In fact, it can be said that his path of his intellectual acceptance of Christianity took most of the first thirty-two years of his life. This page examines the path to conversion after Augustine moved to Milan. This new position of being the chair of rhetoric in the imperial court at Milan, however, amounted to little more than that of being the publicity agent of the Emperor, or a "spin doctor." Intellectually at this time, he shed the teachings of the Manichees, and lapsed into a scepticism.
Augustine had begun to attend the church services of Ambrose, who was a gifted preacher and Bishop of Milan. All Augustine sought at first was to observe the style of Ambrose as an orator. But the choice of words and intellectual skill of Ambrose impressed Augustine. Gradually Augustine began to be influenced by the content of the sermons of Ambrose, and not just their delivery. Ambrose with skill employed the rhetorical devices of satire and allegorical interpretation in his sermons.
It was through these sermons that Augustine learned to understand and appreciate allegory. This new understanding gave him a whole new perspective on the Christian faith. At this time Augustine began to study Neo-Platonism. This was a philosophical movement to revive many of the teachings of Plato. This study helped Augustine to move beyond a materialistic world view, while the teachings of Christ he heard from the lips of Ambrose provided a tangible path to the search for spiritual truth.
As Augustine came to appreciate the Christian Scriptures more and more, his dissatisfaction with his career increased. He came to see his career in rhetoric as selfish, shallow and unfulfilling. A few weeks before the summer holidays he took a leave of absence from the imperial court. Along with some close friends and family he retired to a country villa at Cassiciacum for a period of reading, discussion, and prayer. There Augustine and his friends researched and discussed Neo-Platonism, the problems of science, and various systems of Greek philosophy.
His intellectual conversion was complete. He knew he had to seek Christian baptism, although his dramatic moment of moral conversion in a private garden in Milan had yet to occur before he would be willing to approach the waters of baptism. AN1106