Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK I - The Soliloquies
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
BOOK I - Saint Augustine, The Soliloquies 
The Soliloquies of St. Augustine, translated into English by Rose Elizabeth Cleveland. With Notes and Introduction by the Translator (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1910).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
1. For many days I had been debating within myself many and diverse things, seeking constantly, and with anxiety, to find out my real self, my best good, and the evil to be avoided, when suddenly one — I know not, but eagerly strive to know, whether it were myself or another, within me or without — said to me:
R. Now consider: suppose you had discovered something concerning that which you are so constantly and anxiously seeking to know; to what would you entrust it, in order that you might give your attention to things following?
A. To memory, of course.
R. Is the memory an adequate custodian of all things which the mind discovers?
A. Hardly; in fact it cannot be.
R. Such things must, then, be written down. But how will you do this, when your health1 does not admit of the labor of writing them? They cannot be dictated, for they demand absolute solitude.
A. What you say is true, and so I do not see how I am to proceed without embarrassment.
R. Pray2 for health and help in accomplishing your desires, and write this prayer down also, that by these first fruits you may become more courageous. Then summarize briefly the conclusions at which you have arrived. Do not make any effort to attract a crowd of readers; a few of your own townsmen will suffice.
A. I will do as you advise.
2. O God, Founder of the Universe, help me, that, first of all, I may pray aright: and next, that I may act as one worthy to be heard by Thee: and, finally, set me free.3 God, through whom all things are, which of themselves could have no being; God, who dost not permit that to perish, whose tendency it is to destroy itself! God, who hast created out of nothing4 this world, which the eyes of all perceive to be most beautiful!5 God, who dost not cause evil, but dost cause that it shall not become the worst! God, who dost reveal to those few fleeing for refuge to that which truly is, that evil6 is nothing! God, through whom the Universe, even with its perverse part, is perfect!7 God, to whom dissonance is nothing, since in the end the worst resolves into harmony with the better!8 God, whom every creature capable of loving, loves, whether consciously or unconsciously!
God, in whom all things are, yet whom the shame of no creature in the universe disgraces, nor his malice harms, nor his error misleads! God, who dost not permit any save the pure9 to know the true! God, Father of Truth, Father of Wisdom, Father of the True and Perfect Life, Father of Blessedness, Father of the Good and the Beautiful, Father of Intelligible Light,10 Father of our awakening and enlightening, Father of that pledge which warns us to return to Thee!
3. Thee do I invoke, God, Truth, in whom and by whom and through whom are all things true which are true: God, Wisdom, in whom and by whom and through whom are all wise who are wise: God, true and perfect Life, in whom and by whom and through whom those live who do truly and perfectly live: God, Blessedness, in whom and by whom and through whom are all blessed who are blessed: God, the Good and the Beautiful, in whom and by whom and through whom are all things good and beautiful, which are good and beautiful: God, Intelligible Light, in whom and by whom all shine intelligibly, who do intelligibly shine: God, whose kingdom is that whole realm unknown to sense: God, from whose kingdom law for even these lower realms is derived: God, from whom to turn is to fall; to whom to turn is to rise; in whom to abide is to stand: God, from whom to go out is to waste away; unto whom to return is to revive; in whom to dwell is to live:11 God, whom no one, unless deceived, loses: whom no one, unless admonished, seeks: whom no one, unless purified, finds: God, whom to abandon is to perish; whom to long for is to love; whom to see is to possess: God, to whom Faith excites, Hope uplifts, Love joins: God, through whom we overcome the enemy, Thee do I supplicate!
God, whose gift it is that we do not utterly perish: God, by whom we are warned to watch: God, through whom we discriminate good things from evil things: God, through whom we flee from evil and follow after good: God, through whom we yield not to adversity: God, through whom we both serve well and rule well: God, through whom we discern that certain things we had deemed essential to ourselves are truly foreign to us, while those we had deemed foreign to us are essential: God, through whom we are not held fast by the baits and seductions of the wicked: God, through whom the decrease of our possessions does not diminish us: God, through whom our better part is not subject to our worse: God, through whom death is swallowed up in victory! God, who dost turn us about in the way: God, who dost strip us of that which is not, and clothe us with that which is: God, who dost make us worthy of being heard: God, who dost defend us: God, who dost lead us into all truth: God, who dost speak all good things to us: God, who dost not deprive us of sanity nor permit another to do so: God, who dost recall us to the path: God, who dost lead us to the door: God, who dost cause that it is open to those who knock: God, who givest us the bread of Life: God, through whom we thirst for that water, which having drunk, we shall never thirst again: God, who dost convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: God, through whom the unbelief of others doth not move us: God, through whom we reprobate the error of those who deem that souls have no deserving in Thy sight: God, through whom we are not in bondage to weak and beggarly elements: God, who dost purify and prepare us for divine rewards, propitious, come Thou to me!
4. In whatever I say do Thou come to my help, O Thou one God, one true Eternal Substance, where is no discord, no confusion, no change, no want, no death: where is all harmony, all illumination, all steadfastness, all abundance, all life: where nothing is lacking and nothing redundant; where Begetter and Begotten are one: God, whom all things serve which do serve and whom every good soul obeys! God, by whose laws the poles rotate, the stars pursue their courses, the sun leads on the day, the moon tempers the night, and the whole order of the Universe — through days by the alternations of light and darkness; through months by the waxing and waning of moons; through years by the successions of spring, summer, autumn and winter; through cycles by the completing of the sun’s course; through vast eons of time by the return of the stars to their first risings — preserves by these unvarying repetitions of periods, so far as sensible matter may, the marvellous immutability of things; God, by whose laws forever standing, the unstable motion of mutable things is not allowed to fall into confusion and is, throughout the circling ages, recalled by curb and bit to the semblance of stability: by whose laws the will of the soul is free,12 and rewards to the good, and penalties to the wicked, are everywhere distributed by unchangeable necessity: God, by whom all good flows toward us, all evil is driven from us: God, above whom, outside whom, without whom, is nothing: God, beneath whom, in whom, with whom, is everything: who hast made man after Thine own image13 and likeness, which he who knows himself discovers: Hear, hear, hear me! My God, my master, my king, my father, my cause, my hope, my wealth, my honor, my home, my country,14 my salvation, my light, my life! Hear, hear, hear me, in that way of Thine, known best to few!
5. At last I love Thee alone, Thee alone follow, Thee alone seek, Thee alone am I ready to serve: for Thou alone, by right, art ruler; under Thy rule15 do I wish to be. Command, I pray, and order what Thou wilt, but heal and open my ears that I may hear Thy commands, heal and open my eyes that I may see Thy nod; cast all unsoundness from me that I may recognize Thee! Tell me whither to direct my gaze that I may look upon Thee, and I hope that I shall do all things which Thou commandest!
Receive, I pray, Master and most merciful Father, me, Thy Fugitive!16 I have suffered already enough punishment, long enough been in bondage to Thine enemies whom Thou hast under Thy feet, long enough been the sport of delusions.
Receive me, Thy household servant, fleeing from them, for even these received me, though alien to them, fleeing from Thee! I feel that I ought to return to Thee: let Thy door open to me knocking: teach me, Thou, how to come to Thee! I have nothing other than the will: I know nothing other than that the fleeting and the falling should be spurned, the fixed and eternal sought after. This do I, Father, for this is all I know: but how to make my way to Thee I know not. Do Thou suggest it, make it plain, equip me for the journey!
If they who take refuge in Thee find Thee by faith, give me faith! if by virtue, give me virtue! if by knowledge, give me knowledge! Increase my faith, increase my hope, increase my charity, O Goodness of Thine, unique and admirable!
6. After Thee am I groping, and by whatsoever things Thou mayest be felt after, even these do I seek from Thee! For if Thou desert a man, he perishes: but Thou desertest him not, for Thou art the sum of good, and no man, seeking Thee aright, has failed to find Thee; and every one seeks Thee aright whom Thou dost cause to so seek Thee. Cause me, O Father, to seek Thee; let me not stray from the path, and to me, seeking Thee, let nothing befall in place of Thyself! If I desire nothing beside Thyself, let me, I implore, find Thee now; but if there is in me the desire for something beside Thyself, do Thou Thyself purify me, and make me fit to look upon Thee!
For the rest, whatever concerns the welfare of this mortal body of mine, so long as I do not know how it may serve either myself or those I love, to Thee, Father, wisest and best, do I commit it, and I pray that Thou wilt admonish me concerning it as shall be needful. But this I do implore Thy most excellent mercy, that Thou convert me in my inmost self to Thee, and, as I incline toward Thee, let nothing oppose; and command that so long as I endure and care for this same body, I may be pure and magnanimous and just and prudent, a perfect lover and learner of Thy wisdom, a fit inhabitant of a dwelling place in Thy most blessed Kingdom!
Amen and Amen!17
7. A. Behold, I have prayed to God.
R. What, then, do you desire to know?
A. Those things for which I have prayed.
R. Sum them up, briefly.
A. I desire to know God and the soul.
R. And nothing more?
A. Nothing whatever.18
R. Begin then to seek. But first make clear to me how God may be so demonstrated to you that you can say: “It is enough.”
A. I do not know how he can be so demonstrated to me that I can say, “It is enough”; for I believe that I know nothing in the way that I wish to know God.
R. What, then, are we to do? For do you not consider that it must first be known what it is to know God sufficiently, so that, when you have attained to that much knowledge, you need seek no further?
A. I do indeed think so, but by what plan it shall become possible to do this, I do not perceive. For what have I ever known which is like God so that I could say: “As I know this, so do I desire to know God!”
R. Having known nothing like God, from what source do you know that you have not yet known Him?
A. Because, should I have known anything like God, I would, without doubt, love it; but, as it is, I love only God and the soul, and know neither the one nor the other.
R. Do you not, then, love your friends?
A. How, loving the soul, should I not love them?
R. Is it in this way, then, that you love gnats and bugs?
A. I said that I love, not animals, but the soul.
R. Either, then, your friends are not men or you love them not; for every man is an animal, and you say you do not love animals.
A. They are men and I love them, not in that they are animals, but in that they are men: that is, from the fact that they possess rational souls, which I love even in thieves. For it is permitted me to love reason in anything whatever, although I may justly hate him who makes a bad use of it. So much the more, then, do I love my friends, by as much as they make a good use of that rational soul, or as much, indeed, as they desire to do so.19
8. R. I accept this, but yet if some one should say to you, I will cause you to know God as well as you know Alypius,20 would you not thank him and say: “That is enough”?
A. I would indeed thank him, but I would not say: “That is enough.”
R. And why, may I ask?
R. Because I do not know God even as I know Alypius, and I do not know Alypius well enough.
R. See to it, then, that you are not arrogant in desiring to know God well enough — you who do not even know Alypius well enough!
A. That does not follow. For, in comparison with the stars, what is more trifling a matter than my dinner? Yet, while I do not know what I shall have to-morrow for dinner, and am wholly ignorant of that, I do not deem it arrogant to affirm that I do know in what sign the moon will rise.
R. Will you, then, be satisfied to know God after the fashion in which you know in what sign the moon will rise to-morrow?
A. No, that is not enough, for it is by my senses that this is known. Also I know not whether God, or some occult natural cause, might not suddenly change the ordinary course of the moon, and if this should happen, all that I had taken for granted would become false.
R. And do you believe this could happen?21
A. I do not. But I seek what I may know, not what I may believe. For it may, indeed, be truly said that we believe all that we know, but not that we know everything that we believe.
R. Do you, then, in your present undertaking, reject all testimony of the senses?
A. I do altogether.
R. How about your intimate friend, whom you have said you know only partially; do you know him by sense or by intellect?
A. The knowledge which I have of him by sense — if indeed anything is truly known by sense — is worthless and is enough: that part by which he is truly my friend is the mind itself, and I wish to pursue that by the intellect.
R. And can he not otherwise be known?
A. In no other way.
R. Do you venture, then, to declare that your friend, and he, too, your most intimate friend, is unknown to you?
A. And why should I not venture? For I consider that a most just law of friendship which prescribes that one shall love his friend, not less, and not more, than himself. Therefore, since I do not know myself, what reproach can it be to me that I declare him to be unknown to me, especially since, as I believe, he does not really know himself?
R. If, then, those things which you desire to know are such as are pursued by the intellect, when I said that, since you did not even know Alypius, you were arrogant in desiring to know God, you should not have cited your dinner and the moon as illustrations, since these, as you have said, pertain to sense.
9. But how does that concern us? Now answer me: It those things which Plato and Plotinus said22 concerning God are true, is it enough for you to know God as they knew Him?
A. It does not necessarily follow that, even if those things which they said are true, they knew them to be so. For many persons discourse most fluently of things of which they are ignorant, as I, just now in prayer, have desired to know many things, which, although I have mentioned them, I would not desire to know if I already knew them. But am I, therefore, the less able to mention them? For I have given utterance, not to things which my intellect comprehends, but which, gathered here and there, and committed to the memory, I have reinforced by all the faith of which I am capable. But to know is another thing.
R. Tell me now, I beg: do you, at least, know what, in the science of Geometry, a line is?
A. That I certainly do know.
R. And do you not, in this admission, stand in awe of the Academicians?
A. Not at all. For it is the wise whom they forbid to err, and I am not wise. At this point, therefore, I do not fear to admit the knowledge of such things as I know. When, as I desire, I shall have attained to Wisdom I will do as she shall exhort.23
R. I do not object: but I was going to ask if you know the ball which is called a sphere in the same way as you know a line?
A. I do.
R. And do you know one as well as the other, or one more or less than the other?
A. I know both equally, for in nothing am I deceived in either.
R. And have you perceived these by the senses or by the intellect?
A. In this matter my experience with the senses has been as with a ship: for when they had carried me where I was going, and I had dismissed them, and was as if placed on dry land, and had begun to turn these matters over in thought, I was, for a long time, unsteady of foot. Wherefore it seems to me that one could sooner swim on dry land than perceive geometrical truths by the senses, although in learning the rudiments they are of some use.
R. You do not, then, hesitate to call your acquaintance, such as it is, with these things knowledge?
A. No, if the Stoics, who ascribe knowledge only to the wise, permit. I certainly do not deny that I have such perception of these things as they concede even to the unwise. But I do not indeed very much fear the Stoics. I hold these things concerning which you have been asking in positive knowledge.24 Go on, then, that I may see your purpose in these questions.
R. Do not be in haste; we have time enough. Be very cautious what you accept, lest you concede something rashly. I am studying to make you happy25 in the certainty of things in which you will fear no downfall, while you, as if this were an easy matter, demand that I make haste.
A. May God cause it to be as you say! Question now as you will, and if I repeat this offense rebuke me more severely.
10. R. Very well. Is it clear to you that it is impossible to divide a line lengthways?
A. It is clear.
R. How about crossways?
A. That, of course, can be done to infinity.
R. And is it equally obvious that it is impossible for two equal circles to be on one side of a sphere, equi-distant from the center?
A. It is.
R. And do the line and the sphere seem one and the same thing to you, or do they differ somewhat?
A. Who would not see that they differ greatly?
R. Since, then, you have an equal knowledge of each notwithstanding that, as you say, they differ greatly, it follows that although objects of knowledge differ, yet the knowledge by which one is known is identical with the knowledge by which the other is known.
A. Who has denied that?
R. You, yourself, a little time ago. For, when I asked you how you desired to know God, so that you might say: “It is enough”; you replied that you were unable to say, for the reason that among the things you know there is nothing like God. How, then! The line and the sphere, — are they alike?
A. Who could say that?
R. But I had not asked what you knew like God, but what you know in the same way as you desire to know God. For, though the line and the sphere are in no way similar, yet your knowing of the one is identical with your knowing of the other. Wherefore tell me: would it be enough for you to know God, as you know the sphere of Geometry, that is, to doubt nothing concerning God as you doubt nothing concerning it?
11. A. I answer you, that, however vehemently you urge and argue, I do not, nevertheless, dare to say that I desire to know God as I know these things. For not only do these things, that is, the sphere and God, differ, but the knowing of the one cannot be the same as the knowing of the other. In the first place, the line and the sphere do not differ so much that one science may not treat of each, while no Geometry has professed to treat of God. And, in the second place, were my knowledge of these things of the same sort as is the knowledge which I desire to have of God, I should rejoice that I know them as much as I expect to rejoice in the cognition of God. But now I more than despise these things in comparison with Him; and it seems to me, that, should I attain to the cognition of Him, and see Him in the way He can be seen,26 these things would perish from my memory altogether. Indeed, even now, it is an effort to recall these to mind, because of my absorbing desire for Him.
R. Be it so, then, that the knowledge of God would rejoice you very much more than the knowledge of these inferior things: yet this fact does not result from the unlikeness of their apprehension. Or is it by one kind of seeing you gaze upon the earth and by another upon the tranquil sky, since the sight of the latter charms you so much more than that of the former? And, the eyes being trustworthy, if you were asked whether you were as sure that you had looked upon the earth as upon the sky, you would reply that you were, although not so delighting in the aspect of the earth as in the beauty and splendor of the sky.
A. This illustration, I confess, moves me, and I am constrained to agree, that, as much in kind as the earth differs from the heavens, so much do the demonstrations of the sciences, though certain and exact, differ from the intelligible majesty of God.
12. R. It is well that you are thus moved. For Reason, who speaks to you, promises that God27 Himself shall be even so demonstrated to your mind as is the sun to your eyes. For the eyes of the mind are the senses of the soul. Now the truths of science are made visible to the mind, as the light of the sun makes visible to the eyes the earth and terrestrial objects. But it is God Himself who shines.28 And I, Reason, am such to the mind as is sight to the eyes: for to have eyes that you may look is one thing, and to so look that you may see is another. And so it is that the task of the soul is three-fold, that it possess eyes fit for use, that it look, that it see. Now the eyes of the soul are fit when she is pure from every fleshly taint, that is, when all desire of mortal things is purged and far away, which task Faith alone is, at the outset, equal to. For this cannot be made manifest to a soul marred and diseased by lust, since unless sound she cannot see, nor will she apply herself to the labor of making herself sound if she does not believe, that, when so, she will be able to see. And, furthermore, though one may have this Faith and believe that the matter is as has been stated, and that his ability to see can come about only in this way, yet if he despair of recovery, will he not give himself up, and despise and disobey the orders of his physician?
A. That is perfectly true, especially since one who is ill of necessity feels these orders to be severe.
R. Hope, then, must be added to Faith.
A. I believe so.
R. And how if the soul have this Faith, and also Hope that she can be healed, and yet does not love nor desire the promised Light, but is constrained from long habit, which has made them pleasant, to deem it her duty to abide content with her shadows, will she not none the less reject her physician?
A. She will forthwith.
R. Therefore a third, Charity, is needed!
A. Nothing is so absolutely necessary.
R. Without, then, these three, no soul is sound enough to see, that is, to cognize her God?
13. When, then, you shall have sound eyes, what remains?
A. That the soul look.
R. The gaze of the soul is Reason; but since it does not follow that every one who looks, sees, that right and perfect looking, which is followed by seeing, is called Virtue, for Virtue is rectified and perfected Reason. But that very act of looking, even though the eyes be sound, cannot turn them toward the Light unless three things persist: Faith — by which the soul believes that, that toward which the gaze has been directed, is such that to gaze upon it will cause blessedness: Hope — by which, the eyes being rightly fixed, the soul expects this vision to follow: and Love — which is the soul’s longing to see and to enjoy it. Such looking is followed by the vision of God Himself, who is the goal of the soul’s gaze, not because it could not continue to look, but because there is nothing beyond this on which it can fix its gaze. This is truly perfected Reason — Virtue — attaining its proper end, on which the happy life follows. And this intellectual vision is that which is in the soul a conjunction of the seer and the seen: as seeing with the eyes results from the conjunction of the sense of sight and the sensible object, either of which being lacking, nothing can be seen.
14. When now it has come about that the soul sees, that is, intellectually apprehends God, let us see whether these three things are still necessary to her. How shall Faith be necessary when the soul has now sight? Or Hope, since it has the thing hoped for? Charity alone is nothing diminished, but rather, indeed, very greatly augmented. For when the soul shall have seen this true and unique beauty she will love it the more, and unless with mighty love she fix upon it her gaze, nor turn it thence to anything whatever, she cannot abide in this most blessed vision. But even while the soul is in the body,29 although it may behold most fully, that is, may apprehend God, nevertheless since the senses of the body serve in their own proper office, though they may cause doubt, they cannot cause delusion, and that which opposes them and believes rather that which is contrary to them to be true, may, so far, be called Faith. Again, since God being apprehended, the soul may in this lower life attain blessedness, yet because she must still suffer much molestation by the flesh, she must hope that after death all these troubles will cease to exist. Neither, therefore, may Hope desert the soul in this life; but when, after this life, the soul shall have found herself complete in God, Love, by which she is held there, abides; for she cannot be said to still have Faith that these things are true, since she is solicited by no intrusion of the false; nor that aught remains to be hoped for, since she now possesses all securely. Three things, then, concern the soul: that she be sound, that she look, that she see. Another three, Faith, Hope and Charity, are all needful for health of soul, and Reason’s gaze; while for the vision itself, all, indeed while in the body; but, after this life, Charity alone.30
15. Be attentive now, while, so far as is at present necessary, I disclose to you by similitude of sensible objects, some truth concerning even God Himself. God, undoubtedly, is intelligible even as are these obvious intelligibilities of science; with, however, a wide difference. For the earth is visible and light is visible, but the earth cannot be seen unless made visible by light. So is it with those things treated of by the sciences, which he who apprehends concedes to be most true, and yet it is not credible that they can be apprehended, unless made manifest by some illumination, by some other sun, as it were their own. Thus, as of the sensible sun, we may predicate three things: namely, that it is, that it shines, that it makes objects visible; even so may we predicate three things of that most mysterious God whom you long to know: viz., that He is, that He is apprehended, that He causes other things to be apprehended. These two things, i. e. yourself and God, I dare to teach you. Now tell me how you receive these things: as probabilities or as truths?
A. As probabilities, obviously, and I am stimulated, I admit, to hope for something more. For, excepting those two statements concerning the line and the sphere, nothing has been said by you which I should venture so far as to declare absolute knowledge.
R. That is not to be wondered at, for, so far, nothing has been so demonstrated as to compel your recognition.
16. But why do we loiter? The journey should be pursued. Now let us see whether we are in a sound condition, for that is the first step.
A. It is for you to find, if, either in myself or in yourself, anything can be detected. I will reply to your question so far as I am conscious of anything.
R. Do you love anything beside the knowledge of God and of yourself?
A. As I now feel, I can answer, “nothing:” but it is safer to say “I do not know.” For it has frequently been my experience, when I did not believe it possible to be moved by anything else, yet, something coming into my mind would disturb me far beyond what I had believed possible. And again, although something passing through my mind as a mere suggestion would not much disturb me, yet the very fact of its coming did disturb me more than I had supposed: but it now seems to me that I can be disturbed by only three things, namely: the fear of losing those I love, the fear of pain, and the fear of death.
R. You love, then, life in the companionship of those dearest to you, your own good health, and your life itself in the flesh; for, were it not so, you would not fear their loss?
A. I confess it is so.
R. The sole fact, then, that your friends are not all with you, and that your health is not wholly sound, occasions you some distress of mind, for that, I see, must follow.
A. You see rightly; I cannot deny it.
R. How if you should suddenly feel and become certain that you were sound of body, and should see all those whom you love enjoying together with yourself ease and plenty; would you be almost transported with joy?
A. Almost, indeed. Nay! If this, of all other things, might, as you say, suddenly fall to my lot, how could I contain myself, or how conceal my excess of joy?31
R. You are, therefore, even now, agitated by all diseases and perturbations of the mind. What impudence is it, then, that such eyes should wish to look upon that Sun!
A. You come to your conclusions as if I did not feel precisely how far my health has improved, or what plague has retreated and what still holds its ground. Prove that to be true!
17. R. Are you not aware that the eyes of the body, even though sound, being frequently hurt and turned away by the light of this sensible sun, flee for refuge to shade? So you are thinking over your improvement, not of that which you desire to see! nor yet of this discussion, how you consider us to have advanced: — Do you not desire riches?
A. They are not, now, my first object. I am now three and thirty years of age, and I have ceased to desire riches for almost fourteen years, nor, if they happened to be offered to me, would I have any other interest in them, save such as a freeman requires for his maintenance and use. A single book of Cicero’s32 immediately and easily persuaded me that riches should not be craved, but if they fell to our lot should be wisely and carefully administered.
R. What about honors?33
A. These, I confess, I have but recently ceased to wish for.
R. And how about a wife? Would not one beautiful, modest, docile and cultivated, or at least, one who could be easily taught by yourself, bringing, also, — since you despise opulence, — a marriage portion sufficient to prevent her being a tax upon your leisure, especially if you might confidently hope that no annoyance could come to you because of her, would not such a wife greatly delight you?
A. No matter how you portray her or load her with desirable things, I have decided that nothing is so much to be shunned as sexual relations, for I feel that nothing so much casts down the mind of man from its citadel as do the blandishments of women, and that physical contact without which a wife cannot be possessed. Therefore if it pertain to the office of a wise man (and I am not yet sure that it does) to give himself the care of a family, whoever sustains the marriage relation for the sake of this alone is, I may indeed concede, to be admired, but not, therefore, to be imitated; for the attempt has in it more of peril than the event can have of satisfaction. Enough, however, that for the sake of my freedom of mind, I have, and as I believe, rightly and usefully, decided neither to desire, nor seek, nor take a wife.
R. I do not now ask what you have resolved upon, but whether at the present time you have actually overcome sexual desire itself, or whether you still struggle against it? For this concerns the soundness of your eyes.
A. I now neither seek nor desire anything whatever of this sort. It is with horror and loathing that I even remember it. What more can you ask? And this good increases in me every day. For, as much as the hope of seeing that Superior Beauty, for which I am so consumed by vehement desire, increases, so much does all desire and delight converge to that direction.34
R. And now about the enjoyment of food: how much does that concern you?
A. As to those things which I have cut off from my diet, they do not disturb me; those still allowed I enjoy when before me, yet so that even they could be entirely withdrawn without causing me any annoyance. When they are not immediately present, the appetite for them does not dare to intrude itself, as an impediment to my thoughts. But ask me no more concerning food or drink or baths, or any other pleasure of the flesh. I desire to have them only in proportion to the benefit they can confer upon my health.35
18. R. You have made great progress. Nevertheless some things remain which greatly hinder the seeing of that Light. But I now attempt something which it seems to me easy to find out; for either nothing remains to be overcome, or, of all these things which we believe to have been eradicated, the root infection still remains; — in which case we have made no progress whatever. Now I ask you whether, if you were persuaded that not otherwise than by an ample competence equal to the supply of all your mutual necessities, would it be possible for you to pursue the study of Wisdom in company with your many very dear friends, would you not choose and desire riches?
A. I admit that I would.
R. And how, if it should be shown that, your authority being increased by public honors, you could persuade many to be wise, and that your intimate friends themselves could not curb their worldly desires and turn wholly to seeking after God, unless they themselves should become persons of consequence; and that this, except by your own importance and dignity, could not be accomplished, would not these material things be greatly to be desired and urgently to be sought after?
A. It is as you say.
R. Now concerning a wife: I will not argue, for perhaps there can exist no such necessity that she should be taken. If, however, by means of her ample patrimony, it were possible that all those whom you desire to have live with you in one place, could be comfortably supported, herself also cordially agreeing to this arrangement, and if, especially, by reason of nobility of birth, she were of sufficient influence to bring within easy reach of you those honors which you have just now admitted to be necessary, — I do not know whether it would be proper for you to despise these things.
A. How should I dare to hope for such things?36
19. R. You speak as if I were asking what you hope for. I am not now asking what, among things denied, would displease you: but what, being offered, would please you. A dead plague is one thing, a sleeping one another. And here this saying of certain learned men is pertinent: “all fools are mad, as all dunghills stink, yet one does not always realize this fact, but only when they are stirred up.”37 It is of the greatest importance to us whether carnal desire is stupefied by despair of satisfaction, or expelled by health of mind.38
A. Although I cannot make any answer to this, yet you will never persuade me that, in the inclination of mind which I now feel to be mine, I am to believe I have made no progress.
R. I believe that this seems so to you because, although it is possible that you should wish for such things, it would, nevertheless, not be for their own sake, but for some other reason, that they would appear desirable to you.
A. This is what I have been wishing to say: for as to riches, when, formerly, I desired them, it was because I wished to be rich; and honors, the desire for which I have admitted did, until recently, dominate me, I was wont to wish for because of I know not what glamour about them which fascinated me. And when I sought a wife, I sought her for nothing else than for the sake of getting pleasure without loss of reputation. There was then in me a desire for these things in themselves, but I now absolutely spurn them all. Yet, if these things which I do long for can be reached only through those, I seek them, not that they may be fondly treasured but submissively tolerated.39
R. Excellent! For I do not consider that those things which are asked for solely on account of something else can be said to be desired at all.
20. R. But now I ask you why you desire that those men whom you love should live with you, or should live at all?
A. In order that we may together inquire into God and our own souls. For thus, he who first found out something could, without labor, easily impart it to the others.
R. But how if they do not care to inquire into these things?
A. I will persuade them so that they will care to.
R. But suppose you are not able to do this, either because they have already themselves made these discoveries, or deem them to be things which cannot be discovered; or because they are preoccupied with the cares and desires of other things.
A. I will still keep hold of them and they of me, as if we were able.
R. But suppose their presence is really an impediment to you in your researches. Would not that embarrass you; and if they cannot be otherwise, would you not prefer to be alone rather than so situated?
A. I confess that I would.40
R. You do not then crave either that they live or live with you, save for the purpose of finding Wisdom?41
A. Such is the case.
R. And how if your own life were proved to be an impediment to the attainment of Wisdom — would you wish it to continue?
A. I would flee from it forthwith.42
R. And suppose that you were shown that whether in or out of the body you could equally well attain to Wisdom, would you care whether here or in another life you should enjoy that which you delight in?
A. If I might rest assured that nothing worse were in store for me hereafter, and no backward step from that to which I have already advanced, I would not care.
R. You fear then to die, lest you shall be involved in some worse evil by which the knowledge of God shall be taken away from you?
A. Such as I have conceived it, not only do I fear lest it shall be taken away from me, but also lest the entrance upon those things, at sight of which I stand marvelling, shall be closed to me; although what I now grasp will, I trust, remain with me.
R. You desire then that life shall remain to you, not on its own account but on account of Wisdom?
A. So it is.
21. R. Fear of pain remains, which probably moves you by its own intrinsic power.
A. Even that I do not very greatly fear on any other account than because it hinders me in my researches. Not long since, although I was tormented with a very severe toothache,43 so that I was unable to do any continuous thinking, except on subjects with which I was already familiar, and was altogether prevented from undertaking any researches in which concentration of mind was necessary, yet, even then, it seemed to me that should that Illumination disclose itself to my mind, I should either lose all consciousness of the pain, or would certainly support it as if it were nothing. Up to this time I have had no more serious pain to bear, but since frequently realizing how much more intolerable pain might fall to my lot, I am constrained to agree with Cornelius Celsus, when he says that the greatest good is wisdom, and the greatest evil physical pain. Nor does the argument for this saying seem to me absurd. For, he says, since we are compounded of two parts, namely, of mind and body, the superior part is the mind and the inferior the body: and the greatest good is the best of the better part, and the greatest evil the worst of the worst part, and wisdom is the best thing in the soul and pain the worst in the body. Therefore he concludes, as I think not at all falsely, that the greatest good is to be wise, the greatest evil to suffer pain.
R. Later on we will see about that. For perhaps Wisdom herself, toward whom we are urging our way, will persuade us otherwise. If, however, this is shown to be true, we will, doubtless, entertain the same opinion as to the greatest good and the greatest evil.
22. Now let us inquire what kind of a lover you are of that Wisdom, whom, with most chaste regard and embrace and with no interposing veil, but as if nude, in a way she does not permit save to very few of her most favored suitors, you desire to grasp and to gaze upon. For surely were you consumed with desire for some most beautiful woman, it would be but just that she should not yield herself to you, if she had discovered that another beside herself were loved by you. Nor will this most chaste beauty of Wisdom disclose herself to you, except you are consumed by desire for her alone.
A. Why then am I, unhappy I, so long kept waiting in suspense and excruciating agony? Surely I have proved that I love no other, for that which is not loved for itself is not loved at all. But Wisdom I love for herself alone, and other things — life, leisure, friends — which I wish to have in addition, I fear to be without, on her account only. How boundless must be the love I bear to that Beauty, when not only do I not envy other lovers, but even seek many more who may with me long for her; with me gaze, marvelling, upon her; with me lay hold upon, with me enjoy her; so much the more shall they be my friends, as she shall be loved by us in common!
23. R. It is altogether fitting that such should the lovers of Wisdom be. She, union with whom is pure and without contamination, seeks such. But she is not won in one way alone.44 It is according to his soundness and strength that each one comes to know this unique and most veritable good. There is an intellectual illumination of an ineffable and mysterious sort.45 Ordinary light may, so far as it can, teach us something concerning that higher Light. There are eyes so vigorous and sound as, though scarcely open, to turn full upon the sun without shrinking. To such, light is, in a way, health itself, nor do they need a physician, save only perhaps for advice. To such it is enough to believe, to hope, to love. But there are others whose eyes are hurt by that very effulgence which they so vehemently long to look upon, and often turning from it go with delight back to their shadows. Such as these may be truly said to be sound, but no attempt to show them that which they are not able to look upon is without danger. They need first to be exercised by a salutary encouragement of desire, and an equally wise postponement of its satisfaction.
They should, first, be shown some things which are not in themselves luminous, but can be seen only by reflected light, such as a garment or a wall, or anything of that sort. After that, something else, which, though not itself luminous, yet glows with more beauty by reflection than does the former, as gold or silver or something similar; but not so brightly as to hurt the eye. Next, they should look upon some moderate terrestrial fire, then upon the stars, then the moon, then the glow of dawn, and the growing splendor of sunrise. And whoever accustoms himself to these things, whether in unbroken order, or with some omissions, will come to look upon the sun itself without shrinking and with great delight. The most excellent teachers use some such method as this with those eagerly desirous of Wisdom, who already see, but whose sight is not acute. For it is the office of good discipline to attain Wisdom by a certain order of approach, and without that order46 it is scarcely credible that the approach can be happy. But we have, I think, written enough for to-day. Health must be considered.
24. Another day having arrived: —
A. Give now if you can, I beg, I implore, this order. Proceed; do what you will, by any means, in any way. Command things however difficult, however arduous, and, nevertheless, if they are within my power, I shall certainly, through them, attain to that which I desire.
R. One thing alone can I teach you; nothing else do I know:47 the things of sense must be abandoned, and the greatest caution must be used, so long as we carry about this body, lest some adhesive impediment of sense should clog our wings, whose task, when whole and perfect, it is to bear us upward away from these shadows to that higher Light, which it befits not to disclose itself to those shut up in this cave,48 unless they shall have been such, that, when they escape, their prison being either rent asunder or decayed away, they shall be able to mount up to their native atmospheres. And so, when you shall have become such, that nothing whatever of earth can charm you, in that very moment, in that very instant of time, believe me, you shall look upon that which you desire.49
A. When, then, shall that be, I pray you? For I do not think it possible to arrive at that complete contempt of these inferior things, until I shall have first beheld that in comparison with which they become vile.
25. R. This is as if the eyes of the body should say: “When I shall have seen the sun, I will no longer love darkness.” For, though it seems right that this should be the order by which to proceed, it is, in fact, a long way from it. For the eye loves darkness for the very reason that it is not sound, and yet, unless sound, it cannot gaze upon the sun. The mind is often deceived in this, and boasting and thinking itself sound, as if it had occasion, it complains that it does not see. But that Beauty knows when it should disclose itself; for she, herself, assumes the office of physician, and knows better who may be fit to look upon her than do they themselves who are made fit.
Thus we, having emerged so far, seem to ourselves to see; but how deep we have been sunk or to what point we have risen, we are not permitted to either feel or think; and so, because we have not a worse disease, we conclude that we have none. Do you not observe how, only yesterday, we announced, as if secure, that we were no longer hindered by any fleshly plague, and that we loved Wisdom alone, and sought for and desired other things on her account only? How worthless, how foul, how execrable, how horrible, seemed to you a woman’s embrace, as we were inquiring between ourselves concerning the desire for a wife! And yet, that very night, being wakeful, when we again discussed the same matter, how far other you felt than you would have supposed, when thrilled with these imagined blandishments and that amorous softness! — far less, indeed, than its wont, but yet, far otherwise than you had been asserting. May that most confidential physician of yours therefore demonstrate to you both what, by his care, you have escaped, and what yet remains to be cured!
26. A. Silence, I beseech you, silence! Why do you so torment me; why probe so deep? Now I weep beyond endurance! Henceforth I promise nothing, I presume nothing, lest you ask again concerning these things. You say truly that He whom I ardently desire to see will, Himself, know when I am restored to health. Let Him do what pleases Him; let Him disclose Himself when it pleases Him! I now commit myself wholly to His care and clemency. For I believe, for all time, He will not cease to uplift to Himself those so inclined. I will pronounce nothing concerning my soundness until I shall have looked upon that Beauty.50
R. May you indeed do nothing other. But now restrain yourself from tears and gird up your mind. You have wept overmuch, and the pain in your chest is seriously affected by it.
A. Would you set a bound to my tears when I can see no bound to my misery? Or do you bid me consider the health of my body when my real self may be consumed with infection? Nay, I implore you, if you are of any avail for me, that you endeavor to lead me onward by some less tedious route, that, by some proximity of that Light, which, if I have advanced somewhat, I am now able to bear, it will shame my eyes to return to those shadows I have left; if, indeed, those things can be said to be abandoned which can still venture to cajole my blindness.
27. R. Let us, if you please, conclude this first volume that we may set out upon a second by some propitious way; for this inclination of yours must not cease for want of suitable exercise.
A. I refuse absolutely to consent that this little book shall be concluded until you shall have opened to me some little glimmer concerning the nearness of that Light on which I am intent.
R. Your Divine Healer consents to grant you this much: for I know not what effulgence touches me and invites me to lead you thither. Be, therefore, intently receptive.
A. Lead on; seize and hurry me whither you will.
R. Do you affirm truly that you will to cognize God and the soul?
A. Such is my whole concern.
R. And nothing more?
A. Absolutely nothing.
R. What! Do you not desire to comprehend Truth?
A. As if I could truly have acquaintance with these except through that!
R. That, then, must first be cognized, in order that these may be.
A. I agree to that.
R. Let us, then, first see whether, since Truth and true are two words, it appears to you that they stand for two things or only for one?
A. For two things, it seems to me. Thus, Chastity is one thing, the chaste another: and so of many others. I believe, therefore, Truth is one thing, and that which is said to be true another thing.
R. And which of them do you consider the more excellent?
A. Truth, in my judgment: for as Chastity is not the offspring of the chaste, but the chaste of Chastity, so, if anything be true it is true by reason of Truth.
28. R. When a chaste person dies do you consider that Chastity dies also?
A. Not at all.
R. When, therefore, that which is true perishes, Truth does not perish.
A. But how does anything true perish? I do not see.
R. I am surprised that you ask that question, for do we not see constantly a thousand things perish before our eyes? Or do you, perhaps, consider this tree to be a tree, but not a true tree? Or not capable of perishing? For, although you do not believe in the senses, and may reply that you are not sure whether the tree exists or not, you will, nevertheless, not, I think, deny that, if it be a tree, it is a true tree; for this judgment is a matter not of sense, but of intelligence; for if it be a false tree it is not a tree, but if it be a tree it is of necessity a true tree.
A. I concede this.
R. And how of this also; do you not concede a tree to be of that class of things which are born and die?
A. I cannot deny it.
R. It is, then, concluded that a true thing may perish?
A. I do not deny it.
R. And, further, does it not appear that, though true things die, Truth does not die: just as, though the chaste person dies, Chastity does not die?
A. I now concede this also, and eagerly await the outcome of your efforts.
R. Pay attention, then.
A. I am all attention.
29. R. Does this proposition: — whatever is, is, of necessity, somewhere, seem true to you?
A. Nothing so wins my consent.
R. And do you admit that Truth is?
A. I do.
R. We must, then, of necessity inquire where she may be. She is not in some portion of space, unless you, perhaps, think that something else beside a body can occupy space, or that Truth is a body.
A. I think neither of these things.
R. Where, then, do you believe her to be? For we have agreed that what is, cannot be nowhere.
A. If I knew where she were, I would not be likely to continue my researches.
R. Are you, then, at least, able to conceive where she may be?
A. If you suggest it, I may be able.
R. She certainly is not in mortal things. For whatever is cannot survive in anything, if the thing in which it is does not survive. Also, it was, a little time ago, conceded that Truth remains, though true things pass away. Therefore Truth is not in mortal things. But Truth is, and is not nowhere. Therefore there are things immortal. But nothing is true in which Truth is not, and it therefore follows that nothing is, unless it be immortal: and every false tree is not a tree, and false wood is not wood, and false silver is not silver, and anything whatever which is false, is not. But everything which is not true, is false: therefore nothing can be rightly said to be except the immortal.
Now review this line of reasoning carefully, lest it should appear that some of your concessions ought not to have been made. If, however, it is valid, we have accomplished almost our entire undertaking, as will perhaps be better seen in a following book.
A. I am grateful and give you thanks; and in the silence51 I will diligently and cautiously review these things with myself, and with you, provided no shadows reappear, causing me pleasure, as I so vehemently dread.
R. Have constant faith in God, and commit your whole self to His care so far as you can! Refuse to be or to will as of your own power, and openly confess yourself to be a servant of this most merciful and gracious God; for so He will not forbear to uplift you to Himself, and will permit nothing save what is for your good to happen, even though you know it not!
A. I hear, I believe, and I obey, so far as I have the power, and — unless you require something else of me — with all my soul I pray that I may have more and more power!
R. And meanwhile, all is well. You will do hereafter whatever He Himself, having been seen, will instruct you.
[Note 1.]“Furthermore, this very summer, from too great literary labor, my lungs began to be weak, and with difficulty to draw deep breaths: showing by the pains in my chest that they were affected, and refusing too loud or prolonged speaking. This had, at first, been a trial to me, for it compelled me almost of necessity to lay down that burden of teaching, or, if I could be cured and become strong again, at least to leave it off for a while. But when the full desire for leisure, that I might see that Thou art the Lord, arose, and was confirmed in me, my God, Thou knowest I even began to rejoice that I had this excuse ready, — and that not a feigned one — which might somewhat temper the offence taken by those who, for their son’s good, wished me never to have the freedom of sons. Full, therefore, with such joy, I bore it till that period of time had passed — perhaps it was some twenty days — yet they were bravely borne: for the cupidity which was wont to sustain part of this weighty business had departed, and I had remained overwhelmed, had not its place been supplied by patience. Some of thy servants, my brethren, may, perchance, say that I sinned in this, in that, having once fully, and from my heart, entered on Thy warfare, I permitted myself to sit a single hour in the seat of falsehood. I will not contend. But hast not Thou, O most merciful Lord, pardoned and remitted this sin also, with my others, so horrible and deadly, in the holy water?” (Confessions, Book IX. 4.)
[Note 2.]“It has been said of Fiesole that he prayed his pictures onto the walls. It can be maintained of Augustine that his most profound thoughts regarding the first and the last things arose out of prayers; for all these matters were contained for him in God. If the same can be said of innumerable mystics down to the private communities of Madame de Guyon and Tersteegen, it is true of them because they were Augustine’s disciples. But more than any one else he possessed the faculty of combining speculation about God with a contemplation of mind and soul which was not content with a few traditional categories, but analyzed the states of feeling and the contents of consciousness. Every advance in this analysis became for him at the same time an advance in the knowledge of God, and vice versa; concentration of his whole being in prayer led him to the most abstract observation, and this, in turn, changed to prayer.” (Harnack, History of Dogma, p. 106.)
[Note 3.]There might be two constructions of this petition for freedom, founded, of course, on what is claimed to be Augustine’s notion of it. Was it the freedom with which he had become familiar, in his long affiliation with Neoplatonism, which is the climax of mystic vision, his conception of which is seen in the famous experience with his mother at the Ostia window? I do not so conceive it. The freedom Augustine prays for is freedom from any other desire than the desire “to know God and the soul.” His prayer is “Set me free from all other desires.” This was his notion of freedom, as any one following the narrative of his experience up to and beyond his conversion must perceive. Harnack says: “But he only entered his proper element when he was inquiring into the practical side of spiritual life. The popular conception, beyond which even philosophers had not advanced far, was that man was a rational being who was hampered by sensuousness, but possessed a free will capable at every moment of choosing the good — a very external, dualistic view. Augustine observed the actual man. He found that the typical characteristic of the life of the soul consisted in the effort to obtain pleasure (cupido, amor); from this type no one could depart. . . . All impulses were only evolutions of this typical characteristic; sometimes they partook more of the form of passive impression, sometimes they were more of an active nature, and they were quite as true of the spiritual as of the sensuous life. According to Augustine, the will is most closely connected with this life of impulse, so that impulses can, indeed, be conceived as contents of the will, yet it is to be distinguished from them. For the will is not bound to the nexus of nature: it is a force existing above sensuous nature. It is free, in so far as it possesses formally the capacity of following or resisting the various inclinations; but concretely it is never free; that is, never free choice (liberum arbitrium), but is always conditioned by the chain of existing inclinations, which form its motives and determine it. The theoretical freedom of choice, therefore, only becomes actual freedom when desire (cupiditas, amor) of good has become the ruling motive of the will; in other words, it is only true of a good will that it is free; freedom of will and moral goodness coincide. But it follows just from this that the will truly free possesses its liberty not in caprice, but in being bound to the motive which impels to goodness (“beata necessitas boni”). This bondage is freedom, because it delivers the will from the rule of the impulses (to lower forms of good) and realizes the destiny and design of man to possess himself of true being and life. In bondage to goodness the higher appetite (appetitus), the genuine impulse of self-preservation, realizes itself, while by satisfaction “in dissipation” it brings man “bit by bit to ruin.” (History of Dogma, Vol. V, pp. 112-113.)
[Note 4.]Desjardins maintains concerning Augustine “that no one’s teaching as to creation has shown more clearness, boldness and vigor, — avoiding the perils of dualism on the one hand and atheism on the other.” We read, for example (Confessions, pp. 294, 295): “Behold, the heaven and earth are: they proclaim that they were made, for they are changed and varied. Whereas whatsoever hath not been made, and yet hath being, hath nothing in it which there was not before; this is what it is to be changed and varied. They also proclaim that they made not themselves; ‘therefore we are, because we have been made; we were not, therefore, before we were, so that we could have made ourselves.’ And the voice of those that speak is in itself an evidence. Thou, therefore, Lord, didst make these things. . . . But how didst Thou make them? . . . From whence couldst Thou have what Thou hadst not made, whereof to make anything? For what is, save because Thou art? Therefore Thou didst speak and they were made, and in Thy Word Thou mad’st these things.”
[Note 5.]“Augustine never tires of realizing the beauty (pulchrum) and fitness (aptum) of creation, of regarding the universe as an ordered work of art, in which the gradations are as admirable as the contrasts. The individual and evil are lost to view in the notion of beauty; nay, God himself is the eternal, the old and new, the only beauty.” (History of Dogma, V, p. 114.)
[Note 6.]“As yet I knew not that evil was naught but a privation of good, until in the end it ceases altogether to be.” (Confessions, p. 46.)
[Note 7.]“If we ask why He made it, ‘it was good.’ Neither is there any author more excellent than God, nor any skill more efficacious than the word of God, nor any cause better than that good might be created by the good God. This also Plato has assigned as the most sufficient reason for the creation of the world, that good works might be made by a good God. . . .
[Note 8.]“And to Thee is there nothing at all evil, and not only to Thee, but to Thy whole creation; because there is nothing without which can break in and mar that order which Thou hast appointed it. But in the parts thereof, some things, because they harmonize not with others, are considered evil: whereas those very things harmonize with others, and are good, and in themselves are good. And all these things which do not harmonize together harmonize with the inferior part which we call earth, having its own cloudy and windy sky concordant to it. Far be it from me, then, to say ‘These things should not be.’ For should I see nothing but these, I should indeed desire better; but yet, if only for these, ought I to praise Thee; . . . I did not now desire better things, because I was thinking of all; and with a better judgment I reflected that the things above were better than those below, but that all were better than those above alone. There is no wholeness in them whom aught of thy creation displeaseth; no more than there was in me, when many things which Thou madest displeased me.” (Confessions, pp. 160, 161.)
[Note 9.]Augustine says in criticism of this passage: “One can reply that there are men who are not pure and yet know many things, for I have not taken pains here to define the True, which pure souls alone know, and also what I mean by knowing.” (Retractations, Book I, chap. 4.)
[Note 10.]“Not this common light, which all flesh may look upon, nor, as it were, a greater one of the same kind, as though the brightness of this should be much more resplendent, and with its greatness fill up all things. Not like this was that Light, but different, yea, very different from all these. . . . He who knows the Truth knows that Light; and he that knows it knoweth Eternity. Love knoweth it. O Eternal Truth, and true Love and loved Eternity!” (Confessions, pp. 157, 158.)
[Note 11.]“And I viewed the other things below Thee, and perceived that they neither altogether are, nor altogether are not. They are, indeed, because they are from Thee; but are not, because they are not what Thou art. For that truly is which remains immutably. It is good, then, for me to cleave unto God, for if I remain not in Him, neither shall I in myself; but He, remaining in Himself, reneweth all things.” (Confessions, p. 159.)
[Note 12.]“Now it was expedient that man should be at first so created, as to have it in his power both to will what was right and to will what was wrong; not without reward if he willed the former, and not without punishment if he willed the latter.” (Enchiridion, p. 249.)
[Note 13.]“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him.” (Genesis, 1: 27.)
[Note 14.]Villemain quotes Augustine’s words: “God is not only the Creator, but the Country of the soul,” and adds: “Without doubt this inspired the sublime expression of Malebranche, ‘God is the place of spirits, as space is the place of bodies.’ ”
[Note 15.]“But where, during all those years, and out of what deep and secret retreat was my free will summoned forth in a moment, whereby I gave my neck to Thy ‘easy yoke’ and my shoulders to Thy ‘light burden,’ O Christ Jesus, my strength and my Redeemer?” (Confessions, pp. 206, 207.)
[Note 16.]“But behold, Thou wert close behind thy fugitives, at once God of vengeance and Fountain of mercies, who turnest us to Thyself by wondrous means.” (Confessions, p. 62.)
[Note 17.]“A fervent prayer precedes this meditation and disposes the soul to a tranquil enthusiasm of which it has need in order to thoroughly see and recognize itself. There is here, in fact, a sort of ecstasy of reflection which in nothing resembles the violent emotion experienced in the garden at Milan at the crisis of repentance and faith. His resolution is taken; effort is no longer necessary, and the invocation, although ardent, breathes of calm. It is the movement of a soul committed to no backward step. Reason, herself, has told Augustine to pray to the God of truth, the God of wisdom, the Father of beatitude, of the good, of the beautiful, of intelligible Light. He prays with confidence, with serenity. . . and under the auspices of this pious initiation, he seeks in fact knowledge, in taking up this dialogue with Reason.” (Villemain, Tableau de l’Éloquence Chrétienne au IVe Siècle, p. 402.)
[Note 18.]“In these words Augustine has briefly formulated the aim of his spiritual life. That was the truth for which ‘the marrow of his soul sighed.’ All truth was contained for him in the perception of God. After a brief period of sore doubting, he was firm as a rock in the conviction that there was a God, and that he was the supreme good (summum bonum); but who he was, and how he was to be found were to him the great questions. He was first snatched from the night of uncertainty by Neoplatonism; the Manichean notion of God had proved itself to be false, since its God was not absolute and omnipotent. . . . He was saved from scepticism by perceiving that even if the whole of eternal experience was subject to doubt, the facts of the inner life remained and demanded an explanation leading to certainty. There is no evil, but we are afraid, and this fear is certainly an evil. There is no visible object of faith, but we see faith in us. Thus — in his theory of perception — God and the soul entered into the closest union, and this union confirmed him in his belief in their metaphysical connection. Henceforth the investigation of the life of the soul was to him a theological necessity. No examination seemed to him to be indifferent: he sought to obtain divine knowledge from every quarter.” (History of Dogma, V, p. 110, et seq.)
[Note 19.]Augustine writes to his dear friend Nebridius: “Although you know my mind well, you are perhaps not aware how much I long to enjoy your society. This great blessing, however, God will some day bestow on me. I have read your letter, so genuine in its utterances, in which you complain of your being in solitude, and, as it were, forsaken by your friends, in whose society you found the sweetest charm of life. But what else can I suggest to you than that which I am persuaded is already your exercise? Commune with your own soul, and raise it up, as far as you are able, unto God. For in Him you hold us also by a firmer bond, not by means of bodily images which we must meanwhile be content to use in remembering each other, but by means of that faculty of thought through which we realize the fact of our separation from each other.” (Letters, I, p. 20.)
[Note 20.]“Alypius was born in the same town as myself, his parents being of the highest rank there, but he being younger than I. For he had studied under me, first when I taught in our town, and afterwards at Carthage, and esteemed me highly, because I appeared to him good and learned; and I esteemed him for his innate love of virtue, which, in one of no great age, was sufficiently eminent. (Confessions, p. 121.)
[Note 21.]“Philosophers have been far too apt to jump to the conclusion that because energy is constant, therefore no guidance is possible, so that all psychological or other interference is precluded. Physicists, however, know better. . . . It has gradually dawned upon me that the reason why philosophers who are well acquainted with physical or dynamical science are apt to fall into the error of supposing that mental and vital interference with the material world is impossible . . . is because all such interference is naturally and necessarily excluded from scientific methods and treatises . . . . determinateness is not part of the essence of dynamical doctrine; it is arrived at by the tacit assumption that no undynamical or hyper-dynamical agencies exist; in short, by that process of abstraction which is invariably necessary for simplicity, and indeed for possibility, of methodical human treatment.” (Lodge, Life and Matter, pp. 20, 140.)
[Note 22.]At the time this was written, Augustine was yet a catechumen. He does not speak, for he does not think, as a Catholic theologian. The moral crisis was past in his conversion; he was “cleaving unto God.” But the mental crisis had no violent end; his intellectual habits and holdings of that period changed slowly, were indeed, never wholly lost. He had acquired the “good will” once for all, but had only entered upon the philosophic revolution, which was the Christian evolution, the one an agony of death, the other an agony of birth. Platonic ideas haunted him, even while he sifted them. Later he wrote the story of his acquaintance with Plato and his school in clear terms, but not wholly those of an ecclesiastic (Confessions, p. 152 et seq.). Later still, as Bishop and Defender of the Faith, he writes again of Plato. (City of God, I, p. 306 et seq.)
[Note 23.]“The Soliloquies offer numerous allusions to Academic scepticism which St. Augustine had hitherto professed. Having been for long seduced by this doctrine, he considered it as the first enemy which his new born faith ought to overcome. Cicero, the most important representative of this school, exposes concisely its doctrines in Book II of his Treatise Concerning Duty, Chapter 2. ‘It is pretended that there are things certain, and things uncertain: we are of another opinion, and say that there are things probable and things improbable.’ ” (Soliloquies, Pelissier’s translation, Note 13.)
[Note 24.]Augustine says of his first great work, Contra Academicos, written at Casciacum: “Whatever be the value of those treatises what I most rejoice in is, not that I have vanquished the Academicians, as you express it (using the language rather of friendly partiality than of truth), but that I have broken and cast away from me the odious bonds by which I was kept back from the nourishing breasts of philosophy, through despair of attaining that truth which is the food of the soul.” (Letters, I, p. 3.)
[Note 25.]Apropos of “happiness,” I allow myself to insert this delightful portrait:
[Note 26.]“Thus Augustine, in abandoning his soul to all the fervor of religious faith, retained his enthusiasm for knowledge: he is uplifted to God by philosophic contemplation, as by piety; by reasoning, as by love. . . . Raised to virtue, not by faith alone, but by reasoning as well, behold here the labor of a well-instructed soul! The intellect disciplined by study focuses to the knowledge of God all human sciences as so many routes, which from different points of the horizon lead toward the same temple. The soul dominated by virtue, which gives itself to calm and harmony, will have a recompense, of which Augustine cannot speak without a ravishing enthusiasm. ‘It will dare to see God,’ he exclaims, ‘and the source whence emanates the true, the Father Himself of Truth. Great God! what gazes will be raised toward Thee! How pure, how noble will they be! what of strength, of constancy, of serenity, of beatitude, will they have! How can we think of, how speak of them? We have for them only every-day words, profaned by miserable use.’ ” (Tableau de l’Éloquence Chrétienne au IVe Siècle, pp. 399, 400.)
[Note 27.]“I asked the earth; and it answered ‘I am not He,’ and whatsoever are therein made the same confession. I asked the sea and the deeps, and the creeping things that lived, and they replied ‘We are not thy God, seek higher than we.’ I asked the breezy air, and the universal air with its inhabitants answered ‘Anaximenes was deceived, I am not God.’ I asked the heavens, the sun, moon and stars: ‘Neither,’ say they, ‘are we the God whom thou seekest.’ And I answered unto all these things which stand about the door of my flesh ‘Ye have told me concerning my God. That ye are not He; tell me something about Him,’ and with a loud voice they exclaimed ‘He made us.’ My questioning was my observing of them; and their beauty was their reply. And I directed my thoughts to myself and said ‘Who art thou?’ And I answered ‘A man.’ And lo! in me there appear both body and soul, the one without, the other within. By which of these should I seek my God, whom I had sought through the body from earth to heaven, as far as I was able to send messengers — the beams of mine eyes? But the better part is that which is inner: for to it, as both president and judge, did all these my corporeal messengers render the answers of heaven and earth and all things therein, who said ‘We are not God, but he made us.’ These things was my inner man cognizant of by the ministry of the outer: I, the inner man, knew all this — I, the soul, through the senses of my body. . . . By my soul itself will I mount up unto Him.” (Confessions, pp. 243-244.)
[Note 28.]“That light which illumines the soul, he tells us in his De Gen. ad Lit. (Book XII, p. 31) is God Himself, from whom all light cometh; and though created in His image and likeness, when it tries to discover Him, palpitat infirmitate et minus valet. . . . In his De Civ. Dei (X, 2), he quotes from Plotinus in regard to the Platonic doctrine as to enlightenment from on high. He says: “Plotinus, commenting on Plato, repeatedly and strongly asserts that not even the soul, which they believe to be the soul of the world, derives its blessedness from any other source than we do, viz.: from that Light which is distinct from it and created it, and by whose intelligible illumination it enjoys light in things intelligible. He also compares those spiritual things to the vast and conspicuous heavenly bodies, as if God were the sun, and the soul the moon; for they suppose that the moon derives its light from the sun. That great Platonist, therefore, says that the rational soul, or rather the intellectual soul, — in which class he comprehends the souls of the blessed immortals who inhabit heaven, — has no nature superior to it save God, the Creator of the world and the soul itself, and that these heavenly spirits derive their blessed life, and the light of truth, from the same source as ourselves, agreeing with the gospel where we read ‘There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of that Light, that through Him all might believe. He was not that Light, but that he might bear witness of the Light. That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ (John 1: 6-9), — a distinction which sufficiently proves that the rational or intellectual soul, such as John had, cannot be its own light, but needs to receive illumination from another, the true Light.” (Confessions, p. 164, note.)
[Note 29.]At this time Augustine was not more a a Catholic theologian than a Catholic theosophist. The methods suggested by this statement that “the vision of God can be attained even while still in the body,” betray his long affiliation with Neoplatonism. In this connection Harnack refers to “suggestions” in this direction found in the Confessions (VII, 13-16, 23), and says: (History of Dogma, V, p. 111, note) “Here is described the intellectual ‘exercise’ of the observation of the mutabilia leading to the incommutabile. ‘And thus, with the flash of a trembling glance, it arrived at that which is. And then I saw Thy invisible things understood by the things that are made (this now becomes his dominant saying). But I was not able to fix my gaze thereon; and my infirmity being beaten back, I was thrown again on my accustomed habits, carrying along with me naught but a loving memory thereof, and an appetite (quite as in Plotinus) for what I had, as it were, smelt the odour of, but was not yet able to eat.’ But, again, in his famous dialogue with his mother in Ostia, a regular Neoplatonic ‘exercise’ is really described which ends with ecstasy (attigimus veri tatem modice toto ictu cordis).” (If not familiar to the reader, he will be grateful for the insertion here of a part of this dialogue, which has been made, if possible, even more vivid in its portrayal of Monica and her son at the window in Ostia overlooking the sea, by the famous canvas of Ary Scheffer.)
[Note 30.]“But sight shall displace faith: and hope shall be swallowed up in that perfect bliss to which we shall come: love, on the other hand, shall wax greater when these others fail. For if we love by faith that which as yet we see not, how much more shall we love it when we begin to see! And if we love by hope that which as yet we have not reached, how much more shall we love it when we reach it! For there is this great difference between things temporal and things eternal, that a temporal object is valued more before we possess it, and begins to prove worthless the moment we attain it, because it does not satisfy the soul, which has its only true and sure resting-place in eternity: an eternal object, on the other hand, is loved with greater ardour when it is in possession than while it is still an object of desire, for no one in his longing for it can set a higher value on it than really belongs to it, so as to think it comparatively worthless when he finds it of less value than he thought; on the contrary, however high the value any man may set upon it when he is on his way to possess it, he will find it, when it comes into his possession, of higher value still.” (Christian Doctrine, p. 32.)
[Note 31.]Augustine tells us such a community had been planned: “And many of us friends, consulting on and abhorring the turbulent vexations of human life, had considered and now almost determined upon living at ease and separate from the turmoil of men. And this was to be obtained in this way; we were to bring whatever we could severally procure, and make a common household, so that, through the sincerity of our friendship, nothing should belong more to one than the other; but the whole, being derived from all, should as a whole belong to each, and the whole unto all. It seemed to us that this society might consist of ten persons, some of whom were very rich, especially Romanianus, our townsman, an intimate friend of mine from his childhood, whom grave business matters had then brought up to Court; who was the most earnest of us all for this project, and whose voice was of great weight in commending it, because his estate was far more ample than that of the rest. We had arranged, too, that two officers should be chosen yearly, for the providing of all necessary things, whilst the rest were left undisturbed. But when we began to reflect whether the wives which some of us had already, and others hoped to have, would permit this, all that plan, which was being so well framed, broke to pieces in our hands, and was utterly wrecked and cast aside. Thence we fell again to sighs and groans, and our steps to follow the broad and beaten ways of the world.” (Confessions, p. 135.)
[Note 32.]“In the ordinary course of study, I lighted upon a certain book of Cicero, whose language, though not his heart, almost all admire. This book of his contains an exhortation to philosophy, and is called Hortensius. This book, in truth, changed my affections, and turned my prayers to Thyself, O Lord, and made me have other hopes and desires. Worthless suddenly became every vain hope to me; and, with an incredible warmth of heart, I yearned for an immortality of wisdom, and began now to arise that I might return to Thee.” (Confessions, p. 41.)
[Note 33.]“I was entangled in the life of this world, clinging to dull hopes of a beauteous wife, the pomp of riches, the emptiness of honors, and the other hurtful and destructive pleasures.” (De Util. Credendi, Sec. 3.) “After I had shaken off the Manicheans and escaped, especially when I had crossed the sea, the Academics long detained me tossing in the waves, winds from all quarters beating against my helm. And so I came to this shore, and there found a pole-star to whom to entrust myself. For I often observed in the discourses of our priest (Ambrose), and sometimes in yours (Theodorus), that you had no corporeal notions when you thought of God, or even of the soul, which of all things is next to God. But I was withheld, I own, from casting myself speedily into the bosom of true wisdom by the alluring hopes of marriage and honors; meaning, when I had obtained these, to press (as few singularly happy had before me), with oar and sail into that haven, and there rest.” (De Vita Beata, Sec. 4.)
[Note 34.]“Since that vehement flame which was about to seize me as yet was not, I thought that by which I was slowly kindled was the very greatest. When lo! certain books, when they had distilled a very few drops of most precious unguent on that tiny flame, it is past belief, Romanianus, past belief, and perhaps past what even you believe of me (and what could I say more?) nay, to myself also is it past belief, what a conflagration of myself they lighted. What ambition, what human show, what empty love of fame, or lastly, what incitement or band of this mortal life could hold me then? I turned speedily and wholly back into myself. I cast but a glance, I confess, as one passing on, upon that religion which was implanted into us as boys, and interwoven with our very inmost selves; but she drew me unknowing to herself. So, then, stumbling, hurrying, hesitating, I seized the Apostle Paul: ‘for never,’ said I, ‘could they have wrought such things, or lived as it is plain they did live, if their writings and arguments were opposed to this so high good.’ I read the whole most intently and carefully. But then, never so little light having been shed thereon, such a countenance of wisdom gleamed upon me, that if I could exhibit it — I say not to you, who ever hungeredst after her, though unknown — but to your very adversary . . . casting aside and abandoning whatever now stimulates him so keenly to whatsoever pleasures, he would, amazed, panting, enkindled, fly to her Beauty.” (Con. Acad. II, 5.)
[Note 35.]“This much hast Thou taught me, that I should bring myself to take food as medicine. . . . And whereas health is the reason of eating and drinking, there joineth itself as an handmaid a perilous delight, which mostly tries to precede it, in order that I may do for her sake what I say I do, or desire to do, for health’s sake. Nor have both the same limit; for what is sufficient for health is too little for pleasure. And oftentimes it is doubtful whether it be the necessary care of the body which still asks nourishment, or whether a sensual snare of desire offers its ministry. In this uncertainty does my unhappy soul rejoice, and therein prepares an excuse as a defence, glad that it doth not appear what may be sufficient for the moderation of health, that so under the pretence of health it may conceal the business of pleasure. These temptations do I daily endeavour to resist, and I summon Thy right hand to my help, and refer my excitements to Thee, because as yet I have no resolve in this matter.” (Confessions, p. 268.)
[Note 36.]“And what more could we desire? We have crowds of influential friends, though we have nothing else, and if we make haste a presidentship may be offered us; and a wife with some money that she increase not our expenses; and this shall be the height of desire. Many men, who are great and worthy of imitation, have applied themselves to the study of wisdom in the marriage state.” (Confessions, p. 131.)
[Note 37.]“But what they assert is this: they say that all fools are mad, as all dunghills stink; not that they always do so, but stir them, and you will perceive it.” (Cicero — Tusculum Disputations, Book IV, 24, translated by C. D. Yonge.)
[Note 38.]“Nor was that wound of mine as yet cured which had been caused by the separation from my former mistress, but after inflammation and most acute anguish it mortified, and the pain became numbed, but more desperate.” (Confessions, p. 136.)
[Note 39.]“For those who are most truly wise, and whom alone it is right to pronounce happy, have maintained that fortune’s favours ought not to be the objects of either fear or desire.” (Letters, p. 8.)
[Note 40.]“Is it true, my beloved Augustine, that you are spending your strength and patience on the affairs of your fellow citizens (in Thagaste), and that the leisure from distractions which you so earnestly desired is still withheld from you? Who, I would like to know, are the men who thus take advantage of your good nature, and trespass on your time? I believe that they do not know what you love most and long for. Have you no friend at hand to tell them what your heart is set upon? Will neither Romanianus nor Lucinianus do this? Let them hear me at all events. I will proclaim aloud: I will protest that God is the supreme object of your love, and that your heart’s desire is to be His servant, and to cleave to Him. Fain would I persuade you to come to my home in the country, and rest here: I shall not be afraid of being denounced as a robber by those countrymen of yours, whom you love only too well, and by whom you are too warmly loved in return.” (Letters, I, p. 11. Nebridius to Augustine.)
[Note 41.]. . . “It is a question whether man is to be loved by man for his own sake, or for the sake of something else. If it is for his own sake, we enjoy him; if it is for the sake of something else, we use him. It seems to me, then, that he is to be loved for the sake of something else. For if a thing is to be loved for its own sake, then in the enjoyment of it consists a happy life, the hope of which at least, if not yet the reality, is our comfort in the present time. But a curse is pronounced on him who places his hope in man.” (Christian Doctrine, I, p. 18.)
[Note 42.]“Why are there times in which, speaking, we do not fear death, and silent, even desire it? I say to you — for I would not say it to every one — to you whose visits to the upper world I know well, ‘Will you, who have often felt how sweetly the soul lives when it dies to all mere bodily affections, deny that it is possible for the whole life of man to become at length so exempt from fear, that he may be justly called wise?’” (Letters, p. 24.)
[Note 43.]“Thou didst at that time torture me with toothache; and when it had become so exceeding great that I was not able to speak, it came into my heart to urge all my friends who were present to pray for me to Thee, the God of all manner of health. And I wrote it down on wax, and gave it to them to read. Presently, as with submissive desire we bowed our knees, that pain departed. But what pain? Or how did it depart? I confess to being much afraid, my Lord my God, seeing that from my earliest years I had not experienced such pain.” (Confessions, IX, p. 216.)
[Note 44.]“I was wrong in saying that more than one way led to wisdom; there is none outside of Jesus who says: ‘I am the way.’” (Retractations, I, chap. 4.)
[Note 45.]“And I entered, and with the eye of my soul (such as it was) saw above the same eye of my soul, above my mind, the Unchangeable Light. Not this common light . . . not like this was that light, but different, yea, very different from all these.” (Confessions, p. 157.) (See note 28 above.)
[Note 46.]“Such a son ascends to wisdom, which is the seventh and last step, and which he enjoys in peace and tranquillity. For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. From that beginning, then, till we reach wisdom itself, our way is by the steps now described.” (Christian Doctrine, p. 40.)
[Note 47.]Augustine voices this, his one positive assertion, nowhere better than in what Harnack calls the “glorious sentence” in the prayer with which he enters upon these soliloquies: “I know nothing other than that the fleeting and the fading should be spurned, the fixed and eternal sought after.” His correspondence with Nebridius repeats constantly the same conviction.
[Note 48.](See Plato, Republic, Book VII.)
[Note 49.]“Wherefore, since it is our duty fully to enjoy the truth which lives unchangeably . . . the soul must be purified that it may have power to perceive that light, and to rest in it when it is perceived. And let us look upon this purification as a kind of journey or voyage to our native land. For it is not by change of place that we can come nearer to Him who is in every place, but by the cultivation of pure desires and virtuous habits.” (Christian Doctrine, I, p. 13.)
[Note 50.]“And my whole hope is only in Thy exceeding great mercy. Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt. Thou imposest continency upon us, ‘nevertheless, when I perceived,’ saith one, ‘that I could not otherwise obtain her except God gave her me; . . . that was a point of wisdom also to know whose gift she was.’ For by continency are we bound up and brought into one, whence we were scattered abroad into many. For he loves Thee too little who loves aught with Thee, which he loves not for Thee, O Love, who ever burnest, and art never quenched! O Charity, my God, kindle me! Thou commandest continency; give what Thou commandest and command what Thou wilt.” (Confessions, p. 265.)
[Note 51.]“Augustine devoted voluntarily a part of the night to reviewing, in quiet and composure, the questions which had occupied the day. One may see in Chapter 3 of the book on Order, in the example of Augustine and his friends, what activity, what passion, the men of his time carried into their search after wisdom and truth, and how justified is the remark of Erasmus, that ‘they were as eager for knowledge as a trader is to make money.’ ” (Soliloquies, Pelissier’s translation, note 25.)