He that is unjust is also impious. For the nature of the universe, having made all reasonable creatures for one another, to that end that they should do good to one another; more or less according to the several persons and occasions, but in no way hurt one another. It is manifest that he that transgresses against this, her will, is guilty of impiety towards the most ancient and venerable of all the deities.
For the nature of the universe is the nature the common parent of all, and therefore piously to be observed of all things that are, and that which now is, to whatever first was, and gave it its being, has relation of blood and kindred. She is also called truth and is the first cause of all truths. He therefore that willingly and wittingly lies is impious, in that he receives, and so commit injustice. He that goes against his will, in that he disagrees with the nature of the universe, and in that striving with the nature of the world he does in his particular way violate the general order of the world.
For he does no better than strive and war against it, who contrary to his own nature applies himself to that which is contrary to truth. For nature had before furnished him with instincts and opportunities sufficient for the attainment of it, which he having hereto neglected, is not now able to discern that which is false from that which is true.
He also that pursues after pleasures, as that which is truly good and flies from pains, as that which is truly evil is impious. For such a one must of necessity often accuse that common nature of distributing many things both to the evil, and to the good, not according to the deserts of either. As to the often bad pleasures, and the causes of pleasures; so to the good, pains, and the occasions of pains. Again, he that fears pains and crossness in this world, fears some of those things which some time or other must happen in the world.
And that we have already showed him to be impious. And he that pursues after pleasures will not spare, to compass his desires, to do that which is unjust, and that is manifestly impious. Now those things which to nature are equally indifferent (for she had not created both, both pain and pleasure, if both had not been equally indifferent to her). They that will live according to nature must in those things (as being of the same mind and disposition that she is) be as equally indifferent.
Whoever therefore in either matter of pleasure and pain; death and life; honor and dishonor, (which things nature indifferently makes use of in the administration of the world) is not as indifferent, it is apparent that he is impious. When I say that common nature does indifferently make use of them, my meaning is, that they happen indifferently in the ordinary course of things, which by a necessary consequence, whether as principal or accessory, come to pass in the world, according to that first and ancient deliberation of Providence, by which she from some certain beginning resolved upon the creation of such a world, conceiving then in her womb, as it were, some certain rational generative seeds and faculties of future things, whether subjects, changes, successions; both such and such, and just so many.
It would indeed be more happy and comfortable for a man to depart from this world having lived all his life long clear from all falsehood, dissimulation, voluptuousness, and pride. But if this cannot be, it is some comfort for a man to joyfully depart as weary, and out of love with those; rather than to desire to live, and to continue long in those wicked courses.
Has experience not yet taught you to fly from the plague? For a far greater plague is the corruption of the mind, than any certain change and distemper of the common air can be. This is a plague of creatures, as they are living creatures; but that of men as they are men or reasonable.
You must not carry yourself scornfully in matters of death, but as one that is well pleased with it, as being one of those things that nature has appointed. For what you conceive of these, of a boy to become a young man, to wax old, to grow, to ripen, to get teeth, or a beard, or gray hair to beget, to bear, or to be delivered; or what other action it is that is natural to man according to the several seasons of his life; such a thing is it also to be dissolved.
It is therefore the part of a wise man, in matter of death, not in any way to carry himself either violently, or proudly but patiently to wait for it, as one of nature's operations: that with the same mind as now you expect when that which yet is but an embryo in your wife's belly shall come forth, you may expect also when your soul shall fall off from that outward coat or skin: wherein as a child in the belly it lies involved and shut up.
But you desire a more popular, and though not so direct and philosophical, yet a very powerful and penetrative recipe against the fear of death, nothing can make they more willing to part with your life, than if you will consider, both what the subjects themselves are that you will part with, and what manner of disposition you will no more have to do with.
It is true that you must be by no means offended with them, but take care of them, and meekly bear with them. However, this you may remember, that whenever it happens that you do depart, it shall not be from men that held the same opinions that you did. For that indeed, (if it were so) is the only thing that might make you averse to death, and willing to continue here, if it were that you are happy to live with men that had obtained the same belief that you have.
But now, what a toil it is for your to live with men of different opinions, you see: so that you have rather occasion to say, heaven, I pray you, Oh Death; lest I also in time forget myself.
He that sins, sins to himself. He that is unjust, hurts himself, in that he makes himself worse than he was before. Not only that he commits, but he also that omits something, is oftentimes unjust.
If my present apprehension of the object is right, and my present action charitable, and this, towards whatever proceeds from God, will be my present disposition, to be well pleased with it, It suffices.
Wipe away imagination, use deliberation, quench concupiscence, keep the mind free to herself.
Of all unreasonable creatures, there is but one unreasonable soul; and of all that are reasonable, but one reasonable soul, divided between them all. As of all earthly things there is but one earth, and but one light that we see by; and but one air that we breathe, as many as either breathe or see.
Now whatever partakes of some common thing, naturally affects and inclines to that whereof it is part, being of one kind and nature with it. whatever is earthly presses downwards to the common earth. whatever is liquid, would flow together. And whatever is airy, would be together likewise.
So that without some obstacle, and some kind of violence, they cannot well be kept asunder. Whatever is fiery doesn't only tend upwards by reason of the elementary fire; but here also is so ready to join, and to burn together, that whatever doesn't have sufficient moisture to make resistance is easily set on fire.
Therefore, whatever partakes of that reasonable common nature, naturally does as much and more long after his own kind. For by how much in its own nature it excels all other things, by so much more is it desirous to be joined and united to that, which is of its own nature.
As for unreasonable creatures then, they had not long been, but presently begun among them swarms, and flocks, and broods of young ones, and a kind of mutual love and affection. For though but unreasonable, these had yet a kind of soul, and therefore was that natural desire of union stronger and more intense in them than in creatures of a more excellent nature, than either in plants, or stones, or trees.
But among reasonable creatures, begun commonwealths, friendships, families, public meetings, and even in their wars, conventions, and truces. Now among them that were yet of a more excellent nature, as the stars and planets, though by their nature far distant one from another, yet even among them began some mutual correspondence and unity.
So proper is it to excellently in a high degree affect unity, as that even in things so far distant, it could operate to a mutual sympathy. But now behold what now has come to pass. Those creatures that are reasonable are now the only creatures that have forgotten their natural affection and inclination of one towards another.
Among them alone of all other things that are of one kind, there is not to be found a general disposition to flow together. But though they fly from nature, yet are they stopped in their course and apprehended. No matter what they do, nature prevails. And so will you confess, if you observe it. For you may sooner find an earthly thing where no earthly thing is than to find a man that can live by himself alone naturally.
Man, God, the world, every one in their kind bears some fruits, and all things have their proper time to bear them. Though by custom, the word itself is in a manner like the vine, and the like, yet is it so nevertheless, as we have said. As for reason, that bears both common fruit for the use of others, and peculiarly, which itself enjoys. Reason is of a diffusive nature, what itself is in itself, it begets in others, and so multiplies.
Either teach them better if it's in your power; or if it isn't, remember that mildness and goodness was granted to you to bear with them patiently. The gods themselves are good to such. Yea and in some things, (as in matter of health, of wealth, of honor) are often content to further their endeavors, so good and gracious they are. And might you not be so, too?
Or tell me, what hinders you?
Don't labor as one to whom it is appointed to be wretched, nor as one that would either be pitied or admired, but let this be your only care and desire: to always and in all things to prosecute or to forbear, as the law of charity, or mutual society requires.
Today I came out of all my trouble. No, I have cast out all my trouble; it should rather be for that which troubled you, whatever it was, was not without anywhere that you should come out of it, but within in your own opinions, from where it must be cast out, before you can truly and constantly be at ease.
All those things for matter of experience are usual and ordinary, for their continuance is but for a day. For their matter is most base and filthy. As they were in the days of those whom we have buried, so are they now also, and not otherwise.
The things themselves that affect us stand without doors, neither knowing anything themselves nor able to utter anything to others concerning themselves. What then is it, that passes verdict on them? The understanding.
As virtue and wickedness consist not in passion, but in action, so neither does the true good or evil of a reasonable charitable man consist in passion, but in operation and action.
To the stone that is tossed up, when it comes down it is not hurt. Neither does it benefit when it ascends.
Sift their minds and understandings, and see what men they are, whom you stand in fear of what they shall judge of you, what they themselves judge of themselves.
All things that are in the world are always in a state of alteration. You also are in a perpetual change, yea and under corruption too, in some part. So is the whole world.
It is not yours, but another man's sin. Why should it trouble you? Let him look to it, whose sin it is.
Of an operation and of a purpose there is an ending, or of an action and of a purpose we say commonly, that it is at an end. From opinion also there is an absolute cessation, which is as it were the death of it. In all this there is no harm. Apply this now to a man's age, as first, a child; then a youth, then a young man, then an old man; every change from one age to another is a kind of death.
And all this while it is here, there is no matter of grief yet. Pass now to that life first, that which you lived under your grandfather, then under your mother, then under your father.
And thus when through the whole course of your life until now you have found and observed many alterations, many changes, many kinds of endings and cessations, put this question to yourself—what matter of grief or sorrow do you find in any of these?
Or what do you suffer through any of these? If in none of these, then neither in the ending and consummation of your whole life, which is also but a cessation and change.
As occasion requires, either to your own understanding, or to that of the universe, or to his whom you have now to do with, let your refuge be with all speed. To your own, that it resolve upon nothing against justice.
To that of the universe, that you may remember is part of who you are. Of his that you may consider whether in the state of ignorance, or of knowledge. And then also must you call to mind that he is your kinsman.
As you yourself, whoever you are, were made for the perfection and consummation, being a member of it, of a common society; so must every action of yours tend to the perfection and consummation of a life that is truly sociable.Therefore, what action of yours that either immediately or later doesn't have reference to the common good is an exorbitant and disorderly action. Yes, it is seditious, as one among the people who from such and such a consent and unity should divide and separate himself.
Children's anger is mere babbling; wretched souls bearing up dead bodies, that they may not have their fall so soon: even as it is in that common dirge song.
Go to the quality of the cause from which the effect proceeds. Behold it by itself bare and naked, separated from all that is material. Then consider the utmost bounds of time that that cause, thus and thus qualified, can subsist and abide.
The troubles and miseries that you have already been put to are infinite, by reason of this only, because that for all happiness it did not suffice you, or that you didn't account it sufficient happiness, that your understanding operated according to its natural constitution.
When any shall either impeach you with false accusations, or hatefully reproach you, or use any such carriage towards you, get presently into their minds and understandings and look in them. Behold what manner of men they are.
You will see that there is no such occasion why it should trouble you what they think of you. Yet you must love them still, for by nature they are your friends. And the gods themselves, in those things that they seek from them as matters of great moment, are well content, all manner of ways, as by dreams and oracles, to help them as well as others.
Up and down, from one age to another, go the ordinary things of the world, being still the same. And either of everything in particular before it come to pass, the mind of the universe considers with itself and deliberate. If so, then submit for shame to the determination of such an excellent understanding, or once and for all it did resolve on all things in general. Since that whatever happens, happens by a necessary consequence, and all things indivisibly in a manner and inseparably hold one of another. In sum, either there is a God, and then all is well; or if all things go by chance and fortune, yet may you use your own providence in those things that concern you properly; and then are you well.
Within a while the earth will cover us all, and then she herself shall have her change. And then the course will be from one period of eternity to another, and so a perpetual eternity. Now can any man that shall consider with himself in his mind the several rollings or successions of so many changes and alterations, and the swiftness of all these rulings; can he otherwise but contemn in his heart and despise all worldly things? The cause of the universe is as it were a strong torrent, it carries all away.
And these your professed politicians, the only true practical philosophers of the world, (as they think of themselves) so full of affected gravity, or such professed lovers of virtue and honesty, what wretches they are indeed! How vile and contemptible in themselves!
Oh, man! What ado do you keep? Do what your nature now requires. Resolve upon it, if you may, and take no thought whether anybody shall know it or not.
"Yes, but," you say, "I must not expect a Plato's commonwealth. If they profit though never so little, I must be content; and think much even of that little progress." Then do any of them forsake their former false opinions that I should think they profit?
For without a change of opinions, alas! What is all that ostentation, but mere wretchedness of slavish minds, that groan privately, and yet would make a show of obedience to reason, and truth? Go now and tell me of Alexander and Philippus, and Demetrius Phalereus. Whether they understood what the common nature requires, and could rule themselves or not, they know best themselves.
But if they kept a life, and swaggered; I (God be thanked) am not bound to imitate them. The effect of true philosophy is unaffected simplicity and modesty. Persuade me not to ostentation and vainglory.
From some high place as it were to look down, and to behold here flocks, and there sacrifices without number, and all kind of navigation; some in a rough and stormy sea, and some in a calm. The general differences, or different states of things, some that are now first upon being, the several and mutual relations of those things that are together, and some other things that are at their last.
Their lives also, who were long ago, and theirs who shall be hereafter, and the present state and life of those many nations of barbarians that are now in the world, you must likewise consider in your mind. And how many there are who never so much as heard of your name, how many that will soon forget it; how many who but even now commended you, within a very little while perchance will speak ill of you.
So that neither fame, nor honor, nor anything else that this world affords is worth the while. The sum then of all; whatever happens to you, whereof God is the cause, to accept it contentedly. Whatever you do, whereof you yourself are the cause, to do it justly, which will be, if both in your resolution and in your action you have no further end than to do good to others, as being that, which by your natural constitution as a man, you are bound to.
It is in your power to cut off many of those things that trouble and narrow you, as wholly depending from mere conceit and opinion, and then you will have room enough.
Comprehend the whole world together in your mind, and the whole course of this present age to represent it to yourself, and to fix your thoughts upon the sudden change of every particular object. How short the time is from the generation of anything to its dissolution; but how immense and infinite both that which was before the generation, and that which after the generation it will be.
Everything that you see will soon perish, and they that see their corruption will soon vanish themselves. He that dies at a hundred years old, and he that dies young, shall come all to one.
What are their minds and understandings, and the things that they apply themselves to? What do they love, and what do they hate?
Fancy to yourself the state of their souls to be openly seen. When they think they hurt them shrewdly whom they speak ill of, and when they think they do them a very good turn whom they commend and extol, oh, how full are they then of conceit, and opinion!
Loss and corruption is indeed nothing else but change and alteration; and that is it which the nature of the universe most delights in, by which, and according to which, whatever is done is done well. For that was the state of worldly things from the beginning, and so shall it ever be.
Or would you rather say that all things in the world have gone ill from the beginning for so many ages, and shall ever go ill? And then among so many deities, could no divine power be found all this while that could rectify the things of the world? Or is the world forever condemned to incessant woes and miseries?
How base and putrid every common matter is! Water, dust, and bones from the mixture of these, and all that loathsome stuff that our bodies consist of; so subject to be infected and corrupted.
And again those other things that are so much prized and admired, as marble stones, what are they but the kernels of the earth? Gold and silver, what are they, but as the more gross feces of the earth?2 Your most royal apparel, for matter, it is but as it were the hair of a silly sheep, and for color, the very blood of a shellfish; of this nature are all other things.
Your life itself is some such thing too; a mere exhalation of blood, and it also is apt to be changed into some other common thing.*
Will this querulousness, this murmuring, this complaining and dissembling never be at an end? What is it then that troubles you? Does any new thing happen to you? What do you so wonder at, at the cause, or the matter?
Behold either by itself, is either of that weight and moment indeed? And besides these, there is nothing. But your duty towards the gods also, it is time you should acquit yourself of it with more goodness and simplicity.
It is all one thing to see these things for a hundred years together, or but for three years.
If he has sinned, his is the harm, not mine. But perchance he has not.
Either all things by the providence of reason happen to every particular as a part of one general body, and then it is against reason that a part should complain of anything that happens for the good of the whole; or if, according to Epicurus, atoms are the cause of all things and that life is nothing else but an accidental confusion of things, and death nothing else but a mere dispersion and so of all other things, what do you trouble yourself for?
Do you say to that rational part, "you are dead; corruption has taken hold of you?" Does it then also void excrement? Does it, like either oxen or sheep, graze or feed; that it also should be mortal, as well as the body?
Either the gods can do nothing for us at all, or they can still and allay all the distractions and annoyances of your mind. If they can do nothing, why do you pray? If they can, why would you not rather pray that they will grant to you that you may neither fear, nor lust after any of those worldly things which cause these distractions and annoyances of it?
Why not, rather, that you may not be grieved and discontented at either their absence or presence, than either that you may obtain them, or that you may avoid them? For certainly it must be that if the gods can help us in anything, they may in this kind also.
But you will say perchance, "In those things the gods have given me my liberty, and it is in my own power to do what I will." But if you may use this liberty, rather to set your mind at true liberty, than willfully with baseness and servility of mind to affect those things which either to compass or to avoid is not in your power, were you not better?
And as for the gods, who have told you that they may not help us up even in those things that they have put in our own power? Whether it be so or not, you will soon perceive if you will only try yourself and pray.
One prays that he may compass his desire, to lie with such or such a one, you pray that you may not lust to lie with her. Another how he may be rid of such a one; pray that you may so patiently bear with him, as that you have no such need to be rid of him.
Another, that he may not lose his child. Pray you that you may not fear to lose him. To this end and purpose, let all your prayers be, and see what will be the event.
"In my sickness," says Epicurus of himself, "my discourses were not concerning the nature of my disease, neither was that, to them that came to visit me, the subject of my talk. In the consideration and contemplation of that which was of special weight and moment was all my time bestowed and spent, and among others in this very thing, how my mind, by a natural and unavoidable sympathy partaking in some sort with the present indisposition of my body, might nevertheless keep herself free from trouble, and in present possession of her own proper happiness.
"Neither did I leave the ordering of my body to the physicians altogether to do with me what they would, as though I expected any great matter from them, or as though I thought it a matter of such great consequence, by their means to recover my health.
"For my present state, I thought, liked me very well, and gave me good content." Whether therefore in sickness (if you chance to sicken) or in whatever other kind of extremity, endeavor also to be in your mind so affected, as he reports of himself. Not to depart from your philosophy for anything that can befall you, nor to give ear to the discourses of silly people, and mere naturalists.
It is common to all trades and professions to mind and intend only that which now they are about, and the instruments they work with.
When at any time you are offended with any one's impudence, put this question to yourself: "What? Is it then possible that there should not be any impudent men in the world?! Certainly it is not possible."
Don't desire, then, that which is impossible. For this one, (you must think) whoever he is, is one of those impudent ones that the world cannot be without. So of the subtle and crafty, so of the perfidious, so of every one that offends, must you ever be ready to reason with yourself.
For while in general you reason like that with yourself, that the kind of them must be in the world, you will be the better able to use meekness towards every particular one. You will also will find of very good use, upon every such occasion, presently to consider with yourself what proper virtue nature has furnished man with against such a vice, or to encounter with a disposition vicious in this kind.
As for example, against the unthankful, it has given goodness and meekness as an antidote, and so against another vicious in another kind some other peculiar faculty. And generally, isn't it in your power to instruct him better, that he is in an error?
For whoever sins, does in that decline from his purposed end, and is certainly deceived. And again, what are you the worse for his sin? For you will not find that any one of these against whom you are incensed has in very deed done anything whereby your mind (the only true subject of your hurt and evil) can be made worse than it was.
And what a matter of either grief or wonder is this, if he that is unlearned, do the deeds of one that is unlearned? Shouldn't you rather blame yourself, who, when upon very good grounds of reason, you might have thought it very probable that such a thing would by such a one be committed, did not only not foresee it, but moreover wonder at it, that such a thing should be.
But then especially, when you find fault with either an unthankful, or a false man, must you reflect upon yourself. For without all question, you yourself are much in fault, if either of one that were of such a disposition, you expected that he should be true to you. Or when to any you did a good turn, you did not there bound your thoughts as one that had obtained his end; nor did not think that from the action itself you had received a full reward of the good that you had done. For what would you have more?
To him that is a man, you have done a good turn. Does that not suffice you? What your nature required, that you have done. Must you be rewarded for it? As if either the eye for that it sees, or the feet that they go, should require satisfaction.
For as these being by nature appointed for such a use, can challenge no more than that they may work according to their natural constitution. So man being born to do good to others whensoever he does a real good to any by helping them out of error; or though but in middle things, as in matter of wealth, life, preferment, and the like, helps to further their desire that he does that for which he was made, and therefore can require no more.
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