Podcast episode

Episode 179: The Manichæan Catholic: Augustine of Hippo

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Augustine of Hippo as an influence on western Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant. A thinker of ridiculous originality and verve, but also a depressive and gloomy authoritarian, he put his ambivalent mark on much of what was to come in the Far West. But he did so from an intellectual place fundamentally of grappling with three primary sources: the canonical scriptures which he accepted (basically the ‘Bible’ as most Christians understand it today), the teachings of Mani (he was a Manichæan Hearer for ten years) and Platonist ideas (in which he found both the perfect tools for explicating his trinitarian theology and a set of unacceptable stumbling-blocks to faith).

In this episode, Part I of a two-parter, we introduce the man, his life, some of his vast oeuvre, and a few of the philosophic conclusions to which he came. Next time we discuss his rôle as perhaps the most important anti-esotericist in the western tradition.

Works Cited in this Episode:


Augustine said to have died quoting Plotinus: Possidius, Vita Augustini 28.11, after Plotinus, Enneads I 4.7.23–24.


BeDuhn 2012 [see below]. We cite pp. 19-20.

Henry Bettenson and David Knowles. Augustine, Concerning the City of God against the Pagans. Penguin, 1977; we quote p. xxii.

Giovanni Catapano. Augustine. In Lloyd P. Gerson, editor, The Cambridge History of Philosophy in Late Antiquity, Vol. I, pages 552-81. The University Press, Cambridge, 2010; we quote pp. 552-3.

Wouter Hanegraaff. Esotericism and the Academy: Rejected Knowledge and Western Culture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012.

R.A. Markus. Marius Victorinus and Augustine. In A.H. Armstrong, editor, The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, pages 331-419. The University Press, Cambridge, 1967; we quote p. 341.

Gedaliahu G. Stroumsa. The Manichaean Challenge to Egyptian Christianity. In B. A. Pearson and J. E. Göhring, editors, The Roots of Egyptian Christianity, pages 307-19. Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1986; we quote p. 308.

Recommended Reading:


The Augustine-industry is phenomenally-vast; ridiculous amounts are published about this man, his thought, and his enduring legacy within Catholic and Protestant Christianities. We are thus not even pretending to give a proper covering-all-the-bases bibliography. We include a couple of good books and suchlike on specific topics addressed in this episode. For more, try the bibliography to the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Augustine, which is a superb and manageable starting-point.  For in-depth and regularly–updated bibliography, the Revue des Études Augustiniennes publishing-project is the chief resource.

On Augy and Manichæism

Jason D. BeDuhn. Augustine’s Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 1: Conversion and Apostasy, 373-388 CE. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2012.

Idem. Augustine’s Manichaean Dilemma, Volume 2: Making a “Catholic” Self, 388-401 CE. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2013.

On Augy and Platonism

Dominic J. O’Meara. The Neoplatonism of Saint Augustine. In Dominic J. O’Meara, editor, Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, pages 3441. International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, Norfolk, VA, 1982.


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