Throughout the Confessions we are constantly reminded of Augustine’s struggle with worldly desires.

He “sought pleasure, sublimity, and truth not in God but in his creatures, in [himself] and other created beings” (1.20.31). From this passage we are reminded of the words of Saint Paul, a man that was profoundly influential on Augustine’s writings. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul wrote that “[Sinners] [exchange] the truth of God for a lie, and [worship] and [serve] created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). This means that people often substituted worshipping God with worshipping material or worldly things. The word ‘worship’ is often associated with prayer and religious rituals but in this context it also means to exalt. Contemporary society is also guilty of this by idolizing many things such as celebrity lifestyles, physical attributes, money and power. This worship of worldly things lead Augustine to “[plunge] into miseries, confusions and errors” (1.20.31), painfully remembering the destruction these things wrecked on his life. Augustine begins the Confessions in saying, “To praise [God] is the desire of man...[God stirs] man to take pleasure in praising [Him]” (1.1.1). Augustine believes that God gave man an innate desire or drive to worship, praise and love Him. The goal of man then is to satisfy this desire. Just like Augustine, many people go about it erroneously and ultimately never become satisfied through their false idols. Pleasure, sublimity and truth can only really be found in God. Man’s purpose then is to worship God (Isaiah 43:21), a purpose that is discovered and affirmed through the life story that is Augustine’s Confessions. As an adolescent and a young man we find that Augustine was constantly driven by his sexual impulses. In his recollection of these memories, Augustine concludes that he engaged in these acts “simply to love and be loved” (2.2.2). His intentions were good, but as the proverb goes: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Like many people at the time, he sought pleasure in something other than God. Augustine describes his misguided intentions as “[c]louds of muddy

2 carnal concupiscence” (2.2.2). He was deceived so that his heart was “befogged and that it could not see the difference between love’s serenity and lust’s darkness” (2.2.2). He sought love because of God’s instilment of that innate desire but only found a false and worldly imitation of it. This imitation of God’s love was, as Augustine describes, “allowed by shameful humanity but under [God’s] laws illicit” (2.2.4). The majority of society believed and even embraced this imitation as acceptable, even though Christian belief condemns it. Augustine’s own father “was overjoyed” with his son’s virility, “that he would now be having grand-children” (2.3.6). Apart from his father, his friends also praised sexuality. Similar to contemporary locker-room conversations, Augustine and other boys “derived pleasure not merely from the lust of the act but also from the admiration it evoked” (2.3.7). Augustine writes, “I was ashamed not to be equally guilty of shameful behaviour when I heard them boasting of their sexual exploits” (2.3.7). He was so ashamed that “to avoid being despised...[he] used to pretend [he] had done things [he] had not done” (2.3.7). It’s no wonder why Augustine engaged in these acts, considering the majority of society glorified only the most debauched of sexual deeds. “[C]hastity [was] taken as a mark of inferiority” (2.3.7), giving young boys little or no regard towards abstinence. While Augustine “ran wild in the shadowy jungle of erotic adventures” he was never truly satisfied in his exploits. Growing older, he came to Carthage to pursue his studies. His impulses continued to increase in what he describes as an internal hunger (3.1.1). Despite being surrounded by “a cauldron of illicit loves” (3.1.1), he “had never been in love and...longed to love” (3.1.1). Feeling empty he threw “[his soul] to outward things, miserably avid to be scratched by contact with the world of the senses” (3.1.1). This only caused his internal hunger to intensify. To quell his

3 hunger he went to the theatre, hearing stories that “compelled [his] tears to flow” (3.2.4). He enjoyed focusing on the dilemmas of the actors rather than on his own. “[The theatre shows] were...representations of [his] own miseries” (3.2.2). This caused Augustine to become a spectator rather than a sufferer, covering his misery with mercy and sadness with compassion (3.2.4). In his own self-deception “there was pleasure” (3.2.3). Unfortunately, like lust, he was never satisfied, craving more ‘fuel for the fire’ (3.2.2). Augustine could not find true pleasure in either theatre or lust, leaving him to become more dominated by his appetites. It is at this point in his life that Augustine’s priorities underwent dramatic change. His sole desire for pleasure soon expanded to sublimity thanks to his study of Cicero’s Hortensius. Originally given as a school assignment, Augustine’s reading of Hortensius sparked more than just a “sharpening” (3.4.7) but the more important question of wisdom’s role in his own life. For Augustine, the most fascinating aspect of Cicero’s philosophy was to “embrace wisdom itself, wherever found” (3.4.8). This call to knowledge was unquestionably received by Augustine and in turn “changed [his] feelings...altered [his] prayers...and gave [him] different values and priorities” (3.4.7). His old priorities of lust and theatre “became empty” (3.4.7), though many years would need to pass until they were totally abandoned. This was Augustine’s first conversion, but was most certainly not his last. His priorities may have changed but his methods of acquirement remained the same. Augustine “longed for...wisdom” (3.4.7) but like everything else he sought sublimity in the world, not God. As the narrator, Augustine specifically attests his errors, referring to the Apostle Paul’s words on philosophy: “See that none deceives you by philosophy and vain seduction following human tradition...and not following Christ” (Col 2:8-9). Similar to his other experiences it was not long until he became unsatisfied in his

4 desire for wisdom. Augustine attributes this to the Christian beliefs passed down by his mother and so “[o]ne thing alone put a break on [his] intense enthusiasm—that the name of Christ was not contained in [Cicero’s book]” (3.4.8). Searching for wisdom, Augustine then looked in “the holy scriptures” (3.5.9). He was a very intelligent, even being the top of his class (3.3.6) but unfortunately his academic success “inflated [him] with conceit” (3.3.6). This caused the young Augustine to not see the inward meanings of the Bible, deeming it “unworthy in comparison...with Cicero” (3.6.9). With no success in the Bible and the Hortensius’ inability to “entirely grip [him]” (3.4.8), Augustine’s search for sublimity soon turned to truth. Augustine now “burned” (3.4.8) with desire to discover truth and, like his experiences with lust, threw himself at anything (3.1.1) claiming to offer it. It is because of this that he “fell in with” the Manichees. The Manichees were “proud men...earthly-minded and loquacious” (3.6.10) and unlike the Bible, they offered Augustine a doctrine that pleased his conceited mind. They were very slick with words but “their heart was empty of truth” (3.6.10). The doctrine of the Manichees taught that God was corporeal, not spiritual. He sought truth or God in the world because of this doctrine, being misguided from the real truth. They “brought [him] a diet of the sun and moon” (3.6.10), but his “hunger and thirst” (3.6.10) was ultimately for God. “Nevertheless, because [he] took [the diet] to be [God], [he] ate...but was left more exhausted than before” (3.6.10). For nine years (4.1.1) Augustine continued to follow the Manichees, travelling away from the truth even though he “thought [he] was going towards it” (3.6.11). His enthusiasm for the sect met with controversy in his later years as “a professor of rhetoric at Carthage” (5.7.13). In those years, Augustine “had done much reading in the philosophers”

5 (5.3.3) and “compared...their teachings with the...fables of the Manichees” (5.3.3). As a result, Augustine “did not notice...anything resembling what [he] had learnt in the books of secular wisdom” (5.3.6). Augustine even went as far as comparing his knowledge from the philosophers with that of Mani by way of calculation. He found that “[Mani] was not in agreement with the rational explanations which [he] had verified...and...observed with [his] own eyes” (5.3.6). These disagreements cast major doubts on the tomes that supported the doctrine of Manicheism (3.6.10), and caused Augustine to question their accountability. In response to this undermining of doctrine, Augustine was never directly answered by other Manichees but was “promised...that...Faustus [would be able to answer his] questions” (5.6.10). So Augustine waited until he could question the Manichee bishop in Carthage. After discussing his concerns with Faustus, Augustine’s “enthusiasm...for the writings of Mani was diminished” (5.7.12). Faustus avoided his questions or confessed that he was “uninformed in these matters” (5.7.12). Unsatisfied with Faustus’ answers and in turn the doctrine of Mani as a whole, Augustine decided to “leave the Manichees” (5.13.25) and abandon their “false statements about...the Truth” (3.6.10). The underlying link in each pursuit of Augustine is that all of them ended with dissatisfaction. Augustine’s fault was in that he “sought pleasure, sublimity and truth not in God” (1.20.31) but in the world. There was no total satisfaction in his sexual acts of lust, by his study of wisdom in philosophy or by his devout following of truth in Manicheism because things of the world cannot satisfy the desire of man. This innate desire, assigned by God to the soul of every human, can only be satisfied by worshipping God. If this is our desire, then our purpose is to satisfy this desire, our purpose is to worship God. We cannot substitute God with imitations of the world, and if we do we should expect the same result as Augustine:

6 dissatisfaction. The lesson learned from his Confessions is to stop trying to find satisfaction in the world, a lesson that took Augustine many hardships and nearly half his life to learn. To seek pleasure, sublimity and truth—truly—we must simply seek them through God.

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