(Augustine, Confessions. part 19) round: would there be no time by which we might measure those rotations and say either that it turned at equal intervals, or, if it moved now more slowly and now more quickly, that some rotations were longer and others shorter? And while we were saying this, would we not also be speaking in time? Or would there not be in our words some syllables that were long and others short, because the first took a longer time to sound, and the others a shorter time? O God, grant men to see in a small thing the notions that are common to all things, both great and small. Both the stars and the lights of heaven are "for signs and seasons, and for days and years." This is doubtless the case, but just as I should not say that the circuit of that wooden wheel was a day, neither would that learned man say that there was, therefore, no time. 30. I thirst to know the power and the nature of time, by which we measure the motions of bodies, and say, for example, that this motion is twice as long as that. For I ask, since the word "day" refers not only to the length of time that the sun is above the earth (which separates day from night), but also refers to the sun's entire circuit from east all the way around to east -- on account of which we can say, "So many days have passed" (the nights being included when we say, "So many days," and their lengths not counted separately) -- since, then, the day is ended by the motion of the sun and by his passage from east to east, I ask whether the motion itself is the day, or whether the day is the period in which that motion is completed; or both? For if the sun's passage is the day, then there would be a day even if the sun should finish his course in as short a period as an hour. If the motion itself is the day, then it would not be a day if from one sunrise to another there were a period no longer than an hour. But the sun would have to go round twenty-four times to make just one day. If it is both, then that could not be called a day if the sun ran his entire course in the period of an hour; nor would it be a day if, while the sun stood still, as much time passed as the sun usually covered during his whole course, from morning to morning. I shall, therefore, not ask any more what it is that is called a day, but rather what time is, for it is by time that we measure the circuit of the sun, and would be able to say that it was finished in half the period of time that it customarily takes if it were completed in a period of only twelve hours. If, then, we compare these periods, we could call one of them a single and the other a double period, as if the sun might run his course from east to east sometimes in a single period and sometimes in a double period. Let no man tell me, therefore, that the motions of the heavenly bodies constitute time. For when the sun stood still at the prayer of a certain man in order that he might gain his victory in battle, the sun stood still but time went on. For in as long a span of time as was sufficient the battle was fought and ended. I see, then, that time is a certain kind of extension. But do I see it, or do I only seem to? Thou, O Light and Truth, wilt show me. CHAPTER XXIV 31. Dost thou command that I should agree if anyone says that time is "the motion of a body"? Thou dost not so command. For I hear that no body is moved but in time; this thou tellest me. But that the motion of a body itself is time I do not hear; thou dost not say so. For when a body is moved, I measure by time how long it was moving from the time when it began to be moved until it stopped. And if I did not see when it began to be moved, and if it continued to move so that I could not see when it stopped, I could not measure the movement, except from the time when I began to see it until I stopped. But if I look at it for a long time, I can affirm only that the time is long but not how long it may be. This is because when we say, "How long?", we are speaking comparatively as: "This is as long as that," or, "This is twice as long as that"; or other such similar ratios. But if we were able to observe the point in space where and from which the body, which is moved, comes and the point to which it is moved; or if we can observe its parts moving as in a wheel, we can say how long the movement of the body took or the movement of its parts from this place to that. Since, therefore, the motion of a body is one thing, and the norm by which we measure how long it takes is another thing, we cannot see which of these two is to be called time. For, although a body is sometimes moved and sometimes stands still, we measure not only its motion but also its rest as well; and both by time! Thus we say, "It stood still as long as it moved," or, "It stood still twice or three times as long as it moved" -- or any other ratio which our measuring has either determined or imagined, either roughly or precisely, according to our custom. Therefore, time is not the motion of a body. CHAPTER XXV 32. And I confess to thee, O Lord, that I am still ignorant as to what time is. And again I confess to thee, O Lord, that I know that I am speaking all these things in time, and that I have already spoken of time a long time, and that "very long" is not long except when measured by the duration of time. How, then, do I know this, when I do not know what time is? Or, is it possible that I do not know how I can express what I do know? Alas for me! I do not even know the extent of my own ignorance. Behold, O my God, in thy presence I do not lie. As my heart is, so I speak. Thou shalt light my candle; thou, O Lord my God, wilt enlighten my darkness. CHAPTER XXVI 33. Does not my soul most truly confess to thee that I do measure intervals of time? But what is it that I thus measure, O my God, and how is it that I do not know what I measure? I measure the motion of a body by time, but the time itself I do not measure. But, truly, could I measure the motion of a body -- how long it takes, how long it is in motion from this place to that -- unless I could measure the time in which it is moving? How, then, do I measure this time itself? Do we measure a longer time by a shorter time, as we measure the length of a crossbeam in terms of cubits? Thus, we can say that the length of a long syllable is measured by the length of a short syllable and thus say that the long syllable is double. So also we measure the length of poems by the length of the lines, and the length of the line by the length of the feet, and the length of the feet by the length of the syllable, and the length of the long syllables by the length of the short ones. We do not measure by pages -- for in that way we would measure space rather than time -- but when we speak the words as they pass by we say: "It is a long stanza, because it is made up of so many verses; they are long verses because they consist of so many feet; they are long feet because they extend over so many syllables; this is a long syllable because it is twice the length of a short one." But no certain measure of time is obtained this way; since it is possible that if a shorter verse is pronounced slowly, it may take up more time than a longer one if it is pronounced hurriedly. The same would hold for a stanza, or a foot, or a syllable. From this it appears to me that time is nothing other than extendedness; but extendedness of what I do not know. This is a marvel to me. The extendedness may be of the mind itself. For what is it I measure, I ask thee, O my God, when I say either, roughly, "This time is longer than that," or, more precisely, "This is _twice_ as long as that." I know that I am measuring time. But I am not measuring the future, for it is not yet; and I am not measuring the present because it is extended by no length; and I am not measuring the past because it no longer is. What is it, therefore, that I am measuring? Is it time in its passage, but not time past [praetereuntia tempora, non praeterita]? This is what I have been saying. CHAPTER XXVII 34. Press on, O my mind, and attend with all your power. God is our Helper: "it is he that hath made us and not we ourselves." Give heed where the truth begins to dawn. Suppose now that a bodily voice begins to sound, and continues to sound -- on and on -- and then ceases. Now there is silence. The voice is past, and there is no longer a sound. It was future before it sounded, and could not be measured because it was not yet; and now it cannot be measured because it is no longer. Therefore, while it was sounding, it might have been measured because then there was something that could be measured. But even then it did not stand still, for it was in motion and was passing away. Could it, on that account, be any more readily measured? For while it was passing away, it was being extended into some interval of time in which it might be measured, since the present has no length. Supposing, though, that it might have been measured -- then also suppose that another voice had begun to sound and is still sounding without any interruption to break its continued flow. We can measure it only while it is sounding, for when it has ceased to sound it will be already past and there will not be anything there that can be measured. Let us measure it exactly; and let us say how much it is. But while it is sounding, it cannot be measured except from the instant when it began to sound, down to the final moment when it left off. For we measure the time interval itself from some beginning point to some end. This is why a voice that has not yet ended cannot be measured, so that one could say how long or how briefly it will continue. Nor can it be said to be equal to another voice or single or double in comparison to it or anything like this. But when it is ended, it is no longer. How, therefore, may it be measured? And yet we measure times; not those which are not yet, nor those which no longer are, nor those which are stretched out by some delay, nor those which have no limit. Therefore, we measure neither times future nor times past, nor times present, nor times passing by; and yet we do measure times. 35. Deus Creator omnium: this verse of eight syllables alternates between short and long syllables. The four short ones -- that is, the first, third, fifth, and seventh -- are single in relation to the four long ones -- that is, the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth. Each of the long ones is double the length of each of the short ones. I affirm this and report it, and common sense perceives that this indeed is the case. By common sense, then, I measure a long syllable by a short one, and I find that it is twice as long. But when one sounds after another, if the first be short and the latter long, how can I hold the short one and how can I apply it to the long one as a measure, so that I can discover that the long one is twice as long, when, in fact, the long one does not begin to sound until the short one leaves off sounding? That same long syllable I do not measure as present, since I cannot measure it until it is ended; but its ending is its passing away. What is it, then, that I can measure? Where is the short syllable by which I measure? Where is the long one that I am measuring? Both have sounded, have flown away, have passed on, and are no longer. And still I measure, and I confidently answer -- as far as a trained ear can be trusted -- that this syllable is single and that syllable double. And I could not do this unless they both had passed and were ended. Therefore I do not measure them, for they do not exist any more. But I measure something in my memory which remains fixed. 36. It is in you, O mind of mine, that I measure the periods of time. Do not shout me down that it exists [objectively]; do not overwhelm yourself with the turbulent flood of your impressions. In you, as I have said, I measure the periods of time. I measure as time present the impression that things make on you as they pass by and what remains after they have passed by -- I do not measure the things themselves which have passed by and left their impression on you. This is what I measure when I measure periods of time. Either, then, these are the periods of time or else I do not measure time at all. What are we doing when we measure silence, and say that this silence has lasted as long as that voice lasts? Do we not project our thought to the measure of a sound, as if it were then sounding, so that we can say something concerning the intervals of silence in a given span of time? For, even when both the voice and the tongue are still, we review -- in thought -- poems and verses, and discourse of various kinds or various measures of motions, and we specify their time spans -- how long this is in relation to that -- just as if we were speaking them aloud. If anyone wishes to utter a prolonged sound, and if, in forethought, he has decided how long it should be, that man has already in silence gone through a span of time, and committed his sound to memory. Thus he begins to speak and his voice sounds until it reaches the predetermined end. It has truly sounded and will go on sounding. But what is already finished has already sounded and what remains will still sound. Thus it passes on, until the present intention carries the future over into the past. The past increases by the diminution of the future until by the consumption of all the future all is past. CHAPTER XXVIII 37. But how is the future diminished or consumed when it does not yet exist? Or how does the past, which exists no longer, increase, unless it is that in the mind in which all this happens there are three functions? For the mind expects, it attends, and it remembers; so that what it expects passes into what it remembers by way of what it attends to. Who denies that future things do not exist as yet? But still there is already in the mind the expectation of things still future. And who denies that past things now exist no longer? Still there is in the mind the memory of things past. Who denies that time present has no length, since it passes away in a moment? Yet, our attention has a continuity and it is through this that what is present may proceed to become absent. Therefore, future time, which is nonexistent, is not long; but "a long future" is "a long expectation of the future." Nor is time past, which is now no longer, long; a "long past" is "a long memory of the past." 38. I am about to repeat a psalm that I know. Before I begin, my attention encompasses the whole, but once I have begun, as much of it as becomes past while I speak is still stretched out in my memory. The span of my action is divided between my memory, which contains what I have repeated, and my expectation, which contains what I am about to repeat. Yet my attention is continually present with me, and through it what was future is carried over so that it becomes past. The more this is done and repeated, the more the memory is enlarged -- and expectation is shortened -- until the whole expectation is exhausted. Then the whole action is ended and passed into memory. And what takes place in the entire psalm takes place also in each individual part of it and in each individual syllable. This also holds in the even longer action of which that psalm is only a portion. The same holds in the whole life of man, of which all the actions of men are parts. The same holds in the whole age of the sons of men, of which all the lives of men are parts. CHAPTER XXIX 39. But "since thy loving-kindness is better than life itself," observe how my life is but a stretching out, and how thy right hand has upheld me in my Lord, the Son of Man, the Mediator between thee, the One, and us, the many -- in so many ways and by so many means. Thus through him I may lay hold upon him in whom I am also laid hold upon; and I may be gathered up from my old way of life to follow that One and to forget that which is behind, no longer stretched out but now pulled together again -- stretching forth not to what shall be and shall pass away but to those things that _are_ before me. Not distractedly now, but intently, I follow on for the prize of my heavenly calling, where I may hear the sound of thy praise and contemplate thy delights, which neither come to be nor pass away. But now my years are spent in mourning. And thou, O Lord, art my comfort, my eternal Father. But I have been torn between the times, the order of which I do not know, and my thoughts, even the inmost and deepest places of my soul, are mangled by various commotions until I shall flow together into thee, purged and molten in the fire of thy love. CHAPTER XXX 40. And I will be immovable and fixed in thee, and thy truth will be my mold. And I shall not have to endure the questions of those men who, as if in a morbid disease, thirst for more than they can hold and say, "What did God make before he made heaven and earth?" or, "How did it come into his mind to make something when he had never before made anything?" Grant them, O Lord, to consider well what they are saying; and grant them to see that where there is no time they cannot say "never." When, therefore, he is said "never to have made" something -- what is this but to say that it was made in no time at all? Let them therefore see that there could be no time without a created world, and let them cease to speak vanity of this kind. Let them also be stretched out to those things which are before them, and understand that thou, the eternal Creator of all times, art before all times and that no times are coeternal with thee; nor is any creature, even if there is a creature "above time." CHAPTER XXXI 41. O Lord my God, what a chasm there is in thy deep secret! How far short of it have the consequences of my sins cast me? Heal my eyes, that I may enjoy thy light. Surely, if there is a mind that so greatly abounds in knowledge and foreknowledge, to which all things past and future are as well known as one psalm is well known to me, that mind would be an exceeding marvel and altogether astonishing. For whatever is past and whatever is yet to come would be no more concealed from him than the past and future of that psalm were hidden from me when I was chanting it: how much of it had been sung from the beginning and what and how much still remained till the end. But far be it from thee, O Creator of the universe, and Creator of our souls and bodies -- far be it from thee that thou shouldst merely know all things past and future. Far, far more wonderfully, and far more mysteriously thou knowest them. For it is not as the feelings of one singing familiar songs, or hearing a familiar song in which, because of his expectation of words still to come and his remembrance of those that are past, his feelings are varied and his senses are divided. This is not the way that anything happens to thee, who art unchangeably eternal, that is, the truly eternal Creator of minds. As in the beginning thou knewest both the heaven and the earth without any change in thy knowledge, so thou didst make heaven and earth in their beginnings without any division in thy action. Let him who understands this confess to thee; and let him who does not understand also confess to thee! Oh, exalted as thou art, still the humble in heart are thy dwelling place! For thou liftest them who are cast down and they fall not for whom thou art the Most High. BOOK TWELVE The mode of creation and the truth of Scripture. Augustine explores the relation of the visible and formed matter of heaven and earth to the prior matrix from which it was formed. This leads to an intricate analysis of "unformed matter" and the primal "possibility" from which God created, itself created de nihilo. He finds a reference to this in the misconstrued Scriptural phrase "the heaven of heavens." Realizing that his interpretation of Gen. 1:1, 2, is not self-evidently the only possibility, Augustine turns to an elaborate discussion of the multiplicity of perspectives in hermeneutics and, in the course of this, reviews the various possibilities of true interpretation of his Scripture text. He emphasizes the importance of tolerance where there are plural options, and confidence where basic Christian faith is concerned. CHAPTER I 1. My heart is deeply stirred, O Lord, when in this poor life of mine the words of thy Holy Scripture strike upon it. This is why the poverty of the human intellect expresses itself in an abundance of language. Inquiry is more loquacious than discovery. Demanding takes longer than obtaining; and the hand that knocks is more active than the hand that receives. But we have the promise, and who shall break it? "If God be for us, who can be against us?" "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for everyone that asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him that knocks, it shall be opened." These are thy own promises, and who need fear to be deceived when truth promises? CHAPTER II 2. In lowliness my tongue confesses to thy exaltation, for thou madest heaven and earth. This heaven which I see, and this earth on which I walk -- from which came this "earth" that I carry about me -- thou didst make. But where is that heaven of heavens, O Lord, of which we hear in the words of the psalm, "The heaven of heavens is the Lord's, but the earth he hath given to the children of men"? Where is the heaven that we cannot see, in relation to which all that we can see is earth? For this whole corporeal creation has been beautifully formed -- though not everywhere in its entirety -- and our earth is the lowest of these levels. Still, compared with that heaven of heavens, even the heaven of our own earth is only earth. Indeed, it is not absurd to call each of those two great bodies "earth" in comparison with that ineffable heaven which is the Lord's, and not for the sons of men. CHAPTER III 3. And truly this earth was invisible and unformed, and there was an inexpressibly profound abyss above which there was no light since it had no form. Thou didst command it written that "darkness was on the face of the deep." What else is darkness except the absence of light? For if there had been light, where would it have been except by being over all, showing itself rising aloft and giving light? Therefore, where there was no light as yet, why was it that darkness was present, unless it was that light was absent? Darkness, then, was heavy upon it, because the light from above was absent; just as there is silence where there is no sound. And what is it to have silence anywhere but simply not to have sound? Hast thou not, O Lord, taught this soul which confesses to thee? Hast thou not thus taught me, O Lord, that before thou didst form and separate this formless matter there was _nothing_: neither color, nor figure, nor body, nor spirit? Yet it was not absolutely nothing; it was a certain formlessness without any shape. CHAPTER IV 4. What, then, should that formlessness be called so that somehow it might be indicated to those of sluggish mind, unless we use some word in common speech? But what can be found anywhere in the world nearer to a total formlessness than the earth and the abyss? Because of their being on the lowest level, they are less beautiful than are the other and higher parts, all translucent and shining. Therefore, why may I not consider the formlessness of matter -- which thou didst create without shapely form, from which to make this shapely world -- as fittingly indicated to men by the phrase, "The earth invisible and unformed"? CHAPTER V 5. When our thought seeks something for our sense to fasten to [in this concept of unformed matter], and when it says to itself, "It is not an intelligible form, such as life or justice, since it is the material for bodies; and it is not a former perception, for there is nothing in the invisible and unformed which can be seen and felt" -- while human thought says such things to itself, it may be attempting either to know by being ignorant or by knowing how not to know. CHAPTER VI 6. But if, O Lord, I am to confess to thee, by my mouth and my pen, the whole of what thou hast taught me concerning this unformed matter, I must say first of all that when I first heard of such matter and did not understand it -- and those who told me of it could not understand it either -- I conceived of it as having countless and varied forms. Thus, I did not think about it rightly. My mind in its agitation used to turn up all sorts of foul and horrible "forms"; but still they were "forms." And still I called it formless, not because it was unformed, but because it had what seemed to me a kind of form that my mind turned away from, as bizarre and incongruous, before which my human weakness was confused. And even what I did conceive of as unformed was so, not because it was deprived of all form, but only as it compared with more beautiful forms. Right reason, then, persuaded me that I ought to remove altogether all vestiges of form whatever if I wished to conceive matter that was wholly unformed; and this I could not do. For I could more readily imagine that what was deprived of all form simply did not exist than I could conceive of anything between form and nothing -- something which was neither formed nor nothing, something that was unformed and nearly nothing. Thus my mind ceased to question my spirit -- filled as it was with the images of formed bodies, changing and varying them according to its will. And so I applied myself to the bodies themselves and looked more deeply into their mutability, by which they cease to be what they had been and begin to be what they were not. This transition from form to form I had regarded as involving something like a formless condition, though not actual nothingness. But I desired to know, not to guess. And, if my voice and my pen were to confess to thee all the various knots thou hast untied for me about this question, who among my readers could endure to grasp the whole of the account? Still, despite this, my heart will not cease to give honor to thee or to sing thy praises concerning those things which it is not able to express. For the mutability of mutable things carries with it the possibility of all those forms into which mutable things can be changed. But this mutability -- what is it? Is it soul? Is it body? Is it the external appearance of soul or body? Could it be said, "Nothing was something," and "That which is, is not"? If this were possible, I would say that this was it, and in some such manner it must have been in order to receive these visible and composite forms. CHAPTER VII 7. Whence and how was this, unless it came from thee, from whom all things are, in so far as they are? But the farther something is from thee, the more unlike thee it is -- and this is not a matter of distance or place. Thus it was that thou, O Lord, who art not one thing in one place and another thing in another place but the Selfsame, and the Selfsame, and the Selfsame -- "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" -- thus it was that in the beginning, and through thy Wisdom which is from thee and born of thy substance, thou didst create something and that out of nothing. For thou didst create the heaven and the earth -- not out of thyself, for then they would be equal to thy only Son and thereby to thee. And there is no sense in which it would be right that anything should be equal to thee that was not of thee. But what else besides thee was there out of which thou mightest create these things, O God, one Trinity, and trine Unity? And, therefore, it was out of nothing at all that thou didst create the heaven and earth -- something great and something small -- for thou art Almighty and Good, and able to make all things good: even the great heaven and the small earth. Thou wast, and there was nothing else from which thou didst create heaven and earth: these two things, one near thee, the other near to nothing; the one to which only thou art superior, the other to which nothing else is inferior. CHAPTER VIII 8. That heaven of heavens was thine, O Lord, but the earth which thou didst give to the sons of men to be seen and touched was not then in the same form as that in which we now see it and touch it. For then it was invisible and unformed and there was an abyss over which there was no light. The darkness was truly _over_ the abyss, that is, more than just _in_ the abyss. For this abyss of waters which now is visible has even in its depths a certain light appropriate to its nature, perceptible in some fashion to fishes and the things that creep about on the bottom of it. But then the entire abyss was almost nothing, since it was still altogether unformed. Yet even there, there was something that had the possibility of being formed. For thou, O Lord, hadst (continued in part 20...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-01: agcon-19.txt .