"O my God! What miseries and mockeries did I then experience when it
was impressed on me that obedience to my teachers was proper to my boyhood
estate if I was to flourish in this world and distinguish myself in those tricks of
speech which would gain honor for me among men, and deceitful riches!"
Book I, ch. ix, 14
"Hear my prayer, O Lord; let not my soul faint under thy discipline, nor let
me faint in confessing unto thee thy mercies, whereby thou hast saved me from all
my most wicked ways till thou shouldst become sweet to me beyond all the
allurements that I used to follow. Let me come to love thee wholly, and grasp thy
hand with my whole heart that thou mayest deliver me from every temptation, even
unto the last. And thus, O Lord, my King and my God, may all things useful that I
learned as a boy now be offered in thy service--let it be that for thy service I now
speak and write and reckon. For when I was learning vain things, thou didst impose
thy discipline upon me: and thou hast forgiven me my sin of delighting in those
vanities. In those studies I learned many a useful word, but these might have been
learned in matters not so vain; and surely that is the safe way for youths to walk in."
Book I, ch. xv, 24
"Look down, O Lord God, and see patiently, as thou art wont to do, how
diligently the sons of men observe the conventional rules of letters and syllables,
taught them by those who learned their letters beforehand, while they neglect the
eternal rules of everlasting salvation taught by thee. They carry it so far that if he
who practices or teaches the established rules of pronunciation should speak
(contrary to grammatical usage) without aspirating the first syllable of 'hominem'
['ominem,' and thus make it 'a 'uman being'], he will offend men more than if he,
a human being, were to hate another human being contrary to thy commandments."
Book I, ch. xviii, 29
"I wish now to review in memory my past wickedness and the carnal
corruptions of my soul--not because I still love them, but that I may love thee, O my
God. For love of thy love I do this, recalling in the bitterness of self-examination my
wicked ways, that thou mayest grow sweet to me, thou sweetness without
deception! Thou sweetness happy and assured!"
Book II, ch. i, 1
"Woe is me! Do I dare affirm that thou didst hold thy peace, O my God,
while I wandered farther away from thee? Didst thou really then hold thy peace?
Then whose words were they but thine which by my mother, thy faithful handmaid,
thou didst pour into my ears? None of them, however, sank into my heart to make
me do anything. She deplored and, as I remember, warned me privately with great
solicitude, 'not to commit fornication; but above all things never to defile another
man's wife.' These appeared to me but womanish counsels, which I would have
blushed to obey. Yet they were from thee, and I knew it not. I thought that thou
wast silent and that it was only she who spoke. Yet it was through her that thou
didst not keep silence toward me; and in rejecting her counsel I was rejecting thee."
Book II, ch. iii, 7
"There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard, heavily laden with fruit,
which was not tempting either for its color or for its flavor. Late one night--having
prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was--a group of
young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off
a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely
tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was
forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart--which thou didst pity
even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was
seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil
but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my
error--not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away
from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful
deed but shame itself."
Book II, ch. iv, 9
"Those pears that we stole were fair to the sight because they were thy creation, O
Beauty beyond compare, O Creator of all, O thou good God--God the highest good
and my true good. Those pears were truly pleasant to the sight, but it was not for
them that my miserable soul lusted, for I had an abundance of better pears. I stole
those simply that I might steal, for, having stolen them, I threw them away. My sole
gratification in them was my own sin, which I was pleased to enjoy; for, if any one of
these pears entered my mouth, the only good flavor it had was my sin in eating it.
And now, O Lord my God, I ask what it was in that theft of mine that caused me
Book II, ch. vi, 12
"Who can unravel such a twisted and tangled knottiness? It is unclean. I
hate to reflect upon it. I hate to look on it. But I do long for thee, O Righteousness
and Innocence, so beautiful and comely to all virtuous eyes--I long for thee with an
insatiable satiety. With thee is perfect rest, and life unchanging. He who enters into
thee enters into the joy of his Lord (Matt. 25:21), and shall have no fear and shall achieve
excellence in the Excellent. I fell away from thee, O my God, and in my youth I
wandered too far from thee, my true support. And I became to myself a wasteland."
Book II, ch. x, 18
"Among such as these, in that unstable period of my life, I studied the books
of eloquence, for it was in eloquence that I was eager to be eminent, though from a
reprehensible and vainglorious motive, and a delight in human vanity. In the
ordinary course of study I came upon a certain book of Cicero's, whose language
almost all admire, though not his heart. This particular book of his contains an
exhortation to philosophy and was called Hortensius. Now it was this book which
quite definitely changed my whole attitude and turned my prayers toward thee, O
Lord, and gave me new hope and new desires. Suddenly every vain hope became
worthless 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."
Book III, ch. iv, 7
"O Truth, Truth, how inwardly even then did the marrow of my soul sigh for
thee when, frequently and in manifold ways, in numerous and vast books, [the
Manicheans] sounded out thy name though it was only a sound! And in these
dishes--while I starved for thee--they served up to me, in thy stead, the sun and
moon thy beauteous works--but still only thy works and not thyself; indeed, not even thy first work.
For thy spiritual works came before these material creations, celestial and shining though they are."
Book III, ch. vi, 10
"And now thou didst 'stretch forth thy hand from above' (Ps. 144:7) and didst draw
up my soul out of that profound darkness [of Manicheism] because my mother, thy
faithful one, wept to thee on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed to weep
for the bodily deaths of their children. For by the light of the faith and spirit which
she received from thee, she saw that I was dead. And thou didst hear her, O Lord,
thou didst hear her and despised not her tears when, pouring down, they watered
the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed. Thou didst truly hear
Book III, ch. xi, 19
"Blessed is he who loves thee, and who loves his friend in thee, and his enemy
also, for thy sake; for he alone loses none dear to him, if all are dear in Him who
cannot be lost. And who is this but our God: the God that created heaven and earth,
and filled them because he created them by filling them up? None loses thee but he
who leaves thee; and he who leaves thee, where does he go, or where can he flee but
from thee well-pleased to thee offended? For where does he not find thy law fulfilled
in his own punishment? 'Thy law is the truth' (Ps. 119:142) and thou art Truth."
Book IV, ch. ix, 14
"Accept this sacrifice of my confessions from the hand of my tongue. Thou
didst form it and hast prompted it to praise thy name. Heal all my bones and let
them say, 'O Lord, who is like unto thee?' (Ps. 35:10) .... Let my soul praise thee, that it
may love thee, and letit confess thy mercies to thee, that it may praise thee. Thy whole creation praises
thee without ceasing: the spirit of man, by his own lips, by his own voice, lifted up to
thee; animals and lifeless matter by the mouths of those who meditate upon them.
Thus our souls may climb out of their weariness toward thee and lean on those
things which thou hast created and pass through them to thee, who didst create
them in a marvelous way. With thee, there is refreshment and true strength."
Book V, ch. i, 1
"Wisdom and folly both are like meats that are wholesome and
unwholesome, and courtly or simple words are like town-made or rustic vessels--
both kinds of food may be served in either kind of dish."
Book V, ch. vi, 10
"O Hope from my youth (Ps. 71:5), where wast thou to me and where hadst thou
gone away? (Ps. 10:1) For hadst thou not created me and differentiated me from the beasts
of the field and the birds of the air, making me wiser than they? And yet I was
wandering about in a dark and slippery way, seeking thee outside myself and thus
not finding the God of my heart. I had gone down into the depths of the sea and had
lost faith, and had despaired of ever finding the truth."
Book VI, ch. i, 1
"I always believed both that thou art and that thou hast a care for us (Heb 11:6), although I
was ignorant both as to what should be thought about thy substance and as to
which way led, or led back, to thee. Thus, since we are too weak by unaided reason
to find out truth, and since, because of this, we need the authority of the Holy
Writings, I had now begun to believe that thou wouldst not, under any
circumstances, have given such eminent authority to those Scriptures throughout
all lands if it had not been that through them thy will may be believed in and that
thou mightest be sought."
Book VI, ch. v, 8
"How wretched I was at that time, and how thou didst deal with me so as to make me
aware of my wretchedness, I recall from the incident of the day on which I was
preparing to recite a panegyric on the emperor. In it I was to deliver many a lie, and
the lying was to be applauded by those who knew I was lying. My heart was
agitated with this sense of guilt and it seethed with the fever of my uneasiness. For,
while walking along one of the streets of Milan, I saw a poor beggar--with what I
believe was a full belly--joking and hilarious. And I sighed and spoke to the friends
around me of the many sorrows that flowed from our madness, because in spite of
all our exertions--such as those I was then laboring in, dragging the burden of my
unhappiness under the spur of ambition, and, by dragging it, increasing it at the
same time--still and all we aimed only to attain that very happiness which this
beggar had reached before us; and there was a grim chance that we should never
attain it! For what he had obtained through a few coins, got by his begging, I was
still scheming for by many a wretched and tortuous turning--namely, the joy of a
passing felicity .... I got no great pleasure from my learning, but sought, rather, to
please men by its exhibition--and this not to instruct, but only to please. Thus thou
didst break my bones with the rod of thy correction."
Book VI, ch. vi, 9
"Perish everything and let us dismiss these idle triflings. Let me devote
myself solely to the search for truth. This life is unhappy, death uncertain. If it
comes upon me suddenly, in what state shall I go hence and where shall I learn
what here I have neglected? Should I not indeed suffer the punishment of my
negligence here? But suppose death cuts off and finishes all care and feeling. This
too is a question that calls for inquiry. God forbid that it should be so. It is not
without reason, it is not in vain, that the stately authority of the Christian faith has
spread over the entire world, and God would never have done such great things for
us if the life of the soul perished with the death of the body. Why, therefore, do I
delay in abandoning my hopes of this world and giving myself wholly to seek after
God and the blessed life?"
Book VI, ch. xi, 19
"I was so fallen and blinded that I could
not discern the light of virtue and of beauty which must be embraced for its own
sake, which the eye of flesh cannot see, and only the inner vision can see."
Book VI, ch. xvi, 26
"For in my struggle to solve the rest of my difficulties, I now assumed
henceforth as settled truth that the incorruptible must be superior to the
corruptible, and I did acknowledge that thou, whatever thou art, art incorruptible.
For there never yet was, nor will be, a soul able to conceive of anything better than
thee, who art the highest and best good."
Book VII, ch. iv, 6
"And first of all, willing to show me how thou dost resist the proud, but
give grace to the humble (James 4:6),' and how mercifully thou hast made known to men the
way of humility in that thy Word 'was made flesh and dwelt among men (John 1:14),' thou
didst procure for me, through one inflated with the most monstrous pride, certain
books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into Latin. And therein I found,
not indeed in the same words, but to the selfsame effect, enforced by many and
various reasons that 'in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the
Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were
made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.' That which
was made by him is 'life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in
darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.' Furthermore, I read that the soul
of man, though it 'bears witness to the light,' yet itself 'is not the light; but the
Word of God, being God, is that true light that lights every man who comes into the
world.' And further, that 'he was in the world, and the world was made by him, and
the world knew him not.' But that 'he came unto his own, and his own received
him not. And as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of
God, even to them that believed on his name (John 1:11-12)' --this I did not find there."
Book VII, ch. ix, 13
"I entered into
my inward soul, guided by thee. This I could do because thou wast my helper. And I
entered, and with the eye of my soul--such as it was--saw above the same eye of my
soul and above my mind the Immutable Light. It was not the common light, which
all flesh can see; nor was it simply a greater one of the same sort, as if the light of
day were to grow brighter and brighter, and flood all space. It was not like that
light, but different, yea, very different from all earthly light whatever. Nor was it
above my mind in the same way as oil is above water, or heaven above earth, but it
was higher, because it made me, and I was below it, because I was made by it. He
who knows the Truth knows that Light, and he who knows it knows eternity. Love
knows it, O Eternal Truth and True Love and Beloved Eternity!"
Book VII, ch. x, 16
"And it was made clear to me that all things are good even if they are
corrupted. They could not be corrupted if they were supremely good; but unless they
were good they could not be corrupted. If they were supremely good, they would be
incorruptible; if they were not good at all, there would be nothing in them to be
corrupted. For corruption harms; but unless it could diminish goodness, it could not
harm. Either, then, corruption does not harm--which cannot be--or, as is certain, all
that is corrupted is thereby deprived of good. But if they are deprived of all good,
they will cease to be. For if they are at all and cannot be at all corrupted, they will
become better, because they will remain incorruptible. Now what can be more
monstrous than to maintain that by losing all good they have become better? If,
then, they are deprived of all good, they will cease to exist. So long as they are,
therefore, they are good. Therefore, whatsoever is, is good. Evil, then, the origin of
which I had been seeking, has no substance at all; for if it were a substance, it
would be good. For either it would be an incorruptible substance and so a supreme
good, or a corruptible substance, which could not be corrupted unless it were good. I
understood, therefore, and it was made clear to me that thou madest all things
good, nor is there any substance at all not made by thee. And because all that thou
madest is not equal, each by itself is good, and the sum of all of them is very good,
for our God made all things very good."
Book VII, ch. xii, 18
"And I asked what wickedness was, and I found that it was no substance, but a
perversion of the will bent aside from thee, O God, the supreme substance, toward
these lower things, casting away its inmost treasure and becoming bloated with
Book VII, ch. xvi, 22
"And thus by degrees I was led upward from bodies to the soul which perceives
them by means of the bodily senses, and from there on to the soul's inward faculty,
to which the bodily senses report outward things--and this belongs even to the
capacities of the beasts--and thence on up to the reasoning power, to whose
judgment is referred the experience received from the bodily sense. And when this
power of reason within me also found that it was changeable, it raised itself up to its
own intellectual principle, and withdrew its thoughts from experience,
abstracting itself from the contradictory throng of fantasms in order to seek for that
light in which it was bathed. Then, without any doubting, it cried out that the
unchangeable was better than the changeable. From this it follows that the mind
somehow knew the unchangeable, for, unless it had known it in some fashion, it
could have had no sure ground for preferring it to the changeable. And thus with
the flash of a trembling glance, it arrived at that which is. And I saw thy
invisibility [invisibilia tua] understood by means of the things that are made.
But I was not able to sustain my gaze. My weakness was dashed back, and I lapsed again
into my accustomed ways, carrying along with me nothing but a loving memory of
my vision, and an appetite for what I had, as it were, smelled the odor of, but was
not yet able to eat."
Book VII, ch. xvii, 23
"By having thus read the books of the Platonists, and having been taught
by them to search for the incorporeal Truth, I saw how thy invisible things are
understood through the things that are made. And, even when I was thrown back, I
still sensed what it was that the dullness of my soul would not allow me to
contemplate. I was assured that thou wast, and wast infinite, though not diffused in
finite space or infinity; that thou truly art, who art ever the same, varying neither
in part nor motion; and that all things are from thee, as is proved by this sure cause
alone: that they exist."
Book VII, ch. xx, 26
"With great eagerness, then, I fastened upon the venerable writings of thy
Spirit and principally upon the apostle Paul .... So I began, and I found that whatever
truth I had read [in the Platonists]
was here combined with the exaltation of thy grace. Thus, he who sees must not
glory as if he had not received, not only the things that he sees, but the very power
of sight--for what does he have that he has not received as a gift? By this he is not
only exhorted to see, but also to be cleansed, that he may grasp thee, who art ever
the same; and thus he who cannot see thee afar off may yet enter upon the road that
leads to reaching, seeing, and possessing thee .... The books of the Platonists tell nothing of this.
Their pages do not contain the
expression of this kind of godliness--the tears of confession, thy sacrifice, a troubled
spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, the salvation of thy people, the espoused City,
the earnest of the Holy Spirit, the cup of our redemption."
Book VII, ch. xxi, 27
"O my God, let me remember with gratitude and confess to thee thy mercies
toward me. Let my bones be bathed in thy love, and let them say: 'Lord, who is like
unto thee (Ps. 35:10)? Thou hast broken my bonds in sunder, I will offer unto thee the
sacrifice of thanksgiving (Ps. 116:16-17). And how thou didst break them I will declare, and all
who worship thee shall say, when they hear these things: 'Blessed be the Lord in
heaven and earth, great and wonderful is his name (Ps. 8:1).'"
Book VIII, ch. i, 1
"I went, therefore, to Simplicianus, the spiritual father of Ambrose (then a
bishop), whom Ambrose truly loved as a father. I recounted to him all the mazes of
my wanderings, but when I mentioned to him that I had read certain books of the
Platonists which Victorinus--formerly professor of rhetoric at Rome, who died a
Christian, as I had been told--had translated into Latin, Simplicianus congratulated
me that I had not fallen upon the writings of other philosophers, which were full of
fallacies and deceit, 'after the beggarly elements of this world (Col 2:8),' whereas in the
Platonists, at every turn, the pathway led to belief in God and his Word."
Book VIII, ch. ii, 3
"For many of my years--perhaps
twelve--had passed away since my nineteenth, when, upon the reading of Cicero's
Hortensius, I was roused to a desire for wisdom. And here I was, still postponing the
abandonment of this world's happiness to devote myself to the search. For not just
the finding alone, but also the bare search for it, ought to have been preferred above
the treasures and kingdoms of this world; better than all bodily pleasures, though
they were to be had for the taking. But, wretched youth that I was--supremely
wretched even in the very outset of my youth--I had entreated chastity of thee and
had prayed, 'Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.'"
Book VIII, ch. vii, 17
"The mind commands the body, and the
body obeys. The mind commands itself and is resisted. The mind commands the
hand to be moved and there is such readiness that the command is scarcely
distinguished from the obedience in act. Yet the mind is mind, and the hand is body.
The mind commands the mind to will, and yet though it be itself it does not obey
itself. Whence this strange anomaly and why should it be? I repeat: The will
commands itself to will, and could not give the command unless it wills; yet what is
commanded is not done. But actually the will does not will entirely; therefore it does
not command entirely. For as far as it wills, it commands. And as far as it does not
will, the thing commanded is not done. For the will commands that there be an act
of will--not another, but itself. But it does not command entirely. Therefore, what is
commanded does not happen; for if the will were whole and entire, it would not even
command it to be, because it would already be. It is, therefore, no strange anomaly
partly to will and partly to be unwilling. This is actually an infirmity of mind, which
cannot wholly rise, while pressed down by habit, even though it is supported by the
truth. And so there are two wills, because one of them is not whole, and what is
present in this one is lacking in the other."
Book VIII, ch. ix, 21
"Now when deep reflection had drawn up out of the secret depths of my
soul all my misery and had heaped it up before the sight of my heart, there arose a
mighty storm, accompanied by a mighty rain of tears. That I might give way fully to
my tears and lamentations, I stole away from Alypius, for it seemed to me that
solitude was more appropriate for the business of weeping. I went far enough away
that I could feel that even his presence was no restraint upon me. This was the way
I felt at the time, and he realized it. I suppose I had said something before I started
up and he noticed that the sound of my voice was choked with weeping. And so he
stayed alone, where we had been sitting together, greatly astonished. I flung myself
down under a fig tree--how I know not--and gave free course to my tears. The
streams of my eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to thee. And, not indeed in
these words, but to this effect, I cried to thee: 'And thou, O Lord, how long? How
long, O Lord? Wilt thou be angry forever? Oh, remember not against us our former
iniquities (Ps 6:3).' For I felt that I was still enthralled by them. I sent up these sorrowful
cries: 'How long, how long? Tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this
very hour make an end to my uncleanness?'
I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my
heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which--coming
from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, 'Pick it up, read it; pick
it up, read it.' Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think
whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I
could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my
tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to
open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. For I had heard
how Anthony, accidentally coming into church while the gospel was being read,
received the admonition as if what was read had been addressed to him: 'Go and
sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven;
and come and follow me (Matt. 19:21).' By such an oracle he was forthwith converted to thee.
So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had
put down the apostle's book when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in
silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: 'Not in rioting and
drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put
on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts
thereof (Rom 13:13).' I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the
sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full
certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away."
Book VIII, ch. xii, 28-29
"'O Lord, I am thy servant; I am thy servant and the son of thy handmaid.
Thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving (Ps. 116:16-17).' Let
my heart and my tongue praise thee, and let all my bones say, 'Lord, who is like
unto thee?' Let them say so, and answer thou me and say unto my soul, 'I am your
salvation.' .... But where was my free will during all those years and from what deep and
secret retreat was it called forth in a single 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?' How sweet did it suddenly become to me to be without the
sweetness of trifles! And it was now a joy to put away what I formerly feared to lose.
For thou didst cast them away from me, O true and highest Sweetness. Thou didst
cast them away, and in their place thou didst enter in thyself--sweeter than all
pleasure, though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more veiled than
all mystery; more exalted than all honor, though not to them that are exalted in
their own eyes. Now was my soul free from the gnawing cares of seeking and
getting, of wallowing in the mire and scratching the itch of lust. And I prattled like
a child to thee, O Lord my God--my light, my riches, and my salvation."
Book IX, ch. i, 1
"Then my mother
said: 'Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now
that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or
why I am here. There was indeed one thing for which I wished to tarry a little in
this life, and that was that I might see you a Catholic Christian before I died. My
God hath answered this more than abundantly, so that I see you now made his
servant and spurning all earthly happiness. What more am I to do here?'"
Book IX, ch. x, 26
"Thus now, O my Praise and my Life, O God of my heart, forgetting for a
little her good deeds for which I give joyful thanks to thee, I now beseech thee for
the sins of my mother. Hearken unto me, through that Medicine of our wounds, who
didst hang upon the tree and who sittest at thy right hand 'making intercession for
us (2 Cor 10:17).' I know that she acted in mercy, and from the heart forgave her debtors their
debts (Matt. 6:12). I beseech thee also to forgive her debts, whatever she contracted during so
many years since the water of salvation. Forgive her, O Lord, forgive her, I beseech
thee; 'enter not into judgment' with her (Ps. 143:2). Let thy mercy be exalted above thy
justice, for thy words are true and thou hast promised mercy to the merciful, that
the merciful shall obtain mercy (Matt. 5:7). This is thy gift, who hast mercy on whom thou
wilt and who wilt have compassion on whom thou dost have compassion on (Rom. 9:15)."
Book IX, ch. xiii, 35
"Therefore, let her rest in peace with her husband, before and after whom
she was married to no other man; whom she obeyed with patience, bringing fruit to
thee that she might also win him for thee. And inspire, O my Lord my God, inspire
thy servants, my brothers; thy sons, my masters, who with voice and heart and
writings I serve, that as many of them as shall read these confessions may also at
thy altar remember Monica, thy handmaid, together with Patricius, once her
husband; by whose flesh thou didst bring me into this life, in a manner I know not.
May they with pious affection remember my parents in this transitory life, and
remember my brothers under thee our Father in our Catholic mother; and
remember my fellow citizens in the eternal Jerusalem, for which thy people sigh in
their pilgrimage from birth until their return. So be fulfilled what my mother
desired of me--more richly in the prayers of so many gained for her through these
confessions of mine than by my prayers alone."
Book IX, ch. xiii, 37
"Let me know thee, O my Knower; let me know thee even as I am known (1 Cor 13:12).
O Strength of my soul, enter it and prepare it for thyself that thou mayest have and
hold it, without 'spot or blemish' (Eph. 5:27). This is my hope, therefore have I spoken; and
in this hope I rejoice whenever I rejoice aright."
Book X, ch. i, 1
"For when I am wicked, to confess to thee means nothing less than to
be dissatisfied with myself; but when I am truly devout, it means nothing less than
not to attribute my virtue to myself; because thou, O Lord, blessest the righteous,
but first thou justifiest him while he is yet ungodly."
Book X, ch. ii, 2
"It is not with a doubtful consciousness, but one fully certain that I love
thee, O Lord. Thou hast smitten my heart with thy Word, and I have loved thee.
And see also the heaven, and earth, and all that is in them--on every side they tell
me to love thee, and they do not cease to tell this to all men, 'so that they are
without excuse' (Rom. 1:20). Wherefore, still more deeply wilt thou have mercy on whom thou
wilt have mercy, and compassion on whom thou wilt have compassion (Rom. 9:15). For
otherwise, both heaven and earth would tell abroad thy praises to deaf ears."
Book X, ch. vi, 8
"What is it, then, that I love when I love my God? Who is he that is beyond
the topmost point of my soul? Yet by this very soul will I mount up to him. I will
soar beyond that power of mine by which I am united to the body, and by which the
whole structure of it is filled with life."
Book X, ch. vii, 11
"But now when I hear that there are three kinds of questions--'Whether a
thing is? What it is? Of what kind it is?'--I do indeed retain the images of the
sounds of which these words are composed and I know that those sounds pass
through the air with a noise and now no longer exist. But the things themselves
which were signified by those sounds I never could reach by any sense of the body
nor see them at all except by my mind. And what I have stored in my memory was
not their signs, but the things signified."
Book X, ch. x, 17
"Thus we find that learning those things whose images we do not take in
by our senses, but which we intuit within ourselves without images and as they
actually are, is nothing else except the gathering together of those same things
which the memory already contains--but in an indiscriminate and confused manner--
and putting them together by careful observation as they are at hand in the
memory; so that whereas they formerly lay hidden, scattered, or neglected, they
now come easily to present themselves to the mind which is now familiar with them."
Book X, ch. xi, 18
"The memory also contains the principles and the unnumbered laws of
numbers and dimensions. None of these has been impressed on the memory by a
physical sense, because they have neither color nor sound, nor taste, nor sense of
touch. I have heard the sound of the words by which these things are signified when
they are discussed: but the sounds are one thing, the things another. For the sounds
are one thing in Greek, another in Latin; but the things themselves are neither
Greek nor Latin nor any other language."
Book X, ch. xii, 19
"All these things I hold in my memory, and I remember how I learned
them. I also remember many things that I have heard quite falsely urged against
them, which, even if they are false, yet it is not false that I have remembered them.
And I also remember that I have distinguished between the truths and the false
objections, and now I see that it is one thing to distinguish these things and another
to remember that I did distinguish them when I have cogitated on them. I
remember, then, both that I have often understood these things and also that I am
now storing away in my memory what I distinguish and comprehend of them so that
later on I may remember just as I understand them now. Therefore, I remember
that I remembered, so that if afterward I call to mind that I once was able to
remember these things it will be through the power of memory that I recall it."
Book X, ch. xiii, 20
"When I name forgetfulness, and understand what I mean by the name,
how could I understand it if I did not remember it? And if I refer not to the sound of
the name, but to the thing which the term signifies, how could I know what that
sound signified if I had forgotten what the name means? When, therefore, I
remember memory, then memory is present to itself by itself, but when I remember
forgetfulness then both memory and forgetfulness are present together--the memory
by which I remember the forgetfulness which I remember. But what is forgetfulness
except the privation of memory? How, then, is that present to my memory which,
when it controls my mind, I cannot remember? But if what we remember we store
up in our memory; and if, unless we remembered forgetfulness, we could never
know the thing signified by the term when we heard it--then, forgetfulness is
contained in the memory. It is present so that we do not forget it, but since it is
present, we do forget.
From this it is to be inferred that when we remember forgetfulness, it is not
present to the memory through itself, but through its image; because if forgetfulness
were present through itself, it would not lead us to remember, but only to forget.
Now who will someday work this out? Who can understand how it is?"
Book X, ch. xvi, 24
"Belatedly I loved thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved
thee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there.
Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things thou hast made. Thou wast
with me, but I was not with thee. These things kept me far from thee; even though
they were not at all unless they were in thee. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and
didst force open my deafness. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my
blindness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I
pant for thee. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I
burned for thy peace."
Book X, ch. xxvii, 38
"Now, are not those still full of their old carnal nature who ask us:
'What was God doing before he made heaven and earth? For if he was idle,' they
say, 'and doing nothing, then why did he not continue in that state forever--doing
nothing, as he had always done? If any new motion has arisen in God, and a new
will to form a creature, which he had never before formed, how can that be a true
eternity in which an act of will occurs that was not there before? For the will of God
is not a created thing, but comes before the creation--and this is true because
nothing could be created unless the will of the Creator came before it. The will of
God, therefore, pertains to his very Essence. Yet if anything has arisen in the
Essence of God that was not there before, then that Essence cannot truly be called
eternal. But if it was the eternal will of God that the creation should come to be,
why, then, is not the creation itself also from eternity?'"
Book XI, ch. x, 12
"Those who say these things do not yet understand thee, O Wisdom of God,
O Light of souls. They do not yet understand how the things are made that are
made by and in thee. They endeavor to comprehend eternal things, but their heart
still flies about in the past and future motions of created things, and is still
unstable. Who shall hold it and fix it so that it may come to rest for a little; and
then, by degrees, glimpse the glory of that eternity which abides forever; and then,
comparing eternity with the temporal process in which nothing abides, they may see
that they are incommensurable? They would see that a long time does not become
long, except from the many separate events that occur in its passage, which cannot
be simultaneous. In the Eternal, on the other hand, nothing passes away, but the
whole is simultaneously present. But no temporal process is wholly simultaneous.
Therefore, let it see that all time past is forced to move on by the incoming future;
that all the future follows from the past; and that all, past and future, is created
and issues out of that which is forever present. Who will hold the heart of man that
it may stand still and see how the eternity which always stands still is itself neither
future nor past but expresses itself in the times that are future and past? Can my
hand do this, or can the hand of my mouth bring about so difficult a thing even by
Book XI, ch. xi, 13
"How, then, shall I respond to him who asks, 'What was God doing before
he made heaven and earth?' I do not answer, as a certain one is reported to have
done facetiously (shrugging off the force of the question). 'He was preparing hell,'
he said, 'for those who pry too deep.' It is one thing to see the answer; it is another
to laugh at the questioner--and for myself I do not answer these things thus. More
willingly would I have answered, 'I do not know what I do not know,' than cause
one who asked a deep question to be ridiculed--and by such tactics gain praise for a
Rather, I say that thou, our God, art the Creator of every creature. And if in
the term 'heaven and earth' every creature is included, I make bold to say further:
'Before God made heaven and earth, he did not make anything at all. For if he did,
what did he make unless it were a creature?' I do indeed wish that I knew all that I
desire to know to my profit as surely as I know that no creature was made before
any creature was made."
Book XI, ch. xii, 14
"But if the roving thought of someone should wander over the images of
past time, and wonder that thou, the Almighty God, the All-creating and All-sustaining,
the Architect of heaven and earth, didst for ages unnumbered abstain
from so great a work before thou didst actually do it, let him awake and consider
that he wonders at illusions. For in what temporal medium could the unnumbered
ages that thou didst not make pass by, since thou art the Author and Creator of all
the ages? Or what periods of time would those be that were not made by thee? Or
how could they have already passed away if they had not already been? Since,
therefore, thou art the Creator of all times, if there was any time before thou madest
heaven and earth, why is it said that thou wast abstaining from working? For thou
madest that very time itself, and periods could not pass by before thou madest the
whole temporal procession. But if there was no time before heaven and earth, how,
then, can it be asked, 'What wast thou doing then?' For there was no 'then' when
there was no time."
Book XI, ch. xiii, 15
"Nor dost thou precede any given period of time by another period of time.
Else thou wouldst not precede all periods of time. In the eminence of thy ever-present
eternity, thou precedest all times past, and extendest beyond all future
times, for they are still to come--and when they have come, they will be past. But
'Thou art always the Selfsame and thy years shall have no end' (Ps. 102:27). Thy years
neither go nor come; but ours both go and come in order that all separate moments
may come to pass. All thy years stand together as one, since they are abiding. Nor
do thy years past exclude the years to come because thy years do not pass away. All
these years of ours shall be with thee, when all of them shall have ceased to be. Thy
years are but a day, and thy day is not recurrent, but always today. Thy 'today'
yields not to tomorrow and does not follow yesterday. Thy 'today' is eternity.
Therefore, thou didst generate the Coeternal, to whom thou didst say, 'This day I
have begotten thee' (Ps. 2:7). Thou madest all time and before all times thou art, and
there was never a time when there was no time."
Book XI, ch. xiii, 16
"O Truth, O Light of my heart, let not my own darkness speak to me! I had
fallen into that darkness and was darkened thereby. But in it, even in its depths, I
came to love thee. I went astray and still I remembered thee. I heard thy voice
behind me, bidding me return, though I could scarcely hear it for the tumults of my
boisterous passions. And now, behold, I am returning, burning and thirsting after
thy fountain. Let no one hinder me; here will I drink and so have life."
Book XII, ch. x, 10
"Meanwhile this is what I understand, O my God, when I hear thy
Scripture saying, 'In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth, but the
earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss.' It does not say
on what day thou didst create these things. Thus, for the time being I understand
that "heaven of heavens' to mean the intelligible heaven, where to understand is to
know all at once--not 'in part,' not 'darkly,' not 'through a glass'--but as a
simultaneous whole, in full sight, 'face to face' (1 Cor. 13:12).
It is not this thing now and then another thing, but (as we said) knowledge all at once without any temporal change.
And by the invisible and unformed earth, I understand that which suffers no
temporal vicissitude. Temporal change customarily means having one thing now
and another later; but where there is no form there can be no distinction between
this or that. It is, then, by means of these two--one thing well formed in the
beginning and another thing wholly unformed, the one heaven (that is, the heaven
of heavens) and the other one earth (but the earth invisible and unformed)--it is by
means of these two notions that I am able to understand why thy Scripture said,
without mention of days, 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.'
For it immediately indicated which earth it was speaking about. When, on the
second day, the firmament is recorded as having been created and called heaven,
this suggests to us which heaven it was that he was speaking about earlier, without
specifying a day."
Book XII, ch. xiii, 16
"Now what thou saidst in the beginning of the creation--'Let there be light:
and there was light'--I interpret, not unfitly, as referring to the spiritual creation,
because it already had a kind of life which thou couldst illuminate."
Book XIII, ch. iii, 4
"See now, how the Trinity appears to me in an enigma. And thou art the
Trinity, O my God, since thou, O Father--in the beginning of our wisdom, that is, in
thy wisdom born of thee, equal and coeternal with thee, that is, thy Son--created the
heaven and the earth. Many things we have said about the heaven of heavens, and
about the earth invisible and unformed, and about the shadowy abyss--speaking of
the aimless flux of its being spiritually deformed unless it is turned to him from
whom it has its life (such as it is) and by his Light comes to be a life suffused with
beauty. Thus it would be a [lower] heaven of that [higher] heaven, which afterward
was made between water and water (Gen 1:6).
And now I came to recognize, in the name of God, the Father who made all
these things, and in the term 'the Beginning' to recognize the Son, through whom
he made all these things; and since I did believe that my God was the Trinity, I
sought still further in his holy Word, and, behold, 'Thy Spirit moved over the
waters.' Thus, see the Trinity, O my God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Creator
of all creation!"
Book XIII, ch. v, 6
"But you, O elect people, set in the firmament of the world, who have
forsaken all that you may follow the Lord: follow him now, and confound the
mighty! Follow him, O beautiful feet (Isa. 52:7), and shine in the firmament, that the
heavens may declare his glory, dividing the light of the perfect ones
--though not yet so perfect as the angels--from the darkness of the little ones--who are
nevertheless not utterly despised. Shine over all the earth, and let the day be
lighted by the sun, utter the Word of wisdom to the day ('day unto day utters
speech' (Ps. 19:2)) and let the night, lighted by the moon, display the Word
of knowledge to the night...Run to and fro everywhere, you holy fires, you lovely
fires, for you are the light of the world and you are not to be hid under a peck measure (Matt. 5:14-15).
He to whom you cleave is raised on high, and he hath raised you on high. Run to and fro;
make yourselves known among all the nations!"
Book XIII, ch. xix, 25