The Confessions of Saint Augustine HTML version

Book VII
Deceased was now that my evil and abominable youth, and I was passing into early
manhood; the more defiled by vain things as I grew in years, who could not imagine any
substance, but such as is wont to be seen with these eyes. I thought not of Thee, O God,
under the figure of a human body; since I began to hear aught of wisdom, I always
avoided this; and rejoiced to have found the same in the faith of our spiritual mother, Thy
Catholic Church. But what else to conceive of Thee I knew not. And I, a man, and such a
man, sought to conceive of Thee the sovereign, only, true God; and I did in my inmost
soul believe that Thou wert incorruptible, and uninjurable, and unchangeable; because
though not knowing whence or how, yet I saw plainly, and was sure, that that which may
be corrupted must be inferior to that which cannot; what could not be injured I preferred
unhesitatingly to what could receive injury; the unchangeable to things subject to change.
My heart passionately cried out against all my phantoms, and with this one blow I sought
to beat away from the eye of my mind all that unclean troop which buzzed around it. And
to, being scarce put off, in the twinkling of an eye they gathered again thick about me,
flew against my face, and beclouded it; so that though not under the form of the human
body, yet was I constrained to conceive of Thee (that incorruptible, uninjurable, and
unchangeable, which I preferred before the corruptible, and injurable, and changeable) as
being in space, whether infused into the world, or diffused infinitely without it. Because
whatsoever I conceived, deprived of this space, seemed to me nothing, yea altogether
nothing, not even a void, as if a body were taken out of its place, and the place should
remain empty of any body at all, of earth and water, air and heaven, yet would it remain a
void place, as it were a spacious nothing.
I then being thus gross-hearted, nor clear even to myself, whatsoever was not extended
over certain spaces, nor diffused, nor condensed, nor swelled out, or did not or could not
receive some of these dimensions, I thought to be altogether nothing. For over such forms
as my eyes are wont to range, did my heart then range: nor yet did I see that this same
notion of the mind, whereby I formed those very images, was not of this sort, and yet it
could not have formed them, had not itself been some great thing. So also did I endeavour
to conceive of Thee, Life of my life, as vast, through infinite spaces on every side
penetrating the whole mass of the universe, and beyond it, every way, through
unmeasurable boundless spaces; so that the earth should have Thee, the heaven have
Thee, all things have Thee, and they be bounded in Thee, and Thou bounded nowhere.
For that as the body of this air which is above the earth, hindereth not the light of the sun
from passing through it, penetrating it, not by bursting or by cutting, but by filling it
wholly: so I thought the body not of heaven, air, and sea only, but of the earth too,
pervious to Thee, so that in all its parts, the greatest as the smallest, it should admit Thy
presence, by a secret inspiration, within and without, directing all things which Thou hast
created. So I guessed, only as unable to conceive aught else, for it was false. For thus
should a greater part of the earth contain a greater portion of Thee, and a less, a lesser:
and all things should in such sort be full of Thee, that the body of an elephant should
contain more of Thee, than that of a sparrow, by how much larger it is, and takes up more
room; and thus shouldest Thou make the several portions of Thyself present unto the