The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions

By Margaret P. Munger | Go to book overview
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4
SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

Saint Augustine (354–430) was not initially attracted to Christianity, but instead joined an
alternative group, the Manichees, who were generally disgusted by the physical nature of
humans, particularly reproduction. Educated in rhetoric at Carthage, on the northern tip of
Tunisia, Augustine rose from humble beginnings to an appointment as the imperial profes-
sor of rhetoric in Milan, Italy. However, advancement in his chosen career was stymied,
not so much by his mistress of many years and their son, but by his failure to secure a rich
wife. After being baptized into the Christian faith by St. Ambrose, a champion of orthodox
Christianity preaching in Milan, he returned home to Tagaste in northern Africa to raise his
son and tend to the family property. With the early death of his son, Augustine was pressed
into the clergy at Hippo, in northeastern Algeria. His exquisite writing in the highest Latin
and stunning oratory in a fiery style that worked well from the pulpit attracted controversy
as he attacked various sects he considered a threat to Roman Christianity, including the
Manicheism of his youth. In 430, the city of Hippo lay under siege by the Vandals, and
shortly after Augustine's death, the walls fell.


CONFESSIONS

BOOK X

Memory

i (1). May I know you, who know me. May I “know as I also am known” (1 Cor. 13: 12). Power of my soul, enter into it and fit it for yourself, so that you may have and hold it “without spot or blemish” (Eph. 5: 27). This is my hope, and that is why I speak. In this hope I am placing my delight when my delight is in what it ought to be. As to the other pleasures of life, regret at their loss should be in inverse proportion to the extent to which one weeps for losing them. The less we weep for them, the more we ought to be weeping. “Behold, you have loved the truth” (Ps. 51: 8), for he who “does the truth comes to the light” (John 3: 21). This I desire to do, in my heart before you in confession, but before many witnesses with my pen.

ii (2). Indeed, Lord, to your eyes, the abyss of human consciousness is naked (Heb. 4: 13). What could be hidden within me, even if I were unwilling to confess it to you? I would be hiding you from myself, not myself from you. Now, however, my groaning is witness that I am displeased with myself. You are radiant and give delight and are so an object of love and longing that I am ashamed of myself and reject myself. You are my choice, and only by your gift can I please either you or myself. Before you, then, Lord, whatever I am is manifest, and I have already spoken of the benefit I derive from making confession to you. I am not doing this merely by physical words and sounds, but by words from my soul and a cry from my mind, which is known to your ear. When I am evil, making confession to you is simply to be displeased with myself. When I am good, making confession to you is simply to make no claim on my own behalf, for you, Lord, “confer blessing on the righteous” (Ps. 5: 13) but only after you have first “justified the ungodly” (Rom. 4: 5). Therefore, my God, my confession before you is made both in silence and not in silence. It is silent in that it is no audible sound; but in

From Saint Augustine, “Book X, Memory.” In H. Chadwick (Trans.), Saint Augustine Confessions (pp. 179–201). New York: Ox-
ford University Press, 1998. (Original work written 397)

-35-

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