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10. Thus I fell among men, delirious in their pride, carnal and voluble, whose
mouths were the snares of the devil--a trap made out of a mixture of the syllables
of thy name and the names of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Paraclete.
These names were never out of their mouths, but only as sound and the clatter
of tongues, for their heart was empty of truth. Still they cried, "Truth, Truth,"
and were forever speaking the word to me. But the thing itself was not in them.
Indeed, they spoke falsely not only of thee--who truly art the Truth--but also
about the basic elements of this world, thy creation. And, indeed, I should
have passed by the philosophers themselves even when they were speaking truth
concerning thy creatures, for the sake of thy love, O Highest Good, and my Father,
O Beauty of all things beautiful.
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. But I was hungering and thirsting, not
even after those first works of thine, but after thyself the Truth, "with whom
is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Yet they still
served me glowing fantasies in those dishes. And, truly, it would have been
better to have loved this very sun--which at least is true to our sight--than
those illusions of theirs which deceive the mind through the eye. And yet because
I supposed the illusions to be from thee I fed on them--not with avidity, for
thou didst not taste in my mouth as thou art, and thou wast not these empty
fictions. Neither was I nourished by them, but was instead exhausted. Food in
dreams appears like our food awake; yet the sleepers are not nourished by it,
for they are asleep. But the fantasies of the Manicheans were not in any way
like thee as thou hast spoken to me now. They were simply fantastic and false.
In comparison to them the actual bodies which we see with our fleshly sight,
both celestial and terrestrial, are far more certain. These true bodies even
the beasts and birds perceive as well as we do and they are more certain than
the images we form about them. And again, we do with more certainty form our
conceptions about them than, from them, we go on by means of them to imagine
of other greater and infinite bodies which have no existence. With such empty
husks was I then fed, and yet was not fed.
But thou, my Love, for whom I longed in order that I might be strong, neither
art those bodies that we see in heaven nor art thou those which we do not see
there, for thou hast created them all and yet thou reckonest them not among
thy greatest works. How far, then, art thou from those fantasies of mine, fantasies
of bodies which have no real being at all! The images of those bodies which
actually exist are far more certain than these fantasies. The bodies themselves
are more certain than the images, yet even these thou art not. Thou art not
even the soul, which is the life of bodies; and, clearly, the life of the body
is better than the body itself. But thou art the life of souls, life of lives,
having life in thyself, and never changing, O Life of my soul.
11. Where, then, wast thou and how far from me? Far, indeed, was I wandering
away from thee, being barred even from the husks of those swine whom I fed with
husks. For how much better were
the fables of the grammarians and poets than these snares [of the Manicheans]!
For verses and poems and "the flying Medea"
are still more profitable truly than these men's "five elements," with their
various colors, answering to "the five caves of darkness"
(none of which exist and yet in which they slay the one who believes in them).
For verses and poems I can turn into food for the mind, for though I sang about
"the flying Medea" I never believed it, but those other things [the fantasies
of the Manicheans] I did believe. Woe, woe, by what steps I was dragged down
to "the depths of hell"--toiling
and fuming because of my lack of the truth, even when I was seeking after thee,
my God! To thee I now confess it, for thou didst have mercy on me when I had
not yet confessed it. I sought after thee, but not according to the understanding
of the mind, by means of which thou hast willed that I should excel the beasts,
but only after the guidance of my physical senses. Thou wast more inward to
me than the most inward part of me; and higher than my highest reach. I came
upon that brazen woman, devoid of prudence, who, in Solomon's obscure parable,
sits at the door of the house on a seat and says, "Stolen waters are sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant."
This woman seduced me, because she found my soul outside its own door, dwelling
on the sensations of my flesh and ruminating on such food as I had swallowed
through these physical senses.