Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 34 [XXI.]--Prophetic Visions.
Not every semblance of a body is itself a body. Fall asleep and you will see this; but when you awake again, carefully discern what it is you have seen. For in your dreams you will appear to yourself as if endued with a body; but it really is not your body, but your soul; nor is it a real body, but the semblance of a body. Your body will be lying on the bed, but the soul walking; the tongue of your body will be silent, but that of your soul in the dream will talk; your eyes will be shut, but your soul will be awake; and, of course, the limbs of your body stretched out in your bed will be alive, not dead. Consequently that congealed form, as you regard it, of your soul is not yet extracted, as it were, out of its sheath; and yet in it is seen the whole and perfect semblance of your fleshly frame. Belonging to this class of similitudes of corporeity, which are not real bodies, though they seem to be such, are all those appearances which you read of in the Holy Scriptures in the visions even of the prophets, without, however, understanding them; by which are also signified the things which come to pass in all time -- present, past, and future. You make mistakes about these, not because they are in themselves deceptive, but because you do not accept them as they ought to be taken. For in the same apocalyptic vision where |the souls of the martyrs| are seen, there is also beheld |a lamb as it were slain, having seven horns:| there are also horses and other animals figuratively described with all consistency; and lastly, there were the stars falling, and the earth rolled up like a book; nor does the world, in spite of all, then actually collapse. If therefore we understand all these things wisely, although we say they are true apparitions, yet we do not call them real bodies.