18. These things being ignorant of, I derided those holy servants and prophets of Thine. And what did I gain by deriding them but to be derided by Thee, being insensibly, and little by little, led on to those follies, as to credit that a fig-tree wept when it was plucked, and that the mother-tree shed milky tears? Which fig notwithstanding, plucked not by his own but anothers wickedness, had some “saint” 258 eaten and mingled with his entrails, he should breathe out of it angels; yea, in his prayers he shall assuredly groan and sigh forth particles of God, which particles of the most high and true God should have remained bound in that fig unless they had been set free by the teeth and belly of some “elect saint”! 259 And I, miserable one, believed that more mercy was to be shown to the fruits of the earth than unto men, for whom they were created; for if a hungry man—who was not a Manichæan—should beg for any, that morsel which should be given him would appear, as it were, condemned to capital punishment. 260
According to this extraordinary system, it was the privilege of the “elect” to set free in eating such parts of the divine substance as were imprisoned in the vegetable creation (Con. Faust. xxxi. 5). They did not marry or work in the fields, and led an ascetic life, the “hearers” or catechumens being privileged to provide them with food. The “elect” passed immediately on dying into the realm of light, while, as a reward for their service, the souls of the “hearers” after death transmigrated into plants (from which they might be most readily freed), or into the “elect,” so as, in their turn, to pass away into the realm of light. See Con. Faust. v. 10, xx. 23; and in Ps. cxl.66:260
Augustin frequently alludes to their conduct to the poor, in refusing to give them bread or the fruits of the earth, lest in eating they should defile the portion of God contained therein. But to avoid the odium of their conduct, they would inconsequently give money whereby food might be bought. See in Ps. cxl. sec. 12; and De Mor. Manich. 36, 37, and 53.