Oh, my soul, I trust the time will be when you will be good, simple, single, more open and visible, than that body by which it is enclosed. You will one day be sensible of their happiness, whose end is love, and their affections dead to all worldly things. You will one day be full, and in want of no external thing—not seeking pleasure from anything, either living or insensible, that this world can afford; neither wanting time for the continuation of your pleasure, nor place and opportunity, nor the favor either of the weather or of men.
When you will be content with your present state, and all things present shall add to your contentment; when you will persuade yourself that you have all things, all for your good, and all by the providence of the gods.
Of future things will also be as confident that all will do well, as tending to the maintenance and preservation in some sort, of his perfect welfare and happiness, who is perfection of life, of goodness, and beauty; who begets all things, and contains all things in himself, and in himself remembers all things from all places that are dissolved, that of them he may beget others again like to them.
Such one day shall be your disposition, that you will be able, both in regard of the gods, and in regard of men, so to fit and order your conversation as neither to complain of them at any time, for anything that they do; nor to do anything yourself, for which you may justly be condemned.
As one who is altogether governed by nature, let it be your care to serve what it is that your nature in general requires. That done, if you don't find that your nature will be the worse for it, as you are a living sensible creature, you may proceed.
Next, then, you must examine what your nature is, as you are a living sensible creature, requires. And that, whatever it is, you may admit of and do it, if your nature as you are a reasonable living creature will not be the worse for it.
Now whatever is reasonable is also sociable. Keep yourself to these rules, and don't trouble yourself about idle things.
Whatever happens to you, you with your natural constitution are either able, or not able to bear it. If you are able, don't be offended, but bear it according to your natural constitution, or as nature has enabled you.
If you are not able, don't be offended. For it will soon make an end of you, and itself, (whatever it is) at the same time. But remember, that whatever by the strength of opinion, grounded upon a certain apprehension of both true profit and duty, you can conceive tolerability; that you are able to bear that by your natural constitution.
Teach with love and meekness to him that offends, and to show him his error. But if you can't, then to blame yourself; or rather not blame yourself, if your will and endeavors have not been wanting.
Whatever it is that happens to you, it is that which was appointed to you from all time. For by the same coherence of causes, by which your substance from all eternity was appointed to be, was also whatever should happen to it destined and appointed.
Either with Epicurus, we must fondly imagine the atoms to be the cause of all things, or we must grant a nature. Let this then be your first ground, that you are part of that universe which is governed by nature.
Then secondly, that to those parts that are of the same kind and nature as you are, you have relation of kindred. For of these, if I shall always be mindful, first as I am a part, I shall never be displeased with anything that falls to my particular share of the common chances of the world.
For nothing that is needful to the whole can be truly hurtful to that which is part of it. For this being the common privilege of all natures, that they contain nothing in themselves that is harmful to them; it cannot be that the nature of the universe (whose privilege beyond other particular natures is that she cannot be constrained against her will by any higher external cause) should beget anything and cherish it in her bosom that should tend to her own hurt and prejudice.
As then I bear in mind that I am a part of such a universe, I shall not be displeased with anything that happens. And as I have relation of kindred to those parts that are of the same kind and nature that I am, so I shall be careful to do nothing that is prejudicial to the community, but in all my deliberations they that are of my kind shall ever be. The common good, that which all my intentions and resolutions shall drive to, as that which is contrary to it, I shall by all means endeavor to prevent and avoid.
These things once so fixed and concluded, as you would think him a happy citizen, whose constant study and practice were for the good and benefit of his fellow citizens, and the carriage of the city such towards him, that he were well pleased with it; so must it be with you, that you will live a happy life.
All parts of the world (I mean things that are contained within the whole world) must of necessity at some time or other come to corruption. Alteration I should say, to speak truly and properly, but that I may be the better understood, I am content at this time to use that more common word.
Now I say, if it is that this is both hurtful to them, and yet unavoidable, wouldn't the whole itself be in a sweet case, all the parts of it being subject to alteration? Yes, and by their making itself fitted for corruption, as consisting of things different and contrary?
And did nature then either of herself thus project and purpose the affliction and misery of her parts, and therefore made them of a purpose, not only that by chance they might, but of necessity that they should fall into evil; or did she not know what she did when she made them? For to say either of these two is equally absurd.
But to let pass nature in general, and to reason of things particularly according to their own particular natures, how absurd and ridiculous it is, first to say that all parts of the whole are, by their proper natural constitution, subject to alteration; and then when any such thing happens, as when one falls sick and dies, to take on and wonder as though some strange thing had happened?
Though this besides might not move so grievously as to take on when any such thing happens, that whatever is dissolved, it is dissolved into those things it was compounded from. For every dissolution is either a mere dispersion of the elements into those elements again how everything consisted, or a change, of that which is more solid into earth, and of that which is pure and subtle or spiritual, into air.
So that by this means nothing is lost, but all resumed again into those rational generative seeds of the universe; and this universe, either after a certain period of time to lie consumed by fire, or by continual changes to be renewed, and so forever to endure.
Now that solid and spiritual that we speak of, you must not conceive it to be that very same, which at first was, when you were born. For alas! All this that now you are in either kind, either for a matter of substance, or of life, was but two or three days ago partly from meats that were eaten, and partly from air breathed in, received all its influx, being the same then in no other respect than a running river, maintained by the perpetual influx and new supply of waters, is the same.
That, therefore, which you have since received, not that which came from your mother, is that which comes to change and corruption.
But suppose that that for the general substance, and more solid part of it, should still cleave to you never so close, yet what is that to the proper qualities and affections of it, by which persons are distinguished, which certainly are quite different?
Now that you have seen that these names are good, modest, true; of emfrwn, sumfrwn, uperfrwn; take heed lest at any time by doing anything that is contrary to you but so-called improperly, you lose your right to these appellations. Or if you do, return to them again with all possible speed.
And remember, that the word emfrwn notes to you an intent and intelligent consideration of every object that presents itself to you without distraction. And the word emfrwn is a ready and contented acceptation of whatever by the appointment of the common nature happens to you.
And the word sumfrwn, a super-extension, or a transcendent, and outreaching disposition of your mind, whereby it passes by all bodily pains and pleasures, honor and credit, death and whatever is of the same nature, as matters of absolute indifference, and in no way to be stood upon by a wise man.
These, then, you will observe, if inviolably, and will not be ambitious to be so called by others, both you yourself will become a new man, and you will begin a new life. For to continue such as you have been before, to undergo those distractions and annoyances as you need for such a life as you have lived so far, is the part of one that is very foolish, and is overfond of his life.
Whom a man might compare to one of those half-eaten wretches, matched in the amphitheater with wild beasts; who as full as they are all the body over with wounds and blood, desire for a great favor that they may be reserved till the next day, then also, and in the same state to be exposed to the same nails and teeth as before.
Therefore, ship yourself Away, and from the troubles and distractions of your former life convey yourself as it were to these few names. If you can abide in them, or be constant in the practice and possession of them, continue there as glad and joyful as one that was translated to some such place of bliss and happiness as that which by Hesiod and Plato is called the Islands of the Blessed, by others called the Elysian Fields.
And whenever you find yourself in danger of a relapse, and that you are not able to master and overcome those difficulties and temptations that present themselves in your present station, get into any private corner where you may be better able. Or if that will not serve, rather forsake even your life.
But do it so that it be not in passion but in a plain voluntary modest way, this being the only commendable action of your whole life since you have departed, or this having been the main work and business of your whole life, that you might thus depart.
Now for the better remembrance of those names that we have spoken of, you will find it a very good help to remember the gods as often as may be, and that the thing which they require at our hands of as many of us, as are by nature reasonable creation is not that with fair words, and outward show of piety and devotion we should flatter them, but that we should become like them.
That is as all other natural creatures, the fig tree for example; the dog, the bee: both do, all of them, and apply themselves to that which by their natural constitution is proper to them. So man should do that likewise, which by his nature, as he is a man, belongs to him.
Toys and fooleries at home, wars abroad; sometimes terror, sometimes torpor, or stupid sloth—this is your daily slavery. Little by little, if you don't look to it better, those sacred dogma will be blotted out of your mind. How many things are there which, when as a mere naturalist, you had barely considered according to their nature, you let pass without any further use?
Whereas you should in all things join in action and contemplation, that you might both at the same time attend all present occasions, to perform everything duly and carefully, and yet so intend the contemplative part too, that no part of that delight and pleasure, which the contemplative knowledge of everything according to its true nature affords itself might be lost.
Or, that the true and contemplative knowledge of everything according to its own nature, might of itself, (action being subject to many lets and impediments) afford to you sufficient pleasure and happiness. Not apparent indeed, but not concealed.
And when will you attain to the happiness of true simplicity, and unaffected gravity? When will you rejoice in the certain knowledge of every particular object according to its true nature, as what the matter and substance of it is. What use it is for in the world, how long it can subsist, what things it consists of. Who they are that are capable of it, and who they are that can give it and take it away?
As the spider, when it has caught the fly that it hunted, is not proud, nor meanly conceited of herself, as he likewise that has caught a hare, or has taken a fish with his net, another for the taking of a boar, and another of a bear; so may they be proud, and applaud themselves for their valiant acts against the Sarmatai, or northern nations lately defeated.
For these also, these famous soldiers and warlike men, if you look into their minds and opinions, what do they do for the most part but hunt after prey?
Find out, and set to yourself some certain way and method of contemplation whereby you may clearly discern and represent to yourself the mutual change of all things, the one into the other. Bear it in mind forever, and see that you are thoroughly well exercised in this particular matter. For there is not anything more effectual to beget true magnanimity.
He has gotten loose from the bonds of his body, and perceiving that within a very little while he must of necessity bid the world farewell, and leave all these things behind him, he wholly applied himself as to righteousness in all his actions, so to the common nature in all things that should happen to him.
And contenting himself with these two things, to do all things justly, and whatever God sends to like well of it, what others shall either say or think of him, or shall do against him, he does not so much as trouble his thoughts with it.
To go on straight, whether right and reason directed him, and by so doing to follow God, was the only thing that he minded, his only business and occupation.
What use is there of suspicion at all? Or, why should thoughts of mistrust, and suspicion concerning that which is in the future trouble your mind at all? What now is to be done, if you may search and inquire into that, what do you care for more?
And if you are well able to perceive it alone, let no man divert you from it. But if alone you don't perceive it so well, suspend your action and take advice from the best.
And if there is anything else that hinders you, go on with prudence and discretion, according to the present occasion and opportunity, still proposing that to yourself which you conceive most right and just. For to hit that aright, and to speed in the prosecution of it must be happiness, since it is that only which we can truly and properly be said to miss of, or miscarry in.
What is that that is slow, and yet quick? Merry, and yet grave? He that follows reason in all things for his guide.
In the morning as soon as you wake up, before either your affections, or external objects have wrought upon your judgment, it is yet most free and impartial. Put this question to yourself, whether if that which is right and just be done, the doing of it by yourself, or by others when you are not able yourself is a material thing or not.
For sure it is not. And as for these that keep such a life, and stand so much upon the praises, or dispraises of other men, have you forgotten what manner of men they are? That such and such upon their beds, and such at their board, what their ordinary actions are, what they pursue after, and what they fly from? What thefts and rapes they commit, if not with their hands and feet, yet with that more precious part of them, their minds, which (would it but admit of them) might enjoy faith, modesty, truth, justice, a good spirit?
"Give what you will, and take away what you will," says he that is well taught and truly modest, to him that gives and takes away. And it is not out of a stout and peremptory resolution, that he says it, but in mere love and humble submission.
So live as indifferent to the world and all worldly objects, as one who lives by himself on some desert hill. For whether here, or there, if the whole world is but as one town, it matters not much for the place.
Let them behold and see a man that is a man indeed, living according to the true nature of man. If they cannot bear with me, let them kill me. For better were it to die, than so to live as they would have you.
Don't make it a matter of dispute or discourse any longer, what the signs and proprieties of a good man are, but to really and actually be such.
Always represent to yourself, and to set before you, both the general age and time of the world, and the whole substance of it. And how all things in particular, respect these as for their substance, as one of the least seeds that is, and for their duration, as the turning of the pestle in the mortar once about.
Then to fix your mind on every particular object of the world, and to conceive it as it really is, as already being in the state of dissolution, and of change; tending to some kind of either putrefaction or dispersion, or whatever else it is that is the death, as it were, of everything in his own kind.
Consider them through all actions and occupations, of their lives: as when they eat, and when they sleep. When they are in the act of necessary exoneration, and when in the act of lust. Again, when they either are in their greatest exultation, and in the middle of all their pomp and glory, or being angry and displeased, in great state and majesty, as from an higher place, they chide and rebuke.
How base and slavish, but a little while ago, they were fain to be, that they might come to this, and within a very little while what will be their state when death has once seized them.
It is best for every one that the common nature of all sends to every one, and then it is best when she sends it.
"The earth," says the poet, "often longs after the rain. So is the glorious sky often as desirous to fall upon the earth, which argues a mutual kind of love between them." And so, I say, does the world bear a certain affection of love to whatever shall come to pass with your affections shall I concur, Oh, world.
The same (and no other) shall the object of my longing, is which is of yours. Now that the world's love is true indeed, so is it as commonly said and acknowledged, when according to the Greek phrase, imitated by the Latins, of things that used to be, we say commonly that they love to be.
Either you continue in this kind of life and what it is, which for so long you have been used to it and therefore tolerable, or you retire, or leave the world, and that of your own accord, and then you have your mind: or your life is cut off; and then may you rejoice that you have ended your charge. One of these must be. Be therefore of good comfort.
Let it always appear and be manifest to you that solitariness, and desert places, so much esteemed of and affected by many philosophers, are of themselves but thus and thus; and that all things are them to them that live in towns, and converse with others as they are the same nature everywhere to be seen and observed.
To them that have retired themselves to the top of mountains, and to desert havens, or what other desert and inhabited places. For you will find it anywhere and you may quickly find and apply that to yourself which Plato said of his philosopher, in a place: “As private and retired,” says he, “as if he were shut up and enclosed about in some shepherd's lodge, on the top of a hill.”
Put these questions there by yourself, or to enter in these considerations: what is the chief and principal part which has power over the rest? What is now the present state of it, as I use it? What is it that I employ it about? Is it now void of reason or not? Is it free, and separated; or so affixed, so congealed and grown together as it were with the flesh, that it is swayed by the motions and inclinations of it?
Someone who runs away from his master is a fugitive. But the law is every man's master. Therefore, anyone who forsakes the law is a fugitive.
So is anyone, whoever they are, who is either sorry, angry, or afraid, or for anything that either has been, is, or shall be by his appointment, who is the Lord and Governor of the universe.
For he truly and properly is Nomoz, or the law, as the distributor and dispenser of all things that happen to anyone in his lifetime. Whoever, then, is either sorry, angry, or afraid is a fugitive.
From man is the seed, that once cast into the womb he has nothing more to do with. Another cause succeeds, and undertakes the work, and in time brings a child (that wonderful effect from such a beginning!) to perfection.
Again, man lets food down through his throat; and that once down, he has no more to do with it. Another cause succeeds and distributes this food into the senses, and the affections. Into life, and into strength, and does with it those other many and marvelous things that belong to man.
These things therefore that are so secretly and invisibly wrought and brought to pass, you must use to behold and contemplate, not the things themselves only, but the power also by which they are affected, that you may behold it, though not with the eyes of the body, yet as plainly and visibly as you can see and discern the outward efficient cause of the depression and elevation of anything.
Always keep in mind and consider how all things that now are, have been much after the same sort, and after the same fashion that they now are. So think of those things which shall be hereafter as well.
Moreover, whole drama, and uniform scenes, or scenes that comprehend the lives and actions of men of one calling and profession, as many as either in your own experience you have known, or by reading of ancient histories (as the whole court of Adrianus, the whole court of Antoninus Pius, the whole court of Philippus, that of Alexander, that of Croesus) to set them all before your eyes. For you will find that they are all but after one sort and fashion, only that the actors were others.
As a pig that cries and flings when his throat is cut, fancy to yourself every one to is that grieves for any worldly thing. Such a one is he also who, upon his bed alone, bewails the miseries of this, our mortal life.
And remember this, that only to reasonable creatures is it granted that they may willingly and freely submit to Providence, but absolutely to submit is a necessity imposed upon all creatures equally.
Whatever it is that you go about, consider it yourself and ask yourself, "What? because I shall do this no more when I am dead, should therefore death seem grievous to me?"
When you are offended with any man's transgression, presently reflect on yourself, and consider what you yourself are guilty of in the same kind. As that you also maybe think it a happiness either to be rich, or to live in pleasure, or to be praised and commended, and so of the rest in particular.
For if you will call this to mind, you will soon forget your anger; especially when at the same time this also shall concur in your thoughts, that he was constrained by his error and ignorance, for how can he choose as long as he is of that opinion? Therefore if you can, take that away from him that forces him to do as he does.
When you see Satyro, think of Socraticus and Eutyches, or Hymen. When Euphrates, think of Eutychio, and Sylvanus. When Alciphron, of Tropaeophorus, when Xenophon, of Crito, or Severus.
And when you look upon yourself, fancy to yourself some one or other of the Caesars; and so for every one, some one or other that has been answerable for state and profession to him.
Then let this come to your mind at the same time; and where now are they all? Nowhere or anywhere? For so will you at all time be able to perceive how all worldly things are like the smoke that vanishes away, or indeed, mere nothing.
Especially when you will call this to mind also, that whatever is once changed, shall never be again as long as the world endures. And you then, how long will you endure? And why does it not suffice you, if virtuously, and as becomes you, you may pass that portion of time, how little it may be, that is allotted to you?
What a subject, and what a course of life it is, that you so much desire to be rid of. For all these things, what are they but fit objects for an understanding, that beholds everything according to its true nature, to exercise itself upon?
Be patient, therefore, until that (as a strong stomach that turns all things into his own nature; and as a great fire that turns in flame and light whatever you cast into it) you have made these things also familiar, and as it were, natural to you.
Don't let it be in any man's power to truthfully say that you are not truly simple, or sincere and open, or not good. Let whoever he is that shall have any such opinion of you be deceived. For all this depends on you.
Who is it that should hinder you from being either truly simple or good? Do you only resolve rather not to live, than not to be such? For indeed neither does it stand with reason that he should live that is not such.
What then is it that may upon this present occasion according to best reason and discretion, either be said or done? For whatever it is, it is in your power either to do it, or to say it, and therefore seek not any pretenses, as though you were hindered. You will never cease groaning and complaining until such time as what pleasure is to the voluptuous will be to you, to do in everything that presents itself, whatever may be done comfortably and agreeably to the proper constitution of man, or, to man as he is a man.
For you must account that pleasure, whatever it is, that you may do according to your own nature. And to do this, every place will fit you, to the cylinders, or rollers, it is not granted to move everywhere according to its own proper motion, as neither to the water, nor to the fire, nor to any other thing that either is merely natural, or natural and sensitive, but not rational for many things there be that can hinder their operations.
But of the mind and understanding this is the proper privilege, that according to its own nature, and as it will itself, it can pass through every obstacle that it finds, and keep straight on forwards. Setting therefore before your eyes this happiness and felicity of your mind, whereby it is able to pass through all things, and is capable of all motions, whether as the fire, upwards; or as the stone downwards, or as the cylinders through that which is sloping: content yourself with it, and don't seek any other thing.
For all other kinds of hindrances that are not hindrances of your mind, either they are proper to the body, or merely proceed from the opinion, reason not making that resistance that it should, but basely, and cowardly suffering itself to be foiled. Of themselves they can neither wound, nor do any hurt at all. Else must he of necessity, whoever he is that meets with any of them, become worse than he was before.
For so is it in all other subjects, that that is thought hurtful to them where they are made worse. But here contrariwise, man (if he make that good use of them that he should) is rather the better and the more praiseworthy for any of those kind of hindrances than otherwise.
But generally remember that nothing can hurt a natural citizen that is not hurtful to the city itself, nor anything hurt the city that is not hurtful to the law itself. But none of these casualties, or external hindrances, hurt the law itself; or, are contrary to that course of justice and equity, by which public societies are maintained. Neither, therefore, do they hurt either city or citizen.
As he that is bitten by a rabid dog is afraid of almost everything that he sees, so to him whom the dogma have once bitten, or in whom true knowledge has made an impression, everything almost that he sees or reads be it never so short or ordinary, affords a good memento; to put him out of all grief and fear, as that of the poet, “The winds blow upon the trees, and their leaves fall upon the ground.
“Then do the trees begin to bud again, and by the springtime they put forth new branches. So is the generation of men; some come into the world, and others go out of it.” Of these leaves then your children are.
And also they that applaud you so gravely, or, that applaud your speeches, with that their usual acclamation “axiopistwz”; “Oh, I am wisely spoken and speak well of you,” as on the other side they that don't stick to your curse, they that privately and secretly dispraise and deride you, they are also only leaves.
And they also that shall follow, in whose memories the names of men who were famous after death is preserved, they are but leaves either. For it is even of all these worldly things. Their spring comes, and they are put forth. Then blows the wind, and they go down.
And then in lieu of them grow others out of the wood or common matter of all things, like to them. But to endure but for a while is common to all. Then why should you so earnestly either seek after these things, or flee from them, as though they should endure for ever? Yet a little while and your eyes will be closed up, and for him that carries you to your grave shall mourn for another within a while after.
A good eye must be good to see whatever is to be seen, and not just pleasant things only. For that is proper to sore eyes. So must a good ear, and a good smell be ready for whatever it is either to be heard, or smelled, and a good stomach as indifferent to all kinds of food as a millstone is to whatever it was made to grind.
Therefore, a sound understanding must be ready for whatever happens. But he that says, “Oh, that my children might live!” And “oh, that all men might commend me for whatever I do!” is an eye that seeks after pleasant things, or as teeth wanting that which is tender.
There is not any man that is so happy in his death but that some of those that are by him when he dies will be ready to rejoice at his supposed calamity. Is it one that was virtuous and wise indeed?
Will there not be some one or other that is found who will say to himself; "Well now at last shall I be at rest from this pedagogue. He did not indeed otherwise trouble us much, but I know well enough that in his heart, he condemned us much."
Thus will they speak of the virtuous. But as for us, alas! How many things are there for which there are many that would be glad to be rid of us. This, therefore, if you will think of whenever you die, you will die the more willingly, When you will think with yourself “I am now to depart from that world, wherein those that have been my nearest friends and acquaintances, they whom I have so much suffered for, so often prayed for, and for whom I have taken such care, even they would have me die, hoping that after my death they shall live happier than they did before.”
Why then should any man desire to continue here any longer? Nevertheless, whenever you die, you must not be less kind and loving to them for it; but as before, see them, continue to be their friend, to wish them well, and meekly, and gently to carry yourself towards them, but yet so that on the other side, it will not make you the more unwilling to die.
But as it fares with them that die an easy, quick death, whose soul is soon separated from their bodies, so must your separation from them be. To these had nature joined and annexed me, now she parts us. I am ready to depart, as from friends and kinsmen, but yet without either hesitation or compulsion. For this is also according to Nature.
Use yourself as often as whenever you see any man do anything, presently, if it's possible, to say to yourself, “What is this man's end in this his action?” But begin this course with yourself first of all, and diligently examine yourself concerning whatever you do.
Remember that whatever sets a man at work and has power over the affections to draw them either one way or the other is not properly any external thing, but that which is hidden within every man's dogma and opinions. That which is rhetoric, that is life; that (to speak truly) is man himself.
As for your body, which as a vessel, or a case, compasses you about, and the many and curious instruments that it has annexed to it, let them not trouble your thoughts. For of themselves they are but as a carpenter's ax, but that they are born with us, and naturally sticking to us.
But otherwise, without the inward cause that has power to move them, and to restrain them, those parts are of themselves of no more use to us than the shuttle is of itself to the weaver, or the pen to the writer, or the whip to the coachman.
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