Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 4 [III.]--Is the Question of Breath One that Concerns the Soul, or Body, or What?
But to what, in your judgment, does that which we discussed in our former book concerning the breath of man belong? -- to the nature of the soul, seeing that it is the soul which effects it in man; or to that of the body, since the body is moved by the soul to effect it; or to that of this air, by whose alternation of action it is discovered to effect it; or rather to all three, that is to say, to the soul as that which moves the body, and to the body which by its motion receives and emits the breath, and also to the circumambient air which raises by its entrance, and by its departure depresses? And yet you were evidently ignorant of all this, learned and eloquent though you are, when you supposed, and said, and wrote, and read in the presence of the crowd assembled to hear your opinion, that it was out of our own nature that we inflated a bag, and yet had no diminution of our nature at all by the operation; although you might most easily ascertain how we accomplish the process, not by any tedious examination of the pages either of human or of inspired writings, but by a simple investigation of your own physical action, whenever you liked. This, then, being the case, how can I trust you to teach me concerning the origin of souls, -- a subject which I confess myself to be ignorant of, -- you who are actually ignorant of what you are doing unintermittingly with your nose and mouth, and of why you are doing it? May the Lord bring it to pass that you may be advised by me, and accept rather than resist so manifest a truth, and one so ready to your hand. May you also not interrogate your lungs about the bag inflation in such a temper as to prefer inflating them in opposition to me, rather than acquiesce in their tuition, when they answer your inquiry with entire truth, -- not by speech and altercation, but by breath and respiration. Then I could bear with you patiently while you correct and reproach me for my ignorance of the origin of souls; nay, I could even warmly thank you, if, besides inflicting on me rebuke, you would convince me with truth. For if you could teach me the truth I am ignorant of, it would be my duty to bear with all patience any blows you might deal against me, not in word only, but even with hand.