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mysteries and allegories of the days of creation. Augustine
undertakes to interpret Gen.
1:2-31 in a mystical and allegorical fashion so as
to exhibit the profundities of God's power and wisdom
and love. He is also interested in developing his theories
of hermeneutics on his favorite topic: creation. He finds
the Trinity in the account of creation and he ponders
the work of the Spirit moving over the waters. In the
firmament he finds the allegory of Holy Scripture and
in the dry land and bitter sea he finds the division between
the people of God and the conspiracy of the unfaithful.
He develops the theme of man's being made in the image
and likeness of God. He brings his survey to a climax
and his confessions to an end with a meditation on the
goodness of all creation and the promised rest and blessedness
of the eternal Sabbath, on which God, who is eternal rest,
1. I call on thee, my God, my Mercy, who madest me and didst
not forget me, though I was forgetful of thee. I call thee
into my soul, which thou didst prepare for thy reception
by the desire which thou inspirest in it. Do not forsake
me when I call on thee, who didst anticipate me before I
called and who didst repeatedly urge with manifold calling
that I should hear thee afar off and be turned and call
upon thee, who callest me. For thou, O Lord, hast blotted
out all my evil deserts, not punishing me for what my hands
have done; and thou hast anticipated all my good deserts
so as to recompense me for what thy hands have done--the
hands which made me. Before I was, thou wast, and I was
not anything at all that thou shouldst grant me being. Yet,
see how I exist by reason of thy goodness, which made provision
for all that thou madest me to be and all that thou madest
me from. For thou didst not stand in need of me, nor am
I the kind of good entity which could be a help to thee,
my Lord and my God. It is not that I may serve thee as if
thou wert fatigued in working, or as if thy power would
be the less if it lacked my assistance. Nor is the service
I pay thee like the cultivation of a field, so that thou
wouldst go untended if I did not tend thee.
Instead, it is that I may serve and worship thee to the
end that I may have my well-being from thee, from whom comes
my capacity for well-being.
2. Indeed, it is from the fullness of thy goodness that
thy creation exists at all: to the end that the created
good might not fail to be, even though it can profit thee
nothing, and is nothing of thee nor equal to thee--since
its created existence comes from thee.
For what did the heaven and earth, which thou didst make
in the beginning, ever deserve from thee? Let them declare--these
spiritual and corporeal entities, which thou madest in thy
wisdom--let them declare what they merited at thy hands,
so that the inchoate and the formless, whether spiritual
or corporeal, would deserve to be held in being in spite
of the fact that they tend toward disorder and extreme unlikeness
to thee? An unformed spiritual entity is more excellent
than a formed corporeal entity; and the corporeal, even
when unformed, is more excellent than if it were simply
nothing at all. Still, these formless entities are held
in their state of being by thee, until they are recalled
to thy unity and receive form and being from thee, the one
sovereign Good. What have they deserved of thee, since they
would not even be unformed entities except from thee?
3. What has corporeal matter deserved of thee--even in its
invisible and unformed state--since it would not exist even
in this state if thou hadst not made it? And, if it did
not exist, it could not merit its existence from thee.
Or, what has that formless spiritual creation deserved of
thee--that it should flow lightlessly like the abyss--since
it is so unlike thee and would not exist at all if it had
not been turned by the Word which made it that same Word,
and, illumined by that Word, had been "made light"
although not as thy equal but only as an image of that Form
[of Light] which is equal to thee? For, in the case of a
body, its being is not the same thing as its being beautiful;
else it could not then be a deformed body. Likewise, in
the case of a created spirit, living is not the same state
as living wisely; else it could then be immutably wise.
But the true good of every created thing is always to cleave
fast to thee, lest, in turning away from thee, it lose the
light it had received in being turned by thee, and so relapse
into a life like that of the dark abyss.
As for ourselves, who are a spiritual creation by virtue
of our souls, when we turned away from thee, O Light, we
were in that former life of darkness; and we toil amid the
shadows of our darkness until--through thy only Son--we
become thy righteousness,
like the mountains of God. For we, like the great abyss,
have been the objects of thy judgments.
4. 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. But, since
it had not merited from thee that it should be a life capable
of enlightenment, so neither, when it already began to exist,
did it merit from thee that it should be enlightened. For
neither could its formlessness please thee until it became
light--and it became light, not from the bare fact of existing,
but by the act of turning its face to the light which enlightened
it, and by cleaving to it. Thus it owed the fact that it
lived, and lived happily, to nothing whatsoever but thy
grace, since it had been turned, by a change for the better,
toward that which cannot be changed for either better or
worse. Thou alone art, because thou alone art without complication.
For thee it is not one thing to live and another thing to
live in blessedness; for thou art thyself thy own blessedness.
5. What, therefore, would there have been lacking in thy
good, which thou thyself art, even if these things had never
been made or had remained unformed? Thou didst not create
them out of any lack but out of the plenitude of thy goodness,
ordering them and turning them toward form,
but not because thy joy had to be perfected by them. For
thou art perfect, and their imperfection is displeasing.
Therefore were they perfected by thee and became pleasing
to thee--but not as if thou wert before that imperfect and
had to be perfected in their perfection. For thy good Spirit
which moved over the face of the waters
was not borne up by them as if he rested on them. For those
in whom thy good Spirit is said to rest he actually causes
to rest in himself. But thy incorruptible and immutable
will--in itself all-sufficient for itself--moved over that
life which thou hadst made: in which living is not at all
the same thing as living happily, since that life still
lives even as it flows in its own darkness. But it remains
to be turned to him by whom it was made and to live more
and more like "the fountain of life," and in his light "to
and to be perfected, and enlightened, and made blessed.
6. 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.
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!
7. But why, O truth-speaking Light? To thee I lift up my
heart--let it not teach me vain notions. Disperse its shadows
and tell me, I beseech thee, by that Love which is our mother;
tell me, I beseech thee, the reason why--after the reference
to heaven and to the invisible and unformed earth, and darkness
over the abyss--thy Scripture should then at long last refer
to thy Spirit? Was it because it was appropriate that he
should first be shown to us as "moving over"; and this could
not have been said unless something had already been mentioned
over which thy Spirit could be understood as "moving"? For
he did not "move over" the Father and the Son, and he could
not properly be said to be "moving over" if he were "moving
over" nothing. Thus, what it was he was "moving over" had
to be mentioned first and he whom it was not proper to mention
otherwise than as "moving over" could then be mentioned.
But why was it not fitting that he should have been introduced
in some other way than in this context of "moving over''?
8. Now let him who is able follow thy apostle with his understanding
when he says, "Thy love is shed abroad in our hearts by
the Holy Spirit, who is given to us"
and who teacheth us about spiritual gifts and showeth us a more excellent
way of love; and who bows his knee unto thee for us, that
we may come to the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ.
Thus, from the beginning, he who is above all was "moving
over" the waters.
To whom shall I tell this? How can I speak of the weight
of concupiscence which drags us downward into the deep abyss,
and of the love which lifts us up by thy Spirit who moved
over the waters? To whom shall I tell this? How shall I
tell it? For concupiscence and love are not certain "places"
into which we are plunged and out of which we are lifted
again. What could be more like, and yet what more unlike?
They are both feelings; they are both loves. The uncleanness
of our own spirit flows downward with the love of worldly
care; and the sanctity of thy Spirit raises us upward by
the love of release from anxiety--that we may lift our hearts
to thee where thy Spirit is "moving over the waters." Thus,
we shall have come to that supreme rest where our souls
shall have passed through the waters which give no standing
9. The angels fell, and the soul of man fell; thus they
indicate to us the deep darkness of the abyss, which would
have still contained the whole spiritual creation if thou
hadst not said, in the beginning, "Let there be light: and
there was light"--and if every obedient mind in thy heavenly
city had not adhered to thee and had not reposed in thy
Spirit, which moved immutable over all things mutable. Otherwise,
even the heaven of heavens itself would have been a dark
shadow, instead of being, as it is now, light in the Lord. For even in the restless misery
of the fallen spirits, who exhibit their own darkness when
they are stripped of the garments of thy light, thou showest
clearly how noble thou didst make the rational creation,
for whose rest and beatitude nothing suffices save thee
thyself. And certainly it is not itself sufficient for its
beatitude. For it is thou, O our God, who wilt enlighten
our darkness; from thee shall come our garments of light;
and then our darkness shall be as the noonday. Give thyself
to me, O my God, restore thyself to me! See, I love thee;
and if it be too little, let me love thee still more strongly.
I cannot measure my love so that I may come to know how
much there is still lacking in me before my life can run
to thy embrace and not be turned away until it is hidden
in "the covert of thy presence." Only this I know, that my existence
is my woe except in thee--not only in my outward life, but
also within my inmost self--and all abundance I have which
is not my God is poverty.
10. But was neither the Father nor the Son "moving over
the waters"? If we understand this as a motion in space,
as a body moves, then not even the Holy Spirit "moved."
But if we understand the changeless supereminence of the
divine Being above every changeable thing, then Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit "moved over the waters."
Why, then, is this said of thy Spirit alone? Why is it said
of him only--as if he had been in a "place" that is not
a place--about whom alone it is written, "He is thy gift"?
It is in thy gift that we rest. It is there that we enjoy
thee. Our rest is our "place." Love lifts us up toward that
place, and thy good Spirit lifts our lowliness from the
gates of death.
Our peace rests in the goodness of will. The body tends
toward its own place by its own gravity. A weight does not
tend downward only, but moves to its own place. Fire tends
upward; a stone tends downward. They are propelled by their
own mass; they seek their own places. Oil poured under the
water rises above the water; water poured on oil sinks under
the oil. They are moved by their own mass; they seek their
own places. If they are out of order, they are restless;
when their order is restored, they are at rest. My weight
is my love. By it I am carried wherever I am carried. By
we are enkindled and are carried upward. We burn inwardly
and move forward. We ascend thy ladder which is in our heart,
and we sing a canticle of degrees; we glow inwardly with thy fire--with
thy good fire--and we go forward because we go
up to the peace of Jerusalem;
for I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the
house of the Lord."
There thy good pleasure will settle us so that we will desire
nothing more than to dwell there forever.
11. Happy would be that creature who, though it was in itself
other than thou, still had known no other state than this
from the time it was made, so that it was never without
thy gift which moves over everything mutable--who had been
borne up by the call in which thou saidst, "Let there be
light: and there was light."
For in us there is a distinction between the time when we
were darkness and the time when we were made light. But
we are not told what would have been the case with that
creature if the light had not been made. It is spoken of
as though there had been something of flux and darkness
in it beforehand so that the cause by which it was made
to be otherwise might be evident. This is to say, by being
turned to the unfailing Light it might become light. Let
him who is able understand this; and let him who is not
ask of thee. Why trouble me, as if I could "enlighten every
man that comes into the world"?
12. Who can understand the omnipotent Trinity? And yet who
does not speak about it, if indeed it is of it that he speaks?
Rare is the soul who, when he speaks of it, also knows of
what he speaks. And men contend and strive, but no man sees
the vision of it without peace.
I could wish that men would consider three things which
are within themselves. These three things are quite different
from the Trinity, but I mention them in order that men may
exercise their minds and test themselves and come to realize
how different from it they are.
The three things I speak of are: to be, to know, and to
will. For I am, and I know, and I will. I am a knowing and
a willing being; I know that I am and that I will; and I
will to be and to know. In these three functions, therefore,
let him who can see how integral a life is; for there is
one life, one mind, one essence. Finally, the distinction
does not separate the things, and yet it is a distinction.
Surely a man has this distinction before his mind; let him
look into himself and see, and tell me. But when he discovers
and can say anything about any one of these, let him not
think that he has thereby discovered what is immutable above
them all, which is immutably and knows immutably
and wills immutably. But whether there is a Trinity
there because these three functions exist in the one God,
or whether all three are in each Person so that they are
each threefold, or whether both these notions are true and,
in some mysterious manner, the Infinite is in itself its
own Selfsame object--at once one and many, so that by itself
it is and knows itself and suffices to itself without change,
so that the Selfsame is the abundant magnitude of its Unity--who
can readily conceive? Who can in any fashion express it
plainly? Who can in any way rashly make a pronouncement
13. Go forward in your confession, O my faith; say to the
Lord your God, "Holy, holy, holy, O Lord my God, in thy
name we have been baptized, in the name of the Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit." In thy name we baptize, in the name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For among us also
God in his Christ made "heaven and earth," namely, the spiritual
and carnal members of his Church. And true it is that before
it received "the form of doctrine," our "earth" was "invisible and unformed," and
we were covered with the darkness of our ignorance; for
thou dost correct man for his iniquity, and "thy judgments are a great abyss." But because thy Spirit was moving
over these waters, thy mercy did not forsake our wretchedness,
and thou saidst, "Let there be light; repent, for the kingdom
of heaven is at hand."
Repent, and let there be light. Because our soul was troubled
within us, we remembered thee, O Lord, from the land of
Jordan, and from the mountain--and as we became displeased with
our darkness we turned to thee, "and there was light." And
behold, we were heretofore in darkness, but now we are light
in the Lord.
14. But even so, we still live by faith and not by sight,
for we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope.
Thus far deep calls unto deep, but now in "the noise of
And thus far he who said, "I could not speak to you as if
you were spiritual ones, but only as if you were carnal"--thus
far even he does not count himself to have apprehended,
but forgetting the things that are behind and reaching forth
to the things that are before, he presses on to those things
that are ahead,
and he groans under his burden and his soul thirsts after
the living God as the stag pants for the water brooks, and says, "When shall I come?"--"desiring to be further clothed
by his house which is from heaven."
And he called to this lower deep, saying, "Be not conformed
to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
"be not children in understanding, although in malice be
children," in order that "in understanding you may become
"O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?"
But this is not now only in his own voice but in thy voice,
who sent thy Spirit from above through Him who both "ascended
up on high"
and opened up the floodgates of his gifts, that the force
of his streams might make glad the city of God.
For that city and for him sighs the Bridegroom's friend, who has now the first fruits of
the Spirit laid up with him, but who is still groaning within
himself and waiting for adoption, that is, the redemption
of his body.
To Him he sighs, for he is a member of the Bride;
for him he is jealous, not for himself, but because not
in his own voice but in the voice of thy waterfalls he calls
on that other deep, of which he is jealous and in fear;
for he fears lest, as the serpent seduced Eve by his subtlety,
his mind should be corrupted from the purity which is in
our Bridegroom, thy only Son. What a light of beauty that
will be when "we shall see him as he is"!--and when these tears shall pass
away which "have been my meat day and night, while they
continually say unto me, `Where is your God?'"
15. And I myself say: "O my God, where art thou? See now,
where art thou?" In thee I take my breath for a little while,
when I pour out my soul beyond myself in the voice of joy
and praise, in the voice of him that keeps holyday. And still it is cast down because
it relapses and becomes an abyss, or rather it feels that
it still is an abyss. My faith speaks to my soul--the faith
that thou dost kindle to light my path in the night: "Why
are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted
in me? Hope in God." For his word is a lamp to your feet. Hope and persevere until the night
passes--that mother of the wicked; until the Lord's wrath
subsides--that wrath whose children once we were, of whom
we were beforehand in darkness, whose residue we still bear
about us in our bodies, dead because of sin.
Hope and endure until the day breaks and the shadows flee
away. Hope in the Lord: in the morning
I shall stand in his presence and keep watch;
I shall forever give praise to him. In the morning I shall
stand and shall see my God, who is the health of my countenance,
who also will quicken our mortal bodies by the Spirit that
dwells in us,
because in mercy he was moving over our lightless and restless
inner deep. From this we have received an earnest, even
now in this pilgrimage, that we are now in the light, since
already we are saved by hope and are children of the light
and children of the day--not children of the night, nor
of the darkness, which we have been hitherto. Between
those children of the night and ourselves, in this still
uncertain state of human knowledge, only thou canst rightly
distinguish--thou who dost test the heart and who dost call
the light day, and the darkness night.
For who can see us clearly but thee? What do we have that
we have not received from thee, who madest from the same
lump some vessels to noble, and others to ignoble, use?
16. Now who but thee, our God, didst make for us that firmament
of the authority of thy divine Scripture to be over us?
For "the heaven shall be folded up like a scroll";
but now it is stretched over us like a skin. Thy divine
Scripture is of more sublime authority now that those mortal
men through whom thou didst dispense it to us have departed
this life. And thou knowest, O Lord, thou knowest how thou
didst clothe men with skins when they became mortal because
In something of the same way, thou hast stretched out the
firmament of thy Book as a skin--that is to say, thou hast
spread thy harmonious words over us through the ministry
of mortal men. For by their very death that solid firmament
of authority in thy sayings, spoken forth by them, stretches
high over all that now drift under it; whereas while they
lived on earth their authority was not so widely extended.
Then thou hadst not yet spread out the heaven like a skin;
thou hadst not yet spread abroad everywhere the fame of
17. Let us see, O Lord, "the heavens, the work of thy fingers," and clear away from our eyes the
fog with which thou hast covered them. In them
is that testimony of thine which gives wisdom even to the
little ones. O my God, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings,
perfect thy praise.
For we know no other books that so destroy man's pride,
that so break down the adversary and the self-defender who
resists thy reconciliation by an effort to justify his own
sins. I do not know, O Lord, I do not know any other such
pure words that so persuade me to confession and make my
neck submissive to thy yoke, and invite me to serve thee
for nothing else than thy own sake. Let me understand these
things, O good Father. Grant this to me, since I am placed
under them; for thou hast established these things for those
placed under them.
18. There are other waters that are above this firmament,
and I believe that they are immortal and removed from earthly
corruption. Let them praise thy name--this super-celestial
society, thy angels, who have no need to look up at this
firmament or to gain a knowledge of thy Word by reading
it--let them praise thee. For they always behold thy face
and read therein, without any syllables in time, what thy
eternal will intends. They read, they choose, they love.
They are always reading, and what they read never passes
away. For by choosing and by loving they read the very immutability
of thy counsel. Their book is never closed, nor is the scroll
folded up, because thou thyself art this to them, and art
this to them eternally; because thou didst range them above
this firmament which thou madest firm over the infirmities
of the people below the heavens, where they might look up
and learn thy mercy, which proclaims in time thee who madest
all times. "For thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and
thy faithfulness reaches to the clouds."
The clouds pass away, but the heavens remain. The preachers
of thy Word pass away from this life into another; but thy
Scripture is spread abroad over the people, even to the
end of the world. Indeed, both heaven and earth shall pass
away, but thy words shall never pass away.
The scroll shall be rolled together, and the "grass" over
which it was spread shall, with all its goodliness, pass
away; but thy Word remains forever--thy
Word which now appears to us in the dark image of the clouds
and through the glass of heaven, and not as it really is.
And even if we are the well-beloved of thy Son, it has not
yet appeared what we shall be.
He hath seen us through the entanglement
of our flesh, and he is fair-speaking, and he hath enkindled
us, and we run after his fragrance. But "when he shall appear, then
we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.''
As he is, O Lord, we shall see him--although that time is
19. For just as thou art the utterly Real, thou alone dost
fully know, since thou art immutably, and thou knowest immutably,
and thou willest immutably. And thy Essence knows and wills
immutably. Thy Knowledge is and wills immutably. Thy Will
is and knows immutably. And it does not seem right to thee
that the immutable Light should be known by the enlightened
but mutable creature in the same way as it knows itself.
Therefore, to thee my soul is as a land where no water is;
for, just as it cannot enlighten itself by itself, so it
cannot satisfy itself by itself. Thus the fountain of life
is with thee, and "in thy light shall we see light."
20. Who has gathered the "embittered ones"
into a single society? For they all have the same end, which
is temporal and earthly happiness. This is their motive
for doing everything, although they may fluctuate within
an innumerable diversity of concerns. Who but thee, O Lord,
gathered them together, thou who saidst, "Let the waters
be gathered together into one place and let the dry land
appear"--athirst for thee? For the sea also is thine, and
thou madest it, and thy hands formed the dry land. For it is not the bitterness of
men's wills but the gathering together of the waters which
is called "the sea"; yet thou dost curb the wicked lusts
of men's souls and fix their bounds: how far they are allowed
to advance, and where their waves will be broken against
each other--and thus thou makest it "a sea," by the providence
of thy governance of all things.
21. But as for the souls that thirst after thee and who
appear before thee--separated from "the society of the [bitter]
sea" by reason of their different ends--thou waterest them
by a secret and sweet spring, so that "the earth" may bring
forth her fruit and--thou, O Lord, commanding it--our souls
may bud forth in works of mercy after their kind.
Thus we shall love our neighbor in ministering to his bodily
needs, for in this way the soul has seed in itself after
its kind when in our own infirmity our compassion reaches
out to the relief of the needy, helping them even as we
would desire to be helped ourselves if we were in similar
need. Thus we help, not only in easy problems (as is signified
by "the herb yielding its seed") but also in the offering
of our best strength in affording them the aid of protection
(such as "the tree bearing its fruit"). This is to say,
we seek to rescue him who is suffering injury from the hands
of the powerful--furnishing him with the sheltering protection
which comes from the strong arm of a righteous judgment.
22. Thus, O Lord, thus I beseech thee: let it happen as
thou hast prepared it, as thou givest joy and the capacity
for joy. Let truth spring up out of the earth, and let righteousness
look down from heaven,
and let there be lights in the firmament.
Let us break our bread with the hungry, let us bring the
shelterless poor to our house; let us clothe the naked,
and never despise those of our own flesh. See from the fruits which spring
forth from the earth how good it is. Thus let our temporal
light break forth, and let us from even this lower level
of fruitful action come to the joy of contemplation and
hold on high the Word of Life. And let us at length appear
like "lights in the world,"
cleaving to the firmament of thy Scripture.
For in it thou makest it plain to us how we may distinguish
between things intelligible and things tangible, as if between
the day and the night--and to distinguish between souls
who give themselves to things of the mind and others absorbed
in things of sense. Thus it is that now thou art not alone
in the secret of thy judgment as thou wast before the firmament
was made, and before thou didst divide between the light
and the darkness. But now also thy spiritual children, placed
and ranked in this same firmament--thy grace being thus
manifest throughout the world--may shed light upon the earth,
and may divide between the day and night, and may be for
the signs of the times; because old things have passed
away, and, lo, all things are become new;
and because our salvation is nearer than when we believed;
and because "the night is far spent and the day is at hand";
and because "thou crownest the year with blessing,"
sending the laborers into thy harvest, in which others have
labored in the sowing and sending laborers also to make
new sowings whose harvest shall not be until the end of
time. Thus thou dost grant the prayers of him who seeks,
and thou dost bless the years of the righteous man. But
thou art always the Selfsame, and in thy years which fail
not thou preparest a granary for our transient years. For
by an eternal design thou spreadest the heavenly blessings
on the earth in their proper seasons.
23. For "to one there is given by thy Spirit the word of
wisdom" (which resembles the greater light--which
is for those whose delight is in the clear light of truth--as
the light which is given for the ruling of the day).
But to another the word of knowledge is given by the same
Spirit (as it were, the "lesser light"); to another, faith;
to another, the gift of healing; to another, the power of
working miracles; to another, the gift of prophecy; to another,
the discerning of spirits; to another, other kinds of tongues--and
all these gifts may be compared to "the stars." For in them
all the one and selfsame Spirit is at work, dividing to
every man his own portion, as He wills, and making stars
to appear in their bright splendor for the profit of souls.
But the word of knowledge, scientia, in which is
contained all the mysteries which change in their seasons like
the moon; and all the other promises of gifts, which when
counted are like the stars--all of these fall short of that
splendor of Wisdom in which the day rejoices and are only
for the ruling of the night. Yet they are necessary for
those to whom thy most prudent servant could not speak as
to the spiritually mature, but only as if to carnal men--even
though he could speak wisdom among the perfect. Still the natural man--as a babe
in Christ, and a drinker of milk, until he is strong enough
for solid meat, and his eye is able to look into the sun--do
not leave him in a lightless night. Instead, let him be
satisfied with the light of the moon and the stars. In thy
book thou dost discuss these things with us wisely, our
God--in thy book, which is thy "firmament"--in order that
we may be able to view all things in admiring contemplation,
although thus far we must do so through signs and seasons
and in days and years.
24. But, first, "wash yourselves and make you clean; put
away iniquity from your souls and from before my eyes"--so
that "the dry land" may appear. "Learn to do well, judge
the fatherless, plead for the widow,"
that the earth may bring forth the green herb for food and
fruit-bearing trees. "And come, let us reason together,
saith the Lord"--that
there may be lights in the firmament of heaven and that
they may shine upon the earth.
There was that rich man who asked of the good Teacher what
he should do to attain eternal life. Let the good Teacher
(whom the rich man thought a man and nothing more) give
him an answer--he is good for he is God. Let him answer
him that, if he would enter into life, he must keep the
commandments: let him put away from himself the bitterness
of malice and wickedness; let him not kill, nor commit adultery,
nor steal, nor bear false witness--that "the dry land" may appear
and bring forth the honoring of fathers and mothers and
the love of neighbor. "All these," he replied, "I have kept."
Where do so many thorns come from, if the earth is really
fruitful? uproot the brier patch of avarice; "sell what
you have, and be filled with fruit by giving to the poor,
and you shall have treasure in heaven; and follow" the Lord
if you would be perfect and joined with those in whose midst
he speaketh wisdom--who know how to give rightly to the
day and to the night--and you will also understand, so that
for you also there may be lights in the firmament of heaven--which
will not be there, however, unless your heart is there also.
And your heart will not be there unless your treasure is
you have heard from the good Teacher. But "the barren earth"
was grieved, and the briers choked the word.
25. 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, 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")
and let the night, lighted by the moon, display the Word
of knowledge to the night. The moon and the stars give light
for the night; the night does not put them out, and they
illumine in its proper mode. For lo, it is as if God were
saying, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven":
and suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as if it were
a rushing mighty wind, and there appeared cloven tongues
of fire, and they sat on each of them.
And then they were made to be lights in the firmament of
heaven, having the Word of life. 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.
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!
26. Also let the sea conceive and bring forth your works,
and let the waters bear the moving creatures that have life.
For by separating the precious from the vile you are made
the mouth of God by whom he said, "Let the waters
bring forth." This does not refer to the living creatures
which the earth brings forth, but to the creeping creatures
that have life and the fowls that fly over the earth. For,
by the ministry of thy holy ones, thy mysteries have made
their way amid the buffeting billows of the world, to instruct
the nations in thy name, in thy Baptism. And among these
things many great and marvelous works have been wrought,
which are analogous to the huge whales. The words of thy
messengers have gone flying over the earth, high in the
firmament of thy Book which is spread over them as the authority
beneath which they are to fly wheresoever they go. For "there
is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard,"
because "their sound has gone out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world"--and
this because thou, O Lord, hast multiplied these things
by thy blessing.
27. Am I speaking falsely? Am I mingling and confounding
and not rightly distinguishing between the knowledge of
these things in the firmament of heaven and those corporeal
works in the swelling sea and beneath the firmament of heaven?
For there are those things, the knowledge of which is solid
and defined. It does not increase from generation to generation
and thus they stand, as it were, as lights of wisdom and
knowledge. But there are many and varied physical processes
that manifest these selfsame principles. And thus one thing
growing from another is multiplied by thy blessing, O God,
who dost so refresh our easily wearied mortal senses that
in our mental cognition a single thing may be figured and
signified in many different ways by different bodily motions.
waters" have brought forth these mysteries, but only at
thy word. The needs of the people who were alien to the
eternity of thy truth have called them forth, but only in
thy gospel, since it was these "waters" which cast them
up--the waters whose stagnant bitterness was the reason
why they came forth through thy Word.
28. Now all the things that thou hast made are fair, and
yet, lo, thou who didst make all things art inexpressibly
fairer. And if Adam had not fallen away from thee, that
brackish sea--the human race--so deeply prying, so boisterously
swelling, so restlessly moving, would never have flowed
forth from his belly. Thus, there would have been no need
for thy ministers to use corporeal and tangible signs in
the midst of many "waters" in order to show forth their
mystical deeds and words. For this is the way I interpret
the phrases "creeping creatures" and "flying fowl." Still,
men who have been instructed and initiated and made dependent
on thy corporeal mysteries would not be able to profit from
them if it were not that their soul has a higher life and
unless, after the word of its admission, it did not look
beyond toward its perfection.
29. And thus, in thy Word, it was not the depth of the sea
but "the earth," separated from the brackishness
of the water, that brought forth, not "the creeping and
the flying creature that has life," but "the living soul"
And now this soul no longer has need of baptism, as the
heathen had, or as it did when it was covered with the waters--and
there can be no other entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven,
since thou hast appointed that baptism should be the entrance.
Nor does it seek great, miraculous works by which to buttress
faith. For such a soul does not refuse to believe unless
it sees signs and marvels, now that "the faithful earth"
is separated from "the waters" of the sea, which have been
made bitter by infidelity. Thus, for them, "tongues are
for a sign, not to those who believe but to those who do
And the earth which thou hast founded above the waters does
not stand in need of those flying creatures which the waters
brought forth at thy word. Send forth thy word into it by
the agency of thy messengers. For we only tell of their
works, but it is thou who dost the works in them, so that
they may bring forth "a living soul" in the earth.
The earth brings forth "the living soul" because "the earth"
is the cause of such things being done by thy messengers,
just as the sea was the cause of the production of the creeping
creatures having life and the flying fowl under the firmament
of heaven. "The earth" no longer needs them, although it
feeds on the Fish which was taken out of the deep,
set out on that table which thou preparest in the presence
of those who believe. To this end he was raised from the
deep: that he might feed "the dry land." And "the fowl,"
even though they were bred in the sea, will yet be multiplied
on the earth. The preaching of the first evangelists was
called forth by reason of man's infidelity, but the faithful
also are exhorted and blessed by them in manifold ways,
day by day. "The living soul" has its origin from "the earth,"
because only to the faithful is there any profit in restraining
themselves from the love of this world, so that their soul
may live to thee. This soul was dead while it was living
in pleasures--in pleasures that bear death in them--whereas
thou, O Lord, art the living delight of the pure heart.
30. Now, therefore, let thy ministers do their work on "the
earth"--not as they did formerly in "the waters" of infidelity,
when they had to preach and speak by miracles and mysteries
and mystical expressions, in which ignorance--the mother
of wonder--gives them an attentive ear because of its fear
of occult and strange things. For this is the entry into
faith for the sons of Adam who are forgetful of thee, who
hide themselves from thy face, and who have become a darkened
abyss. Instead, let thy ministers work even as on "the dry
land," safe from the whirlpools of the abyss. Let them be
an example unto the faithful by living before them and stirring
them up to imitation.
For in such a setting, men will heed, not with the mere
intent to hear, but also to act. Seek the Lord and your
soul shall live
and "the earth" may bring forth "the living soul." Be not
conformed to this world;
separate yourselves from it. The soul lives by avoiding
those things which bring death if they are loved. Restrain
yourselves from the unbridled wildness of pride, from the
indolent passions of luxury, and from what is falsely called
Thus may the wild beast be tamed, the cattle subdued, and
the serpent made harmless. For, in allegory, these figures
are the motions of our mind: that is to say, the haughtiness
of pride, the delight of lust, and the poison of curiosity
are motions of the dead soul--not so dead that it has lost
all motion, but dead because it has deserted the fountain
of life, and so has been taken up by this transitory world
and conformed to it.
31. But thy Word, O God, is a fountain of life eternal,
and it does not pass away. Therefore, this desertion is
restrained by thy Word when it says to us, "Be not conformed
to this world," to the end that "the earth" may bring forth
a "living soul" in the fountain of life--a soul disciplined
by thy Word, by thy evangelists, by the following of the
followers of thy Christ. For this is the meaning of "after
his kind." A man tends to follow the example of his friend.
Thus, he [Paul] says, "Become as I am, because I have become
as you are."
Thus, in this "living soul" there shall be good beasts,
acting meekly. For thou hast commanded this, saying: "Do
your work in meekness and you shall be loved by all men."
And the cattle will be good, for if they eat much they shall
not suffer from satiety; and if they do not eat at all they
will suffer no lack. And the serpents will be good, not
poisonous to do harm, but only cunning in their watchfulness--exploring
only as much of this temporal nature as is necessary in
order that the eternal nature may "be clearly seen, understood
through the things that have been made."
For all these animals will obey reason when, having been
restrained from their death-dealing ways, they live and
32. Thus, O Lord, our God, our Creator, when our affections
have been turned from the love of the world, in which we
died by living ill; and when we began to be "a living soul"
by living well; and when the word, "Be not conformed to
this world," which thou didst speak through thy apostle,
has been fulfilled in us, then will follow what thou didst
immediately add when thou saidst, "But be transformed by
the renewing of your mind."
This will not now be "after their kind," as if we were following
the neighbor who went before us, or as if we were living
after the example of a better man--for thou didst not say,
"Let man be made after his kind," but rather, "Let us make
man in our own image and our own likeness,"
so that then we may be able to prove what thy will is.
This is why thy minister--begetting children by the gospel
so that he might not always have them babes whom he would
have to feed with milk and nurse as children--this is why
he said, "Be transformed by the renewing of your minds,
that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect
will of God." Therefore thou didst not say, "Let
man be made," but rather, "Let us make man." And thou didst
not say, "After his kind," but after "our image" and "likeness."
Indeed, it is only when man has been renewed in his mind,
and comes to behold and apprehend thy truth, that he does
not need another man as his director, to show him how to
imitate human examples. Instead, by thy guidance, he proves
what is thy good and acceptable and perfect will. And thou
dost teach him, now that he is able to understand, to see
the trinity of the Unity and the unity of the Trinity.
This is why the statement in the plural, "Let us make man,"
is also connected with the statement in the singular, "And
God made man." Thus it is said in the plural, "After our
likeness," and then in the singular, "After the image of
God." Man is thus transformed in the knowledge of God, according
to the image of Him who created him. And now, having been
made spiritual, he judges all things--that is, all things
that are appropriate to be judged--and he himself is judged
of no man.
33. Now this phrase, "he judges all things," means that
man has dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the
fowl of the air, and over all cattle and wild beasts, and
over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps
on the earth. And he does this by the power of reason in
his mind by which he perceives "the things of the Spirit
But, when man was put in this high office, he did not understand
what was involved and thus was reduced to the level of the
brute beasts, and made like them.
Therefore in thy Church, O our God, by the grace thou hast
given us--since we are thy workmanship, created in good
works (not only those who are in spiritual authority but
also those who are spiritually subject to them)--thou madest
man male and female. Here all are equal in thy spiritual
grace where, as far as sex is concerned, there is neither
male nor female, just as there is neither Jew nor Greek,
nor bond nor free. Spiritual men, therefore, whether those
who are in authority or those who are subject to authority,
judge spiritually. They do not judge by the light of that
spiritual knowledge which shines in the firmament, for it
is inappropriate for them to judge by so sublime an authority.
Nor does it behoove them to judge concerning thy Book itself,
although there are some things in it which are not clear.
Instead, we submit our understanding to it and believe with
certainty that what is hidden from our sight is still rightly
and truly spoken. In this way, even though a man is now
spiritual and renewed by the knowledge of God according
to the image of him who created him, he must be a doer of
the law rather than its judge. Neither does the spiritual man judge
concerning that division between spiritual and carnal men
which is known to thy eyes, O God, and which may not, as
yet, be made manifest to us by their external works, so
that we may know them by their fruits; yet thou, O God,
knowest them already and thou hast divided and called them
secretly, before the firmament was made. Nor does a man,
even though he is spiritual, judge the disordered state
of society in this world. For what business of his is it
to judge those who are without, since he cannot know which
of them may later on come into the sweetness of thy grace,
and which of them may continue in the perpetual bitterness
of their impiety?
34. Man, then, even if he was made after thy own image,
did not receive the power of dominion over the lights of
heaven, nor over the secret heaven, nor over the day and
the night which thou calledst forth before the creation
of the heaven, nor over the gathering together of the waters
which is the sea. Instead, he received dominion over the
fish of the sea, and the fowls of the air; and over all
cattle, and all the earth; and over all creeping things
which creep on the earth.
Indeed, he judges and approves what he finds right and disapproves
what he finds amiss, whether in the celebration of those
mysteries by which are initiated those whom thy mercy hast
sought out in the midst of many waters; or in that sacrament
in which is exhibited the Fish itself which, being raised from the depths,
the pious "earth"
feeds upon; or, in the signs and symbols of words, which
are subject to the authority of thy Book--such signs as
burst forth and sound from the mouth, as if it were "flying"
under the firmament, interpreting, expounding, discoursing,
disputing, blessing, invoking thee, so that the people may
The reason that all these words have to be pronounced vocally
is because of the abyss of this world and the blindness
of our flesh in which thoughts cannot be seen directly,
but have to be spoken aloud in our ears. Thus, although
the flying fowl are multiplied on the earth, they still
take their origins from the waters.
The spiritual man also judges by approving what is right
and reproving what he finds amiss in the works and morals
of the faithful, such as in their almsgiving, which is signified
by the phrase, "The earth bringing forth its fruit." And
he judges of the "living soul," which is then made to live
by the disciplining of her affections in chastity, in fasting,
and in holy meditation. And he also judges concerning all
those things which are perceived by the bodily senses. For
it can be said that he should judge in all matters about
which he also has the power of correction.
35. But what is this; what kind of mystery is this? Behold,
O Lord, thou dost bless men in order that they may be "fruitful
and multiply, and replenish the earth." In this art thou
not making a sign to us that we may understand something
[allegorically]? Why didst thou not also bless the light,
which thou calledst "the day," nor the firmament of heaven,
nor the lights, nor the stars, nor the earth, nor the sea?
I might reply, O our God, that thou in creating us after
thy own image--I might reply that thou didst will to bestow
this gift of blessing upon man alone, if thou hadst not
similarly blessed the fishes and the whales, so that they
too should be fruitful and multiply and replenish the waters
of the sea; and also the fowls, so that they should be multiplied
on the earth. In like fashion, I might say that this blessing
properly belonged only to such creatures as are propagated
from their own kind, if I could find it given also as a
blessing to trees, and plants, and the beasts of the earth.
But this "increase and multiply" was not said to plants
or trees or beasts or serpents--although all of these, along
with fishes and birds and men, do actually increase by propagation
and so preserve their species.
36. What, then, shall I say, O Truth, O my Life: that it
was idly and vainly said? Surely not this, O Father of piety;
far be it from a servant of thy Word to say anything like
this! But if I do not understand what thou meanest by that
phrase, let those who are better than I--that is, those
more intelligent than I--interpret it better, in the degree
that thou hast given each of us the ability to understand.
But let also my confession be pleasing in thy eyes, for
I confess to thee that I believe, O Lord, that thou hast
not spoken thus in vain. Nor will I be silent as to what
my reading has suggested to me. For it is valid, and I do
not see anything to prevent me from thus interpreting the
figurative sayings in thy books. For I know that a thing
that is understood in only one way in the mind may be expressed
in many different ways by the body; and I know that a thing
that has only one manner of expression through the body
may be understood in the mind in many different ways. For
consider this single example--the love of God and of our
neighbor--by how many different mysteries and countless
languages, and, in each language, by how many different
ways of speaking, this is signified corporeally! In similar
fashion, the "young fish" in "the waters" increase and multiply.
On the other hand, whoever you are who reads this, observe
and behold what Scripture declares, and how the voice pronounces
it in only one way, "In the beginning God created
heaven and earth." Is this not understood in many different
ways by different kinds of true interpretations which do
not involve the deceit of error? Thus the offspring of men
are fruitful and do multiply.
37. If, then, we consider the nature of things, in their
strictly literal sense, and not allegorically, the phrase,
"Be fruitful and multiply," applies to all things that are
begotten by seed. But if we treat these words figuratively,
as I judge that the Scripture intended them to be--since
it cannot be for nothing that this blessing is attributed
only to the offspring of marine life and man--then we discover
that the characteristic of fecundity belongs also to the
spiritual and physical creations (which are signified by
"heaven and earth"), and also in righteous and unrighteous
souls (which are signified by "light and darkness") and
in the sacred writers through whom the law is uttered (who
are signified by "the firmament established between the
waters and the waters"); and in the earthly commonwealth
still steeped in their bitterness (which is signified by
"the sea"); and in the zeal of holy souls (signified by
"the dry land"); and the works of mercy done in this present
life (signified by "the seed-bearing herbs and fruit-bearing
trees"); and in spiritual gifts which shine out for our
edification (signified by "the lights of heaven"); and to
human affections ruled by temperance (signified by "the
living soul"). In all these instances we meet with multiplicity
and fertility and increase; but the particular way in which
"Be fruitful and multiply" can be exemplified differs widely.
Thus a single category may include many things, and we cannot
discover them except through their signs displayed corporeally
and by the things being excogitated by the mind.
We thus interpret the phrase, "The generation of the waters,"
as referring to the corporeally expressed signs [of fecundity],
since they are made necessary by the degree of our involvement
in the flesh. But the power of human generation refers to
the process of mental conception; this we see in the fruitfulness
of reason. Therefore, we believe that to both of these two
kinds it has been said by thee, O Lord, "Be fruitful and
multiply." In this blessing, I recognize that thou hast
granted us the faculty and power not only to express what
we understand by a single idea in many different ways but
also to understand in many ways what we find expressed obscurely
in a single statement. Thus the waters of the sea are replenished,
and their waves are symbols of diverse meanings. And thus
also the earth is also replenished with human offspring.
Its dryness is the symbol of its thirst for truth, and of
the fact that reason rules over it.
38. I also desire to say, O my Lord God, what the following
Scripture suggests to me. Indeed, I will speak without fear,
for I will speak the truth, as thou inspirest me to know
what thou dost will that I should say concerning these words.
For I do not believe I can speak the truth by any other
inspiration than thine, since thou art the Truth, and every
man a liar. Hence, he that speaks a lie, speaks
out of himself. Therefore, if I am to speak the truth, I
must speak of thy truth.
Behold, thou hast given us for our food every seed-bearing
herb on the face of the earth, and all trees that bear in
themselves seed of their own kind; and not to us only, but
to all the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field
and all creeping things.
Still, thou hast not given these things to the fishes and
great whales. We have said that by these fruits of the earth
the works of mercy were signified and figured forth in an
allegory: thus, from the fruitful earth, things are provided
for the necessities of life. Such an "earth" was the godly
Onesiphorus, to whose house thou gavest mercy because he
often refreshed Paul and was not ashamed of his bonds. This was also the way of the brethren
from Macedonia, who bore such fruit and supplied to him
what he lacked. But notice how he grieves for certain "trees,"
which did not give him the fruit that was due, when he said,
"At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook
me: I pray God, that it be not laid up to their charge."
For we owe "fruits" to those who minister spiritual doctrine
to us through their understanding of the divine mysteries.
We owe these to them as men. We owe these fruits, also,
to "the living souls" since they offer themselves as examples
for us in their own continence. And, finally, we owe them
likewise to "the flying creatures" because of their blessings
which are multiplied on the earth, for "their sound has
gone forth into all the earth."
39. Those who find their joy in it are fed by these "fruits";
but those whose god is their belly find no joy in them.
For in those who offer these fruits, it is not the fruit
itself that matters, but the spirit in which they give them.
Therefore, he who serves God and not his own belly may rejoice
in them, and I plainly see why. I see it, and I rejoice
with him greatly. For he [Paul] had received from the Philippians
the things they had sent by Epaphroditus; yet I see why
he rejoiced. He was fed by what he found his joy in; for,
speaking truly, he says, "I rejoice in the Lord greatly,
that now at the last your care of me has flourished again,
in which you were once so careful, but it had become a weariness
These Philippians, in their extended period of weariness
in well-doing, had become weak and were, so to say, dried
up; they were no longer bringing forth the fruits of good
works. And now Paul rejoices in them--and not just for himself
alone--because they were flourishing again in ministering
to his needs. Therefore he adds: "I do not speak in respect
of my want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am
therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased and
how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed
both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to
suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth
40. Where do you find joy in all things, O great Paul? What
is the cause of your joy? On what do you feed, O man, renewed
now in the knowledge of God after the image of him who created
you, O living soul of such great continence--O tongue like
a winged bird, speaking mysteries? What food is owed such
creatures; what is it that feeds you? It is joy! For hear
what follows: "Nevertheless, you have done well in that
you have shared with me in my affliction."
This is what he finds his joy in; this is what he feeds
on. They have done well, not merely because his need had
been relieved--for he says to them, "You have opened my
heart when I was in distress"--but because he knew both
how to abound and how to suffer need, in thee who didst
strengthen him. And so he said, "You [Philippians] know
also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed
from Macedonia, no church shared with me in regard to giving
and receiving, except you only. For even in Thessalonica
you sent time and time again, according to my need." He now finds his joy in the fact
that they have returned once again to these good works,
and he is made glad that they are flourishing again, as
a fruitful field when it recovers its fertility.
41. Was it on account of his own needs alone that he said,
"You have sent me gifts according to my needs?" Does he
find joy in that? Certainly not for that alone. But how
do we know this? We know it because he himself adds, "Not
because I desire a gift, but because I desire fruit."
Now I have learned from thee, O my God, how to distinguish
between the terms "gift" and "fruit." A "gift" is the thing
itself, given by one who bestows life's necessities on another--such
as money, food, drink, clothing, shelter, and aid. But "the
fruit" is the good and right will of the giver. For the
good Teacher not only said, "He that receives a prophet,"
but he added, "In the name of a prophet." And he did not
say only, "He who receives a righteous man," but added,
"In the name of a righteous man."
Thus, surely, the former shall receive the reward of a prophet;
the latter, that of a righteous man. Nor did he say only,
"Whoever shall give a cup of cold water to one of these
little ones to drink," but added, "In the name of a disciple";
and concluded, "Truly I tell you he shall not lose his reward."
The "gift" involves receiving a prophet, receiving a righteous
man, handing a cup of cold water to a disciple: but the
"fruit" is to do all this in the name of a prophet, in the
name of a righteous man, in the name of a disciple. Elijah
was fed by the widow with "fruit," for she knew that she
was feeding a man of God and this is why she fed him. But
he was fed by the raven with a "gift." The inner man of
Elijah was not fed by this "gift," but only the outer man,
which otherwise might have perished from the lack of such
42. Therefore I will speak before thee, O Lord, what is
true, in order that the uninstructed
and the infidels, who require the mysteries of initiation
and great works of miracles--which we believe are signified
by the phrase, "Fishes and great whales"--may be helped
in being gained [for the Church] when they endeavor to provide
that thy servants are refreshed in body, or otherwise aided
in this present life. For they do not really know why this
should be done, and to what end. Thus the former do not
feed the latter, and the latter do not feed the former;
for neither do the former offer their "gifts" through a
holy and right intent, nor do the others rejoice in the
gifts of those who do not as yet see the "fruit." For it
is on the "fruit" that the mind is fed, and by which it
is gladdened. And, therefore, fishes and whales are not
fed on such food as the earth alone brings forth when they
have been separated and divided from the bitterness of "the
waters" of the sea.
43. And thou, O God, didst see everything that thou hadst
made and, behold, it was very good.
We also see the whole creation and, behold, it is all very
good. In each separate kind of thy work, when thou didst
say, "Let them be made," and they were made, thou didst
see that it was good. I have counted seven times where it
is written that thou didst see what thou hadst made was
"good." And there is the eighth time when thou didst see
all things that thou hadst made and, behold, they
were not only good but also very good; for they were
now seen as a totality. Individually they were only good;
but taken as a totality they were both good and very good.
Beautiful bodies express this truth; for a body which consists
of several parts, each of which is beautiful, is itself
far more beautiful than any of its individual parts separately,
by whose well-ordered union the whole is completed even
though these parts are separately beautiful.
44. And I looked attentively to find whether it was seven
or eight times that thou didst see thy works were good,
when they were pleasing to thee, but I found that there
was no "time" in thy seeing which would help me to understand
in what sense thou hadst looked so many "times" at what
thou hadst made. And I said: "O Lord, is not this thy Scripture
true, since thou art true, and thy truth doth set it forth?
Why, then, dost thou say to me that in thy seeing there
are no times, while this Scripture tells me that what thou
madest each day thou didst see to be good; and when I counted
them I found how many `times'?" To these things, thou didst
reply to me, for thou art my God, and thou dost speak to
thy servant with a strong voice in his inner ear, my deafness,
and crying: "O man, what my Scripture says, I say. But it
speaks in terms of time, whereas time does not affect my
Word--my Word which exists coeternally with myself. Thus
the things you see through my Spirit, I see; just as what
you say through my Spirit, I say. But while you see those
things in time, I do not see them in time; and when you
speak those things in time, I do not speak them in time."
45. And I heard this, O Lord my God, and drank up a drop
of sweetness from thy truth, and understood that there are
some men to whom thy works are displeasing, who say that
many of them thou didst make under the compulsion of necessity--such
as the pattern of the heavens and the courses of the stars--and
that thou didst not make them out of what was thine, but
that they were already created elsewhere and from other
sources. It was thus [they say] that thou didst collect
and fashion and weave them together, as if from thy conquered
enemies thou didst raise up the walls of the universe; so
that, built into the ramparts of the building, they might
not be able a second time to rebel against thee. And, even
of other things, they say that thou didst neither make them
nor arrange them--for example, all flesh and all the very
small living creatures, and all things fastened to the earth
by their roots. But [they say] a hostile mind and an alien
nature--not created by thee and in every way contrary to
thee--begot and framed all these things in the nether parts
of the world. They who speak thus are mad [insani],
since they do not see thy works through thy Spirit, nor
recognize thee in them.
46. But for those who see these things through thy Spirit,
it is thou who seest them in them. When, therefore, they
see that these things are good, it is thou who seest that
they are good; and whatsoever things are pleasing because
of thee, it is thou who dost give us pleasure in those things.
Those things which please us through thy Spirit are pleasing
to thee in us. "For what man knows the things of a man except
the spirit of a man which is in him? Even so, no man knows
the things of God, but the Spirit of God. Now we have not
received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit of God,
that we might know the things that are freely given to us
And I am admonished to say: "Yes, truly. No man knows the
things of God, but the Spirit of God: but how, then, do
we also know what things are given us by God?" The answer
is given me: "Because we know these things by his Spirit;
for no one knows but the Spirit of God." But just as it
is truly said to those who were to speak through the Spirit
of God, "It is not you who speak," so it is also truly said
to them who know through the Spirit of God, "It is not you
yourselves who know," and just as rightly it may be said
to those who perceive through the Spirit of God that a thing
is good; it is not they who see, but God who seeth that
it is good.
It is, therefore, one thing to think like the men who judge
something to be bad when it is good, as do those whom we
have already mentioned. It is quite another thing that a
man should see as good what is good--as is the case with
many whom thy creation pleases because it is good, yet what
pleases them in it is not thee, and so they would prefer
to find their joy in thy creatures rather than to find their
joy in thee. It is still another thing that when a man sees
a thing to be good, God should see in him that it is good--that
truly he may be loved in what he hath made, he who cannot
be loved except through the Holy Spirit which he hath given
us: "Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts
by the Holy Spirit who is given to us."
It is by him that we see whatever we see to be good in any
degree, since it is from him, who doth not exist in any
particular degree but who simply is what he is.
47. Thanks be to thee, O Lord! We see the heaven and the
earth, either the corporeal part--higher and lower--or the
spiritual and physical creation. And we see the light made
and divided from the darkness for the adornment of these
parts, from which the universal mass of the world or the
universal creation is constituted. We see the firmament
of heaven, either the original "body" of the world between
the spiritual (higher) waters and the corporeal (lower)
waters or the expanse of air--which is
also called "heaven"--through which the fowls of heaven
wander, between the waters which move in clouds above them
and which drop down in dew on clear nights, and those waters
which are heavy and flow along the earth. We see the waters
gathered together in the vast plains of the sea; and the
dry land, first bare and then formed, so as to be visible
and well-ordered; and the soil of herbs and trees. We see
the light shining from above--the sun to serve the day,
the moon and the stars to give cheer in the night; and we
see by all these that the intervals of time are marked and
noted. We see on every side the watery elements, fruitful
with fishes, beasts, and birds--and we notice that the density
of the atmosphere which supports the flights of birds is
increased by the evaporation of the waters. We see the face
of the earth, replete with earthly creatures; and man, created
in thy image and likeness, in the very image and likeness
of thee--that is, having the power of reason and understanding--by
virtue of which he has been set over all irrational creatures.
And just as there is in his soul one element which controls
by its power of reflection and another which has been made
subject so that it should obey, so also, physically, the
woman was made for the man; for, although she had a like
nature of rational intelligence in the mind, still in the
sex of her body she should be similarly subject to the sex
of her husband, as the appetite of action is subjected to
the deliberation of the mind in order to conceive the rules
of right action. These things we see, and each of them is
good; and the whole is very good!
48. Let thy works praise thee, that we may love thee; and
let us love thee that thy works may praise thee--those works
which have a beginning and an end in time--a rising and
a setting, a growth and a decay, a form and a privation.
Thus, they have their successions of morning and evening,
partly hidden, partly plain. For they were made from nothing
by thee, and not from thyself, and not from any matter that
is not thine, or that was created beforehand. They were
created from concreated matter--that is, matter that was
created by thee at the same time that thou didst form its
formlessness, without any interval of time. Yet, since the
matter of heaven and earth is one thing and the form of
heaven and earth is another thing, thou didst create matter
out of absolutely nothing (de omnino nihilo), but
the form of the world thou didst form from formless matter
(de informi materia). But both were done at the same
time, so that form followed matter with no delaying interval.
49. We have also explored the question of what thou didst
desire to figure forth, both in the creation and in the
description of things in this particular order. And we have
seen that things taken separately are good, and all things
taken together are very good, both in heaven and earth.
And we have seen that this was wrought through thy Word,
thy only Son, the head and the body of the Church, and it
signifies thy predestination before all times, without morning
and evening. But when, in time, thou didst begin to unfold
the things destined before time, so that thou mightest make
hidden things manifest and mightest reorder our disorders--since
our sins were over us and we had sunk into profound darkness
away from thee, and thy good Spirit was moving over us to
help us in due season--thou didst justify the ungodly and
also didst divide them from the wicked; and thou madest
the authority of thy Book a firmament between those above
who would be amenable to thee and those beneath who would
be subject to them. And thou didst gather the society of
unbelievers into a conspiracy, in order that
the zeal of the faithful might become manifest and that
they might bring forth works of mercy unto thee, giving
their earthly riches to the poor to obtain heavenly riches.
Then thou didst kindle the lights in the firmament, which
are thy holy ones, who have the Word of Life and who shine
with an exalted authority, warranted to them by their spiritual
gifts. And then, for the instruction of the unbelieving
nations, thou didst out of physical matter produce the mysteries
and the visible miracles and the sounds of words in harmony
with the firmament of thy Book, through which the faithful
should be blessed. After this thou didst form "the living
soul" of the faithful, through the ordering of their passions
by the strength of continence. And then thou didst renew,
after thy image and likeness, the mind which is faithful
to thee alone, which needs to imitate no human authority.
Thus, thou didst subordinate rational action to the higher
excellence of intelligence, as the woman is subordinate
to the man. Finally, in all thy ministries which were needed
to perfect the faithful in this life, thou didst will that
these same faithful ones should themselves bring forth good
things, profitable for their temporal use and fruitful for
the life to come. We see all these things, and they are
very good, because thou seest them thus in us--thou who
hast given us thy Spirit, by which we may see them so and
love thee in them.
50. O Lord God, grant us thy peace--for thou hast given
us all things. Grant us the peace of quietness, the peace
of the Sabbath, the peace without an evening. All this most
beautiful array of things, all so very good, will pass away
when all their courses are finished--for in them there is
both morning and evening.
51. But the seventh day is without an evening, and it has
no setting, for thou hast sanctified it with an everlasting
duration. After all thy works of creation, which were very
good, thou didst rest on the seventh day, although thou
hadst created them all in unbroken rest--and this so that
the voice of thy Book might speak to us with the prior assurance
that after our works--and they also are very good because
thou hast given them to us--we may find our rest in thee
in the Sabbath of life eternal.
52. For then also thou shalt so rest in us as now thou workest
in us; and, thus, that will be thy rest through us, as these
are thy works through us. But thou, O Lord, workest evermore
and art always at rest. Thou seest not in time, thou movest
not in time, thou restest not in time. And yet thou makest
all those things which are seen in time--indeed, the very
times themselves--and everything that proceeds in and from
53. We can see all those things which thou hast made because
they are--but they are because thou seest them.
And we see with our eyes that they are, and we see with
our minds that they are good. But thou sawest them as made
when thou sawest that they would be made.
And now, in this present time, we have been moved to do
well, now that our heart has been quickened by thy Spirit;
but in the former time, having forsaken thee, we were moved
to do evil.
But thou, O the one good God, hast never ceased to do good!
And we have accomplished certain good works by thy good
gifts, and even though they are not eternal, still we hope,
after these things here, to find our rest in thy great sanctification.
But thou art the Good, and needest no rest, and art always
at rest, because thou thyself art thy own rest.
What man will teach men to understand this? And what angel
will teach the angels? Or what angels will teach men? We
must ask it of thee; we must seek it in thee; we must knock
for it at thy door. Only thus shall we receive; only thus
shall we find; only thus shall thy door be opened.
had no models before him, for such earlier writings as the
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the autobiographical
sections in Hilary of Poitiers and Cyprian of Carthage have
only to be compared with the Confessions to see how
different they are.