Confessions (World's Classics) - Augustine of Hippo, Henry Chadwick Augustine was a lusty fellow. A trait he considered one of his major flaws and one he struggled for most of his life to suppress. In what must have been sensationalist terms at the time, and given his position in the Church, he describes his path from skilled rhetorician to Manichean to Catholic. Along the way, he openly speaks of his sexual habits, his intellectual arrogance and other perceived personal failings. Ultimately, he finds calm upon his conversion to Catholicism.

What comes out in the Confessions is an angst ridden, but painfully sincere, man. Augustine’s quest for truth pulled him away from a successful career teaching rhetoric:
I made a decision ’in your sight’ (Ps. 18:15) not to break off teaching with an abrupt renunciation, but quietly to retire from my post as salesman of words in the markets of rhetoric. I did not wish my pupils, who were giving their minds not to your law (Ps. 118:70) nor to your peace, but to frenzied lies and law court squabbles, to buy from my mouth weapons for their madness. IX, pgs. 155-156.
Influenced by Plato and Plotinus, Augustine uses Platonic vocabulary to describe his understanding of Christianity. The Christian God replaces the One in Plotinus who was inspired as the being above the demiurge from Plato’s Timaeus. Augustine’s conversion is not so much one to a near-Eastern religious belief, but a remolding of near-Eastern religious belief into Platonic thought and mysticism. With this new vocabulary, Augustine drifts away from his autobiography in the last four chapters to touch on biblical interpretation. Though not stating outright that biblical writings are metaphor, he finds depth to the writings beyond the words themselves.
There are others for whom these words are no nest but a dark thicket. They see fruit concealed in them, to which they fly in delight, chirping as they seek for it and pluck it. XII, pg. 267.
Augustine’s quest for “fruit” yields harvests he refuses to disregard.
“So when one person has said ’Moses thought what I say’, and another ’No, what I say’, I think it more religious in spirit to say ’Why not rather say both, if both are true?’ And if anyone sees a third or fourth truth in these words, why not believe that Moses discerned all these things? For through him the one God has tempered the sacred books to the interpretations of many, who could come to see a diversity of truths.” XII, pgs. 270-271.
I may not be a Christian, nor obviously subscribe to the underpinnings of Augustine’s belief, but it’s hard to dismiss Augustine’s intellectually curious approach to his own religious conversion. It seems like what religion should provide. A way to touch transcendence, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell.