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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Chapter 2

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 2.—If the Light that is Perceived by Sense Has God for Its Author, as the Manichæans Acknowledge, Much More The Soul Which is Perceived by Intellect Alone.

2.  But if at that time 193 my thought was not able to bear and sustain the question concernp. 96 ing life and partaking of life, which is truly a great question, and one that requires much calm discussion among the learned, I might perchance have had power to discover that which to every man considering himself, without a study of the individual parts, is perfectly evident, namely, that everything we are said to know and to understand, we comprehend either by bodily sense or by mental operation.  That the five bodily senses are commonly enumerated as sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, than all of which intellect is immeasurably more noble and excellent, who would have been so ungrateful and impious as not to concede to me; which being established and confirmed, we should have seen how it follows, that whatsoever things are perceived by touch or sight or in any bodily manner at all, are by so much inferior to those things that we comprehend intellectually as the senses are inferior to the intellect.  Wherefore, since all life, and so every soul, can be perceived by no bodily sense, but by the intellect alone, whereas while yonder sun and moon and every luminary that is beheld by these mortal eyes, the Manichæans themselves also say must be attributed to the true and good God, it is the height of madness to claim that that belongs to God which we observe bodily; but, on the other hand, to think that what we receive not only by the mind, but by the highest form of mind, 194 namely, reason and intellect, 195 that is life, whatsoever it may be called, nevertheless life, should be deprived and bereft of the same God as its author.  For if having invoked God, I had asked myself what living is, how inscrutable it is to every bodily sense, how absolutely incorporeal it is, could not I have answered?  Or would not the Manichæans also confess not only that the souls they detest live, but that they live also immortally? and that Christ’s saying:  "Send the dead to bury their dead,"  196 was uttered not with reference to those not living at all, but with reference to sinners, which is the only death of the immortal soul; as when Paul writes:  "The widow that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth," 197 he says that she at the same time is dead, and alive.  Wherefore I should have directed attention not to the great degree of contamination in which the sinful soul lives, but only to the fact itself that it lives.  But if I cannot perceive except by an act of intelligence, I believe it would have come into the mind, that by as much as any mind whatever is to be preferred to the light which we see through these eyes, by so much we should give to intellect the preference over the eyes themselves.



It will aid the reader in following the thread of Augustin’s argument, if he will bear in mind that throughout this treatise the writer considers the points of antagonism between Manichæism and Catholicism from the point of view of his early entanglement in Manichæan error.  Considering the opportunities that he had for knowing the truth, the helps to have been expected from God in answer to prayer, the capacities of the unperverted intellect to arrive at truth, he inquires how he should have guarded himself from the insinuation of Manichæan error, how he should have defended the truth, and how he should have been the means of liberating others.—A.H.N.


Sublimitate animi.


Mente atque intelligentia.


Matt. viii. 22.


1 Tim. v. 6.

Next: Chapter 3

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