Augustine's Spiritual Journey

aeneas_dido.gif (24146 bytes) Virgil (Aeneas and Dido) Beginning with adolescence, the story of Aeneas and Dido represents the earliest phase of Augustine's search for meaning.  He later judges it as misplaced -- an unhealthy desire for lust and suffering.  It also represents the prodigality of his early life. 1.12-14
cicero.jpg (14106 bytes) Cicero Cicero's Hortensius creates in Augustine a desire for the wisdom present in all sects and a longing for rhetorical effectiveness.

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mani2.gif (6467 bytes) Manicheans


The dualist belief system of Mani argued, among other things,  that God is a physical sphere of light, that the Elect (the spiritual elite) are served by the Hearers, that evil is a separate will than that of the person, that the Old Testament was not inspired by God, and that only Jesus' image was crucified.  Augustine later comes to reject all of this, especially after the orator Faustus is unable to answer his questions.

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4.15, 5.3-7, 5.10, 7.2
zodiac2.gif (60882 bytes) Astrology Perhaps influenced by Manichean beliefs, Augustine is influenced by astrology for awhile. Examples such as the lives of twins help convince him of the mistaken nature of this.  He also comes to realize that such beliefs excuse people from the responsibility of their actions.


4.3, 7.5-6
ambrose.gif (11884 bytes) Catholic Catechumen


At first, Augustine only listens to Bishop Ambrose as a model of rhetoric, but soon he begins to listen to the content.  He finds that Christianity is intellectually tenable after all. Ambrose's stress on the "spiritual" interpretation of Scripture is especially helpful.   He attends Ambrose' church as a catechumen while he looks into other sources of truth.

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Plotinus.jpg (3756 bytes) Neoplatonism During the same time, he begins to more closely study the beliefs of neoplatonists like Plotinus.  Augustine continued to be deeply influenced by such ideas as the doctrine of the logos and the ladder of ascent, that lower truth and beauty leads to higher truth and beauty, finally leading to God the ultimate source of these.

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7.9-10, 7.17
paul2.jpg (19811 bytes) Paul & John Yet he finds in the New Testament, an application of the logos, specially in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Christ offers a level of redemption that the neoplatonics can not. He finds the New Testament also has more devotional power. 7.21ff.
augustinetears.jpg (11112 bytes) Conversion His conversion comes to a head as he hears the stories of other conversions like that of Victorinus and those won over by the life of Anthony.  He finally heeds the message "Take up and read."  There he learns: "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts." 8

"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding