4. What, then, should that formlessness be called so that somehow it might be indicated to those of sluggish mind, unless we use some word in common speech? But what can be found anywhere in the world nearer to a total formlessness than the earth and the abyss? Because of their being on the lowest level, they are less beautiful than are the other and higher parts, all translucent and shining. Therefore, why may I not consider the formlessness of matter -- which thou didst create without shapely form, from which to make this shapely world -- as fittingly indicated to men by the phrase, "The earth invisible and unformed"?
5. When our thought seeks something for our sense to fasten to [in this concept of unformed matter], and when it says to itself, "It is not an intelligible form, such as life or justice, since it is the material for bodies; and it is not a former perception, for there is nothing in the invisible and unformed which can be seen and felt" -- while human thought says such things to itself, it may be attempting either to know by being ignorant or by knowing how not to know.
6. But if, O Lord, I am to confess to thee, by my mouth and my pen, the whole of what thou hast taught me concerning this unformed matter, I must say first of all that when I first heard of such matter and did not understand it -- and those who told me of it could not understand it either -- I conceived of it as having countless and varied forms. Thus, I did not think about it rightly. My mind in its agitation used to turn up all sorts of foul and horrible "forms"; but still they were "forms." And still I called it formless, not because it was unformed, but because it had what seemed to me a kind of form that my mind turned away from, as bizarre and incongruous, before which my human weakness was confused. And even what I did conceive of as unformed was so, not because it was deprived of all form, but only as it compared with more beautiful forms. Right reason, then, persuaded me that I ought to remove altogether all vestiges of form whatever if I wished to conceive matter that was wholly unformed; and this I could not do. For I could more readily imagine that what was deprived of all form simply did not exist than I could conceive of anything between form and nothing -- something which was neither formed nor nothing, something that was unformed and nearly nothing. Thus my mind ceased to question my spirit -- filled as it was with the images of formed bodies, changing and varying them according to its will. And so I applied myself to the bodies themselves and looked more deeply into their mutability, by which they cease to be what they had been and begin to be what they were not. This transition from form to form I had regarded as involving something like a formless condition, though not actual nothingness. But I desired to know, not to guess. And, if my voice and my pen were to confess to thee all the various knots thou hast untied for me about this question, who among my readers could endure to grasp the whole of the account? Still, despite this, my heart will not cease to give honor to thee or to sing thy praises concerning those things which it is not able to express. For the mutability of mutable things carries with it the possibility of all those forms into which mutable things can be changed. But this mutability -- what is it? Is it soul? Is it body? Is it the external appearance of soul or body? Could it be said, "Nothing was something," and "That which is, is not"? If this were possible, I would say that this was it, and in some such manner it must have been in order to receive these visible and composite forms.
7. Whence and how was this, unless it came from thee, from whom all things are, in so far as they are? But the farther something is from thee, the more unlike thee it is -- and this is not a matter of distance or place. Thus it was that thou, O Lord, who art not one thing in one place and another thing in another place but the Selfsame, and the Selfsame, and the Selfsame -- "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" -- thus it was that in the beginning, and through thy Wisdom which is from thee and born of thy substance, thou didst create something and that out of nothing. For thou didst create the heaven and the earth -- not out of thyself, for then they would be equal to thy only Son and thereby to thee. And there is no sense in which it would be right that anything should be equal to thee that was not of thee. But what else besides thee was there out of which thou mightest create these things, O God, one Trinity, and trine Unity? And, therefore, it was out of nothing at all that thou didst create the heaven and earth -- something great and something small -- for thou art Almighty and Good, and able to make all things good: even the great heaven and the small earth. Thou wast, and there was nothing else from which thou didst create heaven and earth: these two things, one near thee, the other near to nothing; the one to which only thou art superior, the other to which nothing else is inferior.
8. That heaven of heavens was thine, O Lord, but the earth which thou didst give to the sons of men to be seen and touched was not then in the same form as that in which we now see it and touch it. For then it was invisible and unformed and there was an abyss over which there was no light. The darkness was truly _over_ the abyss, that is, more than just _in_ the abyss. For this abyss of waters which now is visible has even in its depths a certain light appropriate to its nature, perceptible in some fashion to fishes and the things that creep about on the bottom of it. But then the entire abyss was almost nothing, since it was still altogether unformed. Yet even there, there was something that had the possibility of being formed. For thou, O Lord, hadst made the world out of unformed matter, and this thou didst make out of nothing and didst make it into almost nothing. From it thou hast then made these great things which we, the sons of men, marvel at. For this corporeal heaven is truly marvelous, this firmament between the water and the waters which thou didst make on the second day after the creation of light, saying, "Let it be done," and it was done. This firmament thou didst call heaven, that is, the heaven of this earth and sea which thou madest on the third day, giving a visible shape to the unformed matter which thou hadst made before all the days. For even before any day thou hadst already made a heaven, but that was the heaven of this heaven: for in the beginning thou hadst made heaven and earth. But this earth itself which thou hadst made was unformed matter; it was invisible and unformed, and darkness was over the abyss. Out of this invisible and unformed earth, out of this formlessness which is almost nothing, thou didst then make all these things of which the changeable world consists -- and yet does not fully consist in itself -- for its very changeableness appears in this, that its times and seasons can be observed and numbered. The periods of time are measured by the changes of things, while the forms, whose matter is the invisible earth of which we have spoken, are varied and altered.
9. And therefore the Spirit, the Teacher of thy servant, when he mentions that "in the beginning thou madest heaven and earth," says nothing about times and is silent as to the days. For, clearly, that heaven of heavens which thou didst create in the beginning is in some way an intellectual creature, although in no way coeternal with thee, O Trinity. Yet it is nonetheless a partaker in thy eternity. Because of the sweetness of its most happy contemplation of thee, it is greatly restrained in its own mutability and cleaves to thee without any lapse from the time in which it was created, surpassing all the rolling change of time. But this shapelessness -- this earth invisible and unformed -- was not numbered among the days itself. For where there is no shape or order there is nothing that either comes or goes, and where this does not occur there certainly are no days, nor any vicissitude of duration.
10. O Truth, O Light of my heart, let not my own darkness speak to me! I had fallen into that darkness and was darkened thereby. But in it, even in its depths, I came to love thee. I went astray and still I remembered thee. I heard thy voice behind me, bidding me return, though I could scarcely hear it for the tumults of my boisterous passions. And now, behold, I am returning, burning and thirsting after thy fountain. Let no one hinder me; here will I drink and so have life. Let me not be my own life; for of myself I have lived badly. I was death to myself; in thee I have revived. Speak to me; converse with me. I have believed thy books, and their words are very deep.
11. Thou hast told me already, O Lord, with a strong voice in my inner ear, that thou art eternal and alone hast immortality. Thou art not changed by any shape or motion, and thy will is not altered by temporal process, because no will that changes is immortal. This is clear to me, in thy sight; let it become clearer and clearer, I beseech thee. In that light let me abide soberly under thy wings. Thou hast also told me, O Lord, with a strong voice in my inner ear, that thou hast created all natures and all substances, which are not what thou art thyself; and yet they do exist. Only that which is nothing at all is not from thee, and that motion of the will away from thee, who art, toward something that exists only in a lesser degree -- such a motion is an offense and a sin. No one's sin either hurts thee or disturbs the order of thy rule, either first or last. All this, in thy sight, is clear to me. Let it become clearer and clearer, I beseech thee, and in that light let me abide soberly under thy wings. 12. Likewise, thou hast told me, with a strong voice in my inner ear, that this creation -- whose delight thou alone art -- is not coeternal with thee. With a most persevering purity it draws its support from thee and nowhere and never betrays its own mutability, for thou art ever present with it; and it cleaves to thee with its entire affection, having no future to expect and no past that it remembers; it is varied by no change and is extended by no time. O blessed one -- if such there be -- clinging to thy blessedness! It is blest in thee, its everlasting Inhabitant and its Light. I cannot find a term that I would judge more fitting for "the heaven of the heavens of the Lord" than "Thy house" -- which contemplates thy delights without any declination toward anything else and which, with a pure mind in most harmonious stability, joins all together in the peace of those saintly spirits who are citizens of thy city in those heavens that are above this visible heaven. 13. From this let the soul that has wandered far away from thee understand -- if now it thirsts for thee; if now its tears have become its bread, while daily they say to it, "Where is your God?"; if now it requests of thee just one thing and seeks after this: that it may dwell in thy house all the days of its life (and what is its life but thee? And what are thy days but thy eternity, like thy years which do not fail, since thou art the Selfsame?) -- from this, I say, let the soul understand (as far as it can) how far above all times thou art in thy eternity; and how thy house has never wandered away from thee; and, although it is not coeternal with thee, it continually and unfailingly clings to thee and suffers no vicissitudes of time. This, in thy sight, is clear to me; may it become clearer and clearer to me, I beseech thee, and in this light may I abide soberly under thy wings. 14. Now I do not know what kind of formlessness there is in these mutations of these last and lowest creatures. Yet who will tell me, unless it is someone who, in the emptiness of his own heart, wanders about and begins to be dizzy in his own fancies? Who except such a one would tell me whether, if all form were diminished and consumed, formlessness alone would remain, through which a thing was changed and turned from one species into another, so that sheer formlessness would then be characterized by temporal change? And surely this could not be, because without motion there is no time, and where there is no form there is no change.