Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, translated by Maxwell Stani

Every person is a philosopher by nature; however, we are quickly dissuaded from this delightful activity by those who call philosophy impractical. But there is nothing more practical than knowing who you are and what you think. Try it sometime.

Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, translated by Maxwell Stani

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:09 am

by Marcus Aurelius
Translated with an introduction by Maxwell Staniforth
© Maxwell Staniforth, 1964



Table of Contents:

• Introduction
• The Hymn of Cleanthes
• Translator's Note
• Book 1
• Book 2
• Book 3
• Book 4
• Book 5
• Book 6
• Book 7
• Book 8
• Book 9
• Book 10
• Book 11
• Book 12
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:10 am


A couple of generations ago the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius was very fashionable reading. That was the time when every good publisher's catalogue included an elegant series of miniature classics; and there were very few of these in which the Meditations failed to make its appearance. The vogue has passed away now, but it may explain why the book is still known by name to so many people, even though acquaintance with its contents is rarer than it once was. Indeed, when you pick up this volume, you may well ask yourself, 'What is it going to be about? What sort of stuff shall I find inside it?' Let me say at once, then, that you need not expect any continuous or connected theme. This is simply the private journal or 'commonplace book' in which Marcus Aurelius jotted down from time to time anything that struck him as worth preserving. At one moment he is recording a thought suggested by some recent event or personal encounter; at another, musing on the mysteries of human life or death; now he is recalling a practical maxim for self-improvement, now copying a quotation from the day's reading which has taken his fancy. All these, and a wide variety of other items, are set down just as they occurred to the writer. You may take up the book or lay it down at any point you choose, and read as many or as few of the entries as suits your mood. Marcus, in short, has provided us with an excellent book for the bedside.

The Meditations is customarily, and no doubt rightly, classified by librarians under the heading of 'Philosophy'; but this may give the reader a misleading impression, unless he understands the place which philosophy held in the ancient world. From what he knows of the writings of its twentieth-century exponents, he is unlikely to conclude that its chief aim and end is the attainment of personal virtue. This, he imagines, is the province of religion, not of philosophy. But in classical times things were different. Morality, the good life, man's relations with the gods--all these were the domain of the philosopher, not the priest. Roman religion in the Imperial age had no concern with moral problems. Its business was simply the performance of such appropriate rites as would ensure the gods' protection for the State, or avert the effects of their displeasure. It was a formal system of public ceremonies carried out by State officials, and provided no answers to the doubts and difficulties of human souls. Yet then, as now, men found themselves perplexed by the great questions that are the common concern of us all. What is the composition of this universe around us, and how did it come into being? Is it ordered by blind chance, or a wise Providence? If gods exist, do they interest themselves in mortal affairs? What is the nature of man, and his duty here, and his destiny hereafter? It was not the priests but the philosophers who claimed to supply the answers to such inquiries. Their answers, it is true, were not unanimous; there were rival systems of philosophy, and each proffered its own solutions (as, for that matter, the different world-religions of our own day still do); but all were agreed that the sole right to pronounce with authority in the fields of metaphysics, theology, and ethics belonged to philosophy. It was believed to be competent to unfold the story of creation, define the unseen powers behind the world-order, expound the nature and purpose of human existence, prescribe the rules for right living, and reveal the future that lay beyond the tomb. Thus philosophy took the place which in our day is occupied by religion, as the instructor and guide of souls at every stage of their earthly pilgrimage. Such a claim is especially justified in the case of Stoicism, which was marked by a more religious character than any other ancient system. As the historian Lecky observes, 'Stoicism became the religion of the educated classes. It furnished the principles of virtue, colored the noblest literature of the time, and guided all the developments of moral enthusiasm.' [1]

What this amounts to is that a reader who wishes to approach the thought of Marcus Aurelius in the right way should remember that the emperor's frequent allusions to 'philosophy' always carry the kind of implications we associate nowadays with the word religion. For philosophy, to the man who wrote these Meditations, meant everything that a religion can mean. It was not a pursuit of abstract truths, it was a rule for living. In a sense, this book is as truly a manual of personal devotion as Thomas a Kempis's Imitation of Christ -- with which it has often been compared, and which is indeed its Christian counterpart.

The Stoic Philosophy

Stoicism, the system of philosophy in which Marcus believed, was originally a product of Middle Eastern thought. It had been founded some three hundred years before Christ by Zeno, a native of Citium (now Larnaka) in Cyprus, and received its named from the 'Stoa', or colonnade, at Athens where he was accustomed to discourse. His chief disciple was Cleanthes, who in turn was followed by Chrysippus; and the successive labors of these three men, who were afterwards held in veneration as the 'founding fathers' of Stoicism, had resulted in the formation of a scheme of doctrine embracing 'all things divine and human'. The three keywords of Zeno's creed were Materialism, Monism, and Mutation. That is to say, he held that everything in the universe -- even time, even thought -- has some kind of bodily substance (materialism); that everything can ultimately be referred to a single unifying principle (monism); and that everything is perpetually in process of changing and becoming something different from what it was before (mutation). These three tenets were the bedrock on which Zeno built his whole structure. His uncompromising insistence upon them led him occasionally into propounding ideas that were clearly indefensible; but in the hands of his successors the more rigid assertions of the founder were modified and softened in such a way as to make them acceptable to thinkers of a more realistic turn of mind.

When Stoicism passed from the East to the West and was introduced to the Roman world, it assumed a different aspect. Here it was the moral elements in Zeno's teaching that attracted the chief notice, and their practical value was promptly appreciated. A code which was manly, rational, and temperate, a code which insisted on just and virtuous dealing, self-discipline, unflinching fortitude, and complete freedom from the storms of passion was admirably suited to the Roman character. Consequently, the reputation and influence of Stoicism increased steadily all through the centuries which saw the decline of the republic and the rise of the principate; and by the time Marcus Aurelius ascended the throne it had reached the height of its supremacy. Its conceptions and its terminology were by now familiar to educated men and women in every important city of the empire.

The Stoics defined philosophy as 'striving after wisdom'; and 'wisdom' in turn was defined as 'the knowledge of things divine and human'. They divided this knowledge into three branches: Logic, Physics, and Ethics." Since the first requisite in the search for truth is clear and accurate thinking, which itself depends upon a precise use of words, and a vocabulary of technical terms, the initial study was Logic. After that came the investigation of natural phenomena and the laws of nature. This extended up to the metaphysical interpretation of the universe; for in the Stoic scheme Physics included the complete study of Being in its threefold manifestation--man himself, the created universe around him, and god. Last of all, holding the highest and most important place in the system, came Ethics. For the real business of philosophy, the point towards which all other inquiries converged and to which all other branches of knowledge were subservient, was the proper conduct of man, defined in a word as 'virtue'. As Diogenes Laertius puts it, 'they compare philosophy with a living creature; its bones and sinews corresponding to Logic, its body of flesh to Ethics, and its soul to Physics. Or again, they liken it to a fruitful field, of which Logic is the surrounding fence, Ethics the crop it bears, and Physics the soil.' [3] It will be convenient to summarize briefly their teaching on these three subjects.

(a) Logic. In the department of Logic, all that the reader of Marcus Aurelius need be acquainted with is the Stoics' theory of knowledge and of the means by which it is attained. In their system knowledge begins with impressions, which are produced by the impact of things or qualities on the senses. It is then in the power of the mind to pass judgment on what the senses report: to assent to it as a truthful presentation of objective reality, or to reject it as false. (The critical importance of this step is stressed repeatedly by Marcus.) Some impressions, of course, will command immediate and spontaneous assent--for example, the elementary notion that good is beneficial and evil harmful--but in other cases assent is given only after deliberate reflection; and it may vary from a hesitant approval, so weak and faltering as to constitute a mere 'opinion', up to the positive assurance that is produced only by a so-called 'arresting impression'. This is an impression so strong that, in the words of one writer, it 'seizes upon the subject, as it were, by the hair and extorts his assent'. Nevertheless, even an impression of this kind may in fact be imperfect or misleading; and consequently the assent founded upon it, no matter how assured, may be mistaken. It must therefore next be submitted to the scrutiny of reason, the sovereign power which alone can issue the passport to conviction. Finally, this personal conviction must be verified by comparison with the experience of past ages and sages, and confirmed by the general verdict of mankind; and it then becomes knowledge. In explaining these four stages, Zeno used to illustrate impressions by the outstretched fingers, assent by the closed hand, conviction by the clenched fist, and knowledge by the fist gripped tightly in the other hand.

(b) Physics. Stoic physicists taught that the primordial source of Being in all its forms is a certain substance, omnipresent in the universe, which can best be described as Mind. However, since they were thoroughgoing materialists, this Mind was held to consist of a real and positive stuff, though of the thinnest and most impalpable kind imaginable. Borrowing an analogy from the subtlest and most lively of known elements, and one which also nourishes life and growth, they conceived its essential nature to be that of Fire; but a Fire so rarefied and ethereal that the word 'heat' perhaps comes closer to describing it than anything which might suggest ideas of actual flame. This Mind-Fire, which possessed consciousness and purpose and will, was both the creator and the material of the universe; it took shape in innumerable different manifestations, so giving all things their particular substances and forms, and producing out of itself the visible world and all within it. According to the various contexts in which he is thinking of it, Marcus has many names for it: when he dwells on its operations upon the universe as a whole, he may call it God, Zeus, Nature, Providence, Fate, Necessity, or Law; as one of the material elements in nature it is Fire, or Air, or Force; in relation to the constitution of man himself, it becomes Soul, Reason, Mind, Breath, or (in the technical language of Stoic psychology) 'the Master-Faculty'. It is important to remember that all these words are simply terms for the same creative Mind-Fire in its varying aspects.

Stoicism is thus a pantheistic creed: that is to say, it holds that god is immanent in all created things, but has no separate existence outside them. As such, it is in direct opposition to the rival teachings of Epicureanism. Epicurus, developing the ideas of Democritus, maintained that the only constituents of the universe are atoms and empty space. Atoms in infinite numbers are in continuous high-speed movement in the void, and their fortuitous collisions lead to certain combinations which make the world what it is at any given moment. Since this ceaseless clashing of atom with atom in the vortex is forever giving rise to new combinations and dispersions, the life of the universe continues to perpetuate itself inexhaustibly. It is true that among the infinitely numerous possible combinations some are bound to look as if they were the result of design; but in reality there is no such thing as design, and all is due to chance. Marcus himself, in more than one passage of the Meditations, considers the implications of this alternative theory. 'Is there a wise Providence, or only a jumble of atoms?' he asks; but it is only to conclude that in either case the moral issues with which he is concerned would be unaffected. For his own part, his conviction of the providential guidance of the world does not waver.

To explain the process of creation, the Stoics relied on the theory of tension. From the fact that most bodies expand when heated, it is clear that heat exerts pressure. Accordingly the Mind-Fire, in its primal state of intense heat and correspondingly high pressure, at once begins to expand; and this brings about a proportionate slackening of tension. As a result, some of the divine fire cools and becomes visible as the humbler element of earthly fire; this again, as the tension continues to weaken, partially condenses into air; and portions of the air, in turn, solidify into water and earth. At this stage a movement in the opposite direction sets in; the vital heat contained in these four elements begins to assert its creative energy, and to materialize in the countless shapes and forms which compose the universe. Physically, these are differentiated by the varying proportions of fire, air, earth, and water contained in them; in other respects, their nature depends upon the degree of tension in the generative fire. Thus at a certain grade this force will realize itself as the organic forms of vegetable life; at a higher degree as the animals or 'souls without reason'; and after that, as the 'reasoning souls' distinctive of men. Within these categories as many different forms of being can be produced as there are differing degrees of tension. At the maximum tension, the Mind-Fire takes on the attributes of a World-Soul, holding the same relation to the universe as the individual soul to man himself. At long last, however, a time comes when this ever-mounting energy reaches a pitch of intensity at which it becomes the devourer of its own creation: one after another the different forms and substances dissolve back into their original elements, the water evaporates into air, the air turns to flames, and finally the universe disappears in a grand conflagration which leaves nothing surviving but the primordial Mind-Fire itself. Thereupon the whole process straightway begins again; the successive acts of creation repeat themselves, and the pattern of history starts to unroll as before. All this recurs in endless cosmic cycles of alternate creation and destruction; and since the eternal laws are unchanging, after each conflagration every event that has happened in previous cycles must reproduce itself once again down to the smallest detail.

As for man himself, he is a microcosm reflecting faithfully in itself the vaster organism of the universe. His physical body is formed out of the four elements, and that which creates, indwells, and controls it is a particle of the omnipresent Mind-Fire. Just as this fiery Power at its highest and purest acts as the soul of the world, so here, residing in the body in a scarcely less ethereal form, it plays the same part for man, generating and directing his life, his senses, his thoughts, and his emotions. It is nourished by the blood, and has its seat in the heart, the chief centre of the blood. (Hence Marcus twice refers to the soul as 'an exhalation from the blood'.)

At the appointed time Nature disperses the material elements which have composed the body, in order to use them for other purposes; and this is what we know as death. As to what happens to the 'fiery particle', Stoics, like Christians, are not unanimous. All agreed that it must sooner or later be reabsorbed in the primal Mind-Fire, but there were differences of opinion as to when this took place. The earliest doctrine, to which Marcus adheres, was that after the dissolution of the body and the soul lived on in the upper regions of the air, and was not resolved into the World-Fire until the final conflagration. This was the teaching of Cleanthes; Chrysippus, on the other hand, opined that it is only the souls of the good and wise which thus preserve their personal identity until the end of the world, the bad and unwise being allowed but a brief period of survival before their re-absorption. Other teachers held that in every case this re-absorption followed immediately on death; and others again believed in a purgatorial state in which the soul underwent physical and moral purification as a prelude to its reunion with the world-substance.

(c) Ethics. The Stoics taught that the chief end of man, and his highest good, is happiness. In their view happiness was attained by 'living according to Nature'. This celebrated phrase is too easily misunderstood by the modern reader. It does not mean living the simple life, or the life of the natural man; still less does it mean living just as one likes. To grasp its significance, we have to remember that 'Nature' is one of the Stoic names for the divine fire which, besides creating all things, also shapes them towards their proper ends. Thus it embodies the idea which we nowadays express by the term 'evolution'; the American poet who wrote 'Some call it Evolution, and others call it God' came very near to the Stoic way of thinking. It was the force which guided and directed every kind of growth or development towards its ultimate perfection; and because it was also a force that was alive, purposeful, and intelligent, the Stoics themselves did in fact sometimes call it God. 'Live according to Nature', then, was a maxim not very different from the New Testament injunction, 'Be ye followers of god', and implied an equally lofty ideal and an equally arduous discipline.

If we ask for a more precise definition of this 'Natural Life', Marcus says that it consists for every creature in a strict conformity with the essential principle of that creature's constitution. In the case of man, this essential principle is his reason, which is a part of the universal Reason. In so far, therefore, as he follows this rational law of his being, he approaches happiness; in so far as he departs from it, he falls short of happiness. The Natural Life, in fact, is the life controlled by reason; and such a life is briefly described as 'virtue'. It is this meaning of virtue which explains the Stoic dogma that 'virtue is the only good, and happiness consists exclusively in virtue'.

Reason tells us plainly that some things are in our power and others are not. For instance, bodily health, wealth, friends, death, and such like are not ours to command; therefore they can be neither helps nor hindrances to the Natural Life. They are 'things indifferent'. But our own will, our judgments, our power to accept what is morally right and to reject the contrary--all these are in our power. It follows that nothing external can by itself affect us; it is not until we inwardly assent to it or refuse it that we can be harmed or benefited. Pleasure by itself is not a good, nor pain by itself an evil; they become so only if we judge them to be so. This is the meaning of Marcus's insistence that 'opinion is everything'. It also explains the wise man's readiness, which we find emphasized so often in his pages, to 'accept without resentment whatever may befall'; a precept which is clearly one of the mainstays of his own personal life. This is the principle behind the famous 'apathy', or passionlessness, of the ideal Stoic sage. Such a one, the philosophers taught, will experience all the sensations and emotions which are the common lot of man, but because he refused to view them as evils they will not perturb him. Regarding them as things external and therefore indifferent, he remains secure and unharmed. Consequently, as the Stoics paradoxically asserted (to the amusement of the Epicurean poet Horace), the wise man alone is the true king, rich in spite of his poverty, happy in spite of physical torments, free even if a slave, serene and self-sufficing through all vicissitudes. Should circumstances ever prove too much for this perfect detachment, he will not hesitate to take a voluntary departure from life; for mere life by itself is also among the things that are indifferent. Both Zeno and Cleanthes died by their own hands, and we shall find Marcus himself more than once toying with the thought that in certain conditions it better becomes a philosopher to leave life than to remain in it.

As unequivocal as man's duty to himself is his duty to others. Since all men are manifestations of the one creative Mind-Fire, the doctrine of universal brotherhood played a leading part in the Stoic system. The rational and social instinct is something that is inherent in the constitution of man. Kindness to his fellow-creatures is therefore at all times incumbent upon him; he must school himself to be tolerant of their failings, make allowance for their ignorance, forgive their misdoings, and help them in their need. To Marcus this was not always the easiest of tasks; the very frequency with which he reminds himself that neighborliness is an important part of the Natural Life suggests that in practice it was sometimes a strain on his powers of benevolence. Nevertheless, he recognizes to the full that man is a social being, made for social action. He accepts the Stoic axiom that the whole universe is an organized society; a civic community in which the divine and the human dwell together in a common citizenship. (Earlier, the Cynics had described it as the cosmo-polis: the city which is co-extensive with the whole cosmos.) In his own words, 'the world is as it were one city'; and just as to the Athenian Athens was the 'dear city of Cecrops', to the philosopher the universe is the 'dear city of God'.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Marcus Annius Verus, the future ruler of Rome, was born on 26 April A.D. 121, in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. His father, Annius Verus, was a roman nobleman; and his grandfather, of the same name, had been Prefect of the city and three times consul. Both his parents died young, and on his father's death Marcus was adopted by his grandfather, of whom he writes with warm affection and respect. The years of his boyhood were happy and studious; a series of the ablest tutors cared for his education and trained him in the doctrines of the Stoic philosophy; and though his health was never robust he enjoyed riding, hunting, wrestling, and outdoor games. When he was seventeen the emperor Hadrian died and was succeeded by Aurelius Antoninus (usually known as Antoninus Pius), whose wife was Marcus's aunt Faustina. Having no son of his own, Antoninus adopted his wife's young nephew, changed his name to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, named him as his successor, and betrothed him to his daughter Faustina. How much happiness Marcus found in this marriage must remain an enigma. The contemporary chroniclers delight in retailing stories of her shameless profligacy, and declare that she was treated with culpable indulgence by a husband far too good for her. However, the evidence for this is doubtful; and it is certain that when she died, thirty years later, Marcus grieved for her loss. She had borne him five children, of whom he was passionately fond; but death robbed him successively of all of them except the worthless Commodus, who lived to succeed his father.

From his seventeenth to his fortieth year, as the close companion and colleague of Antoninus, Marcus was occupied in learning the arts of government and preparing himself for the future duties of empire. In those years, the majestic immensity of the pax romana, maintained by the Imperial administration, stretched over the whole of western and southern Europe, north Africa, Asia Minor, Armenia, and Syria. But much of the burden of governing this vast dominion centered on the person of the emperor himself; and when Antoninus died in 161, a heavy weight of responsibility descended on Marcus. Against the wishes of the Senate, he took Lucius Verus, the other adopted son of Antoninus, as his colleague on the throne; and Rome was presented for the first time with the spectacle of two emperors. Almost simultaneously came the end of the long years of Imperial serenity. An outbreak of plague spread disastrously over the western world. Floods destroyed great quantities of grain at Rome, obliging Marcus to sell the royal jewelry to relieve his starving subjects. In addition to the anxieties of pestilence and famine he found himself harassed by the alarms of war. Peace was broken by the clash of arms; on the eastern frontiers fierce tribesmen of the Marcomanni ('men of the marches'), Quadi, and Sarmati poured over the border in a series of determined attempts to pierce the Empire's defenses. Faced by this threat, Marcus left Rome in 167 to take command in person of his hard-pressed legions on the Danube. In 169 Verus died, and for most of the next thirteen years Marcus remained alone at the post of duty. For a brief interval he was called to Asia, where the commander of the troops, Avidius Cassius, revolted and caused himself to be proclaimed emperor. But Cassius was murdered by two of his officers; and it is characteristic of Marcus that when they brought the severed head to him he recoiled in disgust and refused to see them. He ordered all the papers of Cassius to be burnt unread, and treated the rebels with clemency. During this expedition to the East his wife Faustina, who had accompanied him, died; and Marcus returned to the Danube to resume his task of holding back the onrushing tide of barbarism. There, among the misty swamps and reedy islands of that melancholy region, he consoled the hours of loneliness and exile by penning the volume of his Meditations. Laborious years of toil and conflict had by now exhausted his spirit; he was weary of life, and in his own words 'waiting for the retreat to sound'. When at last an infectious disease attacked him in the camp, he lingered for a few days and died on 17 March 180, in the fifty-ninth year of his age and the nineteenth of his reign. 'Weep not for me,' were his last words; 'think rather of the pestilence and the deaths of so many others.'

To suggest that Marcus was not a true Stoic seems paradoxical. Nevertheless, his meditations indicate a type of character that would hardly have satisfied Zeno or Chrysippus. The varying moods of hope and depression, the sensitive shrinking from disagreeable associates and sights of blood, the repressed but evident longing for sympathy and affection--these are not the signs of a temper cast in the antique Stoic mould. The truth is that Marcus represents a transitional phase of thought. In place of the old assurance of self-sufficiency there is a diffidence and a readiness to acknowledge his own failures; instead of the Stoic virtue of pride he seems to anticipate the Christian virtue of humility. All the more, then, do we sympathize with his recurrent struggles for self-mastery, and his efforts to direct every natural impulse and emotion into the stern service of duty. No doubt this constant preoccupation with the perfecting of self, this reiteration of improving maxims and moral platitudes, has produced a distasteful impression on some readers; and there have even been detractors who have called Marcus a humbug and a prig. Such a judgment, I think, shows a failure to understand the nature of the religious temperament; for when a man takes his religion seriously, conscientious self-scrutiny and aspirations to virtue are bound to form a very large part of all his inward thoughts and meditations. After all, the writings of a St. Paul or a Thomas a Kempis exhibit as many moral admonitions, exhortations to sanctify and citations of canonical authorities we find in Marcus; yet no one has had the hardhihood to accuse their authors of insincerity--even despite their avowed intention to write for the edification of a large circle of readers. When, on the other hand, we overhear the philosopher-emperor's secret communings with his own soul, and remember that at no time is he addressing any human auditor but himself, I believe every instinct tells us that we are in the presence of a man who is simple, humble, and utterly sincere.

One small but significant fact, which so far as I know has not been noticed by any of his editors, seems to indicate his genuine goodness of heart. When he has occasion to refer to persons in terms of approval, he never fails to record their names. But when, as sometimes happens, he allows himself a comment that is unfavorable, a veil of secrecy is drawn over the offender, and we are left with no more hint of his identity than is furnished by an unrevealing 'he' or 'they'. [4] This charitable habit--which might perhaps be commended to some who write their memoirs in our own day--deserves particular notice in one whose sensitivities must have suffered almost daily affronts from the manners and society of the period.

'Lead me, Zeus and Destiny,' says the prayer of Epictetus, 'whithersoever I am appointed to go. I will follow without wavering; even though I turn coward and shrink, I shall have to follow all the same.' The words fitly express Marcus's attitude to life. If he remarks wryly that it is 'more like wrestling than dancing', his fortitude does not fail, and the peculiar sweetness and delicacy of his character have an attraction that is not lessened by this tincture of gentle pessimism. 'By nature a saint and a sage, by profession a ruler and a warrior,' from the lonely height on which he stands he contemplates the sorrows of mortality with eyes that are disillusioned yet serene. 'And so', to quote Matthew Arnold's tribute,' he remains the especial friend and comforter of scrupulous and difficult yet pure-hearted and upward-striving souls, in those ages especially that walk by sign, not by faith, but yet have no open vision: he cannot give such souls, perhaps, all they yearn for, but he gives them much, and what he gives them they can receive.' And of his equestrian statue which stands in the Piazza Campidoglio in Rome, Henry James has written that 'in the capital of Christendom, the portrait most suggestive of a Christian conscience is that of a pagan emperor'.

So long as men are attracted by the tears and triumphs of human goodness, Marcus Aurelius will not lack readers. Wistful, compassionate, and disenchanted, this last of the Stoics still puts our weakness to shame and our discontent to silence.

Stoicism and Christianity

In conclusion, the reader may usefully be reminded that the theology of the Christian church owes a large debt to Stoicism. In the original gospel of Christ the moral and spiritual elements predominated, and the intellectual element was wholly subservient to them. But when the message spread beyond the confines of Palestine, and its implications were assimilated by thoughtful men in other lands, the need for more exact conceptions of the truth made itself felt. It became evident that the new faith must raise a multiplicity of questions in the fields of cosmogony, metaphysics, psychology, and ethics; and for all of these the church had to discover some coherent system of answers. Fortunately, much of the material for the task lay ready to hand. The ground had already been explored by the schools of pagan philosophy, and their findings constituted the accepted body of contemporary scientific knowledge. Many of the men who flocked into the Christian community during the second century had been educated in these doctrines from their youth; the majority of them in the principles of Stoicism, since that system more than any other attracted the naturally religious type of mind. To them, therefore, the churchmen turned for aid in building the structure of their theology. This is not to imply an uncritical or wholesale appropriation of the pagan ideas. Rather, when a philosophical theory seemed to suggest the lines along which Christian thought might seek its own solution of a problem, it was taken as a working hypothesis and tested for its possibilities; after which, in a suitably modified form, it might find its place in the new religion. In the words of Dr. Prestige, 'the idea was cut to fit the Christian faith, not the faith trimmed to square with the imported conception'. [5]

For example, the author of the fourth Gospel declares that Christ is the Logos. This expression (meaning either 'reason' or 'word') had long been one of the leading terms of Stoicism, chosen originally for the purpose of explaining how deity came into relation with the universe. According to the philosophers, the divine Reason had brought the world into existence through the agency of innumerable particles of itself, which indwelt and gave form to every created thing. This version of the origin of the universe, already deeply impressed upon his contemporary generation, was accepted in principle by the evangelist. He asserts, however, that the medium through which God manifested himself in the creation and maintenance of the world is not a multiple but a single and personal Logos, begotten of himself. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. [6] Thus Christian baptism is given to Stoic metaphysic.

Another Stoic concept which furnished inspiration to the church was that of 'divine spirit'. Cleanthes, wishing to give a more explicit meaning to Zeno's 'creative fire', had been the first to hit upon the term pneuma, or 'spirit', to describe it. Like fire, this intelligent 'spirit' was imagined as a tenuous substance akin to a current of air or breath, but essentially possessing the quality of warmth; it was immanent in the universe as God, and in man as the soul and life-giving principle. Clearly it is not a long step from this to the 'Holy Spirit' of Christian theology, the "Lord and Giver of life', visibly manifested as tongues of fire at Pentecost and ever since associated -- in the Christian as in the Stoic mind -- with the ideas of vital fire and beneficent warmth.

Again, in the doctrine of the Trinity, the ecclesiastical conception of Father, Word, and spirit finds its germ in the different Stoic names for the divine Unity. Thus Seneca, writing of the supreme Power which shapes the universe, states, 'This Power we sometimes call the All-ruling God, sometimes the incorporeal Wisdom, sometimes the holy Spirit, sometimes Destiny.' The church had only to reject the last of these terms to arrive at its own acceptable definition of the Divine Nature; while the further assertion that 'these three are One', which the modern mind finds paradoxical, was no more than commonplace to those familiar with Stoic notions.

Other instances of Christian ideas which had previously been taught by the Stoics are the conviction that men are 'God's offspring' [7] and partake of his nature, and the consequent belief that we should regard all men as our brothers and neglect no opportunity of benefiting a fellow-creature. One of the later New Testament writers has also stamped with Christian authority the Stoic belief in the final conflagration of the universe. [8] A notable Stoic contribution, too, to the manners of the Church, and one which has had a lasting influence, was the practice of asceticism. Christians who desired to follow counsels of perfection took the Stoic sage and his way of life as their formal exemplar. The coarse garment, the untrimmed locks and beard, were adopted as the badges of aspiration to sanctity. Just as the Stoic professor was accustomed to withdraw from society and meditate in solitude, his Christian imitators not only followed his example but appropriated his terminology. In the Stoic vocabulary one who went into retreat was an 'anchorite'; one who practiced self-discipline was an 'ascetic', those who lived apart from their fellows were 'monachi', and the place of their retreat was a 'monasterium'. Each of these borrowed expressions has retained its place and significance in the language of the church to this day.

Perhaps the best evidence, however, of the way in which Stoic ideas penetrated Christian thought is found in a treatise which became the basis of medieval moral philosophy, the Duties of St. Ambrose of Milan. Here the scriptural conceptions of righteousness and holiness are almost wholly displaced by the former doctrines of Stoic orthodoxy. The voice is the voice of a Christian bishop, but the precepts are those of Zeno. Not godliness, but happiness appears as the ideal of life; and the happy life is a life according to nature. Such a life is achieved by virtue, for virtue is 'the highest good' and virtue is once more resolved into its ancient pagan elements of justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude. Most remarkable of all, the happy and virtuous life is declared to be fully realizable during our sojourn here on earth; and the hope of future bliss becomes not a primary but only a subordinate motive.

In the face of these and similar pronouncements by a prelate and doctor of the church, who will deny the right of Stoicism to be called, in the words of a writer of our own age, 'a root of Christianity'?



1. History of European Morals, vol. 1, p. 225.

2. Cleanthes subdivided them into Logic and Rhetoric, Physics and Theology, Ethics and Politics.

3. Diogenes Laertius, vii. 40.

4. e.g. III, 15, iv, 6; iv, 28; viii, 52; xi, 14.

5. God in Patristic thought, p. xiv.

6. John i:I.

7. Quoted by St. Paul (Acts xvii:28) from the Hymn of Cleanthes.

8. 11 peter iii:7, 10.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:11 am


High glory of the company of heaven,
Lord of the Manifold Name,
Eternal and Everlasting is thy power!

Blessed be thou,
O great architect of creation,
Ordering all things in the ways of thy laws!

To call upon thy name
Is meet and right for mortal kind,
For we are born of thyself;
Yea, and to us, to us alone
Of all that lives and moves upon the earth,
Is granted a voice and an utterance.

Therefore now will I sing praises unto thee!
Therefore now and for ever glorify thy power!
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:12 am


It must be admitted that this work begins straight away with a mistranslation. The Greek title at the head of Marcus's book does not mean 'Meditations' at all; the meaning of its two words is simply 'To Himself'. I do not know who was first responsible for paraphrasing them as 'Meditations', but long usage has now accustomed the reading public to this name in preference to any other, and so it seems pedantic to discard it in the interests of a more literal accuracy.

The earliest English translations of Marcus Aurelius were made by Meric Casaubon (1634) and Jeremy Collier (1701). Casaubon's style, besides being archaic, is cumbrous and involved; Collier's rendering strays so far from the original that it is scarcely more than a paraphrase. Neither work can be said to have had great popular success. The first man to bring a wide public under the spell of Marcus Aurelius was the nineteenth-century scholar George Long. His translation was published in 1862; it is admirably correct, as literal as a school crib, and to me at least utterly unreadable. Nevertheless, it quickly became a cultural 'must' to the mid-Victorian generation, from great and eminent persons like the Dean of Canterbury and Matthew Arnold down to innumerable lesser folk; and during the next forty years the number of its printings and reprintings in different styles and sizes must have been legion. Perhaps this is not wholly surprising, for it does not need much imagination to picture Marcus himself as the very figure of an admired Victorian personage; the grave dignity, the improving sentiments, the earnest piety of the Meditations were in the fullest accord with the taste of that era.

In 1898 there appeared a translation which many critics have since pronounced to be the most lively, scholarly, and idiomatic of all English versions, and I like to remember that this was the work of my old headmaster G. H. Rendall. (Since Marcus teaches us to remember with gratitude the instructors of our youth, it is a pious duty to record here my debt to Gerald Rendall, who first introduced us at school to the Meditations he loved and gave me a copy which I still possess.) Another good translation was brought out by John Jackson in 1906, which reads smoothly enough--apart from its rather self-consciously 'literary language'--but to my mind is disfigured by the very unsympathetic view taken of Marcus himself in the introductory essay by C. Bigg. The closely accurate version by C. R. Haines (1915) in the Loeb series, though probably indispensable to students who want an exact rendering of the Greek, hardly lends itself to being read for pleasure. [9]

Excellent in their different ways, these translations have held the field against a number of lesser rivals for a long time. But it is nearly half-a-century now since the last of them made its appearance, and to younger eyes they have undeniably come to look a little stiff-jointed. It would be a great pity if this were to keep a new generation from discovering for itself the humane wisdom and gentle charm of Marcus Aurelius; and it is therefore in the modest hope of doing something to avert such a misfortune that this present version has been made.

It should be added that there is no attempt here to reproduce the curious prose style of the original. I have an idea that writing in Greek did not come very easily to Marcus the Roman; his expressions are often obscure, and he uses awkward and unusual constructions. At the same time his language has dignity, and his vocabulary is that of an educated man. Something like the limpid and beautiful English of John Henry Newman (between whom and Marcus there are manifest affinities) is needed to do justice to the spiritual qualities of the Meditations. I could not hope to achieve this, so I have aimed at nothing more than a plain and honest version for the Greekless reader.

My best thanks are due to my friend Henry Neill for his kindness in reading the manuscript and making many valuable suggestions for its improvement. I am also most grateful for Dr. E. V. Rieu's generous encouragement and advice and the measure of my debt to his assistant on the editorial staff, Mrs. Betty Radice, for her help and counsel in preparing the book for press can only be gauged by those who had had the benefit of her sympathetic interest and acute scholarship.

Maxwell Staniforth

Sixpenny Handley, 1962



9. As a fine example of more recent scholarship, nothing is more admirable than the two comprehensive volumes of A.S. L. Farquharson's critical edition of the Meditations, published in 1944 and including a translation. A work of this size, scope and cost, however, is meant for a different class of readers.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:12 am

Book 1

1. Courtesy and serenity of temper I first learnt to know from my grandfather Verus.

2. Manliness without ostentation I learnt from what I have heard and remember of my father.

3. My mother set me an example of piety and generosity, avoidance of all uncharitableness -- not in actions only, but in thought as well -- and a simplicity of life quite unlike the usual habits of the rich.

4. To my great-grandfather I owed the advice to dispense with the education of the schools and have good masters at home instead--and to realize that no expense should be grudged for this purpose.

5. It was my tutor who dissuaded me from patronizing Green or Blue [1] at the races, or Light or Heavy [2] in the ring; and encouraged me not to be afraid of work, to be sparing in my wants, attend to my own needs, mind my own business, and never listen to gossip.

6. Thanks to Diognetus [3] I learnt not to be absorbed in trivial pursuits; to be sceptical of wizards and wonder-workers with their tales of spells, exorcisms, and the like; to eschew cockfighting and other such distractions; not to resent outspokenness; to familiarize myself with philosophy, beginning with Bacchius and going on to Tandasis and Marcian; to write compositions in my early years; and to be ardent for the plank-and-skin pallet and other rigours of the Greek discipline.

7. From Rusticus [4] I derived the notion that my character needed training and care, and that I must not allow myself to be led astray into a sophist's enthusiasm for concocting speculative treatises, edifying homilies, or imaginary sketches of The Ascetic or The Altruist. He also taught me to avoid rhetoric, poetry, and verbal conceits, affectations of dress at home, and other such lapses of taste, and to imitate the easy epistolary style of his own letter written at Sinuessa to my mother. If anyone, after falling out with me in a moment of temper, showed signs of wanting to make peace again, I was to be ready at once to meet them half-way. Also I was to be accurate in my reading, and not content with a mere general idea of the meaning; and not to let myself be too quickly convinced by a glib tongue. Through him, too, I came to know Epictetus's Dissertations, of which he gave me a copy from his library.

8. Apollonius [5] impressed on me the need to make decisions for myself instead of depending on the hazards of chance, and never for a moment to leave reason out of sight. He also schooled me to meet spasms of acute pain, the loss of my son, and the tedium of a chronic ailment with the same unaltered composure. He himself was a living proof that the fieriest energy is not incompatible with the ability to relax. His expositions were always a model of clarity; yet he was evidently one who rated practical experience and an aptitude for teaching philosophy as the least of his accomplishments. It was he, moreover, who taught me how to accept the pretended favours of friends without either lowering my own self-respect or giving the impression of an unfeeling indifference.

9. My debts to Sextus [6] include kindliness, how to rule a household with paternal authority, the real meaning of the Natural Life, an unselfconscious dignity, an intuitive concern for the interests of one's friends, and a good-natured patience with amateurs and visionaries. The aptness of his courtesy to each individual lent a charm to his society more potent than any flattery, yet at the same time it exacted the complete respect of all present. His manner, too, of determining and systematizing the essential rules of life was as comprehensive as it was methodical. Never displaying a sign of anger nor any kind of emotion, he was at once entirely imperturbable and yet full of kindly affection. His approval was always quietly and undemonstratively expressed, and he never paraded his encyclopaedic learning.

10. It was the critic Alexander [7] who put me on my guard against unnecessary fault-finding. People should not be sharply corrected for bad grammar, provincialisms, or mispronunciation; it is better to suggest the proper expression by tactfully introducing it oneself in, say, one's reply to a question or one's acquiescence in their sentiments, or into a friendly discussion of the topic itself (not of the diction), or by some other suitable form of reminder.

11. To my mentor Fronto [8] I owe the realization that malice, craftiness, and duplicity are the concomitants of absolute power; and that our patrician families tend for the most part to be lacking in the feelings of ordinary humanity.

12. Alexander the Platonist [9] cautioned me against frequent use of the words 'I am too busy' in speech or correspondence, except in cases of real necessity; saying that no one ought to shirk the obligations due to society on the excuse of urgent affairs.

13, Catulus the Stoic [10] counseled me never to make light of a friend's rebuke, even when unreasonable, but to do my best to restore myself to his good graces; to speak up readily in commendation of my instructors, as we read in the memoirs of Domitius and Athenodotus; and to cultivate a genuine affection for my children.

14. From my brother Severus [11] I learnt to love my relations, to love the truth, and to love justice. Through him I came to know of Thrasea, Cato, Helvidius, Dion, and Brutus, and became acquainted with the conception of a community based on equality and freedom of speech for all, and a monarchy concerned primarily to uphold the liberty of the subject. He showed me the need for a fair and dispassionate appreciation of philosophy, an addiction to good works, open-handedness, a sanguine temper, and confidence in the affection of my friends. I remember, too, his forthrightness with those who came under his censure, and his way of leaving his friends in no doubt of his likes and dislikes, but of telling them plainly.

15. Maximus [12] was my model for self-control, fixity of purpose, and cheerfulness under ill-health or other misfortunes. His character was an admirable combination of dignity and charm, and all the duties of his station were performed quietly and without fuss. He gave everyone the conviction that he spoke as he believed, and acted as he judged right. Bewilderment or timidity were unknown to him; he was never hasty, never dilatory; nothing found him at a loss. He indulged neither in despondency nor forced gaiety, nor had anger or jealousy any power over him. Kindliness, sympathy, and sincerity all contributed to give the impression of a rectitude that was innate rather than inculcated. Nobody was ever made by him to feel inferior, yet none could have presumed to challenge his preeminence. He was also the possessor of an agreeable sense of humour.

16. The qualities I admired in my father [13] were his lenience, his firm refusal to be diverted from any decision he had deliberately reached, his complete indifference to meretricious honours; his industry, perseverance, and willingness to listen to any project for the common good; the unvarying insistence that rewards must depend on merit; the expert's sense of when to tighten the reins and when to relax them; and the efforts he made to suppress pederasty.

He was aware that social life must have its claims: his friends were under no obligation to join him at his table or attend his progresses, and when they were detained by other engagements it made no difference to him. Every question that came before him in council was painstakingly and patiently examined; he was never content to dismiss it on a cursory first impression. His friendships were enduring; they were not capricious, and they were not extravagant. He was always equal to an occasion; cheerful, yet long-sighted enough to have all his dispositions unobtrusively perfected down to the last detail. He had an ever-watchful eye to the needs of the Empire, prudently conserving its resources and putting up with the criticisms that resulted. Before his gods he was not superstitious; before his fellow-men he never stooped to bid for popularity or woo the masses, but pursued his own calm and steady way, disdaining anything that savoured of the flashy or new-fangled. He accepted without either complacency or compunction such material comforts as fortune had put at his disposal; when they were to hand he would avail himself of them frankly, but when they were not he had no regrets.

Not a vestige of the casuist's quibbling, the lackey's pertness, the pedant's over-scrupulosity could be charged against him; all men recognized in him a mature and finished personality, that was impervious to flattery and entirely capable of ruling both himself and others. Moreover, he had a high respect for all genuine philosophers; and though refraining from criticism of the rest, he preferred to dispense with their guidance. In society he was affable and gracious without being fulsome. The care he took of his body was reasonable; there was no solicitous anxiety to prolong its existence, or to embellish its appearance, yet he was far from unmindful of it, and indeed looked after himself so successfully that he was seldom in need of medical attention or physic or liniments. No hint of jealousy showed in his prompt recognition of outstanding abilities, whether in public speaking, law, ethics, or any other department, and he took pains to give each man the chance of earning a reputation in his own field. Though all his actions were guided by a respect for constitutional precedent, he would never go out of his way to court public recognition of this. Again, he disliked restlessness and change, and had a rooted preference for the same places and the same pursuits. After one of his acute spasms of migraine he would lose no time in taking up his normal duties again, with new vigour and complete command of his powers. His secret and confidential files were not numerous, and the few infrequent items in them referred exclusively to matters of state. He showed good sense and restraint over the exhibition of spectacles, construction of public buildings, distribution of subsidies, and so forth, having always more in view the necessity for the measures themselves than the plaudits they evoked. His baths were not taken at inconvenient hours; he had no mania for building; he was quite uncritical of the food he ate, of the cut and colour of the garments he wore, or of the personableness of those around him. His clothes were sent up from his country seat at Lorium, and most of his things came from Lanuvium. His well-known treatment of the apologetic overseer at Tusculum was typical of his whole behaviour, for discourtesy was as foreign to his nature as harshness or bluster; he never grew heated, as the saying is, to sweating-point; it was his habit to analyse and weigh every incident, taking his time about it, calmly, methodically, decisively, and consistently. What is recorded of Socrates was no less applicable to him, that he had the ability to allow or deny himself indulgences which most people are as much incapacitated by their weakness from refusing as by their excesses from appreciating. To be thus strong enough to refrain or consent at will argues a consummate and indomitable soul as Maximus also demonstrated on his sick-bed.

17. To the gods I owe good grandparents, good parents, a good sister, and teachers, comrades, kinsmen, and friends good almost without exception; and that I never fell out with any of them, in spite of a temperament that could very well have precipitated something of the sort, had not circumstances providentially never combined to put me to the proof. To them, too, I owe it that the responsibility of my grandfather's mistress for my upbringing was brought to an early end, and my innocence preserved; and that I was not impatient to reach manhood, but contented myself with an unhurried development. I thank heaven also that under my father the Emperor I was cured of all pomposity, and made to realize that life at court can be lived without royal escorts, robes of state, illuminations, statues, and outward splendour of that kind, but that one's manner of life can be reduced almost to the level of a private gentleman's without losing the prestige and authority needful when affairs of state require leadership. The gods, too, gave me a brother [14] whose natural qualities were a standing challenge to my own self-discipline at the same time as his deferential affection warmed my heart; and children who were neither intellectually stunted nor physically misshapen. It was the gods who set a limit to my proficiency in rhetoric, poetry, and other studies that might well have absorbed my time, had I found it less difficult to make progress. They saw to it that at the first opportunity I raised my tutors to such rank and station as I thought they had at heart, instead of putting them off with prospects of later advancement on the plea of their youth. To the gods I owe my acquaintance with Apollonius, Rusticus, and Maximus. To them, too, my vivid and recurrent visions of the true inwardness of the Natural Life; indeed, for their part, the favours, helps, and inspirations I have received leave my failure to attain this Natural Life without excuse; and if I am still far from the goal, the fault is my own for not paying heed to the reminders -- nay, the virtual directions -- which I have had from above.

To the gods it must be ascribed that my constitution has survived this manner of life so long; that I never got entangled with a Benedicta nor a Theodotus, and also emerged from other subsequent affairs unscathed; that although Rusticus and I frequently had our differences, I never pushed things to a point I might have regretted; and that the last years of my mother's life, before her early death, were spent with me. Furthermore, that on occasions when I thought of relieving somebody in poverty or distress, I was never told that I had not the necessary means; as also that I myself never had occasion to require similar help from another. And I must thank heaven for such a wife as mine, so submissive, so loving, and so artless; for an unfailing supply of competent tutors for my children; and for remedies prescribed for me in dreams -- especially in cases of blood-spitting and vertigo, as happened at Caieta and Chrysa. Finally, that with all my addiction to philosophy I was yet preserved from either falling a prey to some sophist or spending all my time at a desk poring over textbooks and rules of logic or grinding at natural science.

For all these good things 'man needs the help of Heaven and Destiny'. [15]

Among the Quadi, on the River Gran.



1. The colours of the rival charioteers in the Circus. Roman enthusiasm for these races was unbounded; successful drivers earned large fortunes and became popular idols.

2. In one form of gladiatorial combat (the 'Thracian') the opponents were armed with light round bucklers; in another (the 'Samnite') they carried heavy oblong shields.

3. The painter and philosopher to whom Marcus, as a boy of eleven, owed his first acquaintance with Stoicism. Nothing is known of Bacchius, Tandasis, or Marcian.

4. Q. Junius Rusticus, a Stoic professor who was the law-tutor and friend of Marcus.

5. A teacher of philosophy who came to Rome from Chalcedon. When first summoned by Marcus to the palace, he is said to have replied, 'The master ought not to come to the pupil, but the pupil to the master.'

6. A native of Chaeronea in Boeotia and the grandson of Plutarch. One of Marcus's earliest instructors in philosophy.

7. A Greek and a scholar of repute, known as 'the Grammarian'.

8. M. Cornelius Fronto, a celebrated pleader and teacher of rhetoric and reckoned inferior only to Cicero as an orator. He was entrusted with the education of the future co-Emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. The published edition of Fronto's correspondence, containing many of his letters to them and their replies, throws much inci

9. The emperor's secretary.

10. Cinna Catulus was another of the professors who gave lectures in philosophy.

11. Marcus had no brother. The word may be a playful allusion to Claudius Severus (whose son married one of Marcus's daughters), since Marcus also had originally been called Severus, though he later discarded the name. More probably the text is corrupt. Many editors prefer to read Verus, tlhat is the Lucius Verus who, like Marcus himself, had been adopted by the emperor Antoninus Pius as his son; but the flattering picture drawn here by no means corresponds with what is known of the character of Verus (see note Ion p. 42).

12. Claudius Maximus, A Stoic philosopher especially admired by Marcus. His courage in sickness is appreciatively recalled (I,16) and his death and that of his wife Secunda remembered wtih regret (VIII, 25).

13. Not his natural father Annius Verus, but the emperor Antoninus Pius, his adoptive father.

I4. This was Lucius Ceionius Commodus, afterwards known as Lucius Verus. He was adopted by Antoninus Pius along with Marcus, with whom he was associated as co-emperor and whose daughter Lucilla he married. Originally a man of courage and ability, Verus degenerated into weakness and self-indulgence. As commander of the Roman armies in the Parthian war he proved indolent and incapable, and was only saved from disgrace by the skill of his generals. When he returned with his legions from the East, they carried back the seeds of a pestilence which spread with terrible effect throughout the Empire. Verus died in 169--as some said, by the hand of a poisoner.

15. Apparently a quotation, the source of which has not been traced.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:12 am

Book 2

1. Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness--all of them due to the offenders' ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow-creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man's two hands, feet, or eyelids, or like the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature's law--and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction?

2. A little flesh, a little breath, and a Reason to rule all--that is myself. (Forget your books; no more hankering for them; they were no part of your equipment.) As one already on the threshold of death, think nothing of the first--of its viscid blood, its bones, its web of nerves and veins and arteries. The breath, too; what is that ? A whiff of wind; and not even the same wind, but every moment puffed out and drawn in anew. But the third, the Reason, the master--on this you must concentrate. Now that your hairs are grey, let it play the part of a slave no more, twitching puppetwise at every pull of self-interest; and cease to fume at destiny by ever grumbling at today or lamenting over tomorrow.

3. The whole divine economy is pervaded by Providence. Even the vagaries of chance have their place in Nature's scheme; that is, in the intricate tapestry of the ordinances of Providence. Providence is the source from which all things flow; and allied with it is Necessity, and the welfare of the universe. You yourself are a part of that universe; and for any one of nature's parts, that which is assigned to it by the World-Nature or helps to keep it in being is good. Moreover, what keeps the whole world in being is Change: not merely change of the basic elements, but also change of the larger formations they compose. On these thoughts rest content, and ever hold them as principles. Forget your thirst for books; so that when your end comes you may not murmur, but meet it with a good grace and with unfeigned gratitude in your heart to the gods.

4. Think of your many years of procrastination; how the gods have repeatedly granted you further periods of grace, of which you have taken no advantage. It is time now to realize the nature of the universe to which you belong, and of that controlling Power whose offspring you are; and to understand that your time has a limit set to it. Use it, then, to advance your enlightenment; or it will be gone, and never in your power again.

5. Hour by hour resolve firmly, like a Roman and a man, to do what comes to hand with correct and natural dignity, and with humanity, independence, and justice. Allow your mind freedom from all other considerations. This you can do, if you will approach each action as though it were your last, dismissing the wayward thought, the emotional recoil from the commands of reason, the desire to create an impression, the admiration of self, the discontent with your lot. See how little a man needs to master, for his days to flow on in quietness and piety: he has but to observe these few counsels, and the gods will ask nothing more.

6. Wrong, wrong thou art doing to thyself, O my soul; and all too soon thou shalt have no more rime to do thyself right. Man has but one life; already thine is nearing its close, yet still hast thou no eye to thine own honour, but art staking thy happiness on the souls of other men. [1]

7. Are you distracted by outward cares? Then allow yourself a space of quiet, wherein you can add to your knowledge of the Good and learn to curb your restlessness. Guard also against another kind of error: the folly of those who weary their days in much business, but lack any aim on which their whole effort, nay, their whole thought, is focused.

8. You will not easily find a man coming to grief through indifference to the workings of another's soul; but for those who pay no heed to the motions of their own, happiness is their sure reward.

9. Remembering always what the World-Nature is, and what my own nature is, and how the one stands in respect to the other -- so small a fraction of so vast a Whole -- bear in mind that no man can hinder you from conforming each word and deed to that Nature of which you are a part.

10. When Theophrastus is comparing sins -- so far as they are commonly acknowledged to be comparable--he affirms the philosophic truth that sins of desire are more culpable than sins of passion. For passion's revulsion from reason at least seems to bring with it a certain discomfort, and a half- felt sense of constraint; whereas sins of desire, in which pleasure predominates, indicate a more self-indulgent and womanish disposition. Both experience and philosophy, then, support the contention that a sin which is pleasurable deserves graver censure than one which is painful. In the one case the offender is like a man stung into an involuntary loss of control by some injustice; in the other, eagerness to gratify his desire moves him to do wrong of his own volition.

11. In all you do or say or think, recollect that at any time the power of withdrawal from life is in your own hands. If gods exist, you have nothing to fear in taking leave of mankind, for they will not let you come to harm. But if there are no gods, or if they have no concern with mortal affairs, what is life to me, in a world devoid of gods or devoid of Providence? Gods, however, do exist, and do concern themselves with the world of men. They have given us full power not to fall into any of the absolute evils; and if there were real evil in life's other experiences, they would have provided for that too, so that avoidance of it could lie within every man's ability. But when a thing does not worsen the man himself, how can it worsen the life he lives? The World-Nature cannot have been so ignorant as to overlook a hazard of this kind, nor, if aware of it, have been unable to devise a safeguard or a remedy. Neither want of power nor want of skill could have led Nature into the error of allowing good and evil to be visited indiscriminately on the virtuous and the sinful alike. Yet living and dying, honour and dishonour, pain and pleasure, riches and poverty, and so forth are equally the lot of good men and bad. Things like these neither elevate nor degrade; and therefore they are no more good than they are evil.

12. Our mental powers should enable us to perceive the swiftness with which all things vanish away: their bodies in the world of space, and their remembrance in the world of time. We should also observe the nature of all objects of sense--particularly such as allure us with pleasure, or affright us with pain, or are clamorously urged upon us by the voice of self-conceit -- the cheapness and contemptibility of them, how sordid they are, and how quickly fading and dead. We should discern the true worth of those whose word and opinion confer reputations. We should apprehend, too, the nature of death; and that if only it be steadily contemplated, and the fancies we associate with it be mentally dissected, it will soon come to be thought of as no more than a process of nature (and only children are scared by a natural process) -- or rather, something more than a mere process, a positive contribution to nature's well-being. Also we can learn how man has contact with God, and with which part of himself this is maintained, and how that part fares after its removal hence.

13. Nothing is more melancholy than to compass the whole creation, 'probing into the deeps of earth' as the poet says, and peering curiously into the secrets of others' souls, without once understanding that to hold fast to the divine spirit within, and serve it loyally, is all that is needful. Such service involves keeping it pure from passion, and from aimlessness, and from discontent with the works of gods or men; for the former of these works deserve our reverence, for their excellence; the latter our goodwill, for fraternity's sake, and at times perhaps our pity too, because of men's ignorance of good and evil--an infirmity as crippling as the inability to distinguish black from white.

14. Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses. This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is every man's equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours. Our loss, therefore, is limited to that one fleeting instant, since no one can lose what is already past, nor yet what is still to come--for how can he be deprived of what he does not possess? So two things should be borne in mind. First, that all the cycles of creation since the beginning of time exhibit the same recurring pattern, so that it can make no difference whether you watch the identical spectacle for a hundred years, or for two hundred, or for ever. Secondly, that when the longest-and the shortest-lived of us come to die, their loss is precisely equal. For the sole thing of which any man can be deprived is the present; since this is all he owns, and nobody can lose what is not his.

15. There are obvious objections to the Cynic Monimus's statement that 'things are determined by the view taken of them'; but the value of his aphorism is equally obvious, if we admit the substance of it so far as it contains a truth.

16. For a human soul, the greatest of self-inflicted wrongs is to make itself (so far as it is able to do so) a kind of tumour or abcess on the universe; for to quarrel with circumstances is always a rebellion against Nature -- and Nature includes the nature of each individual part. Another wrong, again, is to reject a fellow-creature or oppose him with malicious intent, as men do when they are angry. A third, to surrender to pleasure or pain. A fourth, to dissemble and show insincerity or falsity in word or deed. A fifth, for the soul to direct its acts and endeavours to no particular object, and waste its energies purposelessly and without due thought; for even the least of our activities ought to have some end in view -- and for creatures with reason, that end is conformity with the reason and law of the primordial City and Commonwealth.

17. In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors; life a warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion. Where, then, can man find the power to guide and guard his steps? In one thing and one alone: Philosophy. To be a philosopher is to keep unsullied and unscathed the divine spirit within him, so that it may transcend all pleasure and all pain, take nothing in hand without purpose and nothing falsely or with dissimulation, depend not on another's actions or inactions, accept each and every dispensation as coming from the same Source as itself -- and last and chief, wait with a good grace for death, as no more than a simple dissolving of the elements whereof each living thing is composed. If those elements themselves take no harm from their ceaseless forming and re-forming, why look with mistrust upon the change and dissolution of the whole? It is but Nature's way; and in the ways of Nature there is no evil to be found.



1. That is, on whether others decide to approve or censure your actions.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:13 am

Book 3

1. The daily wearing away of life, with its ever-shrinking remainder, is not the only thing we have to consider. For even if a man's years be prolonged, we must still take into account that it is doubtful whether his mind will continue to retain its capacity for the understanding of business, or for the contemplative effort needed to apprehend things divine and human. The onset of senility may involve no loss of respiratory or alimentary powers, or of sensations, impulses and so forth; nevertheless, the ability to make full use of his faculties, to assess correctly the demands of duty, to coordinate all the diverse problems that arise, to judge if the time has come to end his days on earth, or to make any other of the decisions that require the exercise of a practised intellect, is already on the wane. We must press on, then, in haste; not simply because every hour brings us nearer to death, but because even before then our powers of perception and comprehension begin to deteriorate.

Another thing we should remark is the grace and fascination that there is even in the incidentals of Nature's processes. When a loaf of bread, for instance, is in the oven, cracks appear in it here and there; and these flaws, though not intended in the baking, have a rightness of their own, and sharpen the appetite. Figs, again, at their ripest will also crack open. When olives are on the verge of falling, the very imminence of decay adds its peculiar beauty to the fruit. So, too, the drooping head of a cornstalk, the wrinkling skin when a lion scowls, the drip of foam from a wild boar's jaws, and many more such sights, are far from beautiful if looked at by themselves; yet as the consequences of some other process of Nature, they make their own contribution to its charm and attractiveness.

2. Thus to a man of sensitiveness and sufficiently deep insight into the workings of the universe, almost everything, even if it be no more than a by- product of something else, seems to add its meed of extra pleasure. Such a man will view the grinning jaws of real lions and tigers as admiringly as he would an artist's or sculptor's imitation of them; and the eye of discretion will enable him to see the mature charm that belongs to men and women in old age, as well as the seductive bloom that is youth's. Things of this sort will not appeal to everyone; he alone who has cultivated a real intimacy with Nature and her works will be struck by them.

3. Hippocrates [1] cured the ills of many, but himself took ill and died. The Chaldeans foretold the deaths of many, but fate caught up with them also. Alexander, Pompey, and Julius Caesar laid waste whole cities time and again, and cut down many thousands of horse and foot in battle, but the hour came when they too passed away. Heraclitus [2] speculated endlessly on the consumption of the universe by fire, but in the end it was water that saturated his body, and he died in a dung-plaster. Democritus [3] was destroyed by vermin; Socrates by vermin of another kind. [4] And the moral of it all? This. You embark; you make the voyage; you reach port; step ashore, then. Into another life ? There are gods everywhere, even yonder. Into final insensibility? Then you will be out of the grip of pains and pleasures, and thrall no longer to this earthen vessel, so immeasurably meaner than its attendant minister. For the one is a mind and a divinity; the other but clay and corruption.

4. Do not waste what remains of your life in speculating about your neighbors, unless with a view to some mutual benefit. To wonder what so- and-so is doing and why, or what he is saying, or thinking, or scheming--in a word, anything that distracts you from fidelity to the Ruler within you -- means a loss of opportunity for some other task. See then that the flow of your thoughts is kept free from idle or random fancies, particularly those of an inquisitive or' uncharitable nature. A man should habituate himself to such a way of thinking that if suddenly asked, 'What is in your mind at this minute?' he could respond frankly and without hesitation; thus proving that all his thoughts were simple and kindly, as becomes a social being with no taste for the pleasures of sensual imaginings, jealousies, envies, suspicions, or any other sentiments that he would blush to acknowledge in himself. Such a man, determined here and now to aspire to the heights, is indeed a priest and minister of the gods; for he is making full use of that indwelling power which can keep a man unsullied by pleasures, proof against pain, untouched by insult, and impervious to evil. He is a competitor in the greatest of all contests, the struggle against passion's mastery; he is imbued through and through with uprightness, welcoming wholeheartedly whatever falls to his lot and rarely asking himself what others may be saying or doing or thinking except when the public interest requires it. He confines his operations to his own concerns, having his attention fixed on his own particular thread of the universal web; seeing to it that his actions are honourable, and convinced that what befalls him must be for the best -- for his own directing fate is itself under a higher direction. He does not forget the brotherhood of all rational beings, nor that a concern for every man is proper to humanity; and he knows that it is not the world's opinions he should follow, but only those of men whose lives confessedly accord with Nature. As for others whose lives are not so ordered, he reminds himself constantly of the characters they exhibit daily and nightly at home and abroad, and of the sort of society they frequent; and the approval of such men, who do not even stand well in their own eyes, has no value for him.

5. In your actions let there be a willing promptitude, yet a regard for the common interest; due deliberation, yet no irresolution; and in your sentiments no pretentious over-refinement. Avoid talkativeness, avoid officiousness. The god within you should preside over a being who is virile and mature, a statesman, a Roman, and a ruler; one who has held his ground, like a soldier waiting for the signal to retire from life's battlefield and ready to welcome his relief; a man whose credit need neither be sworn to by himself nor avouched by others. Therein is the secret of cheerfulness, of depending on no help from without and needing to crave from no man the boon of tranquility. We have to stand upright ourselves, not be set up.

6. If mortal life can offer you anything better than justice and truth, self-control and courage -- that is, peace of mind in the evident conformity of your actions to the laws of reason, and peace of mind under the visitations of a destiny you cannot control if, I say, you can discern any higher ideal, why, turn to it with your whole soul, and rejoice in the prize you have found. But if nothing seems to you better than the deity which dwells within you, directing each impulse, weighing each impression, abjuring (in the Socratic phrase) the temptations of the flesh, and avowing allegiance to the gods and compassion for mankind; if you find all else to be mean and worthless in comparison, then leave yourself no room for any rival pursuits. For if you once falter and turn aside, you will no longer be able to give unswerving loyalty to this ideal you have chosen for your own. No ambitions of a different nature can contest the title to goodness which belongs to reason and civic duty; not the world's applause, nor power, nor wealth, nor the enjoyment of pleasure. For a while there may seem to be no incongruity in these things, but very quickly they get the upper hand and sweep a man off his balance. Do you then, I would say, simply and spontaneously make your choice of the highest, and cleave to that. 'But what is best for myself is the highest,' you say? If it is best for you as a reasonable being, hold fast to it; but if as an animal merely, then say so outright, and maintain your view with becoming humility -- only be very sure that you have probed the matter aright.

7. Never value the advantages derived from anything involving breach of faith, loss of self-respect, hatred, suspicion, or execration of others, insincerity, or the desire for something which has to be veiled and curtained. One whose chief regard is for his own mind, and for the divinity within him and the service of its goodness, will strike no poses, utter no complaints, and crave neither for solitude nor yet for a crowd. Best of all, his life will be free from continual pursuings and avoidings. He does not care whether his soul in its mortal frame shall be his to possess for a longer or a shorter term of years; this very moment, if it be the hour for his departure, he will step forth as readily as he performs any other act that can be done in self-respecting and orderly fashion. No other care has he in life but to keep his mind from straying into paths incompatible with those of an intelligent and social being.

8. In a mind that is disciplined and purified there is no taint of corruption, no unclean spot nor festering sore. Such a man's life fate can never snatch away unfulfilled, as it were an actor walking off in mid-performance before the play is finished, There is nothing of the lackey in him, yet nothing of the coxcomb; he neither leans on others nor holds aloof from them; and he remains answerable to no man, yet guiltless of all evasion.

9. Treat with respect the power you have to form an opinion. By it alone can the helmsman within you avoid forming opinions that are at variance with nature and with the constitution of a reasonable being. From it you may look to attain circumspection, good relations with your fellow-men, and conformity with the will of heaven.

10. Letting go all else, cling to the following few truths. Remember that man lives only in the present, in this fleeting instant: all the rest of his life is either past and gone, or not yet revealed. This mortal life is a little thing, lived in a little corner of the earth; and little, too, is the longest fame to come -- dependent as it is on a succession of fast-perishing little men who have no knowledge even of their own selves, much less of one long dead and gone.

11. To these maxims add yet another. When an object presents itself to your perception, make a mental definition or at least an outline of it, so as to discern its essential character, to pierce beyond its separate attributes to a distinct view of the naked whole, and to identify for yourself both the object itself and the elements of which it is composed, and into which it will again be resolved. Nothing so enlarges the mind as this ability to examine methodically and accurately every one of life's experiences, with an eye to determining its classification, the ends it serves, its worth to the universe, and its worth to men as the members of that supreme City in which all other cities are as households. Take, for example, the thing which is producing its impression upon me at this moment. What is it? Whereof is it composed? How long is it designed to last? What moral response does it ask of me; gentleness, fortitude, candor, good faith, sincerity, self-reliance, or some other quality? In every instance learn to say, This comes from God; or, This is one of Fate's dispensations, a strand in the complex web, a conjunction of fortuities; or again, This is the work of a man who is of the same stock and breed and brotherhood as I am, but is ignorant of what Nature requires of him. I myself, however, can plead no such ignorance, and therefore in accordance with Nature's law of brotherhood I am to deal amiably and fairly with him--though at the same time, if there be no question of good or evil involved, I must aim my shafts at the proper merits of the case.

12. If you do the task before you always adhering to strict reason with zeal and energy and yet with humanity, disregarding all lesser ends and keeping the divinity within you pure and upright, as though you were even now faced with its recall -- if you hold steadily to this, staying for nothing and shrinking from nothing, only seeking in each passing action a conformity with nature and in each word and utterance a fearless truthfulness, then shall the good life be yours. And from this course no man has the power to hold you back.

13. As surgeons keep their lancets and scalpels always at hand for the sudden demands of their craft, so keep your principles constantly in readiness for the understanding of things both human and divine; never in the most trivial action forgetting how intimately the two are related. For nothing human can be done aright without reference to the divine, and conversely.

14. Mislead yourself no longer; you will never read these notebooks again now, nor the annals of bygone Romans and Greeks, nor that choice selection of writings you have put by for your old age. Press on, then, to the finish; cast away vain hopes; and if you have any regard at all for self, see to your own security while still you may.

15. They do not know all that is signified by such words as 'stealing', 'sowing', 'purchasing', being at peace', 'seeing one's duty' : this needs a different vision from the eye's.

16. Body, soul, and mind: the body for sensation, the soul for the springs of action, the mind for principles. Yet the capacity for sensation belongs also to the stalled ox; there is no wild beast, homosexual, Nero, or Phalaris [5] but obeys the twitchings of impulse; and even men who deny the gods, or betray their country, or perpetrate all manner of villainy behind locked doors, have minds to guide them to the clear path of duty. Seeing, then, that all else is the common heritage of such types, the good man's only singularity lies in his approving welcome to every experience the looms of fate may weave for him, his refusal to soil the divinity seated in his breast or perturb it with disorderly impressions, and his resolve to keep it in serenity and decorous obedience to God, admitting no disloyalty to truth in his speech or to justice in his actions. Though all the world mistrust him because he lives in simple, self-respecting happiness, he takes offence at none, but unswervingly treads the road onward to life's close, where duty bids him arrive in purity and peace, unreluctant to depart, in perfect and unforced unison with fate's apportionment.



1. Hippocrates (c. 460-355 B.C.) was a native of the island of Cos and the most celebrated physician of antiquity. His numerous treatises formed the subsequent groundwork of all medical science in the classical world. There seems little reason to doubt the ascription to him of the 'Hippocratic oath'; and he is also credited with the authorship of the saying, 'Life is short, art is long.'

2. Heraclitus (c. 540-475 B.C.), an Ionian philosopher, taught that the essence of Being is Becoming: i.e. an incessant movement of change, by which one aspect of a thing is always leading on to another. The type of this perpetual movement, and the primordial form of all matter, is fire; and the elemental process of the universe is a passage from fire through water and earth back to fire again. 'All things are in flux' and "you cannot step into the same river twice' were two of the well-known sayings in which he expressed his doctrine; and some others are recalled by Marcus in IV, 46. Much of the later Stoic system of physics was based on the theories of Heraclitus.

3. Democritus, a contemporary of Hippocrates, maintained that the universe was formed by the infinitely various combinations of infinite numbers of atoms; a belief in which he was afterwards followed by Epicurus and his school. In contrast to the gloomy Heraclitus, the 'weeping philosopher', his cheerful disposition earned him the nick- name of the 'laughing philosopher'. Marcus is our only authority for this version of his death.

4. The allusion is to Melitus the poet, Anytus the tanner, and Lycon the orator. They brought the charge against Socrates for which he was condemned to death. Soon after his execution the Athenians relented of their injustice, stoned Melitus to death, and banished Anytus and Lycon.

5. Phalaris, ruler of Agrigentum in Sicily in the sixth century B.C., earned a proverbial reputation by his inhuman cruelty. He is said to have burnt his captives alive in a brazen bull, the first victim being its inventor Perillus. The spurious 'Epistles of Phalaris' are now remembered chiefly in connection with the English scholar Richard Bentley, who proved them to be forgeries in the 'immortal Dissertation' (Porson) which established his reputation.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:13 am

Book 4

1. If the inward power that rules us be true to Nature, it will always adjust itself readily to the possibilities and opportunities offered by circumstance. It asks for no predeterminate material; in the pursuance of its aims it is willing to compromise; hindrances to its progress are merely converted into matter for its own use. It is like a bonfire mastering a heap of rubbish, which would have quenched a feeble glow; but its fiery blaze quickly assimilates the load, consumes it, and flames the higher for it.

2. Take no enterprise in hand at haphazard, or without regard to the principles governing its proper execution.

3. Men seek for seclusion in the wilderness, by the seashore, or in the mountains--a dream you have cherished only too fondly yourself. But such fancies are wholly unworthy of a philosopher, since at any moment you choose you can retire within yourself. Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul; above all, he who possesses resources in himself, which he need only contemplate to secure immediate ease of mind--the ease that is but another word for a well-ordered spirit. Avail yourself often, then, of this retirement, and so continually renew yourself. Make your rules of life brief, yet so as to embrace the fundamentals; recurrence to them will then suffice to remove all vexation, and send you back without fretting to the duties to which you must return.

After all, what is it that frets you? The vices of humanity? Remember the doctrine that all rational beings are created for one another; that toleration is a part of justice; and that men are not intentional evildoers. Think of the myriad enmities, suspicions, animosities, and conflicts that are now vanished with the dust and ashes of the men who knew them; and fret no more.

Or is it your allotted portion in the universe that chafes you? Recall once again the dilemma, 'if not a wise Providence, then a mere jumble of atoms', and consider the profusion of evidence that this world is as it were a city. Do the ills of the body afflict you? Reflect that the mind has but to detach itself and apprehend its own powers, to be no longer involved with the movements of the breath, whether they be smooth or rough. In short, recollect all you have learnt and accepted regarding pain and pleasure.

Or does the bubble reputation distract you? Keep before your eyes the swift onset of oblivion, and the abysses of eternity before us and behind; mark how hollow are the echoes of applause, how fickle and undiscerning the judgments of professed admirers, and how puny the arena of human fame. For the entire earth is but a point, and the place of our own habitation but a minute corner in it; and how many are therein who will praise you, and what sort of men are they?

Remember then to withdraw into the little field of self. Above all, never struggle or strain; but be master of yourself, and view life as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, and as a mortal. Among the truths you will do well to contemplate most frequently are these two: first, that things can never touch the soul, but stand inert outside it, so that disquiet can arise only from fancies within; and secondly, that all visible objects change in a moment, and will be no more. Think of the countless changes in which you yourself have had a part, The whole universe is change, and life itself is but what you deem it. [1]

4. If the power of thought is universal among mankind, so likewise is the possession of reason, making us rational creatures. It follows, therefore, that this reason speaks no less universally to us all with its 'thou shalt' or 'thou shalt not'. So then there is a world-law; which in turn means that we are all fellow-citizens and share a common citizenship, and that the world is a single city. Is there any other common citizenship that can be claimed by all humanity? And it is from this world-polity that mind, reason, and law themselves derive. If not, whence else? As the earthy portion of me has its origin from earth, the watery from a different element, my breath from one source and my hot and fiery parts from another of their own elsewhere (for nothing comes from nothing, or can return to nothing), so too there must be an origin for the mind.

5. Death, like birth, is one of Nature's secrets; the same elements that have been combined are then dispersed. Nothing about it need give cause for shame. For beings endowed with mind it is no anomaly, nor in any way inconsistent with the plan of their creation.

6. That men of a certain type should behave as they do is inevitable. To wish it otherwise were to wish the fig-tree would not yield its juice. In any case, remember that in a very little while both you and he will be dead, and your very name will quickly be forgotten.

7. Put from you the belief that 'I have been wronged', and with it will go the feeling. Reject your sense of injury, and the injury itself disappears.

8. What does not corrupt a man himself cannot corrupt his life, nor do him any damage either outwardly or inwardly.

9. The laws of collective expediency required this to happen.

10. Whatever happens, happens rightly. Watch closely, and you will find this true. In the succession of events there is not mere sequence alone, but an order that is just and right, as from the hand of one who dispenses to all their due. Keep up your watch, then, as you have begun, and let goodness accompany your every action--goodness, that is, in the proper sense of the word. In all your operations pay heed to this.

11. Do not copy the opinions of the arrogant, or let them dictate your own, but look at things in their true light.

12. At two points hold yourself always in readiness: first, to do exclusively what reason, our king and lawgiver, shall suggest for the common weal; and secondly, to reconsider a decision if anyone present should correct you and convince you of an error of judgment. But such conviction must proceed from the assurance that justice, or the common good, or some other such interest will be served. This must be the sole consideration; not the likelihood of pleasure or popularity.

13. Have you reason? 'I have.' Then why not use it? If reason does its part, what more would you ask?

14. As a part, you inhere in the Whole. You will vanish into that which gave you birth; or rather, you will be transmuted once more into the creative Reason of the universe.

15. Many grains of incense fall on the same altar: one sooner, another later--it makes no difference.

16. You have only to revert to the teachings of your creed, and to reverence for reason, and within a week those who now class you with beasts and monkeys will be calling you a god.

17. Live not as though there were a thousand years ahead of you. Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours.

18. He who ignores what his neighbor is saying or doing or thinking, and cares only that his own actions should be just and godly, is greatly the gainer in time and ease. A good man does not spy around for the black spots in others, but presses unswervingly on towards his mark.

19. The man whose heart is palpitating for fame after death does not reflect that out of all those who remember him every one will himself soon be dead also, and in course of time the next generation after that, until in the end, after flaring and sinking by turns, the final spark of memory is quenched. Furthermore, even supposing that those who remember you were never to die at all, nor their memories to die either, yet what is that to you? Clearly, in your grave, nothing; and even in your lifetime, what is the good of praise unless maybe to subserve some lesser design? Surely, then, you are making an inopportune rejection of what Nature has given you today, if all your mind is set on what men will say of you tomorrow.

20. Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself, and asks nothing beyond itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise. This applies even to the more mundane forms of beauty: natural objects, for example, or works of art. What need has true beauty of anything further? Surely none; any more than law, or truth, or kindness, or modesty. Is any of these embellished by praise, or spoiled by censure? Does the emerald lose its beauty for lack of admiration? Does gold, or ivory, or purple? A lyre or a dagger, a rosebud or a sapling?

21. If souls survive after death, how has the air above us found room for them all since time began? As well ask how the earth finds room for all the bodies interred through immemorial ages. There, after a short respite, change and decay make way for other dead bodies. Similarly, souls transferred to the air exist for a while before undergoing a change and a diffusion, and are then transmuted into fire and taken back into the creative principle of the universe; and thus room is made for the reception of others. Such will be the answer of any believer in the survival of souls. Moreover, we must reckon not only the number of human corpses so buried, but also that of all the creatures daily devoured by ourselves and the other animals. What multitudes, perishing in this way, are in a manner of speaking buried in the bodies of those whose nutriment they furnish! And yet, by their assimilation into the blood and afterwards by the subsequent transmutation into the air or fire, all the needful space becomes available.

How do we discover the truth of all this? By distinguishing between the matter and the cause.

22. Never allow yourself to be swept off your feet: when an impulse stirs, see first that it will meet the claims of justice; when an impression forms, assure yourself first of its certainty.

23. O world, I am in tune with every note of thy great harmony. For me nothing is early, nothing late, if it be timely for thee. O Nature, all that thy seasons yield is fruit for me. From thee, and in thee, and to thee are all things. 'Dear city of God!' may we not cry, even as the poet cried 'Dear city of Cecrops!" [2]

24. 'If thou wouldst know contentment, let thy deeds be few,' said the sage. Better still, limit them strictly to such as are essential, and to such as in a social being reason demands, and as it demands. This brings the contentment that comes of doing a few things and doing them well. Most of what we say and do is not necessary, and its omission would save both time and trouble. At every step, therefore, a man should ask himself, 'Is this one of the things that are superfluous? ' Moreover, not idle actions only but even idle impressions ought to be suppressed; for then unnecessary action will not ensue.

25. Test for yourself your capacity for the good man's life; the life of one content with his allotted part in the universe, who seeks only to be just in his doings and charitable in his ways.

26. You have seen all that? [3] -- now look at this. Your part is to be serene, to be simple. Is someone doing wrong? The wrong lies with himself. Has something befallen you? Good; then it was your portion of the universal lot, assigned to you when time began; a strand woven into your particular web, like all else that happens. Life, in a word, is short; then snatch your profit from the passing hour, by obedience to reason and just dealing. Unbend, but be temperate.

27. Either a universe that is all order, or else a farrago thrown together at random yet somehow forming a universe. But can there be some measure of order subsisting in yourself, and at the same time disorder in the greater Whole? And that, too, when oneness of feeling exists between all the parts of nature, in spite of their divergence and dispersion?

28. A black heart [4] A womanish, wilful heart; the heart of a brute, a beast of the field; childish, stupid, and false; a huckster's heart, a tyrant's heart.

29. If he who knows not what is in the universe is a stranger to the universe, he is no less so who knows not what takes place in it. Such a man is an exile, self-banished from the polity of reason; a sightless man, having the eyes of his understanding darkened; a pauper dependent on others, without resources of his own for his livelihood. He is an excrescence on the world, when he dissociates and dissevers himself from the laws of our common nature by refusing to accept his lot (which after all is a product of the self-same Nature which produced yourself); he is a limb lopped from the community, when he cuts his own soul adrift from the single soul of all rational things.

30. One philosopher goes shirtless; [5] another bookless; a third, only half-lad, says, 'Bread have I none, yet still I cleave to reason.' For my part, I too have no fruit of my learning, and yet cleave to her.

31. Give your heart to the trade you have learnt, and draw refreshment from it. Let the rest of your days be spent as one who has whole-heartedly committed his all to the gods, and is thenceforth no man's master or slave.

32. Think, let us say, of the times of Vespasian; [6] and what do you see? Men and women busy marrying, bringing up children, sickening, dying, fighting, feasting, chaffering, farming, flattering, bragging, envying, scheming, calling down curses, grumbling at fate, loving, hoarding, coveting thrones and dignities. Of all that life, not a trace survives today. Or come forward to the days of Trajan; again, it is the same; that life, too, has perished. Take a similar look at the records of other past ages and peoples; mark how one and all, after their short-lived strivings, passed away and were resolved into the elements. More especially, recall some who, within your own knowledge, have followed after vanities instead of contenting themselves with a resolute performance of the duties for which they were created. In such cases it is essential to remind ourselves that the pursuit of any object depends for its value upon the worth of the object pursued. If, then, you would avoid discouragement, never become unduly absorbed in things that are not of the first importance.

33. Expressions that were once current have gone out of use nowadays. Names, too, that were formerly household words are virtually archaisms today; Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus; or a little later, Scipio and Cato; Augustus too, and even Hadrian and Antoninus. All things fade into the storied past, and in a little while are shrouded in oblivion. Even to men whose lives were a blaze of glory this comes to pass; as for the rest, the breath is hardly out of them before, in Homer's words, they are 'lost to sight alike and hearsay'. What, after all, is immortal fame? An empty, hollow thing. To what, then, must we aspire? This, and this alone: the just thought, the unselfish act, the tongue that utters no falsehood, the temper that greets each passing event as something predestined, expected, and emanating from the One source and origin.

34. Submit yourself to Clotho [7] with a good grace, and let her spin your thread out of what material she will.

35. All of us are creatures of a day; the rememberer and the remembered alike.

36. Observe how all things are continually being born of change; teach yourself to see that Nature's highest happiness lies in changing the things that are, and forming new things after their kind. Whatever is, is in some sense the seed of what is to emerge from it. Nothing can become a philosopher less than to imagine that seed can only be something that is planted in the earth or the womb.

37. Very soon you will be dead; but even yet you are not single-minded, nor above disquiet; not yet unapprehensive of harm from without; not yet charitable to all men, nor persuaded that to do justly is the only wisdom.

38. Observe carefully what guides the actions of the wise, and what they shun or seek.

39. For you, evil comes not from the mind of another; nor yet from any of the phases and changes of your own bodily frame. Then whence? From that part of yourself which acts as your assessor of what is evil. Refuse its assessment, and all is well. Though the poor body, so closely neighboring it, be gashed or burned, fester or mortify, let the voice of this assessor remain silent; let it pronounce nothing to be bad or good if it can happen to evil men and good men alike, for anything that comes impartially upon men, whether they observe the rules of Nature or not, can neither be hindering her purposes nor advancing them.

40. Always think of the universe as one living organism, with a single substance and a single soul; and observe how all things are submitted to the single perceptivity of this one whole, all are moved by its single impulse, and all play their part in the causation of every event that happens. Remark the intricacy of the skein, the complexity of the web.

41. 'A poor soul burdened with a corpse,' [8] Epictetus calls you.

42. To be in process of change is not an evil, any more than to be the product of change is a good.

43. Time is a river, the resistless flow of ail created things. One thing no sooner comes in sight than it is hurried past and another is borne along, only to be swept away in its turn.

44. Everything that happens is as normal and expected as the spring rose or the summer fruit; this is true of sickness, death, slander, intrigue, and all the other things that delight or trouble foolish men.

45. What follows is ever closely linked to what precedes; it is not a procession of isolated events, merely obeying the laws of sequence, but a rational continuity. Moreover, just as the things already in existence are all harmoniously coordinated, things in the act of coming into existence exhibit the same marvel of concatenation, rather than simply the bare fact of succession.

46. Always remember the dictum of Heraclitus, 'Death of earth, birth of water; death of water, birth of air; from air, fire; and so round again.' Remember also his 'wayfarer oblivious of where his road is leading', his 'men ever at odds with their own closest companion' (the controlling reason of the universe), and his 'though they encounter this every day, they still deem it a stranger'. Again, 'we are not to act or speak like men asleep' (for indeed men in their sleep do fancy themselves to be acting and speaking), nor 'like children at their parents' word'; that is, in blind reliance on traditional maxims.

47. If a god were to tell you, 'Tomorrow, or at best the day after, you will be dead,' you would not, unless the most abject of men, be greatly solicitous whether it was to be the later day, rather than the morrow--for what is the difference between them? In the same way, do not reckon it of great moment whether it will come years and years hence, or tomorrow.

48. Remind yourself constantly of all the physicians, now dead, who used to knit their brows over their ailing patients; of all the astrologers who so solemnly predicted their clients' doom; the philosophers who expatiated so endlessly on death or immortality; the great commanders who slew their thousands; the despots who wielded powers of life and death with such terrible arrogance, as if themselves were gods who could never die; the whole cities which have perished completely, Helice, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and others without number. After that, recall one by one each of your own acquaintances; how one buried another, only to be laid low himself and buried in turn by a third, and all in so brief a space of time. Observe, in short, how transient and trivial is all mortal life; yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a handful of spice or ashes. Spend, therefore, these fleeting moments on earth as Nature would have you spend them, and then go to your rest with a good grace, as an olive falls in its season, with a blessing for the earth that bore it and a thanksgiving to the tree that gave it life.

49. Be like the headland against which the waves break and break: it stands firm, until presently the watery tumult around it subsides once more to rest. How unlucky I am, that this should have happened to me!' By no means; say rather, 'How lucky I am, that it has left me with no bitterness; unshaken by the present, and undismayed by the future'. The thing could have happened to anyone, but not everyone would have emerged unembittered. So why put the one down to misfortune, rather than the other to good fortune? Can a man call anything at all a misfortune, if it is not a contravention of his nature; and can it be a contravention of his nature if it is not against that nature's will? Well, then: you have learnt to know that will. Does this thing which has happened hinder you from being just, magnanimous, temperate, judicious, discreet, truthful, self-respecting, independent, and all else by which a man's nature comes to its fulfillment? So here is a rule to remember in future, when anything tempts you to feel bitter: not, 'This is a misfortune,' but 'To bear this worthily is good fortune.'

50. Philosophy aside, an effectual help towards disregarding death is to think of those who clung greedily to their lives. What advantage have they over those who died young? In every case, in some place at some time, the earth now covers them all; Cadicianus, Fabius, Julianus, Lepidus, and the rest, who saw so many to their graves, only to he seen to their own at last. Brief, after all, was the respite they enjoyed; dragged out in such conditions, and with such attendants, and in so wretched a body. Set no store by it, then; look at the abyss of time behind it, and the infinity yet to come. In the face of that, what more is Nestor with all his years than any three-days babe?

51. Ever run the short way; and the short way is the way of nature, with perfect soundness in each word and deed as the goal. Such an aim will give you freedom from anxiety and strife, and from all compromise and artifice.



1. Life itself is but what you deem it. Hamlet (Act II, scene 2) says: "There's nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." Marcus here expresses this thought more succinctly in two Greek words, meaning literally "life [is] opinion."

2. Cecrops was the legendary founder of Athens, but the source of the quotation is unknown. In Marcus's noble phrase for the universe, "dear city of God," St. Augustine of Hippo found the title ready to his hand for his great Christian work, the Civitas Dei.

3. The unpleasant side of some recent encounter.

4. We can only guess at the reason for this uncharacteristic outburst. Had Marcus perhaps been re-reading a life of Nero?

5. Many philosophers of the Cynic sect, holding that virtue was the sole object of life, contented themselves with the minimum of clothing and claimed that Nature was the only book a wise man need read. The Stoics regarded their own system as an offshoot from Cynicism; the Roman satirist Juvenal, in fact, jestingly asserts that you can only tell a Stoic from a Cynic because he wears a shirt (Satire xiii, 121).

6. The emperor Vespasian had died eighty-two years, and Trajan forty-four years. before Marcus ascended the throne.

7. Clotho, one of the three Fates, is she who spins the thread of men's lives; Lachesis decides their destiny; Atropos slits the thread when they must die.

8. The words do not occur in any of the surviving works of Epictetus, but suggested to Swinburne the line 'A little soul for a little bears up this corpse which is man' in his Hymn to Proserpine.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:13 am

Book 5

1. At day's first light have in readiness, against disinclination to leave your bed, the thought that 'I am rising for the work of man'. Must I grumble at setting out to do what I was born for, and for the sake of which I have been brought into the world? Is this the purpose of my creation, to lie here under the blankets and keep myself warm? ' Ah, but it is a great deal more pleasant!' Was it for pleasure, then, that you were born, and not for work, not for effort? Look at the plants, the sparrows, ants, spiders, bees, all busy at their own tasks, each doing his part towards a coherent world-order; and will you refuse man's share of the work, instead of being prompt to carry out Nature's bidding? 'Yes, but one must have some repose as well.' Granted; but repose has its limits set by nature, in the same way as food and drink have; and you overstep these limits, you go beyond the point of sufficiency; while on the other hand, when action is in question, you stop short of what you could well achieve.

You have no real love for yourself; if you had, you would love your nature, and your nature's will. Craftsmen who love their trade will spend themselves to the utmost in laboring at it, even going unwashed and unfed; but you held your nature in less regard than the engraver does his engraving, the dancer his dancing, the miser his heap of silver, or the vainglorious man his moment of glory. These men, when their heart is in it, are ready to sacrifice food and sleep to the advancement of their chosen pursuit. Is the service of the community of less worth in your eyes, and does it merit less devotion?

2. O the consolation of being able to thrust aside and cast into oblivion every tiresome intrusive impression, and in a trice be utterly at peace!

3. Reserve your right to any deed or utterance that accords with nature. Do not be put off by the criticisms or comments that may follow; if there is something good to be done or said, never renounce your right to it. Those who criticize you have their own reason to guide them, and their own impulse to prompt them; you must not let your eyes stray towards them, but keep a straight course and follow your own nature and the World- Nature (and the way of these two is one).

4. I travel the roads of nature until the hour when I shall lie down and be at rest; yielding back my last breath into the air from which I have drawn it daily, and sinking down upon the earth from which my father derived the seed, my mother the blood, and my nurse the milk of my being -- the earth which for so many years has furnished my daily meat and drink, and, though so grievously abused, still suffers me to tread its surface.

5. You will never be remarkable for quick-wittedness. Be it so, then; yet there art still a host of other qualities whereof you cannot say, 'I have no bent for them.' Cultivate these, then, for they are wholly within your power: sincerity, for example, and dignity; industriousness, and sobriety. Avoid grumbling; be frugal, considerate, and frank; be temperate in manner and in speech; carry yourself with authority. See how many qualities there are which could be yours at this moment. You can allege no native incapacity or inaptitude for them; and yet you choose to linger still on a less lofty plane. Furthermore, is it any lack of natural endowments that necessitates those fits of querulousness and parsimony and fulsome flattery, of railing at your ill-health, of cringing and bragging and continually veering from one mood to another? Most assuredly not; you could have rid yourself of all these long ago, and remained chargeable with nothing worse than a certain slowness and dullness of comprehension--and even this you can correct with practice, so long as you do not make light of it or take pleasure in your own obtuseness.

6. There is a type of person who, if he renders you a service, has no hesitation in claiming the credit for it. Another, though not prepared to go so far as that, will nevertheless secretly regard you as in his debt and be fully conscious of what he has done. But there is also the man who, one might almost say, has no consciousness at all of what he has done, like the vine which produces a cluster of grapes and then, having yielded its rightful fruit, looks for no more thanks than a horse that has run his race, a hound that has tracked his quarry, or a bee that has hived her honey. Like them, the man who has done one good action does not cry it aloud, but passes straight on to a second, as the vine passes on to the bearing of another summer's grapes.

'According to you, then, we should rank ourselves with things that act unconsciously?' Exactly; yet we should do so consciously; for, as the saying goes, 'awareness that his actions are social is the mark of a social being'. 'But also, surely, the wish that society itself should be equally aware of it?' True, no doubt; yet you miss the meaning of the aphorism, and so put yourself in the same class as the persons I have just described, who likewise are misled by a specious kind of reasoning. Apprehend the true significance of the saying, and you need never fear that it will betray you into omitting any social duty.

7. The Athenians pray, 'Rain, rain, dear Zeus, upon the fields and plains of Athens.' Prayers should either not be offered at all, or else be as simple and ingenuous as this.

8. Just as we say, 'Aesculapius [1] has prescribed horseback exercise, or cold baths, or going barefoot,' so in the same way does the World-Nature prescribe disease, mutilation, loss, or some other disability. In the former case, prescribing meant ordering a specific treatment, in the interests of the patient's health; similarly in the latter, certain specific occurrences are ordered, in the interests of our destiny. We may, in fact, be said to 'meet with' these misfortunes in the same sense as masons say that the squared stones in walls or pyramids 'meet with' each other when they are being fitted closely together to make the unified whole. This mutual integration is a universal principle. As a myriad bodies combine into the single Body which is the world, so a myriad causes combine into the single Cause which is destiny. Even the common people realize this when they say, 'It was brought upon him.' It was indeed brought upon him; that is, it was prescribed for him. Let us accept such things, then, as we accept the prescriptions of an Aesculapius; for they, too, have often a harsh flavor, yet we swallow them gladly in hope of health. The execution and fulfillment of Nature's decrees should be viewed in the same way as we view our bodily health: even if what befalls is unpalatable, nevertheless always receive it gladly, for it makes for the health of the universe, and even for the well-being and well-doing of Zeus himself. Had it not been for the benefit of the whole, he would never have brought it upon the individual. It is not Nature's way to bring anything upon that which is under her government, except what is specifically designed for its good. There are two reasons, then, why you should willingly accept what happens to you: first, because it happens to yourself, has been prescribed for yourself, and concerns yourself, being a strand in the tapestry of primordial causation; and secondly, because every individual dispensation is one of the causes of the prosperity, success, and even survival of That which administers the universe. To break off any particle, no matter how small, from the continuous concatenation--whether of causes or of any other elements--is to injure the whole. And each time you give way to discontent, you are causing, within your own limited ability, just such a breakage and disruption.

9. Do not be distressed, do not despond or give up in despair, if now and again practice falls short of precept. Return to the attack after each failure, and be thankful if on the whole you can acquit yourself in the majority of cases as a man should. But have a genuine liking for the discipline you return to: do not recur to your philosophy in the spirit of a schoolboy to his master, but as the sore-eyed recur to their egg-and-sponge lotion, or as others to their poultice or their douche. In this way your submission to reason will not become a matter for public display, but for private consolation. Bear in mind that, while philosophy wills only what your own nature wills, you yourself were willing something else that was at variance with nature. 'Yes, but what other thing could have been more agreeable?'--is not that the inducement wherewith pleasure seeks to beguile you? Yet consider: would not nobility of soul be more agreeable? Would not candor, simplicity, kindness, piety? Nay more; when you reflect on the precision and smoothness with which the processes of ratiocination and cognition operate, can there be anything more agreeable than the exercise of intellect?

10. As for truth, it is so veiled in obscurity that many reputable philosophers [2] assert the impossibility of reaching any certain knowledge. Even the Stoics admit that its attainment is beset with difficulties, and that all our intellectual conclusions are fallible; for where is the infallible man? Or turn from this to more material things: how transitory, how worthless are these--open to acquisition by every profligate, loose woman, and criminal. Or look at the characters of your own associates: even the most agreeable of them are difficult to put up with; and for the matter of that, it is difficult enough to put up with one's own self. In all this murk and mire, then, in all this ceaseless flow of being and time, of changes imposed and changes endured, I can think of nothing that is worth prizing highly or pursuing seriously. No; what a man must do is to nerve himself to wait quietly for his natural dissolution; and meanwhile not to chafe at its delay, but to find his sole consolation in two thoughts: first, that nothing can ever happen to us that is not in accordance with nature; and second, that power to abstain from acting against the divine spirit within me lies in my own hands, since there is no man alive who can force such disobedience upon me.

11. To what use am I now putting the powers of my soul? Examine yourself on this point at every step, and ask, 'How stands it with that part of me men call the master-part? Whose soul inhabits me at this moment? A child's, a lad's, a woman's, a tyrant's, a dumb ox's, or a wild beast's?'

12. The popular conception of 'goods' can be tested in this way. [3] If the things a man identifies in his own mind with 'goods' are such things as prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude, then, given that preconception, he will have no ears for the old jest about 'so many goods', for it will lack any point. On the other hand, if he shares the vulgar notion of what constitutes 'goods', he will readily appreciate the joker's quip, and have no difficulty in seeing its aptness. The majority do, in fact, entertain this idea of values, and they would never take offence at the witticism or refuse to hear it; indeed, we must accept it as an apt and clever observation if we take it to refer to wealth or things which conduce to luxury or prestige. So now for the test: ask yourself whether we do right to set store by things and think of them as 'goods', if our mental picture of them is such as to give meaning to the gibe that 'the owner of so many goods has no room left to ease himself'.

13. I consist of a formal element and a material. Neither of these can ever pass away into nothing, any more than either of them came into being from nothing. Consequently every part of me will one day be re-fashioned, by a process of transition, into some other portion of the universe; which in its turn will again be changed into yet another part, and so onward to infinity. It is the same process by which I myself was brought into existence, and my parents before me, and so backward once more to infinity. (The phrase 'infinity' may pass, even if the world be in fact administered in finite cycles.)

14. Reason, and the act of reasoning, are self-sufficient faculties, both inherently and in the method of their operation. It is from sources in themselves that they acquire their initial impetus; and they travel straight forward to their own, self-appointed goals. Actions of this kind accordingly receive the name of 'straightforwardness', in reference to the undeviating line they follow.

15. Unless things pertain to a man, as man, they cannot properly be said to belong to him. They cannot be required of him; for his nature neither promises them, nor is perfected by them. Therefore they cannot represent his chief end in life, nor even the 'good' which is the means to that end. Moreover, had man's natural heritage included such things, it could not at the same time have included contempt and renunciation of them; nor would the ability to do without them have been any cause for commendation; nor, supposing them to be really good, would failure to claim a full share of them be compatible with goodness. As it is, however, the more a man deprives himself, or submits to be deprived, of such things and their like, the more he grows in goodness.

16. Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts. Soak it then in such trains of thought as, for example: Where life is possible at all, a right life is possible; life in a palace is possible; therefore even in a palace a right life is possible. [4] Or again: The purpose behind each thing's creation determines its development; the development points to its final state; the final state gives the clue to its chief advantage and good; therefore the chief good of a rational being is fellowship with his neighbors -- for it has been made clear long ago that fellowship is the purpose behind our creation. (It is surely evident, is it not, that while the lower exist for the higher, the higher exist for one another? And while the animate is higher than the inanimate, the rational is higher still.)

17. To pursue the unattainable is insanity, yet the thoughtless can never refrain from doing so.

18. Nothing can happen to any man that nature has not fitted him to endure. Your neighbor's experiences are no different from your own; yet he, being either less aware of what has happened or more eager to show his mettle, stands steady and undaunted. For shame, that ignorance and vanity should prove stronger than wisdom!

19. Outward things can touch the soul not a whit; they know no way into it, they have no power to sway or move it. By itself it sways and moves itself; it has its own self-approved standards of judgment, and to them it refers every experience.

20. In one way humanity touches me very nearly, inasmuch as I am bound to do good to my fellow-creatures and bear with them. On the other hand, to the extent that individual men hamper my proper activities, humanity becomes a thing as indifferent to me as the sun, the wind, or the creatures of the wild. True, others may hinder the carrying out of certain actions; but they cannot obstruct my will, nor the disposition of my mind, since these will always safeguard themselves under reservations and adapt themselves to circumstances. The mind can circumvent all obstacles to action, and turn them to the furtherance of its main purpose, so that any impediment to its work becomes instead an auxiliary, and the barriers in its path become aids to progress.

21. In the universe, reverence that which is highest: namely, That to which all else ministers, and which gives the law to all. In like manner, too, reverence the highest in yourself: it is of one piece with the Other, since in yourself also it is that to which all the rest minister, and by which your life is directed.

22. What is not harmful to the city cannot harm the citizen. In every fancied case of harm, apply the rule, 'If the city is not harmed, I am not harmed either.' But if the city should indeed be harmed, never rage at the culprit: rather, find out at what point his vision failed him.

23. Reflect often upon the rapidity with which all existing things, or things coming into existence, sweep past us and are carried away. The great river of Being flows on without a pause; its actions for ever changing, its causes shifting endlessly, hardly a single thing standing still; while ever at hand looms infinity stretching behind and before -- the abyss in which all things are lost to sight. In such conditions, surely a man were foolish to gasp and fume and fret, as though the time of his troubling could ever be of long continuance.

24. Think of the totality of all Being, and what a mite of it is yours; think of all Time, and the brief fleeting instant of it that is allotted to yourself; think of Destiny, and how puny a part of it you are.

25. Is one doing me wrong? Let himself look to that; his humors and his actions are his own. As for me, I am only receiving what the World-Nature wills me to receive, and acting as my own nature wills me to act.

26. Let no emotions of the flesh, be they of pain or pleasure, affect the supreme and sovereign portion of the soul. See that it never becomes involved with them: it must limit itself to its own domain, and keep the feelings confined to their proper sphere. If (through the sympathy which permeates any unified organism) they do spread to the mind, there need be no attempt to resist the physical sensation; only, the master-reason must refrain from adding its own assumptions of their goodness or badness.

27. Live with the gods. To live with the gods is to show them at all times a soul contented with their awards, and wholly fulfilling the will of that inward divinity, that particle of himself, which Zeus has given to every man for ruler and guide--the mind and the reason.

28. Do unsavory armpits and bad breath make you angry? What good will it do you? Given the mouth and armpits the man has got, that condition is bound to produce those odors. 'After all, though, the fellow is endowed with reason, and he is perfectly able to understand what is offensive if he gives any thought to it.' Well and good: but you yourself are also endowed with reason; so apply your reasonableness to move him to a like reasonableness; expound, admonish. If he pays attention, you will have worked a cure, and there will be no need for passion; leave that to actors and streetwalkers.

29. It is possible to live on earth as you mean to live hereafter. But if men will not let you, then quit the house of life; though not with any feeling of ill- usage. 'The hut smokes; I move out.' No need to make a great business of it. Nevertheless, so long as nothing of the kind obliges me to depart, here I remain, my own master, and none shall hinder me from doing what I choose--and what I choose is to live the life that nature enjoins for a reasonable member of a social community.

30. The Mind of the universe is social. At all events, it has created the lower forms to serve the higher, and then linked together the higher in a mutual dependence on each other. Observe how some are subjected, others are connected, each and all are given their just due, and the more eminent among them are combined in mutual accord.

31. How have you behaved in the past to the gods, to your parents, your brothers, wife, children, teachers, tutors, friends, relatives, household? In all of these relationships, up to the present time, can you fairly echo the poet's line, 'Never a harsh word, never an injustice to a single person?' Call to mind all you have passed through, and all you have been enabled to endure. Reflect that the story of your life is over, and your service at an end; bethink you of all the fair sights you have seen, the pleasures and the pains you have spurned, the many honors disdained, the many considerations shown to the inconsiderate.

32. How comes it that souls of no proficiency nor learning are able to confound the adept and the sage? Ah, but what soul is truly both adept and sage? His alone, who has knowledge of the beginning and the end, and of that all-pervading Reason which orders the universe in its determinate cycles to the end of time.

33. In a brief while now you will be ashes or bare bones; a name, or perhaps not even a name--though even a name is no more than empty sound and reiteration. All that men set their hearts on in this life is vanity, corruption, and trash; men are like scuffing puppies, or quarrelsome children who are all smiles one moment and in tears the next. Faith and decency, justice and truth are fled 'up to Olympus from the wide-wayed earth'. [5] What is it, then, that still keeps you here? The objects of sense are mutable and transient, the organs of sense dim and easily misled, the poor soul itself a mere vapor exhaled from the blood, [6] and the world's praise, in such conditions, a vain thing. What then? Take heart, and wait for the end, be it extinction or translation. And what, think you, is all that is needful until that hour come? Why, what else but to revere and bless the gods; to do good to men; to bear and forbear; and to remember that whatsoever lies outside the bounds of this poor flesh and breath is none of yours, nor in your power.

34. Press on steadily, keep to the straight road in your thinking and doing, and your days will ever flow on smoothly. The soul of man, like the souls of all rational creatures, has two things in common with the soul of God: it can never be thwarted from without, and its good consists in righteousness of character and action, and in confining every wish thereto.

35. If the thing be no sin of mine, nor caused by any sin of mine, and if society be no worse for it, why give it further thought ? How can it harm society?

36. Do not fall a too hasty prey to first impressions. Assist those in need, so far as you are able and they deserve it; but if their fall involves nothing morally significant, you must not regard them as really injured, for that is not a good practice. Rather, in such cases be like the old fellow who pretended at his departure to beg eagerly for the slave-girl's top, [8] though knowing well that it was nothing more than a top.

When you are crying for votes on the platform, my friend, are you forgetting the ultimate worth of it all? 'I know; but these people set such store by it.' And does that justify you in sharing their folly?

No matter to what solitudes banished, I have always been a favorite of Fortune. For Fortune's favorite is the man who awards her good gifts to himself -- the good gifts of a good disposition, good impulses, and good deeds.



1. By Aesculapius, Marcus here means any medical consultant. The original Aesculapius is mentioned by Homer merely as 'an excellent leech' who was the father of Machaon and Podalirius, the two physicians of the Greek army at Troy. In later times he appears with the rank of a divinity, presiding over the arts of healing and worshipped in his temples all over Greece. Serpents were everywhere associated with the cult of Aesculapius (the snake's periodic shedding of its skin causing it to be regarded as an apt symbol of renewed health and vigor); and the god's emblem of a serpent-wreathed staff was frequently placed by physicians at the head of their prescriptions. It is familiar today as the badge of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

2. The reference is to the so-called 'Sceptic' or Pyrrhonian school of philosophers, founded by Pyrrho of Elis. They maintained that our perceptions can only show us things as they appear, and not as they are, and that a suspension of judgment is therefore the only correct attitude to anything.

3. This paragraph turns on the ambiguous meaning of the word 'goods'. The man in the street understands it to signify worldly possessions, rather than those virtues of character which are the true 'goods' in life. To a philosopher, on the other hand, the word would naturally convey this latter sense; and he would accordingly be puzzled by a reference to someone 'having so many goods that he has no room to relieve himself anywhere'.

4. Matthew Arnold found in these words the inspiration for his sonnet beginning, '"Even in a palace life may be lived well"; So spake the imperial sage, purest of men, Marcus Aurelius.'

5. Homer, Odyssey, iv, 690.

6. According to the Stoic belief, the particle of divine fire which constitutes man's soul is nourished by the blood.

7. Hesiod, Works and Days, v, 197.

8. The 'old fellow' made a kindly pretence of sharing the child's notion that its top was a precious and desirable treasure. In the same way, says Marcus, we should be sympathetic to the distress of others, even when our superior knowledge tells us that they have suffered no real harm.
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Re: Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius

Postby admin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 12:14 am

Book 6

1. Matter in the universe is supple and compliant, and the Reason which controls it has no motive for ill-doing; for it is without malice, and does nothing with intent to injure, neither is anything harmed by it. By its ordinances all things have their birth and their fulfillment.

2. If you are doing what is right, never mind whether you are freezing with cold or beside a good fire; heavy-eyed, or fresh from a sound sleep; reviled or applauded; in the act of dying, or about some other piece of business. (For even dying is part of the business of life; and there too no more is required of us than 'to see the moment's work well done'.)

3. Look beneath the surface: never let a thing's intrinsic quality or worth escape you.

4. All material objects swiftly change: either by sublimation (if the substance of the universe be indeed a unity), or else by dispersion.

5. Reason, the controller, has a perfect understanding of the conditions, the purpose, and the materials of its work.

6. To refrain from imitation is the best revenge.

7. Let your one delight and refreshment be to pass from one service to the community to another, with God ever in mind.

8. Our master-reason is something which is both self-awakened and self-directed. It cannot only make itself what it will, but also impose the aspect of its choice on anything which it experiences.

9. All things come to their fulfillment as the one universal Nature directs; for there is no rival nature, whether containing her from without, or itself contained within her, or even existing apart and detached from her.

10. Either the world is a mere hotch-potch of random cohesions and dispersions, or else it is a unity of order and providence. If the former, why wish to survive in such a purposeless and chaotic confusion; why care about anything, save the manner of the ultimate return to dust; why trouble my head at all; since, do what I will, dispersion must overtake me sooner or later? But if the contrary be true, then I do reverence, I stand firmly, and I put my trust in the directing Power.

11. When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.

12. If you had a stepmother at the same time as a mother, you would do your duty by the former, but would still turn continually to your mother. Here, you have both: the court and philosophy. Time and again turn back to philosophy for refreshment; then even the court life, and yourself in it, will seem bearable.

13. When meat and other dainties are before you, you reflect: This is dead fish, or fowl, or pig; or: This Falernian is some of the juice from a bunch of grapes; my purple robe is sheep's wool stained with a little gore from a shellfish; copulation is friction of the members and an ejaculatory discharge. Reflections of this kind go to the bottom of things, penetrating into them and exposing their real nature. The same process should be applied to the whole of life. When a thing's credentials look most plausible, lay it bare, observe its triviality, and strip it of the cloak of verbiage that dignifies it. Pretentiousness is the arch deceiver, and never more delusive than when you imagine your work is most meritorious. Note what Crates has to say about Xenocrates himself. [1]

14. The vulgar confine their admiration chiefly to things of an elementary order, which exist by virtue of mere inorganic cohesion or processes of nature; things of timber and stone, for example, or groves of figs and vines and olives. Minds of a somewhat higher degree of enlightenment are attracted by things that have animation, such as flocks and herds. A further step in refinement leads to admiration of the rational soul: rational, however, not yet in the sense of being part of the universal Reason, but simply as possessing certain skills in handicraft or other such talents--or even merely as owning large numbers of slaves. But the man who values a soul that is rational and universal and social no longer cares for anything else, but aims solely at keeping the temper of his own soul and all its activities rational and social, and works together with his fellows to this end.

15. One thing hastens into being, another hastens out of it. Even while a thing is in the act of coming into existence, some part of it has already ceased to be. Flux and change are forever renewing the fabric of the universe, just as the ceaseless sweep of time is for ever renewing the face of eternity. In such a running river, where there is no firm foothold, what is there for a man to value among all the many things that are racing past him? It would be like setting the affections on some sparrow flitting by, which in the selfsame moment is lost to sight. A man's life is no more than an inhalation from the air and an exhalation from the blood; [2] and there is no true difference between drawing in a single breath, only to emit it again, as we do every instant, and receiving the power to breathe at all, as you did but yesterday at your birth, only to yield it back one day to the source from which you drew it.

16. Transpiration is not a thing to be prized; we share it with the plants. Nor is respiration; we share that with the beasts of field and forest. Nor the perceptions of the senses, nor the twitchings of impulse, nor the instinct for gregariousness, or the process of nutrition--which is in fact no more wonderful than that of excretion. So what, then, are we to value? The clapping of hands? No; and not the clapping of tongues either, which is all that the praise of the vulgar amounts to. Excluding then the delusions of fame, what is there left to be prized? In my judgment, this: to work out, in action and inaction alike, the purpose of our natural constitutions. That, after all, is the object of all training and all craftsmanship; for every craft aims at adapting a product to the end for which it was produced. The husbandman tending his vine, the groom breaking in his horse, the kennelman raining his hound, all have this purpose in view. The labors of tutors and teachers, too, are directed to the same end. Here then is the prize we are looking for. Once make this truly your own, and no other objective will tempt you. Abandon all the other ambitions you cherish, or else you will never be your own master, never be independent of others or proof against passion. You will be bound to look with envy, jealousy, and suspicion at anyone who might rob you of those things, and to intrigue against anyone who happens to possess the treasure you covet for yourself. The belief that things of that kind are indispensable is sure to make for turmoil within, and too often leads on to murmuring against the gods as well; whereas a respect and esteem for your own understanding will keep you at peace with yourself, at one with mankind, and in harmony with the gods; gladly acquiescent, that is, with whatever they dispense or ordain.

17. Above, below, and around us whirl the elements in their courses. But virtue knows no such motions: she is a thing more divine, moving serenely onward in ways past understanding.

18. How strange are the ways of men! They will spare no word of praise for their contemporaries, who live in their very midst, and yet they covet greatly for themselves the praise of future generations, whom they have never seen and never will see. Almost as well grumble at not having praise from one's ancestors!

19. Because a thing is difficult for you, do not therefore suppose it to be beyond mortal power. On the contrary, if anything is possible and proper for man to do, assume that it must fall within your own capacity.

20. When an opponent in the gymnasium gashes us with his nails or bruises our head in a collision, we do not protest or take offence, and we do not suspect him ever afterwards of malicious intent. However, we do regard him with a wary eye; not in enmity or suspicion, yet good-temperedly keeping our distance. So let it be, too, at other times in life; let us agree to overlook a great many things in those who are, as it were, our fellow-contestants. A simple avoidance, as I have said, is always open to us, without either suspicion or ill-will.

21. If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought or deed, I will gladly change. I seek the truth, which never yet hurt anybody. It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance which does harm.

22. I do that which it is my duty to do. Nothing else distracts me; for it will be either something that is inanimate and irrational, or somebody who is misled and ignorant of the way.

23. Be generous and liberal in your attitude to irrational creatures and to the generality of material things, for you have reason and they have none. Human beings, on the other hand, have reason; so treat them in a spirit of fellowship. In all things call upon the gods for help--yet without too many scruples about the length of your prayers; three hours so spent will suffice.

24. In death, Alexander of Macedon's end differed no whit from his stable- boy's. Either both were received into the same generative principle of the universe, or both alike were dispersed into atoms.

25. Think of the number of things, bodily and mental, that are going on at the same moment within each one of us; and then it will not surprise you that an infinitely greater number of things -- everything, in fact, that comes to birth in this vast One-and-A1l we call the universe--can exist simultaneously therein.

26. If you were asked to spell the name Antoninus, would you rap out each letter at the top of your voice, and then, if your hearers grew angry, grow angry yourself in turn? Rather, would you not proceed to enumerate the several letters quietly one by one? Well then; remember that here in life every piece of duty is likewise made up of its separate items. Pay careful attention to each of these, without fuss and without returning temper for temper, and so ensure the methodical completion of your appointed task.

27. How barbarous, to deny men the privilege of pursuing what they imagine to be their proper concerns and interests! Yet, in a sense, this is just what you are doing when you allow your indignation to rise at their wrongdoing; for after all, they are only following their own apparent concerns and interests. You say they are mistaken? Why then, tell them so, and explain it to them, instead of being indignant.

28. Death: a release from impressions of sense, from twitchings of appetite, from excursions of thought, and from service to the flesh.

29. Shame on the soul, to falter on the road of life while the body still perseveres.

30. Be careful not to affect the monarch too much, or to be too deeply dyed with the purple; for this can well happen. Keep yourself simple, good, pure, serious, and unassuming; the friend of justice and godliness; kindly, affectionate, and resolute in your devotion to duty. Strive your hardest to be always such a man as Philosophy would have you to be. Reverence the gods, succour your fellow-mortals. Life is short, and this earthly existence has but a single fruit to yield -- holiness within, and selfless action without. Be in all things Antoninus's disciple; remember his insistence on the control of conduct by reason, his calm composure on all occasions, and his own holiness; the serenity of his look and the sweetness of his manner; his scorn of notoriety, and his zeal for the mastery of facts; how he would never dismiss a subject until he had looked thoroughly into it and understood it clearly how he would suffer unjust criticisms without replying in kind; how he was ever hasty, and no friend to tale-bearers; shrewd in his judgments of men and manners, yet never censorious; wholly free from nervousness, suspicion, and over-subtlety; how easily satisfied he was in such matters as lodging, bed, dress, meals, and service; how industrious, and how patient; how, thanks to his frugal diet, he could remain at work from morning till night without even attending to the calls of nature until his customary hour; how firm and constant he was in his friendships, tolerating the most outspoken opposition to his own opinions, and welcoming any suggested amendments; what reverence, untainted by the smallest trace of superstition, he showed to the gods. Remember all this, so that when your own last hour comes your conscience may be as clear as his.

31. Come back now to your sober senses; recall your true self; awake from slumber, and recognize that they were only dreams that troubled you; and as you looked on them, so look now on what meets your waking eyes.

32. A body and a soul comprise myself. To the body all things are indifferent, for it is incapable of making distinctions. To the mind, the only things not indifferent are its own activities, and these are all under its control. Even with them, moreover, its sole concern is with those of the present moment; once they are past, or when they still lie in the future, they themselves at once come to be indifferent.

33. Pain of hand or foot is nothing unnatural, so long as hand and foot are doing their own work. Likewise no pain is contrary to the nature of man, as man, so long as he is doing man's work. And if it accords with nature, it cannot be an evil.

34. In what extraordinary pleasures do robbers, perverts, parricides, and tyrants find their enjoyment. [3]

35. Notice how common artificers will meet the wishes of an unskilled employer up to a certain point, but none the less stand fast by the rules of their trade and refuse to depart from them. Is it not deplorable that a builder or a physician should have more respect for the canons of his craft than man has for his own, which he shares with the gods?

36. In the universe Asia and Europe are but two small Corners, all ocean's waters a drop, Athos a puny lump of earth, the vastness of time a pin's point in eternity. All is petty, inconstant, and perishable. All proceeds from the one source, springing either directly or derivatively from the universal sovereign Reason. Even the lion's open jaws, the deadly poison, and all other things that do hurt, down to the bramble-bush and the slough, are by-products of something else that is itself noble and beautiful. Do not think of them, then, as alien to That which you reverence, but remember the one origin that is common to them all.

37. To see the things of the present moment is to see all that is now, all that has been since time began, and all that shall be unto the world's end; for all things are of one kind and one form.

38. Think often of the bond that unites all things in the universe, and their dependence upon one another. All are, as it were, interwoven, and in consequence linked in mutual affection; because their orderly succession is brought about by the operation of the currents of tension, [4] and the unity of all substance.

39. Adapt yourself to the environment in which your lot has been cast, and show true love to the fellow-mortals with whom destiny has surrounded you.

40. All is well with a tool, instrument, or utensil when it serves the use for which it was made, though in this case its maker is not present. But with things formed by Nature, the power that fashioned them is still within them, and remains in them. All the more, then, should you have it in reverence, and be assured that if only you live and act according to its will, you have all things to your liking. That is the way in which the universe, too, has all things to its liking.

41. If you suppose anything over which you have no control to be either good or bad for you, then the accident of missing the one or encountering the other is certain to make you aggrieved with the gods, and bitter against the men whom you know or suspect to be responsible for your failure or misfortune. We do, in fact, commit many injustices through attaching importance to things of this class. But when we limit our notions of good and evil strictly to what is within our own power, there remains no reason either to bring accusations against God or to set ourselves at variance with men.

42. All of us are working together for the same end; some of us knowingly and purposefully, others unconsciously (as Heraclitus, I think, has remarked that 'even in their sleep men are at work' and contributing their share to the cosmic process). To one man falls this share of the task, to another that; indeed, no small part is performed by that very malcontent who does all he can to hinder and undo the course of events. The universe has need even of such as he. It remains for you, then, to consider with whom you will range yourself; for in any case he who directs all things will find some good use to make of you, and give you your place among his helpmates and fellow-laborers. Only, have a care that yours is not that sorry function which, according to Chrysippus, is performed by the clown's part on the stage. [5]

43. Does the sun think to do the rain's work? Or Asclepius that of Demeter? And how is it with the stars? Are they not all different, yet all work in concert to the one end?

44. If the gods took counsel together about myself, and what should befall me, then their counsel was good. For it were hard to conceive of divinity counseling unwisely. After all, what incentive would they have to work my hurt? Where would be the gain, either to themselves, or to the universe which is their chief care? Even if they took no special thought for myself, at least they took thought for the universe; and I ought to welcome and feel kindly disposed towards anything that happens as a result. If, of course, they took no thought for anything at all -- an impious thing to believe -- why then, let us make an end of sacrifice and prayer and vow, and all other actions whereby we acknowledge the presence of living gods in our midst. Yet even so, and even if it is true that they care nothing for our mortal concerns, I am still able to take care of myself and to look to my own interests; and the interest of every creature lies in conformity with its own constitution and nature. My own nature is a rational and civic one; I have a city, and I have a country; as Marcus I have Rome, and as a human being I have the universe; and consequently, what is beneficial to these communities is the sole good for me.

45. All that befalls the individual is for the good of the whole. That by itself is warrant enough for us; but if you look closely you will also notice that, as a general rule, what is good for one man is good for his fellow-men as well. ('Good', though, must be taken here in the more popular sense, as inclusive of things that are morally indifferent.)

46. As the performances in the circus or in other places of entertainment tire one with their perpetual repetition of the same sights, the monotony of which makes the spectacle a weariness, so it is with the whole experience of life: on our upward and downward path all things prove to be ever the same--causes and effects alike. How long then ...?

47. Often ponder in your mind the multitudes of the dead of every calling and nation, down even to Philistion and Phoebus and Origanion. [6] From these latest, let your thoughts pass to the hosts of others; think how we must follow whither so many great orators are gone before, so many reverend sages--Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates--the heroes of early days, the captains and the kings of after-ages, and with them Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes, and many another; keen wits, sublime spirits, men unwearied, resourceful, and resolute; those too who made a merry jest of the transience and brevity of this mortal life in the fashion of Menippus and his school. Muse often on these men, all long since laid low in death. How, pray, are they the worse for it now--more especially those whose very names have been forgotten? In this life one thing only is of precious worth: to live out one's days in truthfulness and fair dealing, and in charity even with the false and unjust.

48. When you would have a cordial for your spirits, think of the good qualities of your friends: this one's capability, that one's self-effacement, another's generosity, and so forth. There is no surer remedy for dejection than to see examples of the different virtues displayed in the characters of those around us, exhibiting themselves as plenteously as can be. Wherefore keep them ever before you.

49. Do you make a grievance of weighing so many pounds only, instead of three hundred? Then why fret about living so many years only, instead of more? Since you are content with the measure of substance allowed you, be so also with the measure of time.

50. Try to move men by persuasion; yet act against their will if the principles of justice so direct. But if someone uses force to obstruct you, then take a different line; resign yourself without a pang, and turn the obstacle into an opportunity for the exercise of some other virtue. Your attempt was always subject to reservations, remember; you were not aiming at the impossible. At what, then? Simply at making the attempt itself. In this you succeeded; and with that, the object of your existence is attained.

51. The man of ambition thinks to find his good in the operations of others; the man of pleasure in his own sensations; but the man of understanding in his own actions.

52. You are not compelled to form any opinion about this matter before you, nor to disturb your peace of mind at all. Things in themselves have no power to extort a verdict from you.

53. Accustom yourself to give careful attention to what others are saying, and try your best to enter into the mind of the speaker.

54. What is no good for the hive is no good for the bee.

55. If the crew took to vilifying their steersman, or the patients their doctor, is there any other they would listen to instead; and how would such another be able to ensure the safety of the sailors, or the health of the sick?

56. How any who came into this world with me have already left it!

57. To a man with jaundice, honey seems bitter; to one bitten by a mad dog, water is a thing of horror; to little children, a ball is a treasure of great price. Why then do I give way to anger? For can it be supposed that a man's erroneous thinking has any less effect on him than the bile in jaundice, or the virus in hydrophobia?

58. No one can stop you living according to the laws of your own personal nature, and nothing can happen to you against the laws of the World-Nature.

59. What sorry creatures are the men folk seek to please! What sorry ends they pursue, and by what sorry means! How quickly time shall cover all things! How many has it covered even now!



1. The allusion is unknown.

2. See page 89, note 1.

4. An explanation of the Stoic theory of 'tension' is given in the Introduction, page 14.

5. I,e. to provide that element of baseness against which nobility shows up more clearly.

6. Phillistion, Phoebus, and Origanion are unknown to us; the language suggests that they are persons who had died recently. Eudoxus is said to have been learned in astrology, medicine, and law. Hipparchus was a mathematician of note. The scientific reputation of Archimedes survives to this day. Of the Greek philosopher Menippus, Diogenes Laertius remarks that 'he published nothing memorable, but his writings abound in humour and laughter' (vi, 99).
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