Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 9 (Man’s Mind is Not Supreme!)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 9 (Man’s Mind is Not Supreme!)

“But I still did not see that the pivot upon which this important matter is the fact that it is all of your marking, almighty God, for you do wonderful deeds as none else. My thoughts ranged only amongst material forms. I defined them in two classes, those which please the eye because they are beautiful in themselves and those which do so because they are properly proportioned in relation to something else. I drew this distinction and illustrated it from material examples. I also gave some thought to the nature of the soul, but my misconception of spiritual things prevented me from seeing the truth, although it forced itself upon my mind if only I would see it. Instead I turned my pulsating mind away from the spiritual towards the material. I considered line and colour and shape, and since my soul had no such visible qualities, I argued that I could not see it.

I loved the peace that virtue brings and hated the discord that comes of vices. From this I concluded that in goodness there was unity, but in evil disunion of some kind. It seemed to me that this unity was the seat of the rational mind and was the natural state of truth and perfect goodness; whereas the disunion consisted of irrational life, which I thought of as a substance, but itself a form of life, although I did not think it had its origins in you, my God, who are the origin of all things. I called the unity a ‘monad,’ a kind of mind without sex, and the disunion a ‘dyad,’ consisting of the anger that leads to crimes of violence and the lust that leads to sins of passion. But I did not know what I was saying, because no one had taught me, and I had not yet found out for myself, that evil is not a substance and man’s mind is not supreme good that does not vary.

Crimes against othet men are committed when the emotions, which spur us to action, are corrupt and rise in revolt without control. Sins of self-indulgence are committed when the soul fails to govern the impulses from it derives bodily pleasure. In the same way, if the rational mind is corrupt, mistaken ideas and false beliefs will poison life. In those days my mind was corrupt. I did not know that if it it was to share in the truth, it must be illumined by another light, because the mind itself is not the essence of truth. For it is you, Lord, that keep the lamp of my hopes still burning and shine on the darkness about me. We have all received something out of your abundance. For you are the true Light which enlightens every soul born into the world, because with you there can be no change, no swerving from your course.”

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