This also, among other things, may serve to keep you from foolish pride, if you will consider that you are now altogether incapable of the commendation of one who all his life long, or from his youth at least, has lived a philosopher's life. For both to others, and to yourself especially, it is well known that you have done many things contrary to that perfection of life.
You have therefore been confounded in your course, and from now on it will be hard for you to recover the title and credit of a philosopher. And your professional calling is repugnant to it, also2. Therefore if you truly understand indeed what it is that is of moment; as for your fame and credit, take no thought or care for that; let it suffice you if all the rest of your life, be it more or less, you will live as your nature requires, or according to the true and natural end of your making.
Therefore take pains to know what it is that your nature requires, and let nothing else distract you. you have already had sufficient experience, that of those many things that until now you have erred and wandered about, you could not find happiness in any of them. Not in syllogisms, and logical subtleties, not in wealth, not in honor and reputation, not in pleasure. In none of all these.
Then where is it to be found? In the practice of those things which the nature of man requires, as he is a man. How then shall he do those things? If his dogma, or moral tenets and opinions (from which all motions and actions proceed), are right and true. Which are those dogma? Those that concern that which is good or evil, as there is nothing truly good and beneficial to man but that which makes him just, temperate, courageous, and liberal; and that there is nothing truly evil and hurtful to man but that which causes the contrary effects.
Whatever you do, ask yourself; How will this agree with me when it's done? Shall I have no occasion to regret it? Yet a very little while and I am dead and gone, and all things are at an end. Then what do I care for more than this, that my present action, whatever it is, may be the proper action of one that is reasonable, whose end is the common good; who in all things is ruled and governed by the same law of right and reason by which God Himself is.
Alexander, Caius, Pompeius; what are these to Diogenes, Heraclitus, and Socrates? The latter penetrated into the true nature of things; into all causes, and all subjects: and upon these they exercised their power and authority. But as for the former, the extent of their error was how far their slavery extended.
What they have done they will still do, even though you feel like you should hang yourself. First, don't let it trouble you. For all things both good and evil come to pass according to the nature and general condition of the universe, and within a very little while, all things will be at an end; no man will be remembered, as now of Africanus (for example) and Augustus it has already come to pass.
Then secondly, fix your mind on the thing itself; look into it, and remembering that you are bound nevertheless to be a good man, and what it is that your nature requires of you, and as you are a man, don't be diverted from what you're about, and speak that which seems to you most just; only speak it kindly, modestly, and without hypocrisy.
That which the nature of the universe busies herself about is that which is here, to transfer it there, to change it, and then again to take it away, and to carry it to another place. So that you need not fear any new thing. For all things are usual and ordinary; and all things are disposed by equality.
Every particular nature speeds to its content in its own proper course. A reasonable nature then speeds, when first in matter of fancies and imaginations, it gives no consent to that which is either false or uncertain.
Secondly, when in all its motions and resolutions it takes its level at the common good only, and that it desires nothing, and runs from nothing, but what is in its own power to encompass or avoid.
And lastly, when it willingly and gladly embraces whatever is dealt and appointed to it by the common nature. For it is part of it, even as the nature of any one leaf is part of the common nature of all plants and trees. But that the nature of a leaf is part of a nature both unreasonable and insensible, and which in its proper end may be hindered; or, which is servile and slavish: whereas the nature of man is part of a common nature which cannot be hindered, and which is both reasonable and just.
From where it also is, that according to the worth of everything, she makes such equal distribution of all things, as of duration, substance, form, operation, and of events and accidents. But herein don't consider whether you will find this equality in everything absolutely and by itself, but whether in all the particulars of some one thing taken together, and compared with all the particulars of some other thing, and them together likewise.
You have no time nor opportunity to read? What? Don't you have time and opportunity to exercise, to not wrong yourself, to strive against all carnal pleasures and pains, to get the upper hand of them, to contemn dishonor and vainglory; and not only, to not be angry with them whom towards you you find insensible and unthankful; but also to have a care of them still, and of their welfare?
Stop complaining about the trouble of a courtly life, either in public before others or in private by yourself.
Regret is an inward and self-reprehension for the neglect or omission of something that was profitable. Now whatever is good is also profitable, and it is the part of an honest virtuous man to set by it, and to make reckoning of it accordingly. But never did any honest virtuous man regret the neglect or omission of any carnal pleasure: no carnal pleasure then is either good or profitable.
What is this thing, what is it in itself, and by itself, according to its proper constitution? What is the substance of it? What is the matter, or proper use? What is the form or efficient cause? What is it for in this world, and how long will it last? This is how you must examine all things that present themselves to you.
When you have a hard time waking up in the morning, remind yourself that performing actions tending to the common good is what is your own proper constitution demands, and that which the nature of man requires. But to sleep is also common to unreasonable creatures. And what more proper and natural, what more kind and pleasing, than that which is according to nature?
As every fancy and imagination presents itself to you, consider, if it's be possible, the true nature and the proper qualities of it, and reason with yourself about it.
At your first encounter with anyone, say presently to yourself, "What are this man's opinions concerning that which is good or evil? As concerning pain, pleasure, and the causes of both; concerning honor and dishonor, concerning life and death?" This.
Now if it is no wonder that a man should have such and such opinions, how can it be a wonder that he should do such and such things? I will remember then that he can only do as he does, holding those opinions that he does. Remember, that as it is a shame for any man to wonder that a fig tree should bear figs, so also to wonder that the world should bear anything, whatever it is which in the ordinary course of nature it may bear.
To a physician also and to a pilot it is a shame either for the one to wonder, that such and such a one should have an ague; or for the other, that the winds should prove Contrary.
Remember that to change your mind upon occasion, and to follow him that is able to correct you, is equally ingenuous, as to find out at the first what is right and just without help. For nothing is required of you that is beyond the extent of your own deliberation and merit, and of your own understanding.
If it were up to you to act and in your power, would you do it? If it were not, who would you then accuse? The atoms or the gods? For to do either is the part of a madman. You must therefore blame nobody, but if it is in your power, redress what is amiss; if it isn't, to what end is it to complain? For nothing should be done but to some certain end.
Whatever dies and falls, however and wheresoever it dies and falls, it cannot fall out of the world; here it has its abode and change, here shall it also have its dissolution into its proper elements. The same are the world's elements, and the elements of which you consist. And when they are changed, they don't murmur; why should you?
Whatever anything is, it was made for something: as a horse, a vine. Why do you wonder? The sun itself will say of itself, I was made for something; and so has every god its proper function. What then were they made for? To disport and delight you? See, how even common sense and reason cannot brook it.
Nature has its end as well in the end and final consummation of anything that is, as in the beginning and continuation of it.
A ball is tossed in the air. Is it better going up, worse when coming down, and what if it hits the ground? So for the bubble; if it continues, is it better? And if it dissolves, is it worse? And so is it of a candle, too. So you must reason with yourself, both in matter of fame, and in matter of death.
For as for the body itself, (the subject of death) would you know the vileness of it? Turn it about that you may behold of it the worst sides, upwards as well, as in its more ordinary pleasant shape; how does it look, when it is old and withered? When sick and pained? when in the act of lust, and fornication?
And as for fame, this life is short. Both he that praises and he that is praised; he that remembers, and he that is remembered, will soon be dust and ashes. Besides, it is but in one corner of this part of the world that you are praised; and yet in this corner, you have not the joint praises of all men; no nor scarce of any one constantly. And yet the whole earth itself, what is it but as one point, in regard of the whole universe?
What must be the subject of your consideration is either the matter itself, or the dogma, or the operation, or the true sense and significance.
These things have happened to you most justly. Why don't you make amends? Oh, but you'd rather become good tomorrow than to be so today.
Shall I do it? I will; so the end of my action is to do good to men. Should anything by way of crossness or adversity happen to me, I accept it, with reverence to the gods and their providence; the fountain of all things, from which whatever comes to pass, hangs and depends.
By one action judge of the rest: this bathing which usually takes up so much of our time, what is it? Oil, sweat, filth; or the sordes of the body: an excrementitious viscosity, the excrements of oil and other ointments used about the body, and mixed with the sordes of the body: all base and loathsome. And such almost is every part of our life; and every worldly object.
Lucilla buried Verus; then Lucilla herself was buried by others. So was Secunda Maximus, then Secunda herself. As well as Epitynchanus, Diotimus; then Epitynchanus himself. So Antoninus Pius, Faustina his wife; then Antoninus himself.
This is the course of the world. First Celer, Adrianus; then Adrianus himself. And those austere ones; those that foretold other men's deaths; those that were so proud and stately, where are they now? Those austere ones I mean, such as were Charax, and Demetrius the Platonic, and Eudaemon, and others like those. They were all but for one day; all dead and gone long since.
Some of them no sooner dead than forgotten. Others soon turned into fables. Of others, even that which was fabulous, is now long since forgotten. You must thereafter remember this, that whatever you are made of shall soon be dispersed, and that your life and breath, or your soul, shall either be no more or shall translated, and appointed to some certain place and station.
The true joy of a man is to do that which properly belongs to man. That which is most proper to a man, is, first, to be kind towards those who are of the same kind and nature as he is himself, condemning all sensual motions and appetites, discerning rightly all plausible fancies and imaginations, contemplating the nature of the universe; both it and things that are done in it.
In which kind of contemplation three several relations are to be observed: The first, to the apparent secondary cause. The Second to the first original cause, God, from whom originally proceeds whatever happens in the world. The third and last, to them that we live and converse with: what use may be made of it, to their use and benefit.
If pain is evil, either it is in regard of the body; (and that cannot be, because the body of itself is altogether insensible) or in regard of the soul. But it is in the power of the soul to preserve her own peace and tranquility, and not to suppose that pain is evil. For all judgment and deliberation; all prosecution, or aversion is from within, where the sense of evil (unless it's let in by opinion) cannot penetrate.
Wipe off all idle fancies, and say to yourself incessantly “Now if I will, it is in my power to keep all wickedness out of my soul; all lust, and sexual desire, all trouble and confusion.
“But on the contrary to behold and consider all things according to their true nature, and to carry myself towards everything according to its true worth.' Remember then this, your power that nature has given you.
Whether you speak in the Senate or whether you speak to any particular person, let your speech always be grave and modest. But you must not openly and vulgarly observe that sound and exact form of speaking, concerning that which is truly good and truly civil; the vanity of the world, and of worldly men, which otherwise truth and reason prescribes.
Augustus, his court, his wife, his daughter, his nephews, his sons-in-law, his sister, Agrippa, his kinsmen, his domestics, his friends; Areus, Maecenas, his slayers of beasts for sacrifice and divination: there you have the death of a whole court together.
Proceed now on to the rest that have been since that of Augustus. Has death dwelt with them otherwise, though so many and so stately while they lived, than it does use to deal with any one particular man?
Consider now the death of a whole kindred and family, as of that of the Pompeys, as that also that used to be written upon some monuments, HE WAS THE LAST OF HIS OWN KINDRED. Oh, what care did his predecessors take, that they might leave a successor, yet behold at last one or other must of necessity be THE LAST. Here again therefore consider the death of a whole kindred.
Contract your whole life to the measure and proportion of one single action. And if in every particular action you perform is fitting to the utmost of your power, let it suffice. And who can hinder you, but that you may perform what is fitting? But there may be some outward let and impediment. Not any can hinder you, but that whatever you do, do it justly, temperately, and with the praise of God.
Yea, but there may be something, whereby some operation or other of you may be hindered. And then, with that very thing that hinders, you may he well pleased, and so by this gentle and unanimous conversion of your mind to that which may be, instead of that which at first you intended, in the room of that former action there succeeds another, which agrees as well with this contraction of your life that we now speak of.
Receive temporary blessings without ostentation when they are sent, and you will be able to part with them with all readiness and facility when they are taken from you again.
If you ever saw either a hand, or a foot, or a head lying by itself in some place or other, as cut off from the rest of the body, such must you conceive him to make himself, as much as in him lies, that he is either offended with anything that has happened, (whatever it was) and as it were, divides himself from it: or that it commits anything against the natural law of mutual correspondence, and society among men; or, he that commits any act of uncharitableness.
Whoever you are, you are such, you are cast forth, I know not where out of the general unity, which is according to nature. You were born indeed a part, but now you have cut yourself off.
However, herein is a matter of joy and exultation, that you may be united again. God has not granted it to any other part, that once separated and cut off, it might be reunited, and come together again. But, behold, that goodness how great and immense it is! Which has so much esteemed man.
As at first he was so made, that he didn't need, except he would himself, have divided himself from the whole; so once divided and cut off, it has so provided and ordered it, that if he would himself, he might return, and grow together again and be admitted into its former rank and place of a part, as he was before.
As almost all of her other faculties and properties, the nature of the universe has imparted to every reasonable creature, so this in particular we have received from her that as whatever opposes her, and withstands her in her purposes and intentions, though against its will and intention, she brings it about to herself to serve herself of it in the execution of her own destined ends; and so by this (though not intended) co-operation of it with herself makes it part of herself whether it will or not.
So may every reasonable creature that crosses and impedes it meets with in the course of this mortal life, it may use them as fit and proper objects to the furtherance of whatever it intended and absolutely proposed to itself as its natural end and happiness.
Don't let the general representation of the wretchedness of this mortal life trouble you. Don't let your mind wander up and down, and heap together the many troubles and grievous calamities which you are as subject to as any other in her thoughts.
But as everything in particular happens, put this question to yourself, and say “What is it that in this present matter seems to you so intolerable?' For you will be ashamed to confess it.
Then upon this you should presently call to mind that neither that which is future, nor that which is past can hurt you, but that only which is present (And that also is much lessened, if you lightly circumscribe it) in her thoughts, and then check your mind if only for so little a while, (a mere instant), it cannot hold out with patience.
What? Are either Panthea or Pergamus abiding to this day by their masters' tombs? Or either Chabrias or Diotimus by that of Adrianus? Oh, such tomfoolery! For what if they did, would their masters know it? Or if they knew, would they be glad of it? Or if glad, were these immortal?
Was it not also appointed to them (both men and women) to become old in time, and then to die? And these once dead, what would become of the former? And when all is done, what is all this for, but for a mere bag of blood and corruption?
If you are quick-sighted, be so in matter of judgment, and best discretion, says he.
In the whole constitution of man, I see no virtue contrary to justice, whereby it may be resisted and opposed. But one where pleasure and voluptuousness may be resisted and opposed, I see continence.
If you can only withdraw conceit and opinion concerning that which may seem hurtful and offensive, are you yourself as safe, as safe may be? And who is that? Your reason.
"Yea, but I am not reason." Well, so be it. However, don't let your reason or understanding admit to grief, and if there is anything in you that is grieved, let that, whatever it is, conceive its own grief if it can.
That which is a hindrance to the senses is an evil to your sensitive nature. That which is a hindrance of the appetitive and prosecutive faculty is an evil to your sensitive nature. As of the sensitive, so of the vegetative constitution, whatever is a hindrance to it, is also in that respect an evil to the same.
And so likewise, whatever is a hindrance to the mind and understanding must be the proper evil of the reasonable nature. Now apply all those things to yourself. Does either pain or pleasure seize on you? Let the senses look to that. Have you met with some obstacle or other in your purpose and intention? If you proposed without due reservation and exception, now has your reasonable part received a blow indeed!
But if in general you proposed to yourself whatever might be, you are not thereby either hurt, nor properly hindered. For in those things that properly belong to the mind, she cannot be hindered by any man. It is not fire, nor iron; nor the power of a tyrant, nor the power of a slandering tongue; nor anything else that can penetrate into her.
If once round and solid, there is no fear that ever it will change.
Why should I grieve for myself, who never willingly grieved for any other? One thing rejoices one and another thing another. As for me, this is my joy, if my understanding is right and sound, as neither averse from any man, nor refusing any of those things which as a man I am subject to; if I can look on all things in the world meekly and kindly; accept all things and carry myself towards everything according to to true worth of the thing itself.
Bestow upon yourself this time that is now present. They that hunt for fame after death do not consider that those men that shall be hereafter will be even such as these whom now they can so hardly bear with.
And besides they also will be mortal men. But to consider the thing in itself, if so many with so many voices, shall make such and such a sound, or shall have such and such an opinion concerning you, what is it to you?
Take me and throw me where you will: I am indifferent. For there also I shall have that spirit which is within me propitious; that is, well pleased and fully contented, both in that constant disposition, and with those particular actions which to its own proper constitution are suitable and agreeable.
Is this a thing of such worth that my soul should suffer for it, and become worse than it was? As either basely dejected, or inordinately affected, or confounded within itself, or terrified? What can there be that you should esteem so much?
Nothing can happen to you which is not incidental to you, as you are a man. As nothing can happen either to an ox, a vine, or to a stone, which is not incidental to them; to every one in his own kind. If therefore nothing can happen to anything which is not both usual and natural, why are you displeased? Surely the common nature of all would not bring anything upon any that would be intolerable.
If, therefore, it is an external thing that causes you grief, know that it is not that properly that causes it, but your own conceit and opinion concerning the thing, which you may rid yourself of when you want. But if it is something that is amiss in your own disposition that grieves you, you may not rectify your moral tenets and opinions.
But if it grieves you that you don't perform that which seems to you right and just, why don't you choose rather to perform it than to grieve? But something that is stronger than yourself hinders you. Don't let it grieve you then, if it isn't your fault that the thing is not performed.
"Yes, but it is a thing of that nature, as that your life is not worthwhile, except it may be performed." If that is so, upon condition that you be kindly and lovingly disposed towards all men, you may be gone. For even then, as much as at any time, you are in a very good state of performance, when you die in charity with those that are an obstacle to your performance.
Remember that your mind is of that nature as that it becomes altogether unconquerable, when once recalled in herself, she seeks no other content than this, that she cannot be forced. Yea, though it so falls out that it is even against reason itself that it closed handily. How much less when by the help of reason she is able to judge things with discretion?
And therefore let your chief fort and place of defense be a mind free from passions. A stronger place, (where to make his refuge, and so to become impregnable) and better fortified than this, no man has. He that doesn't see this is unlearned. He that sees it and doesn't take himself to this place of refuge is unhappy.
Keep yourself to the first bare and naked apprehensions of things as they present themselves to you, and don't add to them. It is reported to you that such a one speaks ill of you. Well, he that speaks ill of you, so much is reported. But that you are hurt thereby, is not reported. That is the addition of opinion, which you must exclude.
I see that my child is sick. That he is sick, I see, but that he is in danger of his life also, I don't see. You must use this to keep yourself to the first motions and apprehensions of things as they present themselves outwardly, and don't add to them from within yourself through mere conceit and opinion. Or rather add to them, but as one that understands the true nature of all things that happen in the world.
Is the cucumber bitter? Set it away. Brambles are in the way? Avoid them. Let this suffice. Don't start talking to yourself, what do these things serve for in the world? For this—one that is acquainted with the mysteries of nature will laugh at you for it, as a carpenter or a shoemaker would if meeting in either of their shops with some shavings, or small remnants of their work, you should blame them for it.
And yet those men, it is not for want of a place where to throw them that they keep them in their shops for a while, but the nature of the universe has no such out-place. Herein consists the wonder of her art and skill, that she, having once circumscribed herself within some certain bounds and limits, whatever is within her that seems either corrupted, or old, or unprofitable, she can change it into herself, and of these very things can make new things; so that she doesn't need to seek elsewhere out of herself either for a new supply of matter and substance, or for a place where to throw out whatever is irrecoverably putrid and corrupt.
Thus she, as for place, so for matter is herself sufficient to herself.
Don't be slack and negligent, or loose, and wanton in your actions; nor contentious, and troublesome in your conversation; nor to rove and wander in your fancies and imaginations. Not basely to contract your soul; nor boisterously to sally out with it, or furiously to launch out as it were, nor ever to want employment.
"They kill me, they cut my flesh; they persecute my person with curses." What then? May not your mind, for all this, continue pure, prudent, temperate, and just? As a fountain of sweet and clear water, though she be cursed by some bystander, yet do her springs nevertheless still run as sweet and clear as before; yea though either dirt or dung be thrown in, yet is it no sooner thrown, than dispersed, and she is cleared. She cannot be dyed or infected by it. What then must I do, that I may have within myself an overflowing fountain, and not a well? Start by continual pains and endeavors to true liberty with charity, and true simplicity and modesty.
He that doesn't know what the world is doesn't know where he himself is. And he that doesn't know what the world was made for, cannot possibly know either what are the qualities, or what is the nature of the world.
Now he that in either of these is to seek, for what he himself also was made ignorant of. What then do you think of that man, who wanted for himself, as a matter of great moment, the noise and applause of men, who both where they are and what they are themselves, are altogether ignorant?
Do you desire to be commended of that man, who thrice in one hour perchance, curses himself? Do you desire to please him, who doesn't please himself? Or do you think that he pleases himself, who regrets almost everything that he does?
Not only from now on to have a common breath, or to hold correspondence of breath, with that air that surrounds us; but to have a common mind, or to also hold correspondence of mind with that rational substance, which surrounds all things. For that also is of itself, and of its own nature (if a man can only draw it in as he should) everywhere diffused; and passes through all things, no less than the air does, if a man can only suck it in.
Wickedness in general does not hurt the world. Particular wickedness does not hurt any other, only him it is hurtful to, whoever he is that offends, to whom in great favor and mercy it is granted, that whenever he himself shall but first desire it, he may be presently delivered of it.
To my free will my neighbor's free will, whoever he is (as his life, or his abode), is altogether indifferent. For though we are all made for one another, yet each of have our minds and understandings of them of their own proper and limited jurisdiction. For unless another man's wickedness might be my evil, which God would not have, that it might not be in another man's power to make me unhappy. That, nothing now can do but my own wickedness.
The sun seems to be shed abroad. And indeed it is diffused, but not effused. For that diffusion of it is an extension. For therefore the beams of it are stretched out and extended. Now what a sunbeam is you will know if you observe the light of the sun, when through some narrow hole it pierces into some dark room it is always in a direct line.
And as with any solid body that it meets with in the way that is not penetrable by air, it is divided and abrupted, and yet neither slides off, or falls down, but stays there nevertheless. Such must the diffusion in the mind be, not an effusion, but an extension.
What obstacles and impediments she meets in her way, she must not violently, and by way of an impetuous onset light upon them; neither must she fall down; but she must stand, and give light to that which admits it. For as for that which does not, it is its own fault and loss, if it bereaves itself of her light.
He that fears death, either fears that he shall have no sense at all, or that his senses will not be the same. Whereas, he should rather comfort himself, that either no sense at all, and so no sense of evil; or if any sense, then another life, and so no death properly.
All men are made one for another. Either then teach them better, or bear with them.
The motion of the mind is not as the motion of a dart. For the mind when it is wary and cautious, and by way of diligent circumspection turns herself many ways, may then as well be said to go straight on to the object, as when it uses no such circumspection.
Pierce and penetrate into the state of every one's understanding that you have to do with, as also to make your state open, and penetrable to any other.
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