To make matters worse, the Manichee Bishop of Rome made a bad impression on him from the very outset. This man, he tells us, was of rough appearance, without culture or polite manners. Doubtless this unmannerly peasant, in his reception of the young professor, had not shewn himself sufficiently alive to his merits, and the professor felt aggrieved.
Himself a Manichee, converted by Augustin, and a member of one of the leading families in Thagaste, he had not long to wait for an important appointment in the Imperial administration. He was assessor to the Treasurer-General, or "Count of the Italian Bounty Office," and decided fiscal questions.
Philosophers in their cabinets; out of them they are content with fables, though they well know that they are fables." Historie de Manichee, vol. 2, page 568. Bishop Synesius, the distinguished author of religious literature and Christian father of the 5th century, said: "I shall be a philosopher only to myself, and I shall always be a bishop to the people."
But when I had discovered to her that I was now no longer a Manichee, though not yet a Catholic Christian, she was not overjoyed, as at something unexpected; although she was now assured concerning that part of my misery, for which she bewailed me as one dead, though to be reawakened by Thee, carrying me forth upon the bier of her thoughts, that Thou mightest say to the son of the widow, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; and he should revive, and begin to speak, and Thou shouldest deliver him to his mother.
The Manichee Bishop of Rome, that man of rough manners who had so offended Augustin, was on the point of being convicted of stealing the general cash-box. Lastly, there were rumours in the air, accusing the Elect of giving themselves over to reprehensible practices in their private meetings.
And he offered his own example, for he, too, had been a Manichee. But Monnica pressed him with entreaties and tears. At last the bishop, annoyed by her persistence, but at the same time moved by her tears, answered with a roughness mingled with kindness and compassion: "Go, go! Leave me alone. Live on as you are living. It cannot be that the son of such tears should be lost."
He acknowledged that in attacking it he had "been barking against the vain imaginations of carnal thoughts." Still, he found great difficulty in getting free of all his Manichean prejudices. The problem of Evil remained inexplicable for him, apart from Manichee teachings. God could not be the author of evil.
He who sees beneath the surface, and beyond the present, beholds His sheep where men can only see wolves. He sees an Apostle in the blaspheming Saul, a teacher for all generations in the African Augustine while yet a sensualist and a Manichee, a reformer in the eager monk Luther, a poet-evangelist in the tinker Bunyan.
Just now thou wert but a coward, and now thou art a Manichee. For thou hast imputed to an evil creator that which was formed only for a good end, namely, sharks, which were made on purpose to devour useless carcasses like thine. Moreover, as a brother of the Rose, thou wert bound by the vow of thy brotherhood to have leaped joyfully down that shark's mouth. Jack.
And first of all, it was time to get rid of Manicheeism. A Manichee would have made a scandal in a city where the greatest part of the population was Christian, and the Court was Catholic, although it did not conceal its sympathy with Arianism. It was a long time now since Augustin had been a Manichee in his heart.