Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book XIII/Chapter 16

Chapter XVI.—That No One But the Unchangeable Light Knows Himself.

19. For altogether as Thou art, Thou only knowest, Who art unchangeably, and knowest unchangeably, and willest unchangeably. And Thy Essence Knoweth and Willeth unchangeably; and Thy Knowledge Is, and Willeth unchangeably; and Thy Will Is, and Knoweth unchangeably. Nor doth it appear just to Thee, that as the Unchangeable Light knoweth Itself, so should It be known by that which is enlightened and changeable.[1] Therefore unto Thee is my soul as “land where no water is,”[2] because as it cannot of itself enlighten itself, so it cannot of itself satisfy itself. For so is the fountain of life with Thee, like as in Thy light we shall see light.[3]


  1. See Dean Mansel on this place (Bampton Lectures, lect. v. note 18), who argues that revelation is clear and devoid of mystery when viewed as intended “for our practical guidance,” and not as a matter of speculation. He says: “The utmost deficiency that can be charged against human faculties amounts only to this, that we cannot say that we know God as God knows Himself,—that the truth of which our finite minds are susceptible may, for aught we know, be but the passing shadow of some higher reality, which exists only in the Infinite Intelligence.” He shows also that this deficiency pertains to the human faculties as such, and that, whether they set themselves to consider the things of nature or revelation. See also p. 193, note 8, above, and notes, pp. 197, 198, below.
  2. Ps. lxiii. 1.
  3. Ps. xxxvi. 9.