Confessions (St. Augustine)
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Confessions is the name of a series of thirteen autobiographical books by St. Augustine of Hippo written between AD 397 and AD 398. In modern times, the books are usually published as a single volume known as The Confessions of St. Augustine in order to distinguish the book from other books with similar titles such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions.The book tells about his sinful youth and how he converted to Christianity. It is widely seen as the first Western autobiography ever written, and would be an influential model for Christian writers throughout the following 1000 years of the Middle Ages. It is not a complete autobiography, as it was written in his early 40s, and he lived long afterwards, producing another important work (City of God); it does, nonetheless, provide an unbroken record of his evolution of thought and is the most complete record of any single individual from the 4th and 5th centuries. It is a significant theological work. In the work St. Augustine talks about how much he regrets having led a sinful and immoral life. He talks about how he regrets following the Manichaean religion and believing in astrology. And he talks about how Nebridius helped to persuade him that astrology was not only incorrect but evil. And he talks about how St. Ambrose helped convert him to Christianity. He also talks about how much he regrets his sexual sins and how important sexual morality is to him. He also says that when he was in school that his favorite subject was mathematics because it was concrete and rigorously defined whereas other subjects were not.
outline (by Book)
- His infancy and boyhood up to age 14. He speaks of his inability to remember the sins he almost certainly committed during this time. Children serve as insight into what man would be if it weren't for being socialized into waiting one's turn. God teaches us to think of others before we think of ourselves, unlike children who cry until they are fed.;
- His fall amongst bad companions, which led him to commit theft and succumb to lust. Augustine comes from a good family and he himself has never wanted for food. In this chapter Augustine explores why then did he and his friends steal pears from someone else's tree? He had many more, better pears of his own. He explains the feelings he had when he ate them and threw the rest away to the pigs. Augustine argues that he would not have stolen anything, probably, had he not been in the company of others who could share in his sin. Some insight is given into group mentality.;
- His studies at Carthage, his conversion to Manichaeism and continued indulgence in lust between 16 and 19;
- His loss of a friend and his studies in Aristotle and the fit and the fair between 20 and 29. Augustine is overcome with grief after his friend dies in his absence. Things he used to love he began to hate because everything reminded him of what was lost. He concludes that any time one loves something not 'in God', one is bound to feel such loss. Augustine then suggests that he began to love his life of sorrow more than his fallen friend.;
- His moving away from Manichaeism under the influence of St. Ambrose in Milan at 29. Augustine starts to understand that things said simply can be true, while things put eloquently may be lacking in substance. He is unimpressed with the substance of Manichaeism but has not found something to replace it. He feels a sense of resigned acceptance to these fables as he has not yet formed a spiritual core to prove their falsity.;
- His moving towards Catholicism under the influence of St. Ambrose at 30. He is taken aback by Ambrose's kindness but still does not understand the substance of his teachings.;
- His moving towards a greater understanding of God at 31;
- His conversion to Christianity at the age of 32 and his instruction by Simplicianus on how to convert others; (See Book 8 Summary)
- His baptism at 33, the death of his mother Monica and the death of his friends Nebridius and Vecundus, and his abandonment of his studies of rhetoric;
- Continued reflections on the values of confessions and on the workings of memory, as related to the 5 senses.
- Reflections on Genesis and searching for the meaning of time;
- Continued reflections on the book of Genesis; and
- Exploration of the meaning of Genesis and the Trinity
notes from the underground (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
The author of the diary and the diary itself are, of course, imaginary. Nevertheless it is clear that such persons as the writer of these notes not only may, but positively must, exist in our society, when we consider the circumstances in the midst of which our society is formed. I have tried to expose to the view of the public more distinctly than is commonly done, one of the characters of the recent past. He is one of the representatives of a generation still living. In this fragment, entitled "Underground," this person introduces himself and his views, and, as it were, tries to explain the causes owing to which he has made his appearance and was bound to make his appearance in our midst. In the second fragment there are added the actual notes of this person concerning certain events in his life. --Author's note.
I am a sick man. ... I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don't consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can't explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot "pay out" the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don't consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well--let it get worse!
I have been going on like that for a long time--twenty years. Now I am forty. I used to be in the government service, but am no longer. I was a spiteful official. I was rude and took pleasure in being so. I did not take bribes, you see, so I was bound to find a recompense in that, at least. (A poor jest, but I will not scratch it out. I wrote it thinking it would sound very witty; but now that I have seen myself that I only wanted to show off in a despicable way, I will not scratch it out on purpose!)
When petitioners used to come for information to the table at which I sat, I used to grind my teeth at them, and felt intense enjoyment when I succeeded in making anybody unhappy. I almost did succeed. For the most part they were all timid people--of course, they were petitioners. But of the uppish ones there was one officer in particular I could not endure. He simply would not be humble, and clanked his sword in a disgusting way. I carried on a feud with him for eighteen months over that sword. At last I got the better of him. He left off clanking it. That happened in my youth, though.
But do you know, gentlemen, what was the chief point about my spite? Why, the whole point, the real sting of it lay in the fact that continually, even in the moment of the acutest spleen, I was inwardly conscious with shame that I was not only not a spiteful but not even an embittered man, that I was simply scaring sparrows at random and amusing myself by it. I might foam at the mouth, but bring me a doll to play with, give me a cup of tea with sugar in it, and maybe I should be appeased. I might even be genuinely touched, though probably I should grind my teeth at myself afterwards and lie awake at night with shame for months after. That was my way.
I was lying when I said just now that I was a spiteful official. I was lying from spite. I was simply amusing myself with the petitioners and with the officer, and in reality I never could become spiteful. I was conscious every moment in myself of many, very many elements absolutely opposite to that. I felt them positively swarming in me, these opposite elements. I knew that they had been swarming in me all my life and craving some outlet from me, but I would not let them, would not let them, purposely would not let them come out. They tormented me till I was ashamed: they drove me to convulsions and--sickened me, at last, how they sickened me! Now, are not you fancying, gentlemen, that I am expressing remorse for something now, that I am asking your forgiveness for something? I am sure you are fancying that ... However, I assure you I do not care if you are. ...
It was not only that I could not become spiteful, I did not know how to become anything; neither spiteful nor kind, neither a rascal nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. Now, I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and useless consolation that an intelligent man cannot become anything seriously, and it is only the fool who becomes anything. Yes, a man in the nineteenth century must and morally ought to be pre-eminently a characterless creature; a man of character, an active man is pre-eminently a limited creature. That is my conviction of forty years. I am forty years old now, and you know forty years is a whole lifetime; you know it is extreme old age. To live longer than forty years is bad manners, is vulgar, immoral. Who does live beyond forty? Answer that, sincerely and honestly I will tell you who do: fools and worthless fellows. I tell all old men that to their face, all these venerable old men, all these silver-haired and reverend seniors! I tell the whole world that to its face! I have a right to say so, for I shall go on living to sixty myself. To seventy! To eighty! ... Stay, let me take breath ...
You imagine no doubt, gentlemen, that I want to amuse you. You are mistaken in that, too. I am by no means such a mirthful person as you imagine, or as you may imagine; however, irritated by all this babble (and I feel that you are irritated) you think fit to ask me who I am--then my answer is, I am a collegiate assessor. I was in the service that I might have something to eat (and solely for that reason), and when last year a distant relation left me six thousand roubles in his will I immediately retired from the service and settled down in my corner. I used to live in this corner before, but now I have settled down in it. My room is a wretched, horrid one in the outskirts of the town. My servant is an old country- woman, ill-natured from stupidity, and, moreover, there is always a nasty smell about her. I am told that the Petersburg climate is bad for me, and that with my small means it is very expensive to live in Petersburg. I know all that better than all these sage and experienced counsellors and monitors. ... But I am remaining in Petersburg; I am not going away from Petersburg! I am not going away because ... ech! Why, it is absolutely no matter whether I am going away or not going away.
But what can a decent man speak of with most pleasure?
Answer: Of himself.
Well, so I will talk about myself.