I may in turn offer back to thee. For "I am needy and poor"; thou art rich to all who call upon thee -- thou who, in thy freedom from care, carest for us. Trim away from my lips, inwardly and outwardly, all rashness and lying. Let thy Scriptures be my chaste delight. Let me not be deceived in them, nor deceive others from them. O Lord, hear and pity! O Lord my God, light of the blind, strength of the weak -- and also the light of those who see and the strength of the strong -- hearken to my soul and hear it crying from the depths. Unless thy ears attend us even in the depths, where should we go? To whom should we cry? "Thine is the day and the night is thine as well." At thy bidding the moments fly by. Grant me in them, then, an interval for my meditations on the hidden things of thy law, nor close the door of thy law against us who knock. Thou hast not willed that the deep secrets of all those pages should have been written in vain. Those forests are not without their stags which keep retired within them, ranging and walking and feeding, lying down and ruminating. Perfect me, O Lord, and reveal their secrets to me. Behold, thy voice is my joy; thy voice surpasses in abundance of delights. Give me what I love, for I do love it. And this too is thy gift. Abandon not thy gifts and despise not thy "grass" which thirsts for thee. Let me confess to thee everything that I shall have found in thy books and "let me hear the voice of thy praise." Let me drink from thee and "consider the wondrous things out of thy law" -- from the very beginning, when thou madest heaven and earth, and thenceforward to the everlasting reign of thy Holy City with thee. 4. O Lord, have mercy on me and hear my petition. For my prayer is not for earthly things, neither gold nor silver and precious stones, nor gorgeous apparel, nor honors and power, nor fleshly pleasures, nor of bodily necessities in this life of our pilgrimage: all of these things are "added" to those who seek thy Kingdom and thy righteousness. Observe, O God, from whence comes my desire. The unrighteous have told me of delights but not such as those in thy law, O Lord. Behold, this is the spring of my desire. See, O Father, look and see -- and approve! Let it be pleasing in thy mercy's sight that I should find favor with thee -- that the secret things of thy Word may be opened to me when I knock. I beg this of thee by our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, the Man of thy right hand, the Son of Man; whom thou madest strong for thy purpose as Mediator between thee and us; through whom thou didst seek us when we were not seeking thee, but didst seek us so that we might seek thee; thy Word, through whom thou madest all things, and me among them; thy only Son, through whom thou hast called thy faithful people to adoption, and me among them. I beseech it of thee through him who sitteth at thy right hand and maketh intercession for us, "in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge." It is he I seek in thy books. Moses wrote of him. He tells us so himself; the Truth tells us so. CHAPTER III 5. Let me hear and understand how in the beginning thou madest heaven and earth. Moses wrote of this; he wrote and passed on -- moving from thee to thee -- and he is now no longer before me. If he were, I would lay hold on him and ask him and entreat him solemnly that in thy name he would open out these things to me, and I would lend my bodily ears to the sounds that came forth out of his mouth. If, however, he spoke in the Hebrew language, the sounds would beat on my senses in vain, and nothing would touch my mind; but if he spoke in Latin, I would understand what he said. But how should I then know whether what he said was true? If I knew even this much, would it be that I knew it from him? Indeed, within me, deep inside the chambers of my thought, Truth itself -- neither Hebrew, nor Greek, nor Latin, nor barbarian, without any organs of voice and tongue, without the sound of syllables -- would say, "He speaks the truth," and I should be assured by this. Then I would confidently say to that man of thine, "You speak the truth." However, since I cannot inquire of Moses, I beseech thee, O Truth, from whose fullness he spoke truth; I beseech thee, my God, forgive my sins, and as thou gavest thy servant the gift to speak these things, grant me also the gift to understand them. CHAPTER IV 6. Look around; there are the heaven and the earth. They cry aloud that they were made, for they change and vary. Whatever there is that has not been made, and yet has being, has nothing in it that was not there before. This having something not already existent is what it means to be changed and varied. Heaven and earth thus speak plainly that they did not make themselves: "We are, because we have been made; we did not exist before we came to be so that we could have made ourselves!" And the voice with which they speak is simply their visible presence. It was thou, O Lord, who madest these things. Thou art beautiful; thus they are beautiful. Thou art good, thus they are good. Thou art; thus they are. But they are not as beautiful, nor as good, nor as truly real as thou their Creator art. Compared with thee, they are neither beautiful nor good, nor do they even exist. These things we know, thanks be to thee. Yet our knowledge is ignorance when it is compared with thy knowledge. (continued in part 18...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-01: agcon-17.txt .