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Augustine: Confessions

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St. Augustine - Confessions - Book 8 - Summary and Word of the Day

Reading this book was a very joyful time. Entrust to the Truth all that you have from the Truth, and you shall lose nothing. The parts of you that are withered shall bloom again, and all your illnesses shall be healed. You seek a life of blessedness in the land of death; it is not there.

How can there be a blessed life in a place where there is not even life itself? The work is strongly interwoven with Scripture, but apart from this, Augustine muses on many topics such as Beauty, Memory, and Metaphysics.

A nice work, and great translation. We paid less attention to our books than was expected of us. I had fallen in love with Latin literature.


  1. Confessions.
  2. Lone Female?
  3. A Prairie Passion.

The two swirled around me in confusion; and in my youthful ignorance I was quickly drawn over the cliffs of desire and sucked down by the eddying currents of vice. It was this book that changed my outlook. Suddenly all my vain hopes seemed cheap, and I began to lust with a passion scarcely to be believed after the immortality conferred by philosophy. It was not in order to hone my tongue that I took it up, nor was it Cicero's manner of speech that swayed me, but what he was saying.

Confessions: Saint Augustine (Penguin)

What, then, is "beautiful"? And what is beauty? What is there in the things we love that charms and attracts us? They could not draw us to themselves unless there were some internal harmony and beauty of form about them. This thought welled up in the depths of my heart and filled my mind. I discovered that this erstwhile master of the liberal arts knew only literature—and had no special knowledge even of that.

He had read some of Cicero's speeches, a few books by Seneca, some odds and ends of poetry, and the more literate of the Latin works of his own sect. I suppose he had already had a skinful, and was now in a happy mood, full of jokes. I groaned, and observed to the friends who were with me how many were the sufferings of our own madness inflicted upon us.

In all our strivings, such as those under which I was then labouring as I dragged my burden of unhappiness, driven by the lash of my own desires, making it heavier as I dragged it, we had but one wish: to arrive at a state of happiness and confidence. But that beggar, I said, had beaten us to it, and we would perhaps never reach it. What he had attained with the aid of a few small coins, and begged ones at that, I was approaching by a circuitous route, with many painful twists and turns: namely, the happiness that comes from earthly felicity.

It was no true jot that he had; but the joy that I was seeking through my ambitions was far falser. He, at any rate, was cheerful, while I was anxious he was carefree, while I was full of trepidation. If they had asked again, whether I would rather be like the beggar, or as I then was, I would have chosen to be myself, exhausted though I was with worries and fears. But this is a perverse choice; what of the truth? I should not have regarded my condition as preferable to his because I was more educated, for I had no joy of my education. Instead, I sought to please men with it; not to teach them, but only to please them.

It does matter, I know, why one is happy; the happiness that comes from faithful hope is incomparably different from my vanity. But even then, there was a difference between us: he was the rapper, not only in that he was drenched with high spirits, whearas I was even up inside with anxieties, but also in that he had got his wine by wishing people good day, whearas I sought to get my vain glory by lying. For as he read. Nevertheless, they did delay my progress, and I was slow to tear myself away from them, shake them off, and hasten where I was summoned, as long as Habit, with all its force, said to me, 'Do you think you can do without these?

When they are absent, I do not feel the need of them; when they are present, I do not reject them.

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I would even be ready to do without them for ever. Or so I think I would, I may be deceived. Still higher we went, through inward contemplation and discussion and admiration. We came to our own minds, and passed beyond them to attain the land of richness unfailing where you feed Israel forever with the food of truth. There, life is the Wisdom through which all things that were and that are to be come into being. I shall come to the plains and broad palaces of memory, where there are boards of countless images brought in from the things of all kind that the senses perceive. There is the storehouse of all that we ever contemplate, whether by increasing or by diminishing or by altering in some way the objects that our senses have encountered, and of everything else which is entrusted for safekeeping there and has not yet been swallowed up and buried in oblivion.

Some things come to hand easily and in unbroken sequence, just as they are requested; those that come first give way to those that follow on from them, and having given way, are stored up , to come forth the net time I want them. All this happens when I relate something from memory.

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There heaven and earth stand ready for me, with everything in them that I have been able to perceive. Who has ever sounded its depths? This strength belongs to my mind and to my nature, yet I myself cannot comprehend all that I am. Is mind, then, too narrow to hold itself? And if so, what is the part of itself that it does not contain? How, then, can it be outside itself rather than inside itself?