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by Saint Augustine

Confessions Book IV Summary

Section 1

  • Augustine is with the Manichees from age nineteen to age twenty-eight. 
  • In addition to being deceived (by the beliefs of this religious sect), he deceived a lot of people in that time. He still loved the theater and the ego-boost from winning poetry competitions, even though he was part of this sect that was against picking fruit. 
  • More confessions to come.

Section 2

  • Augustine's day-job is to teach public speaking, which also means being a lawyer. And though he tries to make sure he only teaches honest people, he still feels like he's selling out.
  • Augustine also lives with a woman to whom he's not married, and even though he isn't sleeping around all over town, he says that there is still a difference between a marriage whose aim is procreation and a lustful living situation. Which is kind of ironic, because a child does come of this coupling, but the kid seems to be kind of an "oops" baby, according to Augustine.
  • Augustine is also accosted by a sorcerer who offers to slaughter some animals so that Augustine might win a recitation competition. Augustine is revolted by the idea of picking fruit, so, naturally, he freaks out at the thought of killing animals. But he says that the real reason he should have been upset by this sorcerer dude was that he worshiped demons. Technically, so did Augustine at the time, because these are his pre-Christianity doldrums.

Section 3

  • Next, Augustine falls in line with some more bad types. This time, he starts hanging out with some astrologers. These astrologers believe that our destinies are already written in the cosmos, and that we can't alter them. Hey, we all read the horoscopes sometimes, right? 
  • A friend of Augustine's who is a doctor advises him against following these guys, saying that he used to be into astrology but then he decided that medicine was a more reliable and honest way of helping people. He says that when astrologers happen to be right about a prediction, it's due to chance. 
  • Though the doctor plants the seeds of doubt, Augustine doesn't give astrology up just yet.

Section 4

  • Now back in his hometown of Thagaste (modern-day Souk Ahras in Algeria), Augustine talks about his BFF, who was also into the same religions as Augustine. 
  • Augustine was seriously close to this dude, but his friend fell ill about a year into their friendship. He caught a fever, and while he was unconscious and seemingly dying, he was baptized. 
  • But then the friend recovered. So Augustine joked to him about the baptism. The friend, however, was now a believer in Christianity. 
  • Augustine thought that when he recovered his friend would be so over the whole Christianity thing, but a few days later the fever came back. And the friend died.
  • Augustine is miserable at the loss of his friend. 
  • He wonders why his soul is so downcast (he refers to his soul as "she," because in Latin the noun is feminine). He says that it is because she refused to trust in God ("the shadowy being") and instead clung to the absence of the actual friend.

Section 5

  • Augustine thinks about sorrow, and why we feel compelled to grieve.

Section 6

  • Uh-oh. Now all this grief has got Augustine thinking about death. The reality of death hits Augustine hard. 
  • He mentions how, unlike Orestes and Pylades, he is afraid to die. Even though living without his friend feels like missing half of himself.

Section 7

  • Yep, grief sucks. Augustine doesn't know how to deal with it, because he worships an empty god who doesn't help him out much. 
  • So he goes back to Carthage.

Section 8

  • Fact: mortal things die. So, if you really, really love someone who is mortal, you risk losing them and then feeling really, really sad. 
  • Augustine eventually gets over his friend's death, and finds new friends among other Manichees. Friendship is pretty great.

Section 9

  • But you know what's even better than friendship? Loving friends through the love of God. 
  • Why, you ask? Because then you can never lose your friends. Because you can never lose God.

Section 10

  • Time passes, things die, and we can't stop them, so we shouldn't love things outside of our love for God. 
  • Otherwise we'll just make ourselves sad.

Section 11

  • Hey, says Augustine, trust in God and you won't be bound by time or bodily experience. Instead, you will experience everything whole, like how a sentence only means something once you've put all the sounds together.

Section 12

  • Now Augustine is talking about getting too attached. 
  • Basically, he's worried that if people love things in this world, they'll forget that they really should be loving God… or loving things through God, as in recognizing that really He made everything they love anyway.
  • Then, Augustine talks about God coming down to earth—through Christ, though he doesn't say it—and how the "Great ones of the world" need to get off of their high-horses. Because no one should be on a higher horse than God, ya know?

Section 13

  • Augustine may sound wise with all this talk about impermanence now, but as a young man, he just cared about beauty. 
  • He even wrote a book on it. But he lost it. This is why you should always back up your documents. Though we guess back in the 300s CE that meant writing everything multiple times and stashing different copies in different places, and that sounds like a lot of work.

Section 14

  • So, Augustine dedicates his book (the lost one) to a guy names Hierius, a famous Roman public speaker. 
  • Augustine has never met the guy, obviously, because he's a celebrity. But he really likes what he had heard/read of him. 
  • Augustine is puzzled about why he should like someone so much, just because other people like him too. We guess celebrity worship syndrome was a problem even before television. 
  • He admires certain actors, but that doesn't mean that he wants to act like them. He wants to be admired for the same reasons as Hierius (i.e., as an orator/philosopher/all-around genius) so really Augustine admires him out of pride. After all, if all of his friends had happened to hate Hierius, then he would, too.

Section 15

  • While Augustine is preoccupied with beauty and shapes and whatnot, he can't see the truth. See, Augustine's theory is that good things are unified, and bad things aren't. 
  • He also thinks that God and Man are made of the same substance because both are changeable. If Augustine does something wrong, well, God's the one who made him, right?

Section 16

  • So Aristotle has this book on "Ten Categories" that is really difficult to understand. But Augustine devours it like a boss. 
  • In fact, Augustine is just a really sharp guy in general. But he asks what good such smarts are if you can't understand God. (Bomb = dropped. End of Book IV.)

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