Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
3. From my mother, the fear of God, and generosity; and abstention not only from doing ill but even from the very thought of doing it; and furthermore to live the simple life, far removed from the habits of the rich.
5. From my tutor, not to side with the Green Jacket or the Blue at the races, or to back the Light-Shield Champion or the Heavy-Shield in the lists; not to shirk toil, and to have few wants, and to do my own work, and mind my own concerns; and to turn a deaf ear to slander.
6. From Diognetus, not to be taken up with trifles; and not to give credence to the statements of miracle-mongers and wizards about incantations and the exorcizing of demons, and such-like marvels; and not to keep quails, nor to be excited about such things: not to resent plain speaking; and to become familiar with philosophy and be a heaver first of Baccheius, then of Tandasis and Marcianus; and to write dialogues as a boy; and to set my heart on a pallet-bed and a pelt and whatever else tallied with the Greek regimen.
7. From Rusticus, to become aware of the fact that I needed amendment and training for my character; and not to be led aside into an argumentative sophistry; nor compose treatises on speculative subjects, or deliver little homilies, or pose ostentatiously as the moral athlete or unselfish man; and to eschew rhetoric, poetry, and fine language; and not to go about the house in my robes, nor commit any such breach of good taste; and to write letters without affectation, like his own letter written to my mother from Sinuessa; to show oneself ready to be reconciled to those who have lost their temper and trespassed against one, and ready to meet them halfway as soon as ever they seem to be willing to retrace their steps; to read with minute care and not to be content with a superficial bird’s-eye view; nor to be too quick in agreeing with every voluble talker; and to make the acquaintance of the Memoirs of Epictetus, which he supplied me with out of his own library.
8. From Apollonius, self-reliance and an unequivocal determination not to leave anything to chance; and to look to nothing else even for a moment save Reason alone; and to remain ever the same, in the throes of pain, on the loss of a child, during a lingering illness; and to see plainly from a living example that one and the same man can be very vehement and yet gentle: not to be impatient in instructing others; and to see in him a man who obviously counted as the least among his gifts his practical experience and facility in imparting philosophic truths; and to learn in accepting seeming favors from friends not to give up our independence for such things nor take them callously as a matter of course.
9. From Sextus, kindliness, and the example of a household patriarchally governed; and the conception of life in accordance with Nature; and dignity without affectation; and an intuitive consideration for friends; and a toleration of the unlearned and the unreasoning.
And his tactful treatment of all his friends, so that simply to be with him was more delightful than any flattery, while at the same time those who enjoyed this privilege looked up to him with the utmost reverence; and the grasp and method which he showed in discovering and marshalling the essential axioms of life.
And never to exhibit any symptom of anger or any other passion, but to be at the same time utterly impervious to all passions and full of natural affection; and to praise without noisy obtrusiveness, and to possess great learning but make no parade of it.
10. From Alexander the Grammarian, not to be captious; nor in a carping spirit find fault with those who import into their conversation any expression which is barbarous or imgrammatical or mispronounced, but tactfully to bring in the very expression, that ought to have been used, by way of answer, or as it were in joint support of the assertion, or as a joint consideration of the thing itself and not of the language, or by some such graceful reminder.
11. From Fronto, to note the envy, the subtlety, and the dissimulation which are habitual to a tyrant; and that, as a general rule, those among us who rank as patricians are somewhat wanting in natural affection.
12. From Alexander the Platonist, not to say to anyone often or without necessity, nor write in a letter, I am too busy, nor in this fashion constantly plead urgent affairs as an excuse for evading the obligations entailed upon us by our relations toward those around us.
13. From Catulus, not to disregard a friend’s expostulation even when it is unreasonable, but to try to bring him back to his usual friendliness; and to speak with whole-hearted good-will of one’s teachers, as it is recorded that Domitius did of Athenodotus; and to be genuinely fond of one’s children.
14. From my ‘brother’ Severus, love of family, love of truth, love of justice, and (thanks to him!) to know Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dion, Brutus; and the conception of a state with one law for all, based upon individual equality and freedom of speech, and of a sovranty that prizes above all things the liberty of the subject; and furthermore from him also to set a well-balanced and unvarying value on philosophy; and readiness to do others a kindness, and eager generosity, and optimism, and confidence in the love of friends; and perfect openness in the case of those that came in for his censure; and the absence of any need for his friends to surmise what he did or did not wish, so plain was it.
15. From Maximus, self-mastery and stability of purpose; and cheeriness in sickness as well as in all other circumstances; and a character justly proportioned of sweetness and gravity; and to perform without grumbling the task that lies to one’s hand.
And the confidence of everyone in him that what he said was also what he thought, and that what he did was done with no ill intent. And not to show surprise, and not to be daunted; never to be hurried, or hold back, or be at a loss, or downcast, or smile a forced smile, or, again, be ill-tempered or suspicious.
And beneficence and placability and veracity; and to give the impression of a man who cannot deviate from the right way rather than of one who is kept in it; and that no one could have thought himself looked down upon by him, or could go so far as to imagine himself a better man than he; and to keep pleasantry within due bounds.
16. From my father, mildness, and an unshakable adherence to decisions deliberately come to; and no empty vanity in respect to so-called honors; and a love of work and thoroughness; and a readiness to hear any suggestions for the common good; and an inflexible determination to give every man his due; and to know by experience when is the time to insist and when to desist; and to suppress all passion for boys.
And his public spirit, and his not requiring his friends at all to sup with him or necessarily attend him abroad, and their always finding him the same when any urgent affairs had kept them away; and the spirit of thorough investigation which he showed in the meetings of his Council, and his perseverance; his never desisting prematurely from an inquiry on the strength of off-hand impressions; and his faculty for keeping his friends and never being bored with them or infatuated about them; and his self-reliance in every emergency, and his good humor; and his habit of looking ahead and making provision for the smallest details without any heroics.
And his restricting in his reign public acclamations and every sort of adulation; and his unsleeping attention to the needs of the empire, and his wise stewardship of its resources, and his patient tolerance of the censure that all this entailed; and his freedom from superstition with respect to the Gods and from hunting for popularity with respect to men by pandering to their desires or by courting the mob: yea his soberness in all things and stedfastness; and the absence in him of all vulgar tastes and any craze for novelty.
And the example that he gave of utilizing without pride, and at the same without any apology, all the lavish gifts of Fortune that contribute toward the comfort of life, so as to enjoy them when present as a matter of course, and, when absent, not to miss them: and no one could charge him with sophistry, flippancy, or pedantry; but he was a man mature, complete, deaf to flattery, able to preside over his own affairs and those of others.
Besides this also was his high appreciation of all true philosophers without any upbraiding of the others, and at the same time without any undue subservience to them; then again his easiness of access and his graciousness that yet had nothing fulsome about it; and his reasonable attention to his bodily requirements, not as one too fond of life, or vain of his outward appearance, nor yet as one who neglected it, but so as by his own carefulness to need but very seldom the skill of the leech or medicines and outward applications.
But most of all a readiness to acknowledge without jealousy the claims of those who were endowed with any especial gift, such as eloquence or knowledge of law or ethics or any other subject, and to give them active support, that each might gain the honor to which his individual eminence entitled him; and his loyalty to constitutional precedent without any parade of the fact that it was according to precedent.
Furthermore he was not prone to change or vacillation, but attached to the same places and the same things; and after his spasms of violent headache he would come back at once to his usual employments with renewed vigor; and his secrets were not many but very few and at very rare intervals, and then only political secrets; and he showed good sense and moderation in his management of public spectacles, and in the construction of public works, and in congiaria and the like, as a man who had an eye to what had to be done and not to the credit to be gained thereby.
He did not bathe at all hours; he did not build for the love of building; he gave no thought to his food, or to the texture and color of his clothes, or the comeliness of his slaves. His robe came up from Lorium, his country-seat in the plains, and Lanuvium supplied his wants for the most part. Think of how he dealt with the customs officer at Tusculum when the latter apologized, and it was a type of his usual conduct.
There was nothing rude in him, nor yet overbearing or violent nor carried, as the phrase goes, “to the sweating state”; but everything was considered separately, as by a man of ample leisure, calmly, methodically, manfully, consistently. One might apply to him what is told of Socrates, that he was able to abstain from or enjoy those things that many are not strong enough to refrain from and too much inclined to enjoy. But to have the strength to persist in the one case and be abstemious in the other is characteristic of a man who has a perfect and indomitable soul, as was seen in the illness of Maximus.
17. From the Gods, to have good grandfathers, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, good companions, kinsmen, friends — nearly all of them; and that I fell into no trespass against any of them, and yet I had a disposition that way inclined, such as might have led me into something of the sort, had it so chanced; but by the grace of God there was no such coincidence of circumstances as was likely to put me to the test.
And that I was not brought up any longer with my grandfather’s concubine, and that I kept unstained the flower of my youth; and that I did not make trial of my manhood before the due time, but even postponed it.
That I was subordinated to a ruler and a father capable of ridding me of all conceit, and of bringing me to recognize that it is possible to live in a Court and yet do without body-guards and gorgeous garments and linkmen and statues and the like pomp; and that it is in such a man’s power to reduce himself very nearly to the condition of a private individual and yet not on this account to be more paltry or more remiss in dealing with what the interests of the state require to be done in imperial fashion.
That it was my lot to have such a brother, capable by his character of stimulating me to watchful care over myself, and at the same time delighting me by his deference and affection: that my children have not been devoid of intelligence nor physically deformed. That I did not make more progress in rhetoric and poetry and my other studies, in which I should perhaps have been engrossed, had I felt myself making good way in them. That I lost no time in promoting my tutors to such posts of honor as they seemed to desire, and that I did not put them off with the hope that I would do this later on since they were still young. That I got to know Apollonius, Rusticus, Maximus.
That I had clear and frequent conceptions as to the true meaning of a life according to Nature, so that as far as the Gods were concerned and their blessings and assistance and intention, there was nothing to prevent me from beginning at once to live in accordance with Nature, though I still come short of this ideal by my own fault, and by not attending to the reminders, no, almost the instructions, of the Gods.
That my body holds out so long in such a life as mine; that I did not touch Benedicta or Theodotus, but that even afterwards, when I did give way to amatory passions, I was cured of them; that, though often offended with Rusticus, I never went so far as to do anything for which I should have been sorry; that my mother, though she was to die young, yet spent her last years with me.
That as often as I had the inclination to help anyone, who was in pecuniary distress or needing any other assistance, I was never told that there was no money available for the purpose; and that I was never under any similar need of accepting help from another. That I have been blessed with a wife so docile, so affectionate, so unaffected; that I had no lack of suitable tutors for my children.
That by the agency of dreams I was given antidotes both of other kinds and against the spitting of blood and vertigo; and there is that response also at Caieta, “as you shall use it.” And that, when I had set my heart on philosophy, I did not fall into the hands of a sophist, nor sat down at the author’s desk, or became a solver of syllogisms, nor busied myself with physical phenomena. For all the above the Gods as helpers and good fortune need.
Written among the Quadi on the Gran.
1. Say to yourself at daybreak: I shall come across the busy-body, the thankless, the bully, the treacherous, the envious, the unneighborly. All this has befallen them because they do not know good from evil. But I, in that I have comprehended the nature of the Good that it is beautiful, and the nature of Evil that it is ugly, and the nature of the wrong-doer himself that it is akin to me, not as partaker of the same blood and seed but of intelligence and a morsel of the Divine, can neither be injured by any of them — for no one can involve me in what is debasing — nor can I be wrathful with my kinsman and hate him. For we have come into being for cooperation, as have the feet, the hands, the eyelids, the rows of upper and lower teeth. Therefore to thwart one another is against Nature; and we do thwart one another by showing resentment and aversion.
2. This that I am, whatever it be, is mere flesh and a little breath and the ruling Reason. Away with your books! Be no longer drawn aside by them: it is not allowed. But as one already dying, disdain the flesh: it is nothing but gore and bones and a network compact of nerves and veins and arteries. Look at the breath too, what sort of thing it is; air: and not even that always the same, but every minute belched forth and again gulped down. Then, thirdly, there is the ruling Reason. Put your thought thus: you are an old man; let this be a thrall no longer, no more a puppet pulled aside by every selfish impulse; nor let it grumble any longer at what is allotted to it in the present or dread it in the future.
3. Full of Providence are the works of the Gods, nor are Fortune’s works independent of Nature or of the woven texture and interlacement of all that is under the control of Providence. From there are all things derived; but Necessity too plays its part and the Welfare of the whole Cosmos of which you are a portion. But good for every part of Nature is that which the Nature of the Whole brings about, and which goes to preserve it. Now it is the changes not only of the elements but of the things compounded of them that preserve the Cosmos. Let these reflections be sufficient for you, if you hold them as principles. But away with your thirst for books, that you may die not murmuring but with a good grace, truly and from your heart grateful to the Gods.
4. Call to mind how long you defer these things, and how many times you have received from the gods grace of the appointed day and you did not use it. Yet now, if never before, should you realize of what Cosmos you are a part, and as an emanation from what Controller of that Cosmos you do subsist; and that a limit has been set to your time, which if you use not to let daylight into your soul, it will be gone — and you! — and never again shall the chance be yours.
5. Every hour make up your mind sturdily as a Roman and a man to do what you have in hand with scrupulous and unaffected dignity and love of your kind and independence and justice; and to give yourself rest from all other impressions. And you will give yourself this, if you do execute every act of your life as though it were your last, divesting yourself of all aimlessness and all passionate antipathy to the convictions of reason, and all hypocrisy and self-love and dissatisfaction with your allotted share. You see how few are the things, by mastering which a man may lead a life of tranquillity and godlikeness; for the Gods also will ask no more from him who keeps these precepts.
6. Wrong yourself, wrong yourself, O my Soul! But the time for honoring yourself will have gone by; for a man has but one life, and this for you is almost closed, and yet you do not hold yourself in reverence, but set your well-being in the souls of others.
7. Do those things draw you at all away, which befall you from without? Make then leisure for yourself for the learning of some good thing more, and cease being carried aside here and there. But therewith must you take heed of the other error. For they too are triflers, who by their activities have worn themselves out in life without even having an aim whereto they can direct every impulse, yes and even every thought.
8. Not easily is a man found to be unhappy by reason of his not regarding what is going on in another man’s soul; but those who do not attend closely to the motions of their own souls must inevitably be unhappy.
9. This must always be borne in mind, what is the Nature of the whole Cosmos, and what is mine, and how this stands in relation to that, being too what sort of a part of what sort of a whole; and that no one can prevent you from doing and saying always what is in keeping with the Nature of which you are a part.
10. Theophrastus in his comparison of wrong-doings for, speaking in a somewhat popular way, such comparison may be made — says in the true philosophical spirit that the offenses which are due to lust are more heinous than those which are due to anger. For the man who is moved with anger seems to turn his back upon reason with some pain and unconscious compunction; but he who does wrong from lust, being mastered by pleasure, seems in some sort to be more incontinent and more unmanly in his wrong-doing. Rightly then, and not unworthily of a philosopher, he said that the wrong-doing which is allied with pleasure calls for a severer condemnation than that which is allied with pain; and, speaking generally, that the one wrong-doer is more like a man, who, being sinned against first, has been driven by pain to be angry, while the other, being led by lust to do some act, has of his own motion been impelled to do evil.
11. Let your every deed and word and thought be those of a man who can depart from life this moment. But to go away from among men, if there are Gods, is nothing dreadful; for they would not involve you in evil. But if indeed there are no Gods, or if they do not concern themselves with the affairs of men, what boots it for me to live in a Cosmos where there are no Gods, where Providence is not? No, but there are Gods, and they do concern themselves with human things; and they have put it wholly in man’s power not to fall into evils that are truly such. And had there been any evil in what lies beyond, for this too would they have made provision, that it should be in every man’s power not to fall into it. But how can that make a man’s life worse which does not make the man worse? Yet the Nature of the Whole could not have been guilty of an oversight from ignorance or, while cognizant of these things, through lack of power to guard against or amend them; nor could it have gone so far amiss either from inability or unskilfulness, as to allow good and evil to fall without any discrimination alike upon the evil and the good. Still it is a fact that death and life, honor and dishonor, pain and pleasure, riches and penury, do among men one and all betide the Good and the Evil alike, being in themselves neither honorable nor shameful. Consequently they are neither good nor evil.
12. How quickly all things vanish away, in the Cosmos their actual bodies, and the remembrance of them in Eternity, and of what character are all objects of sense, and particularly those that entice us with pleasure or terrify us with pain or are acclaimed by vanity how worthless and despicable and unclean and ephemeral and dead! — this is for our faculty of intelligence to apprehend; as also what they really are whose conceptions and whose voices award renown; what it is to die, and that if a man looks at death in itself, and with the analysis of reason strips it of its phantom terrors, no longer will he conceive it to be anything but a function of Nature, — but if a man is frightened by a function of Nature, he is childish; and this is not only Nature’s function but her welfare; — and how man is in touch with God and with what part of himself, and in what disposition of this portion of the man.
13. Nothing can be more miserable than the man who goes through the whole round of things, and, as the poet says, pries into the secrets of the earth, and would fain guess the thoughts in his neighbor’s heart, while having no conception that he needs but to associate himself with the divine ‘genius’ in his bosom, and to serve it truly. And service of it is to keep it pure from passion and aimlessness and discontent with any thing that proceeds from Gods or men. For that which proceeds from the Gods is worthy of reverence in that it is excellent; and that which proceeds from men, of love, in that they are akin, and, at times and in a manner, of compassion, in that they are ignorant of good and evil — a defect this no less than the loss of power to distinguish between white and black.
14. Even if your life is to last three thousand years or for thirty thousand for that matter, yet bear in mind that no one ever parts with any other life than the one he is now living, nor lives any other than that which he now parts with. The longest life, then, and the shortest amount but to the same. For the present time is of equal duration for all, while that which we lose is not ours; and consequently what is parted with is obviously a mere moment. No man can part with either the past or the future. For how can a man be deprived of what he does not possess? These two things, then, must be remembered: the one, that all things from time everlasting have been cast in the same mould and repeated cycle after cycle, and so it makes no difference whether a man sees the same things recur through a hundred years or two hundred, or through eternity: the other, that the longest liver and he whose time to die comes soonest part with no more the one than the other. For it is but the present that a man can be deprived of, if, as is the fact, it is this alone that he has, and a man cannot part with what he does not have.
15. Remember that everything is but what we think it. For obvious indeed is the saying fathered on Monimus the Cynic, obvious too the utility of what was said, if one accept the gist of it as far as it is true.
16. The soul of man does wrong to itself most of all when it makes itself, as far as it can do so, an imposthume and as it were a malignant growth in the Cosmos. For to grumble at anything that happens is a rebellion against Nature, in some part of which are bound up the natures of all other things. And the soul wrongs itself then again, when it turns away from any man or even opposes him with intent to do him harm, as is the case with those who are angry. It does wrong to itself, thirdly, when it is overcome by pleasure or pain. Fourthly, when it assumes a mask, and in act or word is insincere or untruthful. Fifthly, when it directs some act or desire of its own toward no mark, and expends its energy on anything whatever aimlessly and unadvisedly, whereas even the most trifling things should be done with reference to the end in view. Now the end for rational beings is to submit themselves to the reason and law of that archetypal city and polity — the Cosmos.
17. Of the life of man the duration is but a point, its substance streaming away, its perception dim, the fabric of the entire body prone to decay, and the soul a vortex, and fortune incalculable, and fame uncertain. In a word all the things of the body are as a river, and the things of the soul as a dream and a vapor; and life is a warfare and a pilgrim’s sojourn, and fame after death is only forgetfulness. What then is it that can help us on our way? One thing and one alone — Philosophy; and this consists in keeping the divine ‘genius’ within pure and unwronged, lord of all pleasures and pains, doing nothing aimlessly or with deliberate falsehood and hypocrisy, independent of another’s action or in action; and furthermore welcoming what happens and is allotted, as issuing from the same source, whatever it be, from which the man himself has issued; and above all waiting for death with a good grace as being but a setting free of the elements of which everything living is made up. But if there be nothing terrible in each thing being continuously changed into another thing, why should a man look askance at the change and dissolution of all things? For it is in the way of Nature, and in the way of Nature there can be no evil.
1. We ought not to think only upon the fact that our life each day is waning away, what is left of it being ever less, but this also should be a subject for thought, that even if life is prolonged, yet is it uncertain whether the mind will remain equally fitted in the future for the understanding of facts and for that contemplation which strains after the knowledge of things divine and human. For if a man has entered upon his dotage, he will still have the power of breathing, and digestion, and thought, and desire, and all such-like faculties; but the full use of himself, the accurate appreciation of the items of duty, the nice discrimination of what presents itself to the senses, and a clear judgment on the question whether it is time for him to end his own life, and all such decisions, as above all require well-trained powers of reasoning — these are already flickering out in him. It needs, then, that we should press onwards, not only because we come each moment nearer to death, but also because our insight into facts and our close touch of them is gradually ceasing even before we die.
2. Such things as this also we ought to note with care, that the accessories too of natural operations have a charm and attractiveness of their own. For instance, when bread is in the baking, some of the parts split open, and these very fissures, though in a sense thwarting the bread-maker’s design, have an appropriateness of their own and in a peculiar way stimulate the desire for food. Again when figs are at their ripest, they gape open; and in olives that are ready to fall their very approach to over-ripeness gives a peculiar beauty to the fruit. And the full ears of corn bending downwards, and the lion’s beetling brows, and the foam dripping from the jaws of the wild boar, and many other things, though, if looked at apart from their setting, they are far from being comely, yet, as resultants from the operations of Nature, lend them an added charm and excite our admiration.
And so, if a man has sensibility and a deeper insight into the workings of the Cosmos, scarcely anything, though it exist only as a secondary consequence to something else, but will seem to him to form in its own peculiar way a pleasing adjunct to the whole. And he will look on the actual gaping jaws of wild beasts with no less pleasure than the representations of them by limners and modelers; and he will be able to see in the aged of either sex a mature prime and comely ripeness, and gaze with chaste eyes upon the alluring loveliness of the young. And many such things there are which do not appeal to everyone, but will come home to him alone who is genuinely intimate with Nature and her works.
3. Hippocrates, after healing many a sick man, fell sick himself and died. Many a death have Chaldaeans foretold, and then their own fate has overtaken them also. Alexander, Pompeius and Gaius Caesar times without number utterly destroyed whole cities, and cut to pieces many myriads of horse and foot on the field of battle, yet the day came when they too departed this life. Heraclitus, after endless speculations on the destruction of the world by fire, came to be filled internally with water, and died beplastered with cowdung. And lice caused the death of Democritus, and other vermin of Socrates.
What of this? You have gone aboard, you have set sail, you have touched land; go ashore; if indeed for another life, there is nothing even there void of Gods; but if to a state of non-sensation, you shall cease being at the mercy of pleasure and pain and lackeying the bodily vessel which is so much baser than that which ministers to it. For the one is intelligence and a divine ‘genius’, the other dust and putrescence.
4. Do not fritter away what is left of your life in thoughts about others, unless you can bring these thoughts into relation with some common interest. For verily you do hereby cut yourself off from other work, that is, by thinking what so and so is doing and why, what he is saying, having what in mind, contriving what, and all the many like things such as whirl you aside from keeping close watch over your own ruling Reason.
We ought therefore to eschew the aimless and the unprofitable in the chain of our thoughts, still more all that is over-curious and ill-natured, and a man should accustom himself to think only of those things about which, if one were to ask on a sudden, What is now in your thoughts? You could quite frankly answer at once, This or that; so that your answer should immediately make manifest that all that is in you is simple and kindly and worthy of a living being that is social and has no thought for pleasures or for the entire range of sensual images, or for any rivalry, envy, suspicion, or anything else, whereat you would blush to admit that you had it in your mind.
For in truth such a man, one who no longer puts off being reckoned now, if never before, among the best, is in some sort a priest and minister of the Gods, putting to use also that which, enthroned within him, keeps the man unstained by pleasures, invulnerable to all pain, beyond the reach of any wrong, proof against all evil, a champion in the highest of championships — that of never being overthrown by any passion — dyed in grain with justice, welcoming with all his soul everything that befalls and is allotted him, and seldom, nor yet without a great and a general necessity, concerning himself with the words or deeds or thoughts of another.
For it is only the things that relate to himself that he brings within the scope of his activities, and he never ceases to ponder over what is being spun for him as his share in the fabric of the Cosmos, and he sees to it that the former are worthy, and is assured that the latter is good. For the fate which is allotted to each man is swept along with him in the Cosmos as well as sweeps him along with it.
And he bears in mind that all that is rational is akin, and that it is in man’s nature to care for all men, and that we should not embrace the opinion of all, but of those alone who live in conscious agreement with Nature. But what sort of men they, whose life is not after this pattern, are at home and abroad, by night and in the day, in what vices they wallow and with whom — of this he is ever mindful. Consequently he takes no account of praise from such men, who in fact cannot even win their own approval.
5. Do what you do neither unwillingly nor selfishly nor without examination nor against the grain. Do not dress your thought in too fine a garb. Do not be a man of superfluous words or superfluous deeds. Moreover let the god that is in you be lord of a living creature, that is manly, and of full age, and concerned with statecraft, and a Roman, and a ruler, who has taken his post as one who awaits the signal of recall from life in all readiness, needing no oath nor any man as his voucher. Be yourself the cheery face and independence of help from without and independence of such ease as others can give. It needs then to stand, and not be set, upright.
6. If indeed you find in the life of man a better thing than justice, than truth, than temperance, than manliness, and, in a word, than your mind’s satisfaction with itself in things wherein it shows you acting according to the true dictates of reason, and with destiny in what is allotted you apart from your choice — if, I say, you see anything better than this, turn to it with all your soul and take your fill of the best, as you find it.
But if there appears nothing better than the very deity enthroned in you, which has brought into subjection to itself all individual desires, which scrutinizes the thoughts, and, in the words of Socrates, has withdrawn itself from all the enticements of the senses, and brought itself into subjection to the Gods, and cherishes a fellow-feeling for men if you find everything else pettier and of less account than this, give place to nothing else, to which if you are but once plucked aside, and incline thereto, never more shall you be able without distraction to give paramount honor to that good which is your own peculiar heritage. For it is not right that any extraneous thing at all, such as the praise of the many, or office, or wealth, or indulgence in pleasure, should avail against that good which is identical with reason and a civic spirit. All these things, even if they seem for a little to fit smoothly into our lives, on a sudden overpower us and sweep us away.
But do you, I say, simply and freely choose the better and hold fast to it. But that is the better which is to my interest. If it is to your interest as a rational creature, hold that fast; but if as a mere animal, declare it boldly and maintain your judgment without arrogance. Only see to it that you have made your inquiry without error.
7. Do not prize anything as being to your interest that shall ever force you to break your trust, to surrender your honor, to hate, suspect, or curse anyone, to play the hypocrite, to lust after anything that needs walls and curtains. For he who has chosen before all else his own intelligence and good ‘genius’, and to be a devotee of its supreme worth, does not strike a tragic attitude or whine, nor will he ask for either a wilderness or a concourse of men; above all he will live neither chasing anything nor shunning it. And he does not consider at all whether he is to have his soul imprisoned in his body for a longer or a shorter span of time, for even if he must take his departure at once, he will go as willingly as if he were to discharge any other function that can be discharged with decency and orderliness, making sure through life of this one thing, that his thoughts should not in any case assume a character out of keeping with a rational and civic creature.
8. In the mind of the man who has been chastened and thoroughly cleansed you will find no foul abscess or gangrene or hidden sore. Nor is his life cut short, when the day of destiny overtakes him, as we might say of a tragedian’s part, who leaves the stage before finishing his speech and playing out the piece. Furthermore there is nothing there slavish or affected, no dependence on others or severance from them, no sense of accountability or skulking to avoid it.
With that it rests wholly that your ruling Reason should never admit any opinion out of harmony with Nature, and with the constitution of a rational creature. This ensures due deliberation and fellowship with mankind and fealty to the Gods.
10. Jettison everything else, then, and lay hold of these things only, few as they are; and remember that it is only this present, a moment of time, that a man lives: all the rest either has been lived or may never be. Little indeed, then, is a man’s life, and little the nook of earth whereon he lives, and little even the longest after-fame, and that too handed on through a succession of manikins, each one of them very soon to be dead, with no knowledge even of themselves, let alone of a man who has died long since.
11. To the stand-bys mentioned add one more, that a definition or delineation should be made of every object that presents itself, so that we may see what sort of thing it is in its essence stripped of its adjuncts, a separate whole taken as such, and tell over with ourselves both its particular designation and the names of the elements that compose it and into which it will be disintegrated.
For nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind as the ability to examine systematically and honestly everything that meets us in life, and to regard these things always in such a way as to form a conception of the kind of Cosmos they belong to, and of the use which the thing in question subserves in it; what value it has for the whole Cosmos and what for man, citizen as he is of the highest state, of which all other states are but as households; what it actually is, and compounded of what elements, and likely to last how long — namely this that now gives me the impression in question; and what virtue it calls for from me, such as gentleness, manly courage, truth, fidelity, guilelessness, frugality, and the rest.
In each case therefore must you say: This has come from God; and this is due to the conjunction of fate and the contexture of the world’s web and some such coincidence and chance; while that comes from a clansman and a kinsman and a fellow, albeit one who is ignorant of what is really in accordance with his nature. But I am not ignorant, therefore I treat him kindly and justly, in accordance with the natural law of neighborliness; at the same time, of things that are neither good nor bad, my aim is to hit their true worth.
12. If in obedience to right reason you do the thing that your hand finds to do earnestly, manfully, graciously, and in no sense as a by-work, and you keep that divine ‘genius’ of yours in its virgin state, just as if even now you were called upon, to restore it to the Giver — if you grapple this to yourself, looking for nothing, shrinking from nothing, but content with a present sphere of activity such as Nature allows, and with old-world truth in every word and utterance of your tongue, you shall be happy in your life. And there is no one who is able to prevent this.
13. Just as physicians always keep their lancets and instruments ready to their hands for emergency operations, so also do you keep your axioms ready for the diagnosis of things human and divine, and for the performing of every act, even the pettiest, with the fullest consciousness of the mutual ties between these two. For you shall never carry out well any human duty unless you correlate it to the divine, nor the reverse.
14. Go astray no more; for you are not likely to read your little Memoranda, or the Acts of the Romans and the Greeks of Old Time, and the extracts from their writings which you were laying up against your old age. Hurry then to the consummation and, casting away all empty hopes, if you care anything for your welfare, come to your own rescue, while it is allowed to you.
16. Body, Soul, Intelligence: for the body sensations, for the soul desires, for the intelligence axioms. To receive impressions by way of the senses is not denied even to cattle; to be as puppets pulled by the strings of desire is common to wild beasts and to pathics and to a Phalaris and a Nero. Yet to have the intelligence a guide to what they deem their duty is an attribute of those also who do not believe in Gods and those who fail their country in its need and those who do their deeds behind closed doors.
If then all else is the common property of the classes mentioned, there is left as the characteristic of the good man to delight in and to welcome what befalls and what is spun for him by destiny; and not to sully the divine ‘genius’ that is enthroned in his bosom, nor yet to perplex it with a multitude of impressions, but to maintain it to the end in a gracious serenity, in orderly obedience to God, uttering no word that is not true and doing no deed that is not just. But if all men disbelieve in his living a simple and modest and cheerful life, he is not wrathful with any of them, nor swerves from the path which leads to his life’s goal, where he must go pure, peaceful, ready for release, needing no force to bring him into accord with his lot.
1. That which holds the mastery within us, when it is in accordance with Nature, is so disposed toward what befalls, that it can always adapt itself with ease to what is possible and granted us. For it is wedded to no definite material, but, though in the pursuit of its high aims it works under reservations, yet it converts into material for itself any obstacle that it meets with, just as fire when it gets the mastery of what is thrown in upon it. A little flame would have been stifled by it, but the blazing fire instantly assimilates what is cast upon it and, consuming it, leaps the higher in consequence.
3. Men seek out retreats for themselves in the country, by the seaside, on the mountains, and you too are disposed to long intensely for such things. But all this is unphilosophical to the last degree, when you can at a moment’s notice retire into yourself. For nowhere can a man find a retreat more full or peaceful or more free from care than his own soul — above all if he have that within him, a steadfast look at which and he is at once in all good ease, and by good ease I mean nothing other than good order. Make use then of this retirement continually and regenerate yourself. Let your axioms be short and elemental, such as, when set before you, will at once rid you of all trouble, and send you away with no discontent at those things to which you are returning.
For with what are you discontented? The wickedness of men? Take this conclusion to heart, that rational creatures have been made for one another; that forbearance is part of justice; that wrong-doing is involuntary; and think how many before now, after passing their lives in implacable enmity, suspicion, hatred, and at daggers drawn with one another, have been laid out and burnt to ashes think of this, I say, and at last stay your fretting. But are you discontented with your share in the whole? Recall the alternative: Either Providence or Atoms! and the abundant proofs there are that the Cosmos is as it were a state. But is it the affections of the body that shall still lay hold on you? You should think that the Intelligence, when it has once abstracted itself and learned its own power, has nothing to do with the motions smooth or rough of the vital breath. You should think too of all that you have heard and subscribed to about pleasure and pain.
But will that paltry thing, Fame, pluck you aside? Look at the swift approach of complete forgetfulness, and the void of infinite time on this side of us and on that, and the empty echo of acclamation, and the fickleness and uncritical judgment of those who claim to speak well of us, and the narrowness of the arena to which all this is confined. For the whole Earth is but a point, and how tiny a corner of it is this the place of our sojourning! And how many therein and of what sort are the men who shall praise you!
From now therefore you should think of the retreat into this little plot that is yourself. Above all do not distract yourself, do not be too eager, but be your own master, and look upon life as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. But among the principles that are most ready to your hand, upon which you shall pore, let there be these two. One, that objective things do not lay hold of the soul, but stand quiescent without; while disturbances are but the outcome of that opinion that is within us. A second, that all this visible world changes in a moment, and will be no more; and continually you should think about the changes of how many things you have already been a witness. The Cosmos — mutation: Life — opinion.
4. If the intellectual capacity is common to us all, common too is the reason, which makes us rational creatures. If so, that reason also is common which tells us to do or not to do. If so, law also is common. If so, we are citizens. If so, we are fellow-members of an organized community. If so, the Cosmos is as it were a state — for of what other single polity can the whole race of mankind be said to be fellow-members? — and from it, this common State, we get the intellectual, the rational, and the legal instinct, or from where do we get them? For just as the earthy part has been portioned off for me from some earth, and the watery from another element, and the aerial from some source, and the hot and fiery from some source of its own — for nothing comes from the non-existent, any more than it disappears into nothingness — so also the intellect has undoubtedly come from somewhere.
5. Death like birth is a secret of Nature — a combination of the same elements, a breaking up into the same and not at all a thing in fact for any to be ashamed of, for it is not out of keeping with an intellectual creature or the reason of his constitution.
6. Given such men, it was in the nature of the case inevitable that their conduct should be of this kind. To wish it otherwise, is to wish that the fig tree had no acrid juice. As a general conclusion call this to mind, that within a very short time both you and he will be dead, and a little later not even your names will be left behind you.
10. Note that all that befalls happens justly. Keep close watch and you will find this true, I do not say, as a matter of sequence merely but as a matter of justice also, and as would be expected from One whose dispensation is based on desert. Keep close watch, then, as you have begun, and whatsoever you do, do it as only a good man should in the strictest sense of that word. In every sphere of activity safeguard this.
12. You should have these two readinesses always at hand; the one that prompts you to do only what your reason in its royal and law-making capacity shall suggest for the good of mankind; the other to change your mind, if one is near to set you right, and convert you from some vain conceit. But this conversion should be the outcome of a persuasion in every case that the thing is just or to the common interest — and some such cause should be the only one — not because it is seemingly pleasant or popular.
18. What richness of leisure does he gain who has no eye for his neighbor’s words or deeds or thoughts, but only for his own doings, that they be just and righteous! Verily it is not for the good man to peer about into the blackness of another’s heart, but to run straight for the goal with never a glance aside.
19. He whose heart flutters for after-fame does not reflect that very soon everyone of those who remember him, and he himself, will be dead, and their successors again after them, until at last the entire recollection of the man will be extinct, handed on as it is by links that flare up and are quenched. But put the case that those who are to remember are even immortal, and the remembrance immortal, what then is that to you? To the dead man, I need scarcely say, the praise is nothing, but what is it to the living, except, indeed, in a subsidiary way? For you do reject the bounty of nature unseasonably in the present, and cling to what others shall say of you hereafter.
20. Everything, which has any sort of beauty of its own, is beautiful of itself, and looks no further than itself, not counting praise as part of itself. For indeed that which is praised is made neither better nor worse thereby. This is true also of the things that in common parlance are called beautiful, such as material things and works of art. Does, then, the truly beautiful need anything beyond? No, no more than law, than truth, than kindness, than modesty. Which of these owes its beauty to being praised, or loses it by being blamed? What! Does an emerald forfeit its excellence by not being praised? Does gold, ivory, purple, a lyre, a poniard, a floweret, a shrub?
21. If souls outlive their bodies, how does the air contain them from times everlasting? How does the Earth contain the bodies of those who have been buried in it for such endless ages? For just as on earth the change of these bodies, after continuance for a certain indefinite time, followed by dissolution, makes room for other dead bodies, so souls, when transferred into the air, after lasting for a certain time, suffer change and are diffused and become fire, being taken again into the Seminal Reason of the Whole, and so allow room for those that subsequently take up their abode there. This would be the answer one would give on the assumption that souls outlive their bodies.
But not only must the multitude of bodies thus constantly being buried be taken into account, but also that of the creatures devoured daily by ourselves mostly held that souls might exist until the next cyclical conflagration, when they became merged into the logos and the other animals. How great is the number consumed and thus in a way buried in the bodies of those who feed upon them! And yet room is made for them all by their conversion into blood, by their transmutation into air or fire.
Where in this case lies the way of search for the truth? In a separation of the Material from the Causal.
23. All that is in tune with you, O Cosmos, is in tune with me! Nothing that is in due time for you is too early or too late for me! All that your seasons bring, O Nature, is fruit for me! All things come from you, subsist in you, go back to you. There is one who says Dear City of Cecrops! Will you not say O dear City of Zeus?
24. If you would be tranquil in heart, says the Sage, do not many things. Is not this a better maxim: do but what is needful, and what the reason of a living creature born for a civic life demands, and as it demands. For this brings the tranquillity that comes from doing few things no less than of doing them well. For nine-tenths of our words and deeds being unnecessary, if a man retrench there, he will have more abundant leisure and fret the less. Wherefore do not forget on every occasion to ask yourself, Is this one of the unnecessary things? But we must retrench not only actions but thoughts that are unnecessary, for then neither will distracting actions follow.
25. Try living the life of the good man who is more than content with what is allotted to him out of the whole, and is satisfied with his own acts as just and his own disposition as kindly: see how that answers.
26. Have you looked on that side of the picture? Look now on this! Do not fret yourself; study to be simple. Does a man do wrong? The wrong rests with him. Has something befallen you? It is well. Everything that befalls was from the beginning destined and spun for you as your share out of the Whole. In a word, life is short. Make profit of the present by right reasoning and justice. In your relaxation be sober.
27. Either there is a well-arranged Order of things or a medley that is confused, yet still an order. Or can a sort of order subsist in you, while in the Cosmos there is no order, and that too when all things, though separated and dispersed, are still in sympathetic connection?
29. If he is an alien in the Cosmos who has no cognizance of the things that are in it, no less is he an alien who has no cognizance of what is happening in it. He is an exile, who exiles himself from civic reason; blind, he who will not see with the eyes of his understanding; a beggar, he who is dependent on another, and cannot draw from his own resources all that his life requires; an imposthume on the Cosmos, he who renounces, and severs himself from, the reason of our common Nature, because he is ill pleased at what happens — for the same Nature brings this into being, that also brought you; a limb cut off from the community, he who cuts off his own soul from the soul of all rational things, which is but one.
30. One philosopher goes without a shirt, a second without a book, a third is there half-naked: says he, I am starving for bread, yet cleave I fast to Reason; and I get no living out of my learning, yet I cleave to her.
31. Cherish the art, though humble, that you have learned, and take your rest therein; and pass through the remainder of your days as one who with his whole soul has given all that is his in trust to the Gods, and has made of himself neither a tyrant nor a slave to any man.
32. Think by way of illustration upon the times of Vespasian, and you shall see all these things: mankind marrying, rearing children, sickening, dying, warring, making holiday, trafficking, tilling, flattering others, vaunting themselves, suspecting, scheming, praying for the death of others, murmuring at their own lot, loving, hoarding, coveting a consulate, coveting a kingdom. Not a vestige of that life of theirs is left anywhere any longer.
Change the scene again to the times of Trajan. Again it is all the same; that life too is dead. In like manner contemplate all the other records of past time and of entire nations, and see how many after all their high-strung efforts sank down so soon in death and were resolved into the elements. But above all must you dwell in thought upon those whom you have yourself known, who, following after vanity, neglected to do the things that accorded with their own constitution and, cleaving steadfastly thereto, to be content with them. And here it is essential to remember that a due sense of value and proportion should regulate the care bestowed on every action. For thus will you never give over in disgust, if you do not busy yourself beyond what is right with the lesser things.
33. Expressions once in use are now obsolete. So also the names of those much be-sung heroes of old are in some sense obsolete, Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus, and a little later Scipio and Cato, then also Augustus, and then Hadrianus and Antoninus. For all things quickly fade away and become legendary, and soon absolute oblivion encairns them. And here I speak of those who made an extraordinary blaze in the world. For the rest, as soon as the breath is out of their bodies, it is, Out of sight, out of mind. But what, when all is said, is even ever lasting remembrance? Wholly vanity. What then is it that calls for our devotion? This one thing: justice in thought, in act unselfishness and a tongue that cannot lie and a disposition ready to welcome all that befalls as unavoidable, as familiar, as issuing from a like origin and fountain-head.
36. Unceasingly contemplate the generation of all things through change, and accustom yourself to the thought that the Nature of the Cosmos delights above all in changing the things that exist and making new ones of the same pattern. For in a manner everything that exists is the seed of that which shall come out of it. But you imagine that only to be seed that is deposited in the earth or the womb, a view beyond measure unphilosophical.
37. A moment and you will be dead; and not even yet are you simple, nor unperturbed, nor free from all suspicion that you can be injured by externals, nor gracious to all, nor convinced that wisdom and just dealing are but one.
39. Harm to you cannot depend on another’s ruling Reason, nor yet on any vagary or phase of your environment. On what then? On the power that is yours of judging what is evil. Let this, then, pass no judgment, and all is well. Even if its closest associate, the poor body, is cut, is burnt, fester, gangrene, yet let the part which forms a judgment about these things hold its peace, that is, let it assume nothing to be either good or bad, which can befall a good man or a bad indifferently. For that which befalls alike the man who lives by the rule, and the man who lives contrary to the rule, of Nature, is neither in accordance with Nature nor contrary to it.
40. Do not cease to think of the Cosmos as one living Being, possessed of a single Substance and a single Soul; and how all things trace back to its single sentience; and how it does all things by a single impulse; and how all existing things are joint causes of all things that come into existence; and how intertwined in the fabric is the thread and how closely woven the web.
43. As a river consisting of all things that come into being, yes, a rushing torrent, is Time. No sooner is a thing sighted than it is carried past, and lo, another is passing, and it too will be carried away.
44. Everything that happens is as usual and familiar, as the rose in spring and the fruit in autumn. The same applies to disease and death and slander and treachery and all that gladdens the foolish or saddens them.
45. That which comes after always has a close relationship to what has gone before. For it is not like some enumeration of items separately taken and following a mere inevitable sequence, but there is a rational connection; and just as existing things have been combined in a harmonious order, so also all that comes into being bears the stamp not of a mere succession but of a wonderful relationship.
46. Always bear in mind what Heraclitus said: The death of earth is to pass into water, and the death of water to pass into air, and of air to pass into fire, and so back again. Bear in mind too: the wayfarer who forgets the trend of his way, and that men are at variance with the one thing with which they are in the most unbroken communion, the Reason that administers the whole Cosmos; and that what they encounter every day, this they deem strange; and that we must not act and speak like men asleep, — for in fact even in sleep we seem to act and speak; — and that there should be nothing of the children from parents style, that is, no mere perfunctory what our Fathers have told us.
47. Just as, if a God had told you, You shall die tomorrow or in any case the day after, you would no longer count it of any consequence whether it were the day after tomorrow or tomorrow, unless you are in the last degree mean-spirited, for how little is the difference! — so also deem it but a trifling thing that you should die after ever so many years rather than tomorrow.
48. Do not cease to bear in mind how many physicians are dead after puckering up their brows so often over their patients; and how many astrologers after making a great parade of predicting the death of others; and how many philosophers after endless disquisitions on death and immortality; how many great captains after butchering thousands; how many tyrants after exercising with revolting insolence their power of life and death, as though themselves immortal; and how many entire cities are, if I may use the expression, dead, Helice and Pompeii and Herculaneum, and others without number.
Turn also to all, one after another, that come within your own knowledge. One closed a friend’s eyes and was then himself laid out, and the friend who closed his, he too was laid out — and all this in a few short years. In a word, do not fail to note how short-lived are all mortal things, and how paltry — yesterday a little mucus, tomorrow a mummy or burnt ash. Pass then through this tiny span of time in accordance with Nature, and come to your journey’s end with a good grace, just as an olive falls when it is fully ripe, praising the earth that bore it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.
Ah, unlucky am I, that this has befallen me! No, but rather, I am lucky that, though this has befallen me, yet I am still unhurt, neither crushed by the present nor dreading the future. For something of the kind could have befallen everyone, but everyone would not have remained unhurt in spite of it. Why then count that rather a misfortune than this a good fortune? And in any case do you reckon that a misfortune for a man which is not an aberration from his nature? And would you have that to be an aberration from a man’s nature, which does not contravene the will of his nature! What then? This will you have learnt to know. Does what has befallen you hinder you one whit from being just, high-minded, chaste, sensible, deliberate, straightforward, modest, free, and from possessing all the other qualities, the presence of which enables a man’s nature to come fully into its own? Do not forget in the future, when anything would lead you to feel hurt, to take your stand upon this axiom: This is no misfortune, but to bear it nobly is good fortune.
50. An unphilosophical, but none the less an effective, help to the condemning of death is to tell over the names of those who have clung long and tenaciously to life. How are they better off than those who were cut off before their time? After all, they lie buried somewhere at last, Cadicianus, Fabius, Julianus, Lepidus, and any others like them, who after carrying many to their graves were at last carried to their own. Small, in any point of view, is the difference in length, and that too lived out to the dregs amid what great cares and with what sort of companions and in what kind of a body! Count it then of no consequence. For look at the yawning gulf of Time behind you, and before you at another Infinity to come. In this Eternity the life of a baby of three days and the life of a Nestor of three centuries are as one.
51. Run ever the short way; and the short way is the way of Nature, that leads to all that is most sound in speech and act. For a resolve such as this is a release from troubles and strife, from all mental reservation and affectation.
1. At daybreak, when reluctant to rise, have this thought ready in your mind: I am rising for a man’s work. Am I then still peevish that I am going to do that for which I was born and for the sake of which I came into the world? Or was I made for this, that I should nuzzle under the bed-clothes and keep my self warm? But this is more pleasant. Have you been made then for pleasure, in a word, I ask you, to be acted upon or to act? Consider each little plant, each tiny bird, the ant, the spider, the bee, how they go about their own work and do each his part for the building up of an orderly Cosmos. Do you then refuse to do the work of a man? Do you not hurry to do what Nature bids of you. But some rest, too, is necessary. I do not deny it. Howbeit Nature has set limits to this, and no less so to eating and drinking. Yet you exceed these limits and exceed sufficiency. But in acts it is no longer so; there you come short of the possibility.
For you do not love yourself, else surely you had loved your nature also and to do her will. But others who love their own art wear themselves to a shadow with their labors over it, forgetting to wash or take food. But you hold your own nature in less honor than the chaser of metal his art of chasing, than the dancer his dancing, than the miser his money bags, than the popularity-hunter his little applause. And these, when they are exceptionally in earnest, are ready to forgo food and sleep, so that they forward the things in which they are interested. But do you deem the acts of a social being of less worth and less deserving of attention?
3. Deem no word or deed that is in accord with Nature to be unworthy of you, and do not be plucked aside by the consequent censure of others or what they say, but if a thing is good to do or say, do not judge yourself to be unworthy of it. For those others have their own ruling Reason and follow their own bent. Do not turn your eyes aside, but keep to the straight path, following your own and the Cosmic Nature; and the path of these twain is one.
4. I fare forth through all that Nature wills until the day when I shall sink down and rest from my labors, breathing forth my last breath into the air from where I daily draw it in, and falling upon that earth, from where also my father gathered the seed, and my mother the blood, and my nurse the milk; from where daily for so many years I am fed and watered; which bears me as I tread it under foot and make full use of it in a thousand ways.
5. Men cannot praise your sharpness of wit. Granted! Yet there are many other qualities of which you cannot say: I did not have that by nature. Well then, display those that are wholly in your power, sterling sincerity, dignity, endurance of toil, abstinence from pleasure. Do not grumble at your lot, be content with little, be kindly, independent, frugal, serious, high-minded. Do not see how many virtues it is in your power to display now, in respect of which you can plead no natural incapacity or incompatibility, and yet you are content still with a lower standard? Or are you forced to be discontented, to be grasping, to flatter, to inveigh against the body, to play the toady and the braggart, and to be so unstable in your soul, because forsooth you have no natural gifts? By the Gods, No! but long before now could you have shaken yourself free from all this and have lain under the imputation only, if it must be so, of being somewhat slow and dull of apprehension. And this too you must amend with training and not ignore your dullness or be in love with it.
6. One man, when he has done another a kindness is ready also to reckon on a return. A second is not ready to do this, but yet in his heart of hearts ranks the other as a debtor, and he is conscious of what he has done. But a third is in a manner not conscious of it, but is like the vine that has borne a cluster of grapes, and when it has once borne its due fruit looks for no reward beyond, as it is with a steed when it has run its course, a hound when it has singled out the trail, a bee when she has made her comb. And so a man when he has done one thing well, does not cry it abroad, but betakes himself to a second, as a vine to bear afresh her clusters in due season.
A man then must be of those who act thus as it were unconsciously? Yes. But surely he must be conscious of what he is doing, for it is, we are told, the peculiar attribute of the man of true social instincts to be aware that he puts such instincts into practice? And by heaven to wish that his neighbor should also be aware of it. True; but you misconceive the present argument, and will consequently be of the number of those whom I mentioned before; for in fact they are led astray by reasoning that has a plausible look. But if you think it worthwhile to understand what has been said, do not fear that you will be led thereby to neglect any social act.
8. We have all heard, Aesculapius has prescribed for so and so riding exercise, or cold baths, or walking barefoot. Precisely so it may be said that the Cosmic Nature has prescribed for so and so sickness or maim or loss or what not of the same kind. For, in the former case, prescribed has some such meaning as this: He ordained this for so and so as conducive to his health; while in the latter what befalls each man has been ordained in some way as conducive to his destiny. For we say that things fall to us, as the masons too say that the huge squared stones in walls and pyramids fall into their places, adjusting themselves harmoniously to one another in a sort of structural unity. For, in fine, there is one harmony of all things, and just as from all bodies the Cosmos is made up into such a body as it is, so from all causes is Destiny made up into such a Cause. This is recognized by the most unthinking, for they say: Fate brought this on him. So then this was brought on this man, and this prescribed for this man. Let us then accept our fate, as we accept the prescriptions of Aesculapius. And in fact in these, too, there are many “bitter pills,” but we welcome them in hope of health.
Take much the same view of the accomplishment and consummation of what Nature approves as of your health, and so welcome whatever happens, should it even be somewhat distasteful, because it contributes to the health of the Cosmos and the well-faring and well-doing of Zeus himself. For he had not brought this on a man, unless it had brought welfare to the Whole. For take any nature you will, it never brings upon that which is under its control anything that does not conduce to its interests.
For two reasons then it behooves you to acquiesce in what befalls: one, that it was for you it took place, and was prescribed for you, and had reference in some sort to you, being a thread of destiny spun from the first for you from the most ancient causes; the other, that even what befalls each individual is the cause of the well-faring, of the consummation and by heaven of the very permanence of that which controls the Cosmos. For the perfection of the Whole is impaired, if you cut off ever so little of the coherence and continuance of the Causes no less than of the parts. And you do cut them off, as far as lies with you, and bring them to an end, when you murmur.
9. Do not feel qualms or despondency or discomfiture if you do not invariably succeed in acting from right principles; but when you are foiled, come back again to them, and rejoice if on the whole your conduct is worthy of a man, and love the course to which you return. Do not come back to Philosophy as to a schoolmaster, but as the sore-eyed to their sponges and their white of egg, as this patient to his plaster and that to his fomentations. Thus will you rest satisfied with Reason, yet make no parade of obeying her. And do not forget that Philosophy wishes but what your nature wishes, whereas your wish was for something else that does not accord with Nature. Yes, for it would have been the acme of delight. Ah, is not that the very reason why pleasure trips us up? No, see if these are not more delightful still: high-mindedness, independence, simplicity, tenderness of heart, sanctity of life. Why what is more delightful than wisdom herself, when you think how sure and smooth in all its workings is the faculty of understanding and knowledge?
10. Things are in a sense so wrapped up in mystery that not a few philosophers, and they no ordinary ones, have concluded that they are wholly beyond our comprehension: no, even the Stoics themselves find them hard to comprehend. Indeed every assent we give to the impressions of our senses is liable to error, for where is the man who never errs? Pass on then to the objective things themselves, how transitory they are, how worthless, the property, quite possibly, of a boy-minion, a harlot, or a brigand. After that turn to the characters of your associates, even the most refined of whom it is difficult to put up with, let alone the fact that a man has enough to do to endure himself.
What then there can be amid such murk and nastiness, and in so ceaseless an ebbing of substance and of time, of movement and things moved, that deserves to be greatly valued or to excite our ambition in the least, I cannot even conceive. On the contrary, a man should take heart of grace to await his natural dissolution, and without any chafing at delay comfort himself with these twin thoughts alone: the one, that nothing will befall me that is not in accord with the Nature of the Cosmos; the other, that it is in my power to do nothing contrary to the God and the genius within me. For no one can force me to disobey that.
11. To what use then am I putting my soul? Never fail to ask yourself this question and to cross-examine yourself thus: What relation have I to this part of me which they call the ruling Reason? And whose Soul have I got now? The Soul of a child? Of a youth? Of a woman? Of a tyrant? Of a domestic animal? Of a wild beast?
12. What are counted as good things in the estimation of the many you can gather even from this. For if a man fixes his mind upon certain things as really and unquestionably good, such as wisdom, temperance, justice, manliness, with this preconception in his mind he could no longer bear to listen to the poet’s, By reason of his wealth of goods; for it would not apply. But, if a man first fixes his mind upon the things that appear good to the multitude, he will listen and readily accept as aptly added the quotation from the Comic Poet. In this way even the multitude have a perception of the difference. For otherwise this jest would not offend and be repudiated, while we accept it as appropriately and wittily said of wealth and of the advantages that wait upon luxury and popularity. Go on, then, and ask whether we should prize and count as good those things, with which first fixed in our mind we might germanely quote of their possessor, that for his very wealth of goods he has no place to ease himself in.
13. I am made up of the Causal and the Material, and neither of these disappears into nothing, just and we might then as neither did it come into existence out of nothing. So shall my every part by change be told off to form some part of the Cosmos, and that again be changed into another part of it, and so on to infinity. It was by such process of change that I too came into being and my parents, and so backwards into a second infinity. And the statement is quite legitimate, even if the Cosmos be arranged according to completed cycles.
14. Reason and the art of reasoning are in themselves and in their own proper acts self-sufficing faculties. Starting from a principle peculiar to them, they journey on to the end set before them. Wherefore such actions are termed right acts, as signifying that they follow the right way.
15. Call none of those things a man’s that do not fall to him as man. They cannot be claimed of a man; the man’s nature does not guarantee them; they are no consummations of that nature. Consequently neither is the end for which man lives placed in these things, nor yet that which is perfective of the end, namely The Good. Moreover, if any of these things did fall to a man, it would not fall to him to contemn them and set his face against them, nor would a man be commendable who showed himself independent of these things, nor yet would he be a good man who came short of his own standard in any of them, if so be these things were good. But as it is, the more a man can cut himself free, or even be set free, from these and other such things with equanimity, by so much the more is he good.
16. The character of your mind will be such as is the character of your frequent thoughts, for the soul takes its dye from the thoughts. Dye her then with a continuous succession of such thoughts as these: Where life is possible, there it is possible also to live well. — But the life is life in a Court. Well, in a Court too it is possible to live well. And again: A thing is drawn toward that for the sake of which it has been made, and its end lies in that toward which it is drawn and, where its end lies, there lie also its interest and its good. The Good, then, for a rational creature is fellowship with others. For it has been made clear long ago that we were constituted for fellowship. Or was it not obvious that the lower were for the sake of the higher and the higher for the sake of one another? And living things are higher than lifeless, and those that have reason are higher than those that have life only.
18. Nothing befalls anyone that he is not fitted by nature to bear. Others experience the same things as you, but either from ignorance that anything has befallen them, or to manifest their greatness of mind, they stand firm and get no hurt. A strange thing indeed that ignorance and vanity should prove stronger than wisdom!
19. Things of themselves cannot take the least hold of the Soul, nor have any access to her, nor deflect or move her; but the Soul alone deflects and moves herself, and whatever judgments she deems it right to form, in conformity with them she fashions for herself the things that submit themselves to her from without.
20. In one respect a man is of very close concern to us, in so far as we must do him good and forbear; but in so far as any stand in the way of those acts which concern us closely, then man becomes for me as much one of things indifferent as the sun, as the wind, as a wild-beast. Though a man may in some sort fetter my activity, yet on my own initiative and mental attitude no fetters can be put because of the power they possess of conditional action and of adaptation to circumstances. For everything that stands in the way of its activity is adapted and transmuted by the mind into a furtherance of it, and that which is a check on this action is converted into a help to it, and that which is a hindrance in our path goes but to make it easier.
21. Prize the most excellent thing in the Cosmos; and this is that which utilizes all things and controls all things. Prize in like manner the most excellent thing in yourself; and this is that which is akin to the other. For this, which utilizes all else is in you too, and by it your life is governed.
22. That which is not hurtful to the community cannot hurt the individual. Test every case of apparent hurt by this rule: if the community is not hurt by this, neither am I hurt; but if the community is hurt, there is no need to be angry with him who has done the hurt, but to inquire, What has he seen amiss?
23. Think often on the swiftness with which the things that exist and that are coming into existence are swept past us and carried out of sight. For all substance l is as a river in ceaseless flow, its activities ever changing and its causes subject to countless variations, and scarcely anything stable; and ever beside us is this infinity of the past and yawning abyss of the future, wherein all things are disappearing. Is he not senseless who in such an environment puffs himself up, or is distracted, or frets as over a trouble lasting and far-reaching?
24. Keep in memory the Cosmic Substance, of which you are a tiny part; and Cosmic Time, of which a brief, no an almost momentary span has been allotted you; and Destiny, in which how fractional your share?
25. Another does me some wrong? He shall see to it. His disposition is his own, his activities are his own. What the Cosmic Nature wills me to have now, that I now have, and what my nature wills me now to do, that I do.
26. Let the ruling and master Reason of your soul be proof against any motions in the flesh, smooth or rough. Do not let it mingle itself with them, but isolate and restrict those tendencies to their true spheres. But when in virtue of that other sympathetic connection these tendencies grow up into the mind as is to be expected in a single organism, then you must not go about to resist the sensation, natural as it is, but see that your ruling Reason adds no opinion of its own as to whether such is good or bad.
27. Walk with the Gods! And he does walk with the Gods, who lets them see his soul invariably satisfied with its lot and carrying out the will of that ‘genius,’ a particle of himself, which Zeus has given to every man as his captain and guide — and this is none other than each man’s intelligence and reason.
28. If a man’s armpits are unpleasant, are you angry with him? If he has foul breath? What would be the use? The man has such a mouth, he has such armpits. Some such effluvium was bound to come from such a source. But the man has sense, quotha! With a little attention he could see wherein he offends. I congratulate you! Well, you too have sense. By a rational attitude, then, in yourself evoke a rational attitude in him, enlighten him, admonish him. If he listens, you shall cure him, and have no need of anger.
Neither tragedian nor harlot.
29. You can live on earth as you do purpose to live when departed. But if men will not have it so, then is it time for you even to go out of life, yet not as one who is treated ill. It is smoky and I go away. Why think it a great matter? But while no such cause drives me forth, I remain a free man, and none shall prevent me from doing what I will, and I will what is in accordance with the nature of a rational and social creature.
30. The intelligence of the Cosmos is social. It has at any rate made the lower things for the sake of the higher, and it adapted the higher to one another. You can see how it has subordinated, coordinated, and given each its due lot and brought the more excellent things into mutual accord.
Doing wrong to no man, nor speaking anything that is evil?
And call to mind all that you have passed through, all you have found strength to bear; that the story of your life is now full-told and your service is ending; and how many beautiful sights you have seen, how many pleasures and pains you have disregarded, forgone what ambitions, and repaid with kindness how much unkindness.
32. Why do unskilled and ignorant souls confound him who has skill and has knowledge? What soul, then, has skill and knowledge? Even that which knows beginning and end, and the reason that informs all Substance, and governs the Whole from ordered cycle to cycle through all eternity.
33. But a little while and you shall be burnt ashes or a few dry bones, and possibly a name, possibly not even a name. And a name is but sound and a far off echo. And all that we prize so highly in our lives is empty and rotten and paltry, and we but as puppies snapping at each other, as quarrelsome children now laughing and soon in tears. But faith and modesty and justice and truth
Up from the wide-wayed Earth have winged their flight to Olympus.
What then keeps you here? — If indeed sensible objects are ever changing and unstable, and our faculties are so feeble and so easily misled; and the poor soul itself is an exhalation from blood; and to be well-thought of in such a world is mere vanity. What then remains? To wait with a good grace for the end, whether it be extinction or translation. But until our time for that has come, what suffices? What but to reverence the Gods and to praise them, to do good unto men and to bear with them and forbear? But, for all else that comes within the compass of this poor flesh and breath, to remember that it is not yours nor under your control?
34. You have it in your power that the current of your life may be ever fair, if also it is yours to make a fair way, if also in an ordered way to think and act. The Soul of God and the souls of men and of every rational creature have these two characteristics in common: to suffer no let or hindrance from another, and to find their good in a condition and practice of justice, and to confine their propension to this.
36. Do not be carried incontinently away by sense-impressions, but rally to the fight as you can and as is due. If there is a failure regarding things indifferent, do not think there is any great harm done; for that is an evil habit. But as the greybeard (in the play) taking his leave reclaimed his foster-child’s top, not forgetting that it was but a top, so do you here also. Since indeed you are found haranguing on the hustings, O Man, have you forgotten what this really means? Yes, but people will have it. Must you also be a fool in consequence?
Time was that wheresoever forsaken I was a man well-portioned; but that man well-portioned is he who has given himself a good portion; and good portions are good phases of the soul, good impulses, good actions.
1. The Cosmic Substance is docile and ductile; and the Reason that controls it has no motive in itself to do wrong. For it has no wrongness and does no wrong, nor is anything harmed by it. But all things come into being and fulfill their purpose as it directs.
2. Make no difference in doing your duty whether you are shivering or warm, drowsy or sleep-satisfied, defamed or extolled, dying or anything else. For the act of dying too is one of the acts of life. So it is enough in this also to get the work in hand done well.
9. In accordance with the Nature of the Cosmos is accomplished each several thing. For surely this cannot be in accordance with any other nature, that either envelops it from without, or is enveloped by it within, or exists in external detachment out side it.
10. Either a medley and a tangled web and a dispersion abroad, or a unity and a plan and a Providence. If the former, why should I even wish to abide in such a random welter and chaos? Why care for anything else than to turn again to the dust at last. Why be disquieted? For, do what I will, the dispersion must overtake me. But if the latter, I bow in reverence, my feet are on the rock, and I put my trust in the Power that rules.
11. When forced, as it seems, by your environment to be utterly disquieted, return with all speed into your self, staying in discord no longer than you must. By constant recurrence to the harmony, you will gain more command over it.
12. Had you at once a stepmother and a mother you would pay due service to the former, and yet your constant recourse would be to your mother. So have you now the court and philosophy for stepmother and mother. Do not cease then to come to the latter and take your rest in her, whereby shall both your court life seem more tolerable to you, and you to your court life.
13. As in the case of meat and similar eatables the thought strikes us, this is the dead body of a fish, this of a fowl or pig; and again that this Falernian is merely the juice of a grape-cluster, and this purple-edged robe is nothing but sheep’s wool steeped in the blood of a shellfish; or, of sexual intercourse, that it is merely internal attrition and the spasmodic excretion of mucus — such, I say, as are these impressions that get to grips with the actual things and enter into the heart of them, so as to see them as they really are, thus should it be your life through, and where things look to be convincing above measure, laying them quite bare, behold their paltriness and strip off their conventional prestige. For conceit is a past master in fallacies and, when you flatter yourself most that you are engaged in worthy tasks, then are you most of all deluded by it. At any rate, see what Crates has to say about none other than Xenocrates.
14. Objects admired by the common sort come chiefly under things of the most general kind, which are held together by physical coherence, such as stones and wood, or by a natural unity, such as figs, vines, and olives; and those which are admired by persons of a somewhat higher capacity may be categorized as things that are held together by a conscious life, such as flocks and herds; and those that are admired by persons still more refined, as things held together by a rational soul; I do not mean rational as part of the Cosmic Reason, but in the sense of master of an art or expert in some other way, or merely in so far as to own a host of slaves. But he who prizes a soul that is rational, cosmic, and civic, no longer turns after anything else, but rather than everything besides keeps his own soul, in itself and in its activity, rational and social, and to this end works conjointly with all that is akin to him.
15. Some things are hastening to be, others to be no more, while of those that hasten into being some part is already extinct. Fluxes and changes perpetually renew the world, just as the unbroken march of time makes ever new the infinity of ages. In this river of change, which of the things that swirl past him, whereon no firm foothold is possible, should a man prize so highly? As well fall in love with a sparrow that flits past and in a moment is gone from our eyes. In fact a man’s life itself is but as an exhalation from blood and an inhalation from the air. For just as it is to draw in the air once into our lungs and give it back again, as we do every moment, so is it to give back, from where you did draw it first, your faculty of breathing that you did receive at your birth yesterday or the day before.
16. Neither is it an inner respiration, such as that of plants, that we should prize, nor the breathing which we have in common with cattle and wild animals, nor the impressions we receive through our senses, nor that we are pulled by our impulses like marionettes, nor our gregarious instincts, nor our need of nutriment; for that is on a par with the rejection of the waste products of our food.
What then is to be prized? The clapping of hands? No. Then not the clapping of tongues either. For the acclamations of the multitude are but a clapping of tongues. So overboard goes that poor thing Fame also. What is left to be prized? This I think: to limit our action or inaction to the needs of our own constitution, an end that all occupations and arts set before themselves. For the aim of every art is that the thing constituted should be adapted to the work for which it has been constituted. It is so with the vine-dresser who looks after the vines, the colt-trainer, and the keeper of the kennels. And this is the end which the care of children and the methods of teaching have in view. There then is the thing to be prized!
This once you have fairly made it your own, you will not seek to gain for yourself any of the other things as well. Will you not cease prizing many other things also? Then you will neither be free nor sufficient unto yourself nor unmoved by passion. For you must need to be full of envy and jealousy, be suspicious of those who can rob you of such things, and scheme against those who possess what you prize. In fine, a man who needs any of those things cannot but be in complete turmoil, and in many cases find fault even with the Gods. But by reverencing and prizing your own mind, you shall make yourself pleasing in your own sight, in accord with mankind, and in harmony with the Gods, that is, grateful to them for all that they dispense and have ordained.
18. What a way to act! Men are chary of commending their contemporaries and associates, while they themselves set great store by the commendation of posterity, whom they have never seen or shall see. But this is next door to taking it amiss that your predecessors also did not commend.
19. Because you find a thing difficult for yourself to accomplish do not conceive it to be impracticable for others; but whatever is possible for a man and in keeping with his nature consider also attainable by yourself.
20. Suppose that a competitor in the ring has gashed us with his nails and butted us violently with his head, we do not protest or take it amiss or suspect our opponent in the future of foul play. Still we do keep an eye on him, not indeed as an enemy, or from suspicion of him, but with good-humored avoidance. Act much in the same way in all the other parts of life. Let us make many allowances for our fellow-athletes as it were. Avoidance is always possible, as I have said, without suspicion or hatred.
21. If anyone can prove and bring home to me that a conception or act of mine is wrong, I will amend it, and be thankful. For I seek the truth, whereby no one was ever harmed. But he is harmed who persists in his own self-deception and ignorance.
23. Conduct yourself with magnanimity and freedom toward irrational creatures and, generally, toward circumstances and objective things, for you have reason and they have none. But men have reason, therefore treat them as fellow creatures. And in all cases call upon the Gods, and do not concern yourself with the question, How long shall I do this? Three hours are enough so spent.
25. Bear in mind how many things happen to each one of us with respect to our bodies as well as our souls in the same momentary space of time, so will you cease to wonder that many more things — not to say all the things that come into existence in that One and Whole which in fact we call the Cosmos — subsist in it at one time.
26. If one inquires of you, How is the name Antoninus written? will you with vehemence enunciate each constituent letter? What then? If your listeners lose their temper, will you lose yours? Would you not go on gently to enumerate each letter? So recollect that in life too every duty is the sum of separate items. Of these you must take heed, and carry through methodically what is set before you, in no waye troubled or showing counter-irritation against those who are irritated with you.
27. How intolerant it is not to permit men to cherish an impulse toward what is in their eyes congenial and advantageous! Yet in a sense you withhold from them the right to do this, when you resent their wrong-doing. For they are undoubtedly drawn to what they deem congenial and advantageous. But they are mistaken. Well, then, teach and enlighten them without any resentment.
30. See that you are not Caesarified, nor take that dye, for there is the possibility. So keep yourself a simple and good man, uncorrupt, dignified, plain, a friend of justice, god-fearing, gracious, affectionate, manful in doing your duty. Strive to be always such as Philosophy minded to make you. Revere the Gods, save mankind. Life is short. This only is the harvest of earthly existence, a righteous disposition and social acts.
Do all things as a disciple of Antoninus. Think of his constancy in every act rationally undertaken, his invariable equability, his piety, his serenity of countenance, his sweetness of disposition, his contempt for the bubble of fame, and his zeal for getting a true grip of affairs. How he would never on any account dismiss a thing until he had first thoroughly scrutinized and clearly conceived it; how he put up with those who found fault with him unfairly, finding no fault with them in return; how he was never in a hurry; how he gave no ear to slander, and with what nicety he tested dispositions and acts; was no imputer of blame, and no craven, not a suspicious man, nor a sophist; what little sufficed him whether for lodging or bed, dress, food or attendance; how fond he was of work, and how long-suffering; how he would remain the whole day at the same occupation, owing to his spare diet not even requiring to relieve nature except at the customary time; and how loyal he was to his friends and always the same; and his forbearance toward those who openly opposed his views, and his pleasure when anyone pointed out something better; and how god-fearing he was and yet not given to superstition. Take heed to all this, that your last hour comes upon you as much at peace with your conscience as he was.
31. Be sober once more and call back your senses, and being roused again from sleep and, realizing that they were but dreams that beset you, now awake again, look at these realities as you looked at your dreams.
32. I consist of body and soul. To the body indeed all things are indifferent, for it cannot concern itself with them. But to the mind only those things are indifferent which are not its own activities; and all those things that are its own activities are in its own power. Howbeit, of these it is only concerned with the present; for as to its activities in the past and the future, these two rank at once among things indifferent.
33. For hand or foot to feel pain is no violation of nature, so long as the foot does its own appointed work, and the hand its own. Similarly pain for a man, as man, is no unnatural thing so long as he does a man’s appointed work. But, if not unnatural, then is it not an evil either.
35. Do you not see how the mechanic craftsman, though to some extent willing to humor the non-expert, yet holds fast nonetheless to the principles of his handicraft, and cannot endure to depart from them. Is it not strange that the architect and the physician should hold the rationale of their respective arts in higher reverence than a man holds his own reason, which he has in common with the Gods?
36. Asia, Europe, corners of the Cosmos: the whole Ocean a drop in the Cosmos: Athos but a little clod therein: all the present a point in Eternity: — everything on a tiny scale, so easily changed, so quickly vanished.
All things come from that one source, from that ruling Reason of the Cosmos, either under a primary impulse from it or by way of consequence. And therefore the gape of the lion’s jaws and poison and all noxious things, such as thorns and mire, are but after-results of the grand and the beautiful. Do not look then on these as alien to that which you do reverence, but turn your thoughts to the one source of all things.
38. Meditate often on the intimate union and mutual interdependence of all things in the Cosmos. For in a manner all things are mutually intertwined, and thus all things have a liking for one another. For these things are consequent one on another by reason of their contracting and expanding motion, the sympathy that breathes through them, and the unity of all substance.
40. Every implement, tool, or vessel is well if it does the work for which it is made, and yet in their case the maker is not at hand. But in the things which owe their organic unity to Nature, the Power that made is within them and abides there. Wherefore also must you reverence it the more, and realize that if you keep and conduct yourself ever according to its will, all is to your mind. So also to its mind are the things of the Cosmos.
41. If you regard anything not in your own choice as good or evil for yourself, it is inevitable that, on the incidence of such an evil or the miscarriage of such a good, you should upbraid the Gods, yes, and hate men as the actual or supposed cause of the one or the other; and in fact many are the wrong-doings we commit by setting a value on such things. But if we discriminate as good and evil only the things in our power, there is no occasion left for accusing the Gods or taking the stand of an enemy toward men.
42. We are all fellow-workers toward the fulfilment of one object, some of us knowingly and intelligently, others blindly; just as Heraclitus, I think, says that even when they sleep men are workers and fellow-agents in all that goes on in the world. One is a co-agent in this, another in that, and in abundant measure also he that murmurs and seeks to hinder or disannul what occurs. For the Cosmos had need of such men also. It remains then for you to decide with whom you are ranging yourself. For He that controls the Cosmos will in any case put you to a good use and admit you to a place among his fellow-workers and coadjutors. But see that you fill no such place as the paltry and ridiculous line in the play which Chrysippus mentions.
44. If the Gods have taken counsel about me and the things to befall me, doubtless they have taken good counsel. For it is not easy even to imagine a God without wisdom. And what motive could they have impelling them to do me evil? For what advantage could thereby accrue to them or to the Cosmos which is their special care? But if the Gods have taken no counsel for me individually, yet they have in any case done so for the interests of the Cosmos, and I am bound to welcome and make the best of those things also that befall as a necessary corollary to those interests. But if so be they take counsel about nothing at all — an impious belief — in good sooth let us have no more of sacrifices and prayers and oaths, nor do any other of these things every one of which is a recognition of the Gods as if they were at our side and dwelling among us — but if so be, I say, they do not take counsel about any of our concerns, it is still in my power to take counsel about myself, and it is for me to consider my own interest. And that is to every man’s interest which is agreeable to his own constitution and nature. But my nature is rational and civic; my city and country, as Antoninus, is Koine; as a man, the world. The things then that are of advantage to these communities, these, and no other, are good for me.
45. All that befalls the Individual is also in the interest of the Whole. So far, so good. But further careful observation will show you that, as a general rule, what is to the interest of one man is also to the interest of other men. But in this case the word interest must be taken in a more general sense as it applies to intermediate things.
46. As the shows in the amphitheatre and such places grate upon you as being an everlasting repetition of the same sight, and the similarity makes the spectacle pall, such must be the effect of the whole of life. For everything above and below is ever the same and the result of the same things. How long then?
47. Never lose sight of the fact that men of all kinds, of all sorts of vocations and of every race under heaven, are dead; and so carry your thought down even to Philistion and Phoebus and Origanion. Now turn to the other tribes of men. We must pass at last to the same bourne where so many wonderful orators have gone, so many grave philosophers, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates: so many heroes of old time, and so many warriors, so many tyrants of later days: and besides them, Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes, and other acute natures, men of large minds, lovers of toil, men of versatile powers, men of strong will, mockers, like Menippus and many another such, of man’s perishable and transitory life itself. About all these reflect that they have long since been in their graves. What terrible thing then is this for them? What pray for those whose very names are unknown? One thing on Earth is worth much — to live out our lives in truth and justice, and in charity with liars and unjust men.
48. When you would cheer up your heart, think upon the good qualities of your associates; as for instance, this one’s energy, that one’s modesty, the generosity of a third, and some other trait of a fourth. For nothing is so cheering as the images of the virtues mirrored in the characters of those who live with us, and presenting themselves in as great a throng as possible. Have these images then ever before your eyes.
49. I am not aggrieved, am I, at being so many pounds in weight and not three hundred? Then why be aggrieved if I have only so many years to live and no more? For as I am contented with the amount of matter allotted to me, so be content also with the time.
50. Try persuasion first, but even though men would say no to you, act when the principles of justice so direct. Should any one however withstand you by force, take refuge in being well-content and unhurt, and utilize the obstacle for the display of some other virtue. Recollect that the impulse you had was conditioned by circumstances, and your aim was not to do impossibilities. What then was it?
To feel some such impulse as you did. In that you are successful. That which alone was in the sphere of our choice is realized.
57. To the jaundiced, honey tastes bitter; and the victim of hydrophobia has a horror of water; and to little children their ball is a treasure. Why then be angry? Or do you think that error is a less potent factor than bile in the jaundiced and virus in the victim of rabies?
59. The persons men wish to please, the objects they wish to gain, the means they employ — think of the character of all these! How soon will Time hide all things! How many things has it already hidden!
1. What is vice? A familiar sight enough. So in everything that befalls have the thought ready: This is a familiar sight. Look up, look down, everywhere you will find the same things, whereof histories ancient, medieval, and modern are full; and full of them at this day are cities and houses. There is no new thing under the sun. Everything is stereotyped, everything fleeting.
2. How else can your axioms be made dead than by the extinction of the ideas that answer to them? And these it lies with you ever to kindle anew into flame. I am competent to form the true conception of a thing. If so, why am I harassed? What is outside the scope of my mind has absolutely no concern with my mind. Learn this lesson and you stand erect.
You can begin a new life! See but things afresh as you used to see them; for in this consists the new life.
3. Empty love of pageantry, stage-plays, flocks and herds, sham-fights, a bone thrown to lap-dogs, crumbs cast in a fish-pond, painful travail of ants and their bearing of burdens, skurryings of scared little mice, puppets moved by strings. Amid such environment therefore you must take your place graciously and not ‘snorting defiance’, no you must keep abreast of the fact that everyone is worth just so much as those things are worth in which he is interested.
4. In conversation keep abreast of what is being said, and, in every effort, of what is being done. In the latter see from the first to what end it has reference, and in the former be careful to catch the meaning.
5. Is my mind competent for this or not? If competent, I apply it to the task as an instrument given me by the Cosmic Nature. If incompetent, I either withdraw from the work in favor of someone who can accomplish it better, unless for other reasons duty forbids; or I do the best I can, taking to assist me any one that can utilize my ruling Reason to effect what is at the moment seasonable and useful for the common welfare. For in whatsoever I do either by myself or with another I must direct my energies to this alone, that it shall conduce to the common interest and be in harmony with it.
7. Do not blush when you are helped; for you are bound to carry out the task that is laid upon you as a soldier to storm the breach. What then, if for very lameness you cannot mount the ramparts unaided, but can do this with another’s help?
9. All things are mutually intertwined, and the tie is sacred, and scarcely anything is alien the one to the other. For all things have been ranged side by side, and together help to order one ordered Cosmos. For there is both one Cosmos, made up of all things, and one God immanent in all things, and one Substance, and one Law, one Reason common to all intelligent Creatures, and one Truth, if indeed there is also one perfecting of living creatures that have the same origin and share the same reason.
10. A little while and all that is material is lost to sight in the Substance of the Cosmos, a little while and all Cause is taken back into the Reason of the Cosmos, a little while and the remembrance of everything is encairned in Eternity.
13. The principle that obtains where limbs and body unite to form one organism, holds good also for rational things with their separate individualities, constituted as they are to work in conjunction. But the perception of this shall come more home to you, if you say to yourself, I am a limb of the organized body of rational things. But if [using the letter R] you say you are but a part, not yet do you love mankind from the heart, nor yet does well-doing delight you for its own sake. You do practice it still as a bare duty, not yet as a boon to yourself.
14. Let any external thing, that will, be incident to whatever is able to feel this incidence. For that which feels can, if it please, complain. But I, if I do not consider what has befallen me to be an evil, am still unhurt. And I can refuse so to consider it.
15. Let any say or do what he will, I must for my part be good. So might the emerald — or gold or purple — never tire of repeating, Whatever anyone shall do or say, I cannot but be an emerald and keep my color.
16. The ruling Reason is never the disturber of its own peace, never, for instance, hurries itself into lust. But if another can cause it fear or pain, let it do so. For it will not let its own assumptions lead it into such aberrations.
Let the body take thought for itself, if it may, that it suffers no hurt and, if it does so suffer, let it proclaim the fact. But the soul that has the faculty of fear, the faculty of pain, and alone can assume that these exist, can never suffer; for it is not given to making any such admission.
In itself the ruling Reason wants for nothing unless it create its own needs, and in like manner nothing can disturb it, nothing impede it, unless the disturbance or impediment come from itself.
17. Well-being is a good Being, or a ruling Reason that is good. What then do you here, O Imagination? Avaunt, in God’s name, as you came, for I do not desire you! But you come according to the ancient wont. I bear you no malice; only depart from me!
18. Does a man shrink from change? Why, what can come into being save by change? What be nearer or dearer to the Nature of the Cosmos? Can you take a hot bath unless the wood for the furnace suffers a change? Could you be fed, if your food suffered no change, and can any of the needs of life be provided for apart from change? Can you not see that a personal change is similar, and similarly necessary to the Nature of the Cosmos?
How many a Chrysippus, how many a Socrates, how many an Epictetus has Time already devoured! Whatsoever man I have to do with and whatsoever thing, let the same thought strike me.
22. It is a man’s special privilege to love even those who stumble. And this love follows as soon as you reflect that they are your kin and that they do wrong involuntarily and through ignorance, and that within a little while both they and you will be dead; and this, above all, that the man has not hurt you; for he has not made your ruling Reason worse than it was before.
23. The Nature of the Whole out of the Substance of the Whole, as out of wax, moulds at one time a horse, and breaking up the mould kneads the material up again into a tree, then into a man, and then into something else; and every one of these subsists but for a moment. It is no more a hardship for the coffer to be broken up than it was for it to be fitted together.
24. An angry scowl on the face is beyond measure unnatural, and when it is often seen there, all comeliness begins at once to die away, or in the end is so utterly extinguished that it can never be rekindled at all. From this very fact try to reach the conclusion that it is contrary to reason. The consciousness of wrong-doing once lost, what motive is left for living any more?
25. Everything that you see will be changed by the Nature that controls the Cosmos, no one knows how soon, and out of its substance make other compounds, and again others out of theirs, that the world may ever renew its youth.
26. Does a man do you wrong? Go to and mark what concept of good and evil was his that did the wrong. Once perceive that and you will feel compassion, not surprise or anger. For you have still yourself either the same concept of good and evil as he or another not unlike. You must forgive him then. But if your concepts of good and evil are no longer such, all the more easily shall you be gracious to him who sees awry.
27. Do not dream of that which you do not have as though already yours, but of what you have picked out as the choicest blessings, and do not forget in respect of them how eagerly you would have coveted them, had they not been yours. Albeit beware that you do not condition yourself, by reason of this your delight in them, to prize them so highly as to be distressed if at any time they are lost to you.
29. Efface imagination! Cease to be pulled as a puppet by your passions. Isolate the present. Recognize what befalls either, you or another. Dissect and analyze all that comes under your ken into the Causal and the Material. Meditate on your last hour. Let the wrong your neighbor does to you rest with him who did the wrong.
31. Make your face to shine with simplicity and modesty and disregard of all that lies between virtue and vice. Love human-kind. Follow God. Says the Sage: All things by Law, but in very truth only elements. And it suffices to remember that all things are by law: there you have it briefly enough.
33. Of Pain: When unbearable it destroys us, when lasting, it is bearable, and the mind safeguards its own calm by withdrawing itself, and the ruling Reason takes no hurt. As to the parts that are impaired by the pain, let them have their say about it as they can.
34. Of Glory: Look at the minds of its votaries, their characteristics, ambitions, antipathies. Remember too that, as the sands of the sea drifting one upon the other bury the earlier deposits, so in life the earlier things are very soon hidden under what comes after.
35. [From Plato.] Do you think that the life of man can seem any great matter to him who has true grandeur of soul and a comprehensive outlook on all Time and all Substance? “It cannot seem so,” said he. Will such a man then deem death a terrible thing? “Not in the least.”
It does not avail to be wrathful with things,
For they do not consider it.
Our lives are reaped like the ripe ears of corn.
And as one falls, another still is born.
Though me and both my sons the Gods have spurned.
For this too there is reason.
I might fairly answer such a questioner: You are mistaken if you think that a man, who is worth anything at all, ought to let considerations of life and death weigh with him rather than in all that he does consider but this, whether it is just or unjust and the work of a good man or a bad.
45. This, O men of Athens, is the true state of the case: Wherever a man has stationed himself, deeming it the best for him, or has been stationed by his commander, there I think he ought to stay and run every risk, taking into account neither death nor any thing else save dishonor.
46. But, my good sir, see whether nobility and goodness do not mean something other than to save and be saved; for surely a man worthy of the name must waive aside the question of the duration of life how ever extended, and must not cling basely to life, bid leaving these things in the hands of God pin his faith to the women’s adage, his destiny no man can flee, and thereafter consider in what way he may best live for such time as he has to live.
47. Watch the stars in their courses as one that runs about with them therein; and think constantly upon the reciprocal changes of the elements, for thoughts on these things cleanse away the mire of our earthly life.
48. Noble is this saying of Plato’s. Moreover he who discourses of men should, as if from some vantage-point above, take a bird’s-eye view of the things of earth, in its gatherings, armies, husbandry, its marriages and separations, its births and deaths, the din of the law-court and the silence of the desert, barbarous races manifold, its feasts and mournings and markets, the medley of it all and its orderly conjunction of contraries.
49. Pass in review the far-off things of the past and its succession of sovranties without number. You can look forward and see the future also. For it will most surely be of the same character, and it cannot but carry on the rhythm of existing things. Consequently it is all one, whether we witness human life for forty years or ten thousand. For what more shall you see?
All that is earth-born gravitates earthwards,
Dust unto dust; and all that from ether
Grows, speeds swiftly back again heavenward;
that is, either there is a breaking up of the closely-linked atoms or, what is much the same, a scattering of the impassive elements.
With meats and drinks and curious sorceries
Side-track the stream, so that they may not die.
When a storm from the Gods beats down on our bark,
At our oars then we need to toil and complain not.
53. A work that can be accomplished in obedience to that reason which we share with the Gods is attended with no fear. For no harm need be anticipated, where by an activity that follows the right road, and satisfies the demands of our constitution, we can ensure our own weal.
54. At all times and in all places it rests with you both to be content with your present lot as a worshipper of the Gods, and to deal righteously with your present neighbors, and to labor lovingly at your present thoughts, that nothing unverified should steal into them.
55. Do not look about you at the ruling Reason of others, but look with straight eyes at this, To what is Nature guiding you? — Both the Nature of the Cosmos, by means of what befalls you and your nature by means of the acts you have to do. But everyone must do what follows from his own constitution; and all other things have been constituted for the sake of rational beings just as in every other case the lower are for the sake of the higher — but the rational for their own sake.
Social obligation then is the leading feature in the constitution of man and, coming second to it, an uncompromising resistance to bodily inclinations. For it is the privilege of a rational and intelligent motion to isolate itself, and never to be overcome by the motions of sense or desire; for either kind is animal-like. But the motion of the Intelligence claims ever to have the pre-eminence and never to be mastered by them. And rightly so, for it is its nature to put all those to its own use. Thirdly, the rational constitution is free from precipitancy and cannot be misled. Let the ruling Reason then, clinging to these characteristics, accomplish a straight course and then it comes into its own.
58. In every contingency keep before your eyes those who, when these same things befell them, were straightway aggrieved, estranged, rebellious. Where are they now? Nowhere! What then? Would you be like them? Why not leave those alien deflections to what deflects and is deflected by them, and devote yourself wholly to the question how to turn these contingencies to the best advantage? For then will you make a noble use of them, and they shall be your raw material. Only in thought and will take heed to be beautiful to yourself in all that you do. And remember, in rejecting the one and using the other, that the thing that matters is the aim of the action.
60. The body too should be firmly set and suffer no distortion in movement or bearing. For what the mind effects in the face, by keeping it composed and well-favored, should be looked for similarly in the whole body. But all this must be secured without conscious effort.
62. Continually reflect, who they are whose favorable testimony you desire, and what is their ruling Reason; for thus will you not find fault with those who unintentionally offend, nor will you want their testimony, when you look into the inner springs of their opinions and desires.
63. Every soul, says Plato, is reft of truth against its will. Therefore it is the same also with justice and temperance and loving kindness and every like quality. It is essential to keep this ever in mind, for it will make you gentler toward all.
64. Whenever you are in pain, have this reflection ready, that this is nothing to be ashamed of, nor can it worsen the mind that holds the helm. For it cannot impair it in so far as it is rational or in so far as it is social. In most pains, however, call to your rescue even Epicurus when he says that a pain is never unbearable or interminable, so that you remember its limitations and add nothing to it in imagination. Recollect this too that many of our everyday discomforts are really pain in disguise, such as drowsiness, a high temperature, want of appetite. When inclined to be vexed at any of these, say to yourself: I am giving in to pain.
66. How do we know that Telauges may not have excelled Socrates in character? For it is not enough that Socrates died a more glorious death, and disputed more deftly with the Sophists, and with more hardihood braved whole nights in the frost, and, when called upon to fetch the Salaminian, deemed it more spirited to disobey, and that he carried his head high as he walked — and about the truth of this one can easily judge — ; but the point to elucidate is this: what sort of soul had Socrates, and could he rest satisfied with being just in his dealings with men and religious in his attitude toward the Gods, neither resentful at the wickedness of others nor yet lackeying the ignorance of anyone, nor regarding as alien to himself anything allotted to him from the Whole, nor bearing it as a burden intolerable, nor letting his intelligence be swayed sympathetically by the affections of the flesh?
67. Nature did not make so intimate a blend in the compound as not to allow a man to isolate himself and keep his own things in his own power. For it is very possible to be a godlike man and yet not to be recognized by any. Never forget this; nor that the happy life depends on the fewest possible things; nor because you have been baulked in the hope of becoming skilled in dialectics and physics, need you despair of being free and modest and unselfish and obedient to God.
68. You may live out your life with none to constrain you in the utmost peace of mind even though the whole world cry out against you what they will, even though beasts tear limb from limb this plastic elay that has encased you with its growth. For what in all this debars the mind from keeping itself in calmness, in a right judgment as to its environment, and in readiness to use all that is put at its disposal? so that the judgment can say to that which meets it: In essential substance you are this, whatever else the common fame would have you be. And the use can say to the object presented to it: I was seeking you. For the thing in hand is for me ever material for the exercise of rational and civic virtue, and in a word for the art of a man or of God. For everything that befalls is intimately connected with God or man, and is not new or difficult to deal with, but familiar and feasible.
70. The Gods — and they are immortal — do not take it amiss that for a time so long they must inevitably and always put up with worthless men who are what they are and so many; no they even befriend them in all manner of ways. But you, though destined to die so soon, cries off, and that too though you are one of the worthless ones yourself.
73. When you have done well to another and another has fared well at your hands, why go on like the foolish to look for a third thing besides, that is, the credit also of having done well or a return for the same?
75. The Nature of the Whole felt impelled to the creation of a Cosmos; but now either all that comes into being does so by a natural sequence, or even the most paramount things, toward which the ruling Reason of the Cosmos feels an impulse of its own, are devoid of intelligence. Recollect this and you will face many an ill with more serenity.
1. This too serves as a corrective to vaingloriousness, that you are no longer able to have lived your life wholly, or even from your youth up, as a philosopher. You can clearly perceive, and many others can see it too, that you are far from Philosophy. So then your life is a chaos, and no longer is it easy for you to win the credit of being a philosopher; and the facts of your life too war against it. If then your eyes have verily seen where the truth lies, care no more what men shall think of you, but be content if the rest of your life, whether long or short, be lived as your nature wills. Make sure then what that will is, and let nothing else draw you aside. For past experience tells you in how much you have gone astray, nor anywhere lighted upon the true life; no, not in the subtleties of logic, or in wealth or fame or enjoyment, or anywhere. Where then is it to be found? In doing that which is the quest of man’s nature. How then shall a man do this? By having axioms as the source of his impulses and actions. What axioms? On the nature of Good and Evil, showing that nothing is for a man’s good save what makes him just, temperate, manly, free; nor anything for his ill that makes him not the reverse of these.
2. In every action ask yourself, How does it affect me? Shall I regret it? But a little and I am dead and all that lies between is past. What more do I ask for, as long as my present work is that of a living creature, intelligent, social, and under one law with God?
3. What are Alexander and Gains and Pompeius to Diogenes and Heraclitus and Socrates? For these latter had their eyes opened to things and to the causes and the material substance of things, and their ruling Reason was their very own. But those — what a host of cares, what a world of slavery!
5. Firstly, do not fret yourself, for all things are as the Nature of the Cosmos would have them, and within a little you shall be non-existent, and nowhere, like Hadrianus and Augustus. Secondly, look steadfastly at the thing, and see it as it is and, remembering that you must be a good man, and what the Nature of man calls for, do this without swerving, and speak as seemly to you most just, only be it graciously, modestly, and without feigning.
6. The Nature of the Cosmos is charged with this task, to transfer yonder the things which are here, to interchange them, to take them hence and convey them over there. All things are but phases of change, but nothing new-fangled need be feared; all things are of the wonted type, no, their distributions also are alike.
7. Every nature is content with itself when it speeds well on its way; and a rational nature speeds well on its way, when in its impressions it gives assent to nothing that is false or obscure, and directs its impulses toward none but social acts, and limits its inclinations and its aversions only to things that are in its power, and welcomes all that the Cosmic Nature allots it. For it is a part of that, as the nature of the leaf is of the plant-nature; with the difference however, that in the case of the plant the nature of the leaf is part of a nature void both of sentience and reason, and liable to be thwarted, while a man’s nature is part of a nature unthwartable and intelligent and just, if indeed it divides up equally and in due measure to everyone his quotas of time, substance, cause, activity, circumstance. And consider, not whether you shall find one thing in every case equal to one thing, but whether, collectively, the whole of this is equal to the aggregate of that.
8. You cannot be a student. But you can refrain from insolence; but you can rise superior to pleasures and pains; but you can tread under your feet the love of glory; but you can forbear to be angry with the unfeeling and the thankless, yes and even care for them.
10. Repentance is a sort of self-reproach at some useful thing passed by; but the good must needs be a useful thing, and ever to be cultivated by the true good man; but the true good man would never regret having passed a pleasure by. Pleasure therefore is neither a useful thing nor a good.
12. When you are reluctant to get up, call to mind that the due discharge of social duties is in accordance with your constitution and in accordance with man’s nature, while even irrational animals share with us the faculty of sleep; but what is in accordance with the nature of the individual is more congenial, more closely akin to him, yes and more attractive.
14. Whatever man you meet, put to yourself at once this question: What are this man’s convictions about good and evil? For if they are such and such about pleasure and pain and what is productive of them, about good report and ill report, about death and life, it will be in no way strange or surprising to me if he does such and such things. So I will remember that he is constrained to act as he does.
15. Remember that, as it is monstrous to be surprised at a fig tree bearing figs, so also is it to be surprised at the Cosmos bearing its own particular crop. Likewise it is monstrous for a physician or a steersman to be surprised that a patient has fever or that a contrary wind has sprung up.
16. Remember that neither a change of mind nor a willingness to be set right by others is inconsistent with true freedom of will. For yours alone is the active effort that effects its purpose in accordance with your impulse and judgment, yes and your intelligence also.
17. If the choice rests with you, why do the thing? If with another, whom do you blame? Atoms or Gods? To do either would be crazy folly. No one is to blame. For if you can, set the offender right. Failing that, at least set the thing itself right. If that too is impracticable, what purpose is served by imputing blame? For without a purpose nothing should be done.
18. That which dies is not cast out of the Cosmos. As it remains here, it also suffers change here and is dissolved into its own constituents, which are the elements of the Cosmos and your own. Yes, and they too suffer change and do not murmur.
19. Everything, be it a horse, be it a vine, has come into being for some end. Why wonder? Helios himself will say: I exist to do some work; and so of all the other Gods. For what then do you exist? For pleasure? Surely it is unthinkable.
20. Nature has included in its aim in every case the ceasing to be no less than the beginning and the duration, just as the man who tosses up his ball. But what good does the ball gain while tossed upward, or harm as it comes down, or finally when it reaches the ground? Or what good accrues to the bubble while it coheres, or harm in its bursting? And the same holds good with the lamp-flame.
They endure but for a season, both praiser and praised, rememberer and remembered. All this too in a tiny corner of this continent, and not even there are all in accord, no nor a man with himself; and the whole earth is itself a point.
Rightly served! You would rather become a good man tomorrow than be one today.
23. Am I doing something? I do it with reference to the well-being of mankind. Does something befall me? I accept it with a reference to the Gods and to the Source of all things from which issues, linked together, the things that come into being.
25. Lucilia buried Verus, then Lucilla was buried; Secunda Maximus, then Secunda; Epitynchanus Diotimus, then Epitynchanus; Antoninus Faustina, then Antoninus. The same tale always: Celer buried Hadrianus and then Celer was buried. And those acute wits, men renowned for their prescience or their pride, where are they? Such acute wits, for instance, as Charax and Demetrius [the Platonist] and Eudaemon, and others like them. All creatures of a day, dead long ago! — some not remembered even for a while, others transformed into legends, and yet others from legends faded into nothingness! Bear then in mind that either this your composite self must be scattered abroad, or your vital breath be quenched, or be transferred and set elsewhere.
26. It brings gladness to a man to do a man’s true work. And a man’s true work is to show goodwill to his own kind, to disdain the motions of the senses, to diagnose specious impressions, to take a comprehensive view of the Nature of the Cosmos and all that is done at her bidding.
28. Pain is an evil either to the body — let the body then denounce it — or to the Soul; but the Soul can ensure her own fair weather and her own calm sea, and refuse to account it as an evil. For every conviction and impulse and desire and aversion is from within, and nothing climbs in thither.
29. Efface your impressions, saying ever to yourself: Now it lies with me that this soul should harbor no wickedness nor lust nor any disturbing element at all; but that, seeing the true nature of all things? I should deal with each as is its due. You should think of this power that Nature gives you.
31. The court of Augustus — wife, daughter, descendants, ancestors, sister, Agrippa, kinsfolk, house hold, friends, Areius, Maecenas, physicians, haruspices dead, the whole court of them! Pass on then to other records and the death not of individuals but of a clan, as of the Pompeii. And that well-known epitaph, Last of his race — think over it and the anxiety shown by the man’s ancestors that they might leave a successor. But after all someone must be the last of the line — here again the death of a whole race!
32. Act by act you must build up your life, and be content, if each act as far as may be fulfills its end. And there is never a man who can prevent it doing this. But there will be some impediment from without. There can be none to your behaving justly, soberly, wisely. But what if some other exercise of activity is hindered? Well, a cheerful acceptance of the hindrance and a tactful transition to what is allowed will enable another action to be substituted that will be in keeping with the built-up life of which we are speaking.
34. You have seen a hand cut off or a foot, or a head severed from the trunk, and lying at some distance from the rest of the body. Just so does the man treat himself, as far as he may, who does not will what befalls and severs himself from mankind or acts unsocially. Say you have been torn away in some sort from the unity of Nature; for by the law of your birth you were a part; but now you have cut yourself off. Yet here comes in that exquisite provision, that you can return again to your unity. To no other part has God granted this, to come together again, when once separated and cleft asunder. Yes, behold His goodness, wherewith He has glorified man! For He has let it rest with a man that he is never rent away from the Whole, and if he does rend himself away, to return again and grow on to the rest and take up his position again as part.
35. Just as the Nature of rational things has given each rational being almost all his other powers, so also have we received this one from it; that, as this Nature moulds to its purpose whatever interference or opposition it meets, and gives it a place in the destined order of things, and makes it a part of itself, so also can the rational creature convert every hindrance into material for itself and utilize it for its own purposes.
36. Do not let the mental picture of life as a whole confound you. Do not fill your thoughts with what and how many ills may conceivably await you, but in every present case ask yourself: What is there in this experience so crushing, so insupportable? You will blush to confess. Remind yourself further that it is not the future nor the past but the present always that brings you its burden. But this is reduced in significance if you isolate it, and take your mind to task if it cannot hold out against this mere trifle.
37. Does Pantheia now watch by the urn of her lord, or Pergamus? What, does Chabrias or Diotimus by Hadrian’s? Absurd! And had they sat there until now, would the dead have been aware of it? and, if aware of it, would they have been pleased? and, if pleased, would that have made the mourners immortal? Was it not destined that these like others should become old women and old men and then die? What then, when they were dead, would be left for those whom they had mourned to do? It is all stench and foul corruption in a sack of skin.
40. Take away your opinion as to any imagined pain, and you yourself are set in surest safety. What is ‘yourself’? Reason. But I am not reason. Be it so. At all events do not let the Reason cause itself pain, but if any part in you is amiss, let it form its own opinion about itself.
41. To the animal nature a thwarting of sense-perception is an evil, as is also to the same nature the thwarting of impulse. There is similarly some other thing that can thwart the constitution of plants and is an evil to them. Thus then the thwarting of intelligence is an evil to the intelligent nature. Transfer the application of all this to yourself. Does pain, does pleasure take hold of you? The senses shall look to it. Were you impelled to a thing and were you thwarted? If your impulse counts on an unconditional fulfilment, failure at once becomes an evil to you as a rational creature. But accept the cosmic limitation, and you have so far received no hurt nor even been thwarted. Indeed no one else is in a way to thwart the inner purposes of the mind. For it cannot be touched by fire, nor steel, nor tyrant, nor obloquy, nor anything soever: a sphere once formed coninues round and true.
43. One thing delights one, another thing another. To me it is a delight if I keep my ruling Reason sound, not looking askance at man or anything that befalls man, but regarding all things with kindly eyes, accepting and using everything for its intrinsic worth.
44. See you dower yourself with this present time. Those who yearn rather for after-fame do not realize that their successors are sure to be very much the same as the contemporaries whom they find such a burden, and no less mortal. What is it anyway to you if there is this or that far-off echo of their voices, or if they have this or that opinion about you?
Is this worthwhile, that on its account my soul should be ill at ease and fall below itself, grovelling, grasping, floundering, affrighted? What could make it worthwhile?
46. Nothing can befall a man that is not a contingency natural to man; nor befall an ox, that is not natural to oxen, nor a vine that is not natural to a vine, nor a stone that is not proper to it. If therefore only what is natural and customary befalls each, why be aggrieved? For the common Nature brings you nothing that you cannot bear.
47. When you are vexed at some external cross, it is not the thing itself that troubles you, but your judgment on it. And this you can annul in a moment. But if you are vexed at something in your own character, who can prevent you from rectifying the principle that is to blame? So also if you are vexed at not undertaking that which seems to you a sound act, why not rather undertake it than be vexed? But there is a lion in the path! Do not be vexed then, for the blame of inaction rests not with you. But life is not worth living, this left undone. Depart then from life, dying with the same kindly feelings as he who effects his purpose, and accepting with a good grace the obstacles that thwart you.
48. Never forget that the ruling Reason shows itself unconquerable when, concentrated in itself, it is content with itself so it does nothing that it does not will, even if it refuses from mere opposition and not from reason much more, then, if it judges of a thing on reasonable grounds and advisedly. Therefore the Mind, unmastered by passions, is a very citadel, for a man has no fortress more impregnable wherein to find refuge and be untaken forever. He indeed who has not seen this is ignorant, but he who has seen it and does not take refuge therein is luckless.
49. Say no more to yourself than what the initial impressions report. This has been told to you, that so and so speaks ill of you. This has been told to you, but it has not been told to you that you are harmed. I see that my child is ailing. I see it, but I do not see that he is in danger. Keep then ever to first impressions and do not supplement them on your part from within, and nothing happens to you. And yet do supplement them with this, that you are familiar with every possible contingency in the world.
50. The gherkin is bitter. Toss it away. There are briars in the path. Turn aside. That suffices, and you do not need to add: Why are such things found in the world? For you would be a laughing stock to any student of nature; just as you would be laughed at by a carpenter and a cobbler if you took them to task because in their shops are seen sawdust and parings from what they are making. And yet they have space for the disposal of their fragments; while the Cosmic Nature has nothing outside herself; but the marvel of her craftsmanship is that, though she is limited to herself, she transmutes into her own substance all that within her seems to be perishing and decrepit and useless, and again from these very things produces other new ones; whereby she shows that she neither wants any substance outside herself nor needs a corner where she may cast her decaying matter. Her own space, her own material, her own proper crafts manship is all that she requires.
51. Do not be dilatory in doing, nor confused in conversation, nor vague in thought; do not let your soul be wholly concentered in itself nor uncontrollably agitated; leave yourself leisure in your life.
They kill us, they cut us limb from limb, they hunt us with execrations! How does that prevent your mind being still pure, sane, sober, just? Imagine a man to stand by a crystal-clear spring of sweet water, and to rail at it; yet it does not fail to bubble up with wholesome water. Throw in mud or even filth and it will quickly winnow them away and purge itself of them and take never a stain. How then possess yourself of a living fountain and no mere well? By guiding yourself carefully every hour into freedom with kindliness, simplicity, and modesty.
52. He who does not know what the Cosmos is does not know where he is. He who does not know the end of its being does not know who he is or what the Cosmos is. But he who is wanting in the knowledge of any of these things could not tell what is the end of his own being. What then must we think of those that court or eschew the verdict of the clappers, who have no conception where or who they are?
53. Do you care to be praised by a man who execrates himself thrice within the hour? to win the approval of a man who does not win his own? Can he be said to win his own approval who regrets almost everything he does?
54. Be no longer content merely to breathe in unison with the all-embracing air, but from this moment think also in unison with the all-embracing Intelligence. For that intelligent faculty is everywhere diffused and offers itself on every side to him who can take it in no less than the aerial to him that can breathe.
55. Taken collectively wickedness does no harm to the Cosmos, and the particular wickedness does no harm to others. It is harmful to the one individual alone, and he has been given the option of being quit of it the first moment he pleases.
56. To my power of choice the power of choice of my neighbor is as much a matter of indifference as is his vital breath and his flesh. For however much we may have been made for one another, yet our ruling Reason is in each case master in its own house. Else might my neighbor’s wickedness become my bane; and this was not God’s will, that another might not have my unhappiness in his keeping.
57. The sun’s light is diffused down, as it seems, yes, and in every direction, yet it does not diffuse itself away. For this diffusion is an extension. At any rate the beams of the Sun are called Extensions, because they have extension in space. And what a ray is you may easily see, if you observe the sun’s light entering through a narrow chink into a darkened room, for it extends straight on, and is as it were brought up against any solid body it encounters that cuts off the air beyond. There the ray comes to a standstill, neither slipping off nor sinking down. Such then should be the diffusion and circumfusion of the mind, never a diffusing away but extension, and it should never make a violent or uncontrollable impact against any obstacle it meets with, no, nor collapse, but stand firm and illuminate what receives it. For that which conducts it not on its way will deprive itself wilfully of its beams.
58. Dread of death is a dread of non-sensation or new sensation. But either you will feel no sensation, and so no sensation of any evil; or a different kind of sensation will be yours, and so the life of a different creature, but still a life.
60. One is the way of an arrow, another of the mind. Howbeit the mind, both when it cautiously examines its ground and when it is engaged in its inquiry, is none the less moving straight forward and toward its goal.
1. Injustice is impiety. For in that the Nature of the Cosmos has fashioned rational creatures for the sake of one another with a view to mutual benefit based upon worth, but by no means for harm, the transgressor of her will acts with obvious impiety against the most venerable of Deities.
And the liar too acts impiously with respect to the same Goddess. For the Nature of the Cosmos is the Nature of the things that are. And the things that are have an intimate connection with all the things that have ever been. Moreover this Nature is named Truth, and is the primary cause of all that is true. The willing liar then is impious in so far as his deceit is a wrong-doing; and the unwilling liar too, for he is out of tune with the Nature of the Whole, and an element of disorder by being in conflict with the Nature of an orderly Cosmos; for he is in conflict who allows himself, as far as his conduct goes, to be carried into opposition to what is true. And whereas he had previously been endowed by nature with the means of distinguishing false from true, by neglecting to use them he has lost the power.
Again he acts impiously who seeks after pleasure as a good thing and eschews pain as an evil. For such a man must inevitably find frequent fault with the Cosmic Nature as unfair in its apportionments to the worthless and the worthy, since the worthless are often lapped in pleasures and possess the things that make for pleasure, while the worthy meet with pain and the things that make for pain. Moreover he that dreads pain will some day be in dread of something that must be in the world. And there we have impiety at once. And he that hunts after pleasures will not hold his hand from injustice. And this is palpable impiety.
But those, who are of one mind with Nature and would walk in her ways, must hold a neutral attitude toward those things toward which the Cosmic Nature is neutral — for she would not be the Maker of both were she not neutral toward both. So he clearly acts with impiety who is not himself neutral toward pain and pleasure, death and life, good report and ill report, things which the Nature of the Cosmos treats with neutrality. And by the Cosmic Nature treating these with neutrality I mean that all things happen neutrally in a chain of sequence to things that come into being and their after products by some primeval impulse of Providence, in accordance with which She was impelled by some primal impulse to this making of an ordered Cosmos, when She had conceived certain principles for all that was to be, and allocated the powers generative of substances and changes and successions such as we see.
2. It were more graceful doubtless for a man to depart from mankind untainted with falsehood and all dissimulation and luxury and arrogance; failing that, however, the next best course is to breathe out his life when his gorge has risen at these things. Or is it your choice to throw in your lot with vice, and does not even your taste of it yet persuade you to fly from the pestilence? For the corruption of the mind is a pest far worse than any such miasma and vitiation of the air which we breathe around us. The latter is a pestilence for living creatures and affects their life, the former for human beings and affects their humanity.
3. Do not despise death, but welcome it, for Nature wills it like all else. For dissolution is but one of the processes of Nature, associated with your life’s various seasons, such as to be young, to be old, to wax to our prime and to reach it, to grow teeth and beard and gray hairs, to beget, conceive and bring forth. A man then who has reasoned the matter out should not take up toward death the attitude of indifference, reluctance, or scorn, but await it as one of the processes of Nature. Look for the hour when your soul shall emerge from this its sheath, as now you await the moment when the child she carries shall come forth from your wife’s womb.
But if you desire a commonplace solace too that will appeal to the heart, nothing will enable you to meet death with equanimity better than to observe the environment you are leaving and the sort of characters with whom your soul shall no longer be mixed up. For while it is very far from right to be disgusted with them, but rather even to befriend and deal gently with them, yet it is well to remember not from men of like principles with you will your release be. For this alone, if anything, could draw us back and bind us to life, if it were but permitted us to live with those who have possessed themselves of the same principles as ours. But now you see how you are driven by sheer weariness at the jarring discord of your life with them to say: Do not delay, O Death, lest by chance I too forget myself.
8. Among irrational creatures one life is distributed, and among the rational one intellectual soul has been parcelled out. Just as also there is one Earth for all the things that are of the Earth; and one is the light whereby we see, and one the air we all breathe that have sight and life.
9. All that share in a common element have an affinity for their own kind. The trend of all that is earthy is to earth; fluids all run together; it is the same with the aerial; so that only interposing obstacles and force can keep them apart. Fire indeed has a tendency to rise by reason of the elemental fire, but is so quick to be kindled in sympathy with all fire here below that every sort of matter, a whit drier than usual, is easily kindled owing to its having fewer constituents calculated to offer resistance to its kindling. So then all that shares in the Cosmic Intelligent Nature has as strong an affinity toward what is akin, yes even a stronger affinity. For the measure of its superiority to all other things is the measure of its readiness to blend and coalesce with that which is akin to it.
At any rate to begin with among irrational creatures we find swarms and herds and bird-colonies and, as it were, love-associations. For already at that stage there are souls, and the bond of affinity shows itself in the higher form to a degree of intensity not found in plants or stones or timber. But among rational creatures are found political communities and friendships and households and gatherings and in wars treaties and armistices. But in things still higher a sort of unity in separation even exists, as in the stars. Thus the ascent to the higher form is able to effect a sympathetic connection even among things which are separate.
See then what actually happens at the present time; for at the present time it is only the intelligent creatures that have forgotten their mutual affinity and attraction, and here alone there is no sign of like flowing to like. Yet flee as they will, they are nevertheless caught in the toils, for Nature will have her way. Watch closely and you will see this is so. Easier at any rate were it to find an earthy thing in touch with nothing earthy than a man wholly severed from mankind.
10. They all bear fruit — Man and God and the Cosmos: each in its due season bears. It does not matter that in customary parlance such a term is strictly applicable only to the vine and such things. Reason too has its fruit both for all and for itself, and there issues from it other things such as is Reason itself.
11. If you are able, convert the wrong-doer. If not, bear in mind that kindliness was given to you to meet just such a case. The Gods too are kindly to such persons and even cooperate with them for certain ends for health, to wit, and wealth and fame, so benignant are they. You too can be the same; or say who is there that prevents you.
21. A cessation of activity, a quiescence from impulse and opinion and, as it were, their death, is no evil. Turn now to consider the stages of your life — childhood, boyhood, manhood, old age — each step in the ladder of change a death. Is there anything terrible here? Pass on now to your life under your grandfather, then under your mother, then under your father, and finding there many other alterations, changes, and cessations, ask yourself: Is there anything terrible here? No, nor any in the ending and quiescence and change of the whole of life.
22. Speed to the ruling Reason of yourself, and of the Cosmos, and of your neighbor: of your own, that you may make it just; of that of the Cosmos, that you may therewith remember of what you are a part; of your neighbor, that you may learn whether it was ignorance with him or understanding, and reflect at the same time that it is akin to you.
23. As you yourself are a part perfective of a civic organism, let also your every act be a part perfective of civic life. Every act of yours then that has no relation direct or indirect to this social end, tears your life asunder and destroys its unity, and creates a schism, just as in a commonwealth does the man who, as far as in him lies, stands aloof from such a concord of his fellows.
25. Go straight to that which makes a thing what it is, its formative cause, and, isolating it from the material, regard it so. Then mark off the utmost time for which the individual object so qualified is calculated to subsist.
27. When men blame or hate you or give utterance to some such feelings against you, turn to their souls, enter into them, and see what sort of men they are. You will perceive that you do not need to be concerned as to what they think of you. Yet must you feel kindly toward them, for Nature made them dear to you. The Gods too lend them aid in diverse ways by dreams and oracles, to win those very things on which their hearts are set.
28. The same, upward, downward, from cycle to cycle are the revolutions ot the Cosmos. And either the Cosmic Mind feels an impulse to act in each separate case and if this is so, accept its impulsion or it felt this impulse once for all, and all subsequent things follow by way of consequence; and what matters which it be, for if you like to put it so the world is all atoms [or indivisible]. But as to the Whole, if God — all is well; if haphazard — you should not also be haphazard.
Presently the earth will cover us all. It too will soon be changed, and the resulting product will go on from change to change, and so forever and ever. When a man thinks of these successive waves of change and transformation, and their rapidity, he will hold every mortal thing in scorn.
29. The World-Cause is as a torrent, it sweeps everything along. How negligible these manikins that busy themselves with civic matters and flatter themselves that they act therein as philosophers! Drivellers all! What then, O Man? Do what Nature asks of you now. Make the effort if it is given to you to do so and look not about to see if any shall know it. Do not dream of Utopias but be content if the least thing goes forward, and count the outcome of the matter in hand as a small thing. For who can alter another’s conviction? Failing a change of conviction, we merely get men pretending to be persuaded and chafing like slaves under coercion. Go to now and tell me of Alexander and Philip and Demetrius of Phalerum. Whether they realized the will of Nature and schooled themselves thereto, is their concern. But if they played the tragedy-hero, no one has condemned me to copy them. Simple and modest is the work of Philosophy: do not lead me astray into pomposity and pride.
30. Take a bird’s-eye view of the world, its endless gatherings and endless ceremonials, voyagings manifold in storm and calm, and the vicissitudes of things coming into being, participating in being, ceasing to be. Reflect too on the life lived long ago by other men, and the life that shall be lived after you, and is now being lived in barbarous countries; and how many have never even heard your name, and how many will very soon forget it, and how many who now perhaps acclaim, will very soon blame you, and that neither memory nor fame nor anything thing else whatever is worth reckoning.
31. Freedom from perturbance in all that befalls from the external Cause, and justice in all that your own inner Cause prompts you to do; that is, impulse and action finding fulfilment in the actual performance of social duty as being in accordance with your nature.
32. It is in your power to rid yourself of many unnecessary troubles, for they exist wholly in your imagination. You will at once set your feet in a large room by embracing the whole Cosmos in your mind and including in your purview time everlasting, and by observing the rapid change in every part of everything, and the shortness of the span between birth and dissolution, and that the yawning immensity before birth is only matched by the infinity after our dissolution.
33. All that your eyes behold will soon perish and they, who live to see it perish, will in their turn perish no less quickly; and he who outlives all his contemporaries and he who dies before his time will be as one in the grave.
34. What is the ruling Reason of these men, and about what sort of objects have they been in earnest, and from what motives do they lavish their love and their honor! View with the mind’s eye their poor little souls in their nakedness. What immense conceit this of theirs, when they fancy that there is bane in their blame and profit in their praises!
35. Loss and change, they are but one. Therein does the Cosmic Nature take pleasure, through whom are all things done now as they have been in like fashion from time everlasting; and to eternity shall other like things be. Why then do you say that all things have been evil and will remain evil to the end, and that no help has after all been found in Gods, so many as they be, to right these things, but that the fiat has gone forth that the Cosmos should be bound in an unbroken chain of ill?
36. Seeds of decay in the underlying material of everything — water, dust, bones, reek! Again, marble but nodules of earth, and gold and silver but dross, garments merely hair-tufts, and purple only blood. And so with everything else. The soul too another like thing and liable to change from this to that.
37. Have done with this miserable way of life, this grumbling, this apism! Why fret? What is the novelty here? What amazes you? The Cause? Look fairly at it. What then, the Material? Look fairly at that. Apart from these two, there is nothing. But in regard to the Gods also now even at the eleventh hour show yourself more simple, more worthy.
Whether your experience of these things lasts three hundred years or three, it is all one.
39. Either there is one intelligent source, from which as in one body all after things proceed — and the part ought not to grumble at what is done in the interests of the whole — or there are atoms, and nothing but a medley and a dispersion. Why then be harassed? Say to your ruling Reason: You are dead! You are corrupt! You have become a wild beast! You are a hypocrite! You are one of the herd! You battenest with them!
40. Either the Gods have no power or they have power. If they have no power, why pray to them? But if they have power, why not rather pray that they should give you freedom from fear of any of these things and from lust for any of these things and from grief at any of these things [rather] than that they should grant this or refuse that. For obviously if they can assist men at all, they can assist them in this. But perhaps you will say: The Gods have put this in my power. Then is it not better to use what is in your power like a free man than to concern yourself with what is not in your power like a slave and an abject? And who told you that the Gods do not cooperate with us even in the things that are in our power? Begin at any rate with prayers for such things and you will see. One prays: How may I lie with that woman! You: How may I not lust to lie with her! Another: How may I be quit of that man! You: How may I not wish to be quit of him! Another: How may I not lose my little child! You: How may I not dread to lose him? In a word, give your prayers this turn, and see what comes of it.
41. Listen to Epicurus where he says: In my illness my talk was not of any bodily feelings, nor did I chatter about such things to those who came to see me, bid I went on with my cardinal disquisitions on natural philosophy, dwelling especially on this point, hones the mind, having perforce its share in such affections of the flesh, yet remains unperturbed, safeguarding its own proper good. Nor did I — he goes on — let the physicians ride the high horse as if they were doing grand things, but my life went on well and happily. Imitate him then in sickness, if you are sick, and in any other emergency; for it is a commonplace of every sect not to renounce Philosophy whatever difficulties we encounter, nor to consent to babble as he does that is unenlightened in philosophy and nature; …devote yourself to your present work alone and your instrument for performing it.
42. When you are offended by shamelessness in anyone, put this question at once to yourself: Can it be that shameless men should not exist in the world? It cannot be. Then do not ask for what cannot be. For this man in question also is one of the shameless ones that must exist in the world. Have the same reflection ready for the rogue, the deceiver, or any other wrong-doer whatever. For the remembrance that this category of men cannot but exist will bring with it kindlier feelings toward individuals of that category. Right useful too is it for you to think at once of this: What virtue has Nature given man as a foil to the wrong-doing in question? For as an antidote against the unfeeling man she has given gentleness, and against another man some other resource.
In any case it is in your power to teach the man who has gone astray the error of his ways. For everyone whoe does amiss also misses his true mark and has gone astray. But what harm have you suffered? You will find that not one of the persons against whom you are exasperated has done anything capable of making your mind worse; but it is in your mind that the evil for you and the harmful have their whole existence.
Where is the harm or strangeness in the boor acting — like a boor? See whether you are not yourself the more to blame in not expecting that he would act thus wrongly. For your reason too could have given you means for concluding that this would most likely be the case. Nevertheless all this is forgotten, and you are surprised at his wrong-doing.
But above all, when you find fault with a man for faithlessness and ingratitude, turn your thoughts to yourself. For evidently the fault is your own, whether you had faith that a man with such a character would keep faith with you, or if in bestowing a kindness you did not bestow it absolutely and as from the veiy doing of it having at once received the full complete fruit.
For when you have done a kindness, what more would you have? Is not this enough that you have done something in accordance with your nature? You seek a recompense for it? As though the eye should claim a guerdon for seeing, or the feet for walking! For just as these latter were made for their special work, and by carrying this out according to their individual constitution they come fully into their own, so also man, formed as he is by nature for benefiting others, when he has acted as benefactor or as co-factor in any other way for the general weal, has done what he was constituted for, and has what is his.
1. Will you then, O my Soul, ever at last be good and simple and single and naked, showing yourself more visible than the body that overlies you? Will you ever taste the sweets of a loving and tender heart? Ever be fulfilled and self-sufficing, longing for nothing, lusting after nothing animate or inanimate, for the enjoyment of pleasures not time wherein the longer to enjoy them, nor place or country or congenial climes or men nearer to your liking — but contented with your present state: and delighted with your present everything, convincing yourself withal that all that is present for you is present from the Gods, and that everything is and shall be well with you that is pleasing to them and that they shall hereafter grant for the conservation of that Perfect Being that is good and just and beautiful, the Begetter and Upholder of all things, that embraces and gathers them in, when they are dissolved, to generate therefrom other like things? Will you ever at last fit yourself so to be a fellow-citizen with the Gods and with men as never to find fault with them or incur their condemnation?
2. Observe what your nature asks of you, as one controlled by Nature alone, then do this with a good grace if it does not make worse your nature as a living creature. Next you must observe what your nature as a living creature asks of you. And you must wholly accept this, if it does not make worse your nature as a rational living creature. Now the rational is indisputably also the civic. Comply with these rules then and be not needlessly busy about anything.
3. All that befalls, either so befalls as you are fitted by nature to bear it or as you are not fitted. If the former, do not take it amiss, but bear it as you are fitted to do. If the latter, do not take that amiss either, for when it has destroyed you, it will itself perish. Howbeit be assured that you are fitted by nature to bear everything which it rests with your own opinion about it to render bearable and tolerable, according as you think it your interest or your duty to do so.
6. Whether there exist atoms or a Nature, let it be postulated first that I am a part of the whole Cosmos controlled by Nature; secondly, that I stand in some intimate connection with other kindred parts.
For bearing this in mind, as I am a part, I shall not be displeased with anything allotted me from the Whole. For what is advantageous to the whole cannot in any way be injurious to the part. For the Whole contains nothing that is not advantageous to itself; and all natures have this in common, but the Cosmic Nature is endowed with the additional attribute of never being forced by any external cause to engender anything hurtful to itself.
As long then as I remember that I am a part of such a whole, I shall be well pleased with all that happens; and in so far as I am in intimate connection with the parts that are akin to myself, I shall be guilty of no unsocial act, but I shall devote my attention rather to the parts that are akin to myself, and direct every impulse of mine to the common interest and withhold it from the reverse of this. That being done, life must flow smoothly, as you may see the life flow smoothly of a citizen who goes steadily on in a course of action beneficial to his fellow citizens and cheerfully accepts whatever is assigned him by the State.
7. The parts of the Whole — all that Nature has comprised in the Cosmos — must inevitably perish, taking “perish” to mean “be changed.” But if this process is by nature for them both evil and inevitable, the Whole could never do its work satisfactorily, its parts ever going as they do from change to change and being constituted to perish in diverse ways. Did Nature herself set her hand to bringing evil upon parts of herself and rendering them not only liable to fall into evil but of necessity fallen into it, or was she not aware that such was the case? Both alternatives are incredible.
But supposing that we even put Nature as an agent out of the question and explain that these things are “naturally” so, even then it would be absurd to assert that the parts of the whole are naturally subject to change, and at the same time to be astonished at a thing or take it amiss as though it befell contrary to nature, and that though things dissolve into the very constituents out of which they are composed. For either there is a scattering of the elements out of which I have been built up, or a transmutation of the solid into the earthy and of the spiritual into the aerial; so that these too are taken back into the Reason of the Cosmos, whether cycle by cycle it be consumed with fire or renew itself by everlasting permutations.
Yes and so then do not be under the impression that the solid and the spiritual date from the moment of birth. For it was but yesterday or the day before that all this took in its increment from the food eaten and the air breathed. It is then this, that it took in, which changes, not the product of your mother’s womb. But granted that you are ever so closely bound up with that by your individuality, this, I take it, has no bearing upon the present argument.
8. Assuming for yourself the appellations, a good man, a modest man, a truthteller, wise of heart, sympathetic of heart, great of heart, take heed that you are not new-named. And if you should forfeit these titles, even hurry to get back to them. And bear in mind that wise of heart was meant to signify for you a discerning consideration of every object and a thoroughness of thought; sympathetic of heart, a willing acceptance of all that the Cosmic Nature allots you; great of heart an uplifting of our mental part above the motions smooth or rough of the flesh, above the love of empty fame, the fear of death, and all other like things. Only keep yourself entitled to these appellations, not itching to receive them from others, and you will be a new man and enter on a new life. For to be still such as you have been until now, and to submit to the rendings and defilements of such a life, is worthy of a man who shows beyond measure a dull senselessness and a clinging to life, and is on a level with the wild-beast fighters who are half-devoured in the arena, who, though a mass of wounds and gore, beg to be kept until the next day, only to be thrown again, torn as they are, to the same teeth and talons.
Take ship then on these few attributes, and if you can abide therein, so abide as one who has migrated to some Isles of the Blest. But if you feel yourself adrift, and cannot win your way, take yourself with a good heart to some nook where you shall prevail, or even depart altogether from life, not in wrath but in simplicity, independence, and modesty, having at least done this one thing well in life, that you have quitted it thus. Howbeit, to keep these attributes in mind it will assist you greatly if you bear the gods in mind, and that it is not flattery they crave but for all rational things to be conformed to their likeness, and that man should do a man’s work, as the fig tree does the work of a fig tree, the dog of a dog, and the bee of a bee.
9. Stage-apery, warfare, cowardice, torpor, servility — these will day by day obliterate all those holy principles of yours which, as a student of Nature, you do conceive and accept. But you must regard and do everything in such a way that at one and the same time the present task may be carried through, and full play given to the faculty of pure thought, and that the self-confidence engendered by a knowledge of each individual thing be kept intact, unobtruded yet unconcealed.
When will you find your delight in simplicity? When in dignity? When in the knowledge of each separate thing, what it is in its essence, what place it fills in the Cosmos, how long it is formed by Nature to subsist, what are its component parts, to whom it can pertain, and who can bestow and take it away?
10. A spider prides itself on capturing a fly; one man on catching a hare, another on netting a sprat, another on taking wild boars, another bears, another Sarmatians. Are not these brigands, if you test their principles?
11. Make your own a scientific system of inquiry into the mutual change of all things, and pay diligent heed to this branch of study and exercise yourself in it. For nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind. Let a man do this and he divests himself of his body and, realizing that he must almost at once relinquish all these things and depart from among men, he gives himself up wholly to just dealing in all his actions, and to the Cosmic Nature in all that befalls him. What others may say or think about him or do against him he does not even let enter his mind, being well satisfied with these two things — justice in all present acts and contentment with his present lot. And he gives up all engrossing cares and ambitions, and has no other wish, than to achieve the straight course through the Law and, by achieving it, to be a follower of God.
12. What need of surmise when it lies with you to decide what should be done, and if you can see your course, to take it with a good grace and not turn aside; but if you cannot see it, to hold back and take counsel of the best counselors; and if any other obstacles arise therein, to go forward as your present means shall allow with careful deliberation holding to what is clearly just? For to succeed in this is the best thing of all, since in fact to fail in this would be the only failure.
Leisurely without being lethargic and cheerful as well as composed is the person who follows Reason in everything.
13. Ask yourself as soon as you are roused from sleep: Will it make any difference to me if another does what is just and right? It will make none. Have they forgotten that those who play the wanton in their praise and blame of others, are such as they are in their beds, at their board; and what are the things that they do, the things that they avoid or pursue, and how they pilfer and plunder, not with hands and feet but with the most precious part of them, whereby a man calls into being at will faith, modesty, truth, law, and a good ‘genius’?
14. Says the well-schooled and humble heart to Nature that gives and takes back all we have; Give what you will, take back what you will. But he says it without any bravado of fortitude, in simple obedience and good will to her.
15. You have but a short time left to live. Live as on a mountain; for whether it is here or there, it does not matter provided that, wherever a man lives, he lives as a citizen of the World-City. Let men look upon you, cite you, as a man in very deed who lives according to Nature. If they cannot bear with you, let them slay you. For it were better so than to live their life.
17. Continually picture to yourself Time as a whole, and Substance as a whole, and every individual thing, in respect of substance, as but a fig-seed and, in respect to time, as but a twist of the drill.
18. Regarding attentively every existing thing, reflect that it is already disintegrating and changing, and as it were in a state of decomposition and dispersion, or that everything is by nature made but to die.
19. What are they like when eating, sleeping, coupling, evacuating, and the rest! What again when lording it over others, when puffed up with pride, when filled with resentment or rebuking others from a loftier plane! Yet but a moment ago they were lackeying how many and for what ends, and soon will be at their old trade.
21. The earth is in love with showers and the majestic sky is in love. And the Cosmos is in love with making whatever has to be. To the Cosmos I say: Together with you I will be in love. Is it not a way we have of speaking, to say, This or that loves to be so?
23. Never lose sight of the fact that a man’s ‘freehold’ is such as I told you, and how all the conditions are the same here as on the top of a mountain or on the sea-shore or wherever you please. Quite apposite shall you find to be the words of Plato: Compassed about (by the city wall as) by a sheep-fold on the mountain, and milking flocks.
24. What is my ruling Reason and what am I making of it now? To what use do I now put it? Is it devoid of intelligence? Is it divorced and severed from neighborliness? Does it so coalesce and blend with the flesh as to be swayed by it?
25. He who flies from his master is a runaway. But the Law is our master, and he who transgresses the Law is a runaway. Now he also, who is moved by grief or wrath or fear, is fain that something should not have happened or be happening or happen in the future of what has been ordained by that which controls the whole Cosmos, that is by the Law laying down all that falls to a man’s lot. He then is a runaway who is moved by fear, grief, or wrath.
26. A man passes seed into a womb and goes his way, and soon another cause takes it in hand and works upon it and perfects a babe — what a consummation from what a beginning! Again he passes food down the throat, and soon another cause taking up the work creates sensation and impulse and in fine, life and strength and other things how many and how mysterious! Muse then on these things that are done in such secrecy, and detect the efficient force, just as we detect the descensive and the ascensive none the less clearly that it is not with our eyes.
27. Bear in mind continually how all such things as now exist existed also before our day and, be assured, will exist after us. Set before your eyes whole dramas and their settings, one like another, all that your own experience has shown you or you have learned from past history, for instance the entire court of Hadrianus, the entire court of Antoninus, the entire court of Philip, of Alexander, of Croesus. For all those scenes were such as we see now, only the performers being different.
28. Picture to yourself everyone who is grieved at any occurrence whatever or dissatisfied, as being like the pig that struggles and screams when sacrificed; he is like it too when, alone upon his bed, he bewails in silence the fetters of our fate; and that to the rational creature alone has it been granted to submit willingly to what happens, mere submission being imperative on all.
30. Does another’s wrong-doing shock you? Turn incontinently to yourself and you should think about what analogous wrong-doing there is of your own, such as deeming money to be a good or pleasure or a little cheap fame and the like. For by marking this you will quickly forget your wrath, with this reflection too to aid you, that a man is under constraint; for what should he do? Or, if you are able, remove the constraint.
31. Let a glance at Satyron call up the image of Socraticus or Eutyches or Hymen, and a glance at Euphrates the image of Eutychion or Silvanus, and a glance at Alciphron Tropaeophorus, and at Severus Xeriophon or Crito. Let a glance at yourself bring to mind one of the Caesars, and so by analogy in every case. Then let the thought strike you: Where are they now? Nowhere, or none can say where. For thus shall you habitually look upon human things as mere smoke and as nothing; and more than ever so, if you think that what has once changed will exist no more throughout eternity. Why strive then and strain? Why not be content to pass this, your short span of life, in a becoming fashion?
What material, what a field for your work do you forgo! For what are all these things but objects for the exercise of a reason that you have surveyed with accuracy and due inquiry into its nature the whole sphere of life? Continue then until you have assimilated these truths also to yourself, as the vigorous digestion assimilates every food, or the blazing fire converts into warmth and radiance whatever is cast into it.
32. Give no one the right to say of you with truth that you are not a sincere, that you are not a good man, but let anyone who shall form any such an idea of you be as one who makes a lie. All this rests with you. For who is there to hinder you from being good and sincere? Resolve then to live no longer if you are not such. For neither does Reason in that case insist that you should.
You shall never cease murmuring until it is so with you that the utilizing, in a manner consistent with the constitution of man, of the material presented to you and cast in your way shall be to you what indulgence is to the sensual. For everything must be accounted enjoyment that it is in a man’s power to put into practice in accordance with his own nature; and it is everywhere in his power.
A cylinder we know has no power given it of individual motion everywhere, nor has fire or water or any other thing controlled by Nature or by an irrational soul. For the interposing and impeding obstacles are many. But Intelligence and Reason make their way through every impediment just as their nature or their will prompts them. Setting before your eyes this ease wherewith the Reason can force its way through every obstacle, as fire upwards, as a stone downwards, as a cylinder down a slope, look for nothing beyond. For other hindrances either concern that veritable corpse, the body, or, apart from imagination and the surrender of Reason herself, cannot crush us or work any harm at all. Else indeed would their victim at once become bad.
In fact in the case of all other organisms, if any evil happens to any of them, the victim itself becomes the worse for it. But a man so circumstanced becomes, if I may so say, better and more praiseworthy by putting such contingencies to a right use. In fine, remember that nothing that does not harm the city can harm him whom Nature has made a citizen; nor yet does that harm a city which does not harm the law. But not one of the so-called mischances harms law. What does not harm law, then, does no harm to citizen or city.
Such are the races of men as the leaves that the wind scatters toward the earth.
And your children too are little leaves. Leaves also they who make an outcry as if they ought to be listened to, and scatter their praises or, contrariwise, their curses, or blame and scoff in secret. Leaves too they that are to hand down our after-fame. For all these things
Burgeon again with the season of spring;
soon the wind has cast them down, and the forest puts forth others in their stead. Transitoriness is the common lot of all things, yet there is none of these that you do not hunt after or shun, as though it were everlasting. A little while and you shall close your eyes; yes, and for him that bore you to the grave shall another presently raise the dirge.
35. The sound eye should see all there is to be seen, but should not say: I want what is green only. For that is characteristic of a disordered eye. And the sound hearing and smell should be equipped for all that is to be heard or smelled. And the sound digestion should act toward all nutriment as a mill toward the grist which it was formed to grind. So should the sound mind be ready for all that befalls. But the mind that says: Let my children be safe! Let all applaud my every act! is but as an eye that looks for green things or as teeth that look for soft things.
36. There is no one so fortunate as not to have one or two standing by his death-bed who will welcome the evil which is befalling him. Say he was a worthy man and a wise; will there not be someone at the very end to say in his heart, We can breathe again at last, freed from this schoolmaster, not that he was hard on any of us, but I was all along conscious that he tacitly condemns us? So much for the worthy, but in our own case how many other reasons can be found for which hundreds would be only too glad to be quit of us! Think then upon this when dying, and your passing from life will be easier if you reason thus: I am leaving a life in which even my intimates for whom I have so greatly toiled, prayed, and thought, yes even they wish me gone, expecting belike to gain thereby some further ease. Why then should anyone cling to a longer sojourn here?
Howbeit go away with no less kindliness toward them on this account, but maintaining your true characteristics be friendly and goodnatured and gracious; nor again as though wrenched apart, but rather should your withdrawal from them be as that gentle slipping away of soul from body which we see when a man makes a peaceful end. For it was Nature that knit and kneaded you with them, and now she parts the tie. I am parted from kinsfolk, not dragged forcibly away, but unresistingly. For this severance too is a process of Nature.
38. Bear in mind that what pulls the strings is that Hidden Thing within us: that makes our speech, that our life, that, one may say, makes the man. Never in your mental picture of it include the vessel that overlies it nor these organs that are appurtenances thereof. They are like the workman’s adze, only differing from it in being naturally attached to the body. Since indeed, severed from the Cause that bids them move and bids them stay, these parts are as useless as is the shuttle of the weaver, the pen of the writer, and the whip of the charioteer.
1. The properties of the Rational Soul are these: it sees itself, dissects itself, moulds itself to its own will, itself reaps its own fruits — whereas the fruits of the vegetable kingdom and the corresponding produce of animals are reaped by others, — it wins to its own goal wherever the bounds of life are set. In dancing and acting and such-like arts, if any break occurs, the whole action is rendered imperfect; but the rational soul in every part and wheresoever taken shows the work set before it fulfilled and all-sufficient for itself, so that it can say: I have to the full what is my own.
More than this, it goes about the whole Cosmos and the void surrounding it and traces its plan, and stretches forth into the infinitude of Time, and comprehends the cyclical Regeneration of all things, and takes stock of it, and discerns that our children will see nothing fresh, just as our fathers too never saw anything more than we. So that in a manner the man of forty years, if he has a grain of sense, in view of this sameness has seen all that has been and shall be. Again a property of the Rational Soul is the love of our neighbor, and truthfulness, and modesty, and to prize nothing above itself — a characteristic also of Law. In this way then the Reason that is right reason and the Reason that is justice are one.
2. You will think but meanly of charming songs and dances and the pancratium, if you analyze the melodious utterance into its several notes and in the case of each ask yourself: Does this have mastery over me? For you will recoil from such a confession. So too with the dance, if you do the like for each movement and posture. The same holds good of the pancratium. In fine, virtue and its sphere of action excepted, remember to turn to the component parts, and by analyzing them come to despise them. Bring the same practice to bear on the whole of life also.
3. What a soul is that which is ready to be released from the body at any requisite moment, and be quenched or dissipated or hold together! But the readiness must spring from a man’s inner judgment, and not be the result of mere opposition [as is the case with the Christians]. It must be associated with deliberation and dignity and, if others too are to be convinced, with nothing like stage-heroics.
But how be successful in this save by assured conceptions on the one hand of the Cosmic Nature and on the other of the special constitution of man?
6. Originally tragedies were brought on to remind us of real events, and that such things naturally occur, and that on life’s greater stage you must not be vexed at things, which on the stage you find so attractive. For it is seen that these things must be gone through, and they too have to endure them, who cry Ah, Kithaeron! Yes, and the dramatic writers contain some serviceable sayings. For example this more especially:
Though both my sons and me the gods hare spurned,
For this too there is reason;
It does not avail to be wrathful with things;
Our lives are reaped like the ripe ears of corn;
and how many more like them.
And after Tragedy the old Comedy was put on the stage, exercising an educative freedom of speech, and by its very directness of utterance giving us no unserviceable warning against unbridled arrogance. In somewhat similar vein Diogenes also took up this role. After this, consider for what purpose the Middle Comedy was introduced, and subsequently the New, which little by little degenerated into ingenious mimicry. For that some serviceable things are said even by the writers of these is recognized by all. But what end in view had this whole enterprise of such poetical and dramatic composition?
8. A branch cut off from its neighbor branch must be cut off from the whole plant. In the very same way a man severed from one man has fallen away from the fellowship of all men. Now a branch is cut off by others, but a man separates himself from his neighbor by his own agency in hating him or turning his back upon him; and is unaware that he has thereby sundered himself from the whole civic community. But mark the gift of Zeus who established the law of fellowship. For it is in our power to grow again to the neighbor branch, and again become perfective of the whole. But such a schism constantly repeated makes it difficult for the seceding part to unite again and resume its former condition. And in general the branch that from the first has shared in the growth of the tree and lived with its life is not like that which has been cut off and afterwards grafted on to it, as the gardeners are apt to tell you. Be of one bush, but not of one mind.
9. As those who withstand your progress along the path of right reason will never be able to turn you aside from sound action, so do not let them wrest you from a kindly attitude toward them; but keep a watch over yourself in both directions alike, not only in steadfastness of judgment and action but also in gentleness toward those who endeavor to stand in your path or be in some other way a thorn in your side. For in fact it is a sign of weakness to be wrathful with them, no less than to shrink from action and be terrified into surrender. For they who do the one or the other are alike deserters of their post, the one as a coward, the other as estranged from a natural kinsman and friend.
10. ‘Nature in no case comes short of art.’ For indeed the arts are copiers of various natures. If this is so, the most consummate and comprehensive Nature of all cannot be outdone by the inventive skill of art. And in every art the lower things are done for the sake of the higher; and this must hold good of the Cosmic Nature also. Yes and from that is the origin of Justice, and in justice all the other virtues have their root, since justice will not be maintained if we either put a value on indifferent things, or are easily duped and prone to slip and prone to change.
11. If therefore the things, the following after and eschewing of which disturb you, do not come to you, but you in a manner do yourself seek them out, at all events keep your judgment at rest about them and they will remain quiescent, and you shall not be seen following after or eschewing them.
12. The soul is ‘a sphere truly shaped,’ when it neither projects itself toward anything outside nor shrinks together inwardly, neither expands nor contracts, but irradiates a light whereby it sees the reality of all things and the reality that is in itself.
13. What if a man thinks scornfully of me? That will be his affair. But it will be mine not to be found doing or saying anything worthy of scorn. But what if he hates me? That will be his affair. But I will be kindly and goodnatured to everyone, and ready to show even my enemy where he has seen amiss, not by way of rebuke nor with a parade of forbearance, but genuinely and chivalrously like the famous Phocion, unless indeed he was speaking ironically. For such should be the inner springs of a man’s heart that the Gods see him not wrathfully disposed at anything or counting it a hardship. What evil can happen to you if you yourself now do what is congenial to your nature, and welcome what the Cosmic Nature now deems well-timed, you who are a man intensely eager that what is for the common interest should by one means or another be brought about?
15. How rotten at the core is he, how counterfeit, who proclaims aloud: I have elected to deal straightforwardly with you! Man, what are you at? There is no need to give this out. The fact will instantly declare itself. It ought to be written on the forehead. There is a ring in the voice that betrays it at once, it flashes out at once from the eyes, just as the loved one can read at a glance every secret in his lover’s looks. The simple and good man should in fact be like a man who has a strong smell about him, so that, as soon as ever he comes near, his neighbor is, will-he nill-he, aware of it. A calculated simplicity is a stiletto. There is nothing more hateful than the friendship of the wolf for the lamb. Eschew that above all things. The good man, the kindly, the genuine, betrays these characteristics in his eyes and there is no hiding it.
16. Vested in the soul is the power of living ever the noblest of lives, let a man but be indifferent toward things indifferent. And he will be indifferent, if he examines every one of these things both in its component parts and as a whole, and bears in mind that none of them is the cause in us of any opinion about itself, nor obtrudes itself on us. They remain quiescent, and it is we who father these judgments about them and as it were inscribe them on our minds, though it lies with us not to inscribe them and, if they chance to steal in undetected, to erase them at once. Bear in mind too that we shall have but a little while to attend to such things and presently life will be at an end. But why complain of the perversity of things? If they are as Nature wills, delight in them and let them be no hardship to you. If they contravene Nature, seek then what is in accord with your nature and speed toward that, even though it is unpopular. For it is pardonable for every man to seek his own good.
18. Firstly: Consider your relation to mankind and that we came into the world for the sake of one another; and taking another point of view, that I have come into it to be set over men, as a ram over a flock or a bull over a herd. Start at the beginning from this premise: If not atoms, then an all-controlling Nature. If the latter, then the lower are for the sake of the higher and the higher for one another.
Secondly: What sort of men they are at board and in bed and elsewhere. Above all how they are the self-made slaves of their principles, and how they pride themselves on the very acts in question.
Thirdly: That if they are acting rightly in this, there is no call for us to be angry. If not rightly, it is obviously against their will and through ignorance. For it is against his will that every soul is deprived, as of truth, so too of the power of dealing with each man as is his due. At any rate, such men resent being called unjust, unfeeling, avaricious, and in a word doers of wrong to their neighbors.
Fourthly: That you also do many wrong things yourself and are much as others are, and if you do refrain from certain wrong-doings, yet you have a disposition that is inclinable thereto even supposing that through cowardice or a regard for your good name or some such base consideration you do not actually commit them.
Fifthly: That you have not even proved that they are doing wrong, for many things are done even ‘by way of policy’. Speaking generally a man must know many things before he can pronounce an adequate opinion on the acts of another.
Sixthly: When you are above measure angry or even out of patience, you should think that man’s life is momentary, and in a little while we shall all have been laid out.
Seventhly: That in reality it is not the acts men do that vex us — for they belong to the domain of their ruling Reason — but the opinions we form of those acts. Eradicate these, be ready to discard your conclusion that the act in question is a calamity, and your anger is at an end. How then do you eradicate these opinions? By realizing that no act of another debases us. For unless that alone which debases is an evil, you too must perforce do many a wrong thing and become a brigand or any sort of man.
Eighthly: You should think how much more grievous are the consequences of our anger and vexation at such actions than are the acts themselves which arouse that anger and vexation.
Ninthly: That kindness is irresistible, whether it is sincere and no mock smile or a mask assumed. For what can the most unconscionable of men do to you, if you persist in being kindly to him, and when a chance is given exhort him mildly and, at the very time when he is trying to do you harm, quietly teach him a better way thus: No, my child, we have been made for other things. I shall be in no way harmed, but you are harming yourself, my child. Show him delicately and without any personal reference that this is so, and that even honey-bees do not act thus nor any creatures of gregarious instincts. But you must not do this in irony or by way of rebuke, but with kindly affection and without any bitterness at heart, not as from a master’s chair, nor yet to impress the bystanders, but as if he were indeed alone even though others are present.
You should think then of these nine heads, taking them as a gift from the Muses, and begin at last to be a man while life is yours. But beware of flattering men no less than being angry with them. For both these are non-social and conducive of harm. In temptations to anger a precept ready to your hand is this: to be wrathful is not manly, but a mild and gentle disposition, as it is more human, so it is more masculine. Such a man, and not he who gives way to anger and discontent, is endowed with strength and sinews and manly courage. For the nearer such a mind attains to a passive calm, the nearer is the man to strength. As grief is a weakness, so also is anger. In both it is a case of a wound and a surrender.
But take if you will as a tenth gift from Apollo, the Leader of the Muses, this, that to expect the bad person not to do wrong is worthy of a madman; for that is to wish for impossibilities. But to acquiesce in their wronging others, while expecting them to refrain from wronging you, is unfeeling and despotic.
19. Against four perversions of the ruling Reason you should above all keep unceasing watch, and, once detected, wholly abjure them, saying in each case to yourself: This thought is unnecessary; this is destructive of human fellowship; this could be no genuine utterance from the heart. — And not to speak from the heart, what is it but a contradiction in terms? — The fourth case is that of self-reproach, for that is an admission that the divine part of you has been worsted by and acknowledges its inferiority to the body, the baser and mortal partner, and to its gross concepts.
20. Your soul and all the fiery part that is blended with you, though by Nature ascensive, yet in submission to the system of the Cosmos are held fast here in your compound personality. And the entire earthy part too in you and the humid, although naturally descensive, are yet upraised and take up a station not their natural one. Thus indeed, we find the elements also in subjection to the Whole and, when set anywhere, remaining there under constraint until the signal sound for their release again therefrom.
Is it not then a paradox that the intelligent part alone of you should be rebellious and quarrel with its station? Yet is no constraint laid upon it but only so much as is in accordance with its nature. Howbeit it does not comply and takes a contrary course. For every motion toward acts of injustice and licentiousness, toward anger and grief and fear, but be tokens one who cuts himself adrift from Nature. Yes, and when the ruling Reason in a man is vexed at anything that befalls, at that very moment it deserts its station. For it was not made for justice alone, but also for piety and the service of God. And in fact the latter are included under the idea of a true fellowship, and indeed are prior to the practice of justice.
21. He who does not ever have in view one and the same goal of life cannot be throughout his life one and the same. Nor does that which is stated suffice, there needs to be added what that goal should be. For just as opinion as to all the things that in one way or another are held by the mass of men to be good is not uniform, but only as to certain things, such, that is, as affect the common weal, so must we set before ourselves as our goal the common and civic weal. For he who directs all his individual impulses toward this goal will render his actions homogeneous and thereby be ever consistent with himself.
27. Look, said the Pythagoreans, at the sky in the morning, that we may have in remembrance those hosts of heaven that ever follow the same course and accomplish their work in the same way, and their orderly system, and their purity, and their nakedness; for there is no veil before a star.
28. Think of Socrates with the sheepskin wrapped around him, when Xanthippe had gone off with his coat, and what he said to his friends when they drew back in their embarrassment at seeing him thus accoutred.
34. A man while fondly kissing his child, says Epictetus, should whisper in his heart: ‘Tomorrow by chance you will die.’ These are ill-omened words! No, said he, nothing is ill-omened that signifies a natural process. Or it is ill-omened also to talk of ears of corn being reaped.
37. We must, says he, hit upon the true science of assent and in the sphere of our impulses pay good heed that they are subject to proper reservations? that they have in view our neighbor’s welfare; that they are proportionate to worth. And we must abstain wholly from inordinate desire and show avoidance in none of the things that are not in our control.
39. Socrates was wont to say: What would you have? The souls of reasoning or unreasoning creatures? Of reasoning creatures. Of what kind of reasoning creatures? Sound or vicious? Sound. Why then not make a shift to get them? Because we have them already. Why then fight and wrangle?
1. All those things, which you pray to attain by a roundabout way, you can have at once if you do not deny them to yourself; that is to say, if you leave all the Past to itself and entrust the Future to Providence, and but direct the Present in the way of piety and justice: piety, that you may love your lot, for Nature brought it to you and you to it; justice, that you may speak the truth freely and without finesse, and have an eye to law and the due worth of things in all that you do; and let nothing stand in your way, not the wickedness of others, nor your own opinion, nor what men say, nor even the sensations of the flesh that has grown around you; for the part affected will see to that.
If then, when the time of your departure is near, abandoning all else you prize your ruling Reason alone and that which in you is divine, and dread the thought, not that you must one day cease to live, but that you should never yet have begun to live according to Nature, then shall you be a man worthy of the Cosmos that begat you, and no longer an alien in your fatherland, no longer shall you marvel at what happens every day as if it were unforeseen, and be dependent on this or that.
2. God sees the Ruling Parts of all men stripped of material vessels and husks and sloughs. For only with the Intellectual Part of Himself is He in touch with those emanations only which have welled forth and been drawn off from Himself into them. But if you also will accustom yourself to do this, you will free yourself from the most of your distracting care. For he who has no eye for the flesh that envelopes him will not, I trust, waste his time with taking thought for raiment and lodging and popularity and such accessories and frippery.
3. You are formed of three things in combination — body, vital breath, intelligence. Of these, the first two are indeed yours, in so far as you must have them in your keeping, but the third alone is in any true sense yours. Wherefore, if you cut off from yourself, that is from your mind, all that others do or say and all that you have done or said, and all that harasses you in the future, or whatever you are involved in independently of your will by the body which envelopes you and the breath that is entwined with it, and whatever the circumambient rotation outside of you sweeps along, so that your intellectual faculty, delivered from the contingencies of destiny, may live pure and undetached by itself, doing what is just, desiring what befalls it, speaking the truth — if, I say, you strip from this ruling Reason all that cleaves to it from the bodily influences and the things that lie beyond in time and the things that are past, and if you fashion yourself like the Empedoclean
Sphere to its circle true in its poise well-rounded rejoicing,
and school yourself to live that life only which is yours, namely the present, so shall you be able to pass through the remnant of your days calmly, kindly, and at peace with your own ‘genius’.
4. Often have I marvelled how each one of us loves himself above all men, yet sets less store by his own opinion of himself than by that of everyone else. At any rate, if a God or some wise teacher should come to a man and charge him to admit no thought or design into his mind that he could not utter aloud as soon as conceived, he could not endure this ordinance for a single day. So it is clear that we pay more deference to the opinion our neighbors will have of us than to our own.
5. How can the Gods, after disposing all things well and with goodwill toward men, ever have overlooked this one thing, that some of mankind, and those especially good men, who have had as it were the closest commerce with the Divine, and by devout conduct and acts of worship have been in the most intimate fellowship with it, should when once dead have no second existence but be wholly extinguished? But if indeed this be haply so, do not doubt that they would have ordained it otherwise, had it needed to be otherwise. For had it been just, it would also have been feasible, and had it been in conformity with Nature, Nature would have brought it about.
Therefore from its not being so, if indeed it is not so, be assured that it ought not to have been so. For even yourself can see that in this presumptuous inquiry of yours you are reasoning with God. But we should not thus be arguing with the Gods were they not infinitely good and just. But in that case they could not have overlooked anything being wrongly and irrationally neglected in their thorough Ordering of the Cosmos.
6. Practise that also wherein you have no expectation of success. For even the left hand, which for every other function is inefficient by reason of a want of practice, has yet a firmer grip of the bridle than the right. For it has had practice in this.
7. Reflect on the condition of body and soul befitting a man when overtaken by death, on the shortness of life, on the yawning gulf of the past and of the time to come, on the impotence of all matter.
8. Look at the principles of causation stripped of their husks; at the objective of actions; at what pain is, what pleasure, what death, what fame. See who is to blame for a man’s inner unrest; how no one can be thwarted by another; that nothing is but what thinking makes it.
9. In our use of principles of conduct we should imitate the pancratiast not the gladiator. For the latter lays aside the blade which he uses, and takes it up again, but the other always has his hand and needs only to clench it.
14. There must be either a predestined Necessity and inviolable plan, or a gracious Providence, or a chaos without design or director. If then there is an inevitable Necessity, why kick against the pricks? If a Providence that is ready to be gracious, render yourself worthy of divine succor. But if there is a chaos without guide, congratulate yourself that amid such a surging sea you have in yourself a guiding Reason. And if the surge sweeps you away, let it sweep away the poor Flesh and Breath with their appurtenances: for the Intelligence it shall never sweep away.
15. What! Shall the truth that is in you and the justice and the temperance be extinguished before you are, whereas the light of a lamp shines forth and keeps its radiance until the flame be quenched?
16. Another has given you cause to think that he has done wrong: But how do I know that it is a wrong? And even if he is guilty, suppose that his own heart has condemned him, and so he is as one who wounds his own face?
Note that he who would not have the wicked do wrong is as one who would not have the fig tree secrete acrid juice in its fruit, would not have babies cry, or the horse neigh, or have any other things be that must be. Why, what else can be expected from such a disposition? If then it chafes you, cure the disposition.
18. Ever look to the whole of a thing, what exactly it is that produces the impression on you, and unfold it, analyzing it into its causes, its matter, its objective, and into its lifespan within which it must cease to be.
19. Become conscious at last that you have in yourself something better and more god-like than that which causes the bodily passions and turns you into a mere marionette. What is my mind now occupied with? Fear? Suspicion? Concupiscence? Some other like thing?
21. You should think that you will very soon be no one and nowhere, and so with all that you now see and all who are now living. For by Nature’s law all things must change, be transformed, and perish, that other things may in their turn come into being.
22. Remember that all is but as your opinion of it, and that is in your power. Efface your opinion then, as you may do at will, and lo, a great calm! Like a mariner who has turned the headland you find all at set-fair and a halcyon sea.
23. Any single form of activity, be it what it may, ceasing in its own due season, suffers no ill because it has ceased, nor does the agent suffer in that it has ceased to act. Similarly then if life, that sum total of all our acts, ceases in its own good time, it suffers no ill from this very fact, nor is he in an ill plight who has brought this chain of acts to an end in its own due time. The due season and the terminus are fixed by Nature, at times even by our individual nature, as when in old age, but in any case by the Cosmic Nature, the constant change of whose parts keeps the whole Cosmos ever youthful and in its prime. All that is advantageous to the Whole is ever fair and in its bloom. The ending of life then is not only no evil to the individual for it brings him no disgrace, if in fact it is both outside our choice and not inimical to the general weal — but a good, since it is timely for the Cosmos, bears its share in it and is borne along with it. For then is he, who is borne along on the same path as God, and borne in his judgment toward the same things, indeed a man god-borne.
24. You must have these three rules ready for use. Firstly, not to do anything, that you do, aimlessly, or otherwise than as Justice herself would have acted; and to realize that all that befalls you from without is due either to Chance or Providence, nor have you any call to blame Chance or to impeach Providence. Secondly this: to think what each creature is from conception until it receives a living soul, and from its reception of a living soul until its giving back of the same, and out of what it is built up and into what it is dissolved. Thirdly, that if carried suddenly into mid-heaven you should look down upon human affairs and their infinite diversity, you will indeed despise them, seeing at the same time in one view how great is the host that peoples the air and the aether around you; and that, however often you were lifted up on high, you would see the same sights, everything identical in kind, everything fleeting. Besides, the vanity of it all!
26. In taking umbrage at anything, you forget this, that everything happens in accordance with the Cosmic Nature; and this, that the wrong-doing is another’s; and this furthermore that all that happens, always did happen, and will happen so, and is at this moment happening everywhere. And you forget how strong is the kinship between man and mankind, for it is a community not of corpuscles, of seed or blood, but of intelligence. And you forget this too, that each man’s intelligence is God and has emanated from Him; and this, that nothing is a man’s very own, but that his babe, his body, his very soul came forth from Him; and this, that everything is but opinion; and this, that it is only the present moment that a man lives and the present moment only that he loses.
27. Let your mind dwell continually on those who have shown unmeasured resentment at things, who have been conspicuous above others for honors or disasters or enmities or any sort of special lot. Then consider, Where is all that now? Smoke and dust and a legend or not even a legend. Take any instance of the kind — Fabius Catullinus in the country, Lusius Lupus in his gardens, Stertinius at Baiae, Tiberius in Capreae, and Velius Rufus — in fact a craze for anything whatever arrogantly indulged. How worthless is everything so inordinately desired! How much more worthy of a philosopher is it for a man without any artifice to show himself in the sphere assigned to him just, temperate, and a follower of the Gods. For the conceit that is conceited of its freedom from conceit is the most insufferable of all.
28. If any ask, Where have you seen the Gods or how have you satisfied yourself of their existence that you are so devout a worshipper? I answer: In the first place, they are even visible to the eyes. In the next, I have not seen my own soul either, yet I honor it. So then from the continual proofs of their power I am assured that Gods also exist and I reverence them.
29. Salvation in life depends on our seeing everything in its entirety and and its reality, in its Matter and its Cause: on our doing what is just and speaking what is true with all our soul. What remains but to get delight of life by dovetailing one good act onto another so as not to leave the smallest gap between?
30. There is one Light of the Sun, even though its continuity be broken by walls, mountains, and countless other things. There is one common Substance, even though it be broken up into countless bodies individually characterized. There is one Soul, though it be broken up among countless natures and by individual limitations. There is one Intelligent Soul, though it seems to be divided. Of the things mentioned, however, all the other parts, such as Breath, are the material Substratum of things, devoid of sensation and the ties of mutual affinity — yet even they are knit together by the faculty of intelligence and the gravitation which draws them together. But the mind is peculiarly impelled toward what is akin to it, and coalesces with it, and there is no break in the feeling of social fellowship.
31. What do you ask for? Continued existence? But what of sensation? Of desire? Of growth? Of the use of speech? The exercise of thought? Which of these, do you think, is a thing to long for? But if these things are each and all of no account, address yourself to a final endeavor to follow Reason and to follow God. But it militates against this to prize such things, and to grieve if death comes to deprive us of them.
32. How tiny a fragment of the boundless abyss of Time has been appointed to each man! For in a moment it is lost in eternity. And how tiny a part of the Cosmic Substance! How tiny of the Cosmic Soul! And on how tiny a clod of the whole Earth do you crawl! Keeping all these things in mind, think nothing of moment save to do what your nature leads you to do, and to bear what the Cosmic Nature brings you.
35. Not even death can bring terror to him who regards that alone as good which comes in due season, and to whom it is all one whether his acts in obedience to right reason are few or many, and a matter of indifference whether he look upon the world for a longer or a shorter time.
36. Man, you have been a citizen in this World-City, what does it matter to you if for five years or a hundred? For under its laws equal treatment is meted out to all. What hardship then is there in being banished from the city, not by a tyrant or an unjust judge but by Nature who settled you in it? So might a praetor who commissions a comic actor, dismiss him from the stage. But I have not played my five acts, but only three. Very possibly, but in life three acts count as a full play. For he, that is responsible for your composition originally and your dissolution now, decides when it is complete. But you are responsible for neither. Depart then with a good grace, for he that dismisses you is gracious.
© Copyright 2019. Stoic Therapy, LLC. All rights reserved.