Do you laugh at me for asking such things? Or do you command me to praise and confess to you only what I know?
In Book I, Augustine explores the thoughts and feelings he experienced in his infancy and childhood. His inquisitive mind digs inwardly as far back as his memory serves, even into his experiences in the womb. In the first book, the writer establishes a tone of curiosity and intuition coupled with a purpose to explore his inner self rather than simply to pontificate and inform outwardly.
You were more inward to me than the most inward part of me, and higher than my highest reach.
In Book III, Augustine continues to address god directly, the voice and audience throughout Confessions. Here, he recalls his journey toward self-knowledge, which he eventually considers the same as his knowledge of god. He comes to accept that god dwells within each person, including himself. He refers to this reality as “true being.”
I was so fallen and blinded that I could not discern the light of virtue and of beauty which must be embraced for its own sake, which the eye of flesh cannot see, and only the inner vision can.
Throughout his confessions, Augustine repeats that the material world is not the source of goodness and light. Instead, truth can only be found by turning toward one’s inner vision. He adds that even friendship seems foolish and crooked. Only god, found inwardly, offers truth. This confusion led to his misery for decades. Looking outward felt useless. Only when he turned inward did he discover his faith.
My desire was before you, and the light of my eyes was not with me; for it was within and I was without.
Here, Augustine repeats the idea that light and goodness dwell within each person as he admits that he had been looking in the wrong place, the wrong direction, for the first forty years of his life. He desired truth and salvation but kept looking “without” into books, friends, teachers, and the material world. As he searched, god heard his prayers and remained ever-present, waiting for Augustine to accept the light within.
I entered my inward soul, guided by you . . . And I entered, and with the eye of my soul—such as it was—saw above the same eye of my soul and above my mind the immutable light.
As Augustine enters the period of his conversion, he realizes that the light he has been seeking is not an earthly light. Such a light exists not as a light that is perceived with the eyes but as an internal light of the soul. Looking inward rather than outward marked the beginning of his salvation. Augustine acknowledged that he could not have done this alone: He was guided by god—and his mother. Light equals truth, and he found this truth in his faith in god.