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Writing a Spiritual Autobiography : Augustine’s Confessions



… Men are a race curious to know of other men’s lives, but slothful to correct their own …

Writing a Spiritual Autobiography : Augustine’s Confessions

It is often said that Plato and Aristotle are the two mountains whose shadow fell on the Western world. But mountains are alive, they grow and decay, and new competitors flirt with their heights. Augustine is one such, truly a peak stemming out of two tectonic plates. Like the Greeks, he inspects every corner, every minute detail of his being. With Augustine, in the fourth century AD, philosophy is already existential : it takes not a single thing of life for granted, and he insists for the human subject to face and tackle his greatest challenges. But like with the early Christians, this seeking is addressed to one sole interlocutor, one apex : God. And there too, centuries before modern literature, Augustine’s voice is already highly reflexive and ‘meta’. In this self-conscious memoir, Augustine prays God to learn how to pray, imploring Him to reveal His divine presence to his sceptic mind. Purity of intent : Augustine, the thinker of the will, sings the praise of this power within, this solid orientation of the mind and heart, which starts to change reality even before it enters the outer world.

In the Confessions, Augustine recounts, in the first person, the story of his life, with the accessibility of a diary and the depth of a prayer. He meditates on education, politics, friendship, religion, sexuality, ambition, curiosity and distraction, and many other themes, through select scenes of his experience, from childhood up to his conversion to Christianity at age 31. Augustine revisits his life – and reflects on the exercise itself, what writing permits, and how best to live with one’s past, between both extremes of shame and nostalgia. This long story invokes also that of his worldly trajectory in the Christian Church, and the turning point to would be the death of his mother, Monica. The book closes with a sumptuously creative commentary on memory and time in the initial sections of the Genesis.

A close reading of the Confessions would thus highlight at once one of the first autobiographies in a literary style, the elaboration of philosophical responses to Plato and Plotinus (Neo-Platonism), and the retelling of a journey towards God. Augustine, through these Confessions, is thus today, and always, a major source of inspiration to return to, for our contemporary intellectual, literary and existential quests.

How this course works

The participants and the instructor meet on the decided weekly timing via a group Skype, for a session of textual analysis of sections from the Confessions. The students are expected to attend the session after having read these pages. Participative responses are encouraged across the session, during the exercise of textual analysis by the instructor and through the open discussion.

During the second month of this course, the study of Augustine’s Confessions is complemented with CineWords, our participative exchange of movie interpretation, based on In Memory of Me (S. Costanzo, 2007) (more details here), selected by the guide in relation to the course. This participative sessions takes place through a group Skype.

Finally, also during the second month of this course, the group connects for a live Questions & Answers session with the instructor. The session is optional, and based on the questions of the participants.

Term Course

Duration : 8 weekly sessions of 90 minutes each
Dates and Times : decided with the participants
Modality : Skype Videoconference
Open to : All · No pre-requisites

At IST, a new edition of each course is organised upon 3 confirmed participants


The Confessions





The Genesis

from the Christian Bible


The session dates for the next edition of this course will be set
based on the common availability of the registrants.

Session 1

Introduction to Augustine and the course.

Textual Analyses and Discussions of excerpts from :

Book 1 : The First Fifteen Years

Session 2

Textual Analyses and Discussions of excerpts from :

Book 2 : The Sixteenth Year (Adolescence)
Book 3 : From Sixteen to Eighteen (Student in Carthage)

Session 3

Textual Analyses and Discussions of excerpts from :

Book 4 : From Eighteen to Twenty-Seven (Manichee and Astrologer)
Book 5 : Aged Twenty-Eight (Carthage, Rome and Milan)

Session 4

Textual Analyses and Discussions of excerpts from :

Book 6 : Age Twenty-Nine (Secular ambitions and conflicts)
Book 7 : Aged Thirty (A Neoplatonic quest)

Session 5

Textual Analyses and Discussions of excerpts from :

Book 8 : Aged Thirty-One (The birthpangs of conversion)

Session 6

Textual Analyses and Discussions of excerpts from :

Book 9 : Aged Thirty-Two (Cassiciacum : to Monica’s death)

Session 7

Textual Analyses and Discussions of excerpts from :

Book 10 : Concludes Augustine’s Confession (Memory)

Session 8

Textual Analyses and Discussions of excerpts from :

Books 11, 12, 13 : Commentary on the Genesis (Time and Eternity ; Platonic and Christian Creation ; Finding the Church in Genesis I)


Participative discussion on the following film, with open interpretations and cross-analyses with the text of the course.

In Memory of Me (S. Costanzo, 2007) (details)

The participants will be shared links to watch the movie online. They are expected to join the discussion after having watched the movie on their own.

Questions & Answers

Questions & Answers session.

Open discussions based on the remaining questions of the participants.


Samuel Buchoul

Samuel Buchoul

Instructor & Coordinator

Experience with the Texts of this Course : 2 years +

Certainly, words and texts too get inspired, in-spirare, penetrated by the breath and the spirit, in-spirited… Embodiement of another kind, of a second order. Sacred words, ou presque, timeless charms of man playing with God, God playing with man, and everyone around, beaming and enjoying the play. A necessary journey for me it was, to dig back towards the first “I” of literature, the so-called first autobiography, to discover that behind this “I” was to lie, at least for many centuries ahead, an opening and surrender to God. Other Confessions, Rousseau’s perhaps, would be definining moments in the erectile standing of the modern subject, and denying my interest for this would be my greatest lie till date. But there is always a before, and an infinite duty of the rearview stare. Even our very self-affirmative, supposedly culturally particular voices of today, of “modernity”, must acknowledge centuries and millenia of developments. Till the early days of literature, certainly… and beyond, far beyond. Back to the beginnings, just like Augustine himself, reminiscing his years, climbing the rocky hill of self-knowledge and self-love, to end at the peak, because we always culminate at the dawn : the Genesis.

Samuel Buchoul is the founder and coordinator of IST.
Discover his courses and blogs here.



The financial contribution is open
beyond a minimum amount of

59.00 $

or the equivalent in your local currency
Check the conversion rates here

8 Sessions of Textual Analysis
1 CineWords Discussion
1 Questions and Answers session
Reading Material in soft copy
Instructor’s Notes for each session
HD Audio Recordings of the sessions


A new edition of this course will be organised
upon 3 confirmed registrations