The natural properties and privileges of a reasonable soul are that she sees that she can order and compose herself, that she makes herself however she wants, that she reaps her own fruits, whereas plants, trees, unreasonable creatures, whatever fruit (whether proper fruit or analogically only) they bear, they bear them to others, and not to themselves.
Again, whenever and wherever, sooner or later, her life will end, she has her own end nevertheless. For it is not with her, as with dancers and players, who if they are interrupted in any part of their action, the whole action must be imperfect. She in whatever part of time or action she is surprised, can make that which she has in her hand, whatever it is, complete and full, so that she may depart with that comfort.
"I have lived; neither want I anything of that which properly belonged to me." Again, she compasses the whole world, and penetrates into the vanity, and mere outside (wanting substance and solidity) of it, and stretches herself to the infinity of eternity. The revolution or restoration of all things after a certain period of time to the same state and place as before, she fetches about and comprehends in herself.
She also considers in addition, and sees clearly that neither they that shall follow us will see any new thing that we have not seen, nor they that went before anything more than we, but that he that is once come to forty (if he has any wit at all) can in a manner (for that they are all of one kind) see all things, both past and future.
As proper is it, and natural to the soul of man to love her neighbor, to be true and modest; and to regard nothing so much as herself, which is also the property of the law. Whereby by the way it appears that sound reason and justice comes all to one, and therefore that justice is the chief thing that reasonable creatures ought to propose to themselves as their end.
A pleasant song or dance; the Pancratiast's exercise, sports that you would to be much taken with, you will easily contemn. If you will divide the harmonious voice into so many particular sounds it consists of, and of every one in particular, you shall ask yourself whether this or that sound it is that it conquers you. For you will be ashamed of it.
And so for shame, if accordingly you will consider every particular motion and posture by itself. So for the wrestler's exercise, too. Generally then, whatever it is besides virtue and those things that proceed from virtue that you are subject to be much affected with, remember presently to divide it, and by this kind of division, in each particular to attain to the contempt of the whole.
This you must transfer and apply to your whole life also.
That soul which is ever ready, even now if need be, to leave the body, whether by way of extinction, or dispersion, or continuation in another place and state to be separated, how blessed and happy is it!
But this readiness of it must proceed, not from an obstinate and peremptory resolution of the mind, violently and passionately set upon opposition, as Christians usually are, but from a peculiar judgment, with discretion and gravity, so that others may be also persuaded and drawn to the example, but without any noise and passionate exclamations.
Have I done anything charitably? Then I have benefited from it. See that upon all occasions this may present itself to your mind, and never cease to think about it.
What is your profession? To be good. And how should this be well brought to pass, but by certain theorems and doctrines, some concerning the nature of the universe, and some concerning the proper and particular constitution of man?
Tragedies were at first brought in and instituted to put men in mind of worldly chances and casualties. These things in the ordinary course of nature happened that men that were much pleased and delighted by such accidents upon this stage would not be grieved by the same things in a greater stage and affliction.
Here you see what is the end of all such things, and that even they that cry out so mournfully to Cithaeron2, must bear them for all their cries and exclamations, as well as others. And in truth many good things are spoken by these poets. For example, this is an excellent passage: "But if it is so that I and my two children are neglected by the gods, they have some reason even for that."
And again, "It will but little avail you to storm and rage against the things themselves." Again, "To reap one's life as ripe grain." Whatever else is to be found in them, that is of the same kind.
After the tragedy, the ancient comedy was brought in, which had the liberty to inveigh against personal vices, being therefore through this her freedom and liberty of speech of very good use and effect. It restrained men from pride and arrogance.
To which end it was that Diogenes took also the same liberty. After these, what were either the Middle, or New Comedy admitted for, but merely, (or for the most part at least) for the delight and pleasure of curious and excellent imitation?
"It will steal away; look to it." Why, no man denies that these also have some good things that may be one: but the whole drift and foundation of that kind of dramatic poetry, what is it else, but as we have said?
How clearly does it appear to you that no other course of your life could fit a true philosopher's practice better than this very course that you are now already in?
A branch cut off from the continuity of that which was next to it must be cut off from the whole tree. A man that is divided from another man is divided from the whole society. A branch is cut off by another, but he that hates and is averse cuts himself off from his neighbor. He doesn't know that at the same time he divides himself from the whole body, or corporation.
But herein is the gift and mercy of God, the Author of this society, in that, once cut off we may grow together and become a part of the whole again.
But if this happens, often the misery is that the further a man is run in this division, the harder he is to be reunited and restored again.
However the branch which, once cut of afterwards was grafted in, gardeners can tell you is not like that which sprouted together at first, and still continued in the unity of the body.
Grow together like fellow branches in the matter of good correspondence and affection, but not in matter of opinions. As it is not in the power of those that will oppose you in your right courses to divert you from your good action, so neither let it be to divert you from your good affection towards them.
But take care to keep yourself constant in both; both in a right judgment and action, and in true meekness towards them that either endeavor to hinder you, or at least will be displeased with you for what you have done.
For to fail in either (either in the one to give over for fear, or in the other to forsake your natural affection towards him, who by nature is both your friend and your kinsman) is equally base, and much savoring of the disposition of a cowardly fugitive soldier.
It is not possible that any nature should be inferior to an area, since all areas imitate nature. If this is so, that the most perfect and general nature of all natures should in her operation, come short of the skill of areas is most improbable. Now it is common to all areas to make that which is worse, better. Much more then does the common nature do the same.
This is the first ground of justice. From justice all other virtues have their existence. For justice cannot be preserved, if either we settle our minds and affections upon worldly things, or be apt to be deceived, or rash, and inconstant.
The things themselves which you are put to so much trouble either to get or to avoid don't come to you themselves, but you in a manner go to. Let your own judgment and opinion concerning those things be at rest. As for the things themselves, they stand still and quiet, without any noise or stir at all, and so shall all pursuing and flying cease.
It is the soul, as Empedocles likens it, like a sphere or globe, when she is all of one form and figure. When she neither greedily stretches herself out to anything, nor basely contracts herself, or lies flat and dejected; but shines with all light, whereby she sees and beholds the true nature, both that of the universe and her own in particular.
Will any hold me in contempt? let him look to that, upon what grounds does he does it. My care shall be that I may never be found either doing or speaking anything that truly deserves contempt. Will any hate me? let him look to that.
I for my part will be kind and loving to all, and even to him that hates me, whoever he is, I will be ready to show his error. Not by way of criticism or ostentation of my patience, but ingenuously and meekly, such as was that famous Phocion, if it is that he didn't dissemble.
For it is inwardly that these things must be. The gods who look inwardly, and not upon the outward appearance, may behold a man truly free from all indignation and grief. For what hurt can it be to you whatever any other man does, as long as you may do that which is proper and suitable to your own nature?
Will you, a man wholly appointed to be both what, and as the common good shall require, accept that which is now seasonable to the nature of the universe?
They look at one another with contempt, and yet they seek to please one another. And while they seek to surpass one another in worldly pomp and greatness, they most debase and prostitute themselves in their better part to one another.
How rotten and insincere is anyone who says "I am resolved to carry myself hereafter towards you with all ingenuity and simplicity." Oh, man, what do you mean?! What does this profession of yours need? The thing itself will show it. It ought to be written on your forehead.
No sooner is your voice heard than your countenance must be able to show what is in your mind; even as he that is loved knows presently by the looks of his sweetheart what is in her mind.
Such must he be for all the world that is truly simple and good, as he whose armpits are offensive, that whoever stands by him, as soon as ever he comes near him may smell him whether he wants to or not. But the affectation of simplicity is in no way laudable.
There is nothing more shameful than perfidious friendship. That must be avoided above all things. However, true goodness, simplicity, and kindness cannot be so hidden, but that as we have already said in the very eyes and countenance they will show themselves.
To live happily is an inward power of the soul, when she is affected with indifference towards those things that are by their nature indifferent. To be thus affected she must consider all worldly objects both divided and whole, remembering that no object can of itself beget any opinion in us. Neither can it come to us but stands still and quiet, but that we ourselves beget, and as it were print in ourselves opinions concerning them.
Now, it is in our power not to print them; and if they creep in and lurk in some corner, it is in our power to wipe them off. Remembering moreover, that this care and circumspection of yours is to continue but for a while, and then your life will be at an end.
And what should hinder, but that you may do well with all these things? For if they are according to nature, rejoice in them, and let them be pleasing and acceptable to you.
But if they are against nature, seek that which is according to your own nature, and whether it is for your credit or not, use all possible speed for the attainment of it. For no one ought to be blamed for seeking their own good and happiness.
Of everything you must consider from where it came, what it consists of, and what it will be changed into. What will be the nature of it, or what it will be like when it is changed? Consider that it can suffer no harm by this change.
And as for other men's foolishness or wickedness, that it may not trouble and grieve you; first generally this, what reference do I have to these? And that we are all born for one another's good, then more particularly after another consideration, as a ram is first in a flock of sheep, and a bull in a herd of cattle, so I am born to rule over them.
Begin yet higher, even from this: if atoms are not the beginning of all things, than which to believe nothing can be more absurd, then we must grant that there is a nature that governs the universe. If there is such a nature, then all worse things are made for the better's sake; and all better for one another's sake.
Secondly, what manner of men they are, at board, and upon their beds, and so forth. But above all things, how they are forced by their opinions that they hold to do what they do. Even those things that they do, with what pride and self-conceit they do them.
Thirdly, that if they do these things correctly, you have no reason to be grieved. But if not correctly, it must be that they do them against their wills, and through mere ignorance. For as, according to Plato's opinion, no soul willingly errs, so by consequent neither does it do anything otherwise than it should, but against her will.
Therefore they are grieved whenever they hear themselves charged, either of injustice or immorality, or covetousness, or in general, of any injurious kind of dealing towards their neighbors.
Fourthly, that you yourself transgress in many things, and are even such as they are. And though perchance you forbear the very act of some sins, yet have you in yourself a habitual disposition to them, but that either through fear, or vainglory, or some such other ambitious foolish respect, you are restrained.
Fifthly, that whether they have sinned or not, you do not understand perfectly. For many things are done by way of discreet policy; and generally a man must know many things first, before he is truly and judiciously able to judge of another man's action.
Sixthly, that whenever you do take on grievously, or make great woe, little do you remember then that a man's life is but for a moment of time, and that within a while we shall all be in our graves.
Seventhly, that it is not the sins and transgressions themselves that trouble us properly, for they have their existence in their minds and understandings only that commit them, but our own opinions concerning those sins. Remove then, and be content to part with that conceit of yours that it is a grievous thing, and you have removed your anger.
But how should I remove it? How? Reasoning with yourself that it is not shameful. For if that which is shameful, is not the only true evil that is, you also will be driven while you follow the common instinct of nature to avoid that which is evil, to commit many unjust things, and to become a thief, and anything, that will make to the attainment of your intended worldly ends.
Eighthly, how many things may and do often follow upon such fits of anger and grief? They are far more grievous in themselves, than those very things which we are so grieved or angry for.
Ninthly, that meekness is a thing unconquerable, if it is true and natural, and not affected or hypocritical. For how shall even the most fierce and malicious that you will conceive of be able to hold on against you if you will still continue meek and loving to him, and that even at that time, when he is about to do you wrong, you will be well disposed, and in good temper, with all meekness to teach him, and to instruct him better?
As for example, "My son, we were not born for this, to hurt and annoy one another. It will be your hurt, not mine, my son." And so to show him forcibly and fully that it is so indeed, and that neither bees do it to one another, nor any other creatures that are naturally sociable.
But you must do this, not scoffing, not by way of accusation, but tenderly and without any harshness of words. Neither must you do it by way of exercise, or ostentation, that they that are by and hear you may admire you, but so always that nobody is privy to it but he alone. Yes, even though there are more present at the same time.
See that you remember these nine particular heads, as so many gifts from the Muses, well. Begin one day while you are yet alive to be a man indeed. But on the other side you must take heed, as much to flatter them, as to be angry with them, for both are equally uncharitable and equally hurtful.
And in your passions, take it presently to your consideration that to be angry is not the part of a man, but that to be meek and gentle, as it savors of more humanity, so of more manhood. That in this there is strength and nerves, or vigor and fortitude, whereof anger and indignation is altogether void. For the nearer everything is to dispassionateness, the nearer it is to power.
And as grief proceeds from weakness, so does anger. For both, both he that is angry and that grieves have received a wound, and cowardly have as it were yielded themselves to their affections.
If you will have a tenth also, receive this tenth gift from Hercules the guide and leader of the Muses, that is a madman's part to look that there should be no wicked men in the world, because it is impossible. Now for a man to brook well enough, that there should be wicked men in the world, but not to endure that any should transgress against himself is against all equity, and indeed tyrannical.
Four several dispositions or inclinations there are of the mind and understanding, which to be aware of you must carefully observe, and whenever you do discover them you must rectify them, saying to yourself concerning every one of them, this imagination is not necessary; this is uncharitable.
This you will speak as another man's slave, or instrument, than which nothing can be more senseless and absurd. For the fourth, you will sharply check and upbraid yourself, for that you suffer that more divine part in you to become subject and obnoxious to that more ignoble part of your body, and the gross lusts thereof.
What portion either of air or fire is there in you, although by nature it tends upwards? It nevertheless submits to the ordinance of the universe, abiding here below in this mixed body. So whatever is in you, either earthy or humid, although by nature it tends downwards, yet is it against its nature both raised upwards, and standing, or consistent.
So obedient are even the elements themselves to the universe, abiding patiently wherever (though against their nature) they are placed, until the sound as it were of their retreat and separation. Is it not a grievous thing then, that your reasonable part only should be disobedient, and should not endure to keep its place. Yes, though it is nothing joined that is contrary to it, but only that which is according to its nature?
For we cannot say of it when it is disobedient, as we say of the fire, or air, that it tends upwards towards its proper element, for then it goes quite the contrary way. For the motion of the mind to any injustice, or incontinence, or to sorrow, or to fear, is nothing else but a separation from nature.
Also when the mind is grieved for anything that has happened by the divine providence, then does it likewise forsake its own place. For it was ordained to holiness and godliness, which specially consist in a humble submission to God and His providence in all things, as well as to justice. These also are part of those duties, which as naturally sociable we are bound to, and without which we cannot happily converse one with another. Yes, and the very ground and fountain indeed of all just actions.
He that doesn't always have one and the same general end as long as he lives can't possibly always be one and the same man. But this will not suffice except that you also add what ought to be this general end.
For as the general conceit and apprehension of all those things which upon no certain ground are by the greater part of men deemed good, cannot be uniform and agreeable, but that only which is limited and restrained by some certain proprieties and conditions, as of community.
Nothing is conceived of as good which is not commonly and publicly good. So must the end also be that we propose to ourselves, be common and sociable. For he who directs all his own private motions and purposes to that end, all his actions will be agreeable and uniform. By that means he will still be the same man.
Remember the fable of the country mouse and the city mouse, and the great fright and terror that this was put into them.17
Socrates was accustomed to call the common conceits and opinions of men "the common bugbears of the world, the proper terror of silly children."
The Lacedaemonians at their public spectacles were accustomed to appoint seats and forms for their strangers in the shade, they themselves were content to sit anywhere.
What Socrates answered to Perdiccas, why he didn't come to him, lest of all deaths I should die the worst kind of death, said he. That is, not able to requite the good that has been done to me.
In the ancient mystical letters of the Ephesians1, there was an item that a man should always have in his mind some one or another of the ancient worthies.
The first thing The Pythagoreans18 were at times used to do in the morning was to look up to the sky, to put themselves in mind of them who constantly and invariably performed their task. Also to put themselves in mind of orderliness, or good order, and of purity, and of naked simplicity. For no star or planet has any cover before it.
How Socrates looked, when he had to gird himself with a skin, Xanthippe his wife having taken away his clothes, and carried them abroad with her, and what he said to his fellows and friends, who were ashamed; and out of respect to him, retired themselves when they saw him thus decked.
In the matter of writing or reading you must be taught before you can do either. It is much more in the matter of life. "For you are born a mere slave to your senses and brutish affections," destitute without teaching of all true knowledge and sound reason.
"My heart smiled within me; They will accuse even virtue herself; with heinous and opprobrious words."
As they that long after figs in winter when they cannot be had, so are they that long after children before they are granted them.
"As often as a father kisses his child he should say secretly with himself," said Epictetus, "tomorrow perchance shall he die." But these words are ominous. No ominous words (said he) that signify anything that is natural; in very truth and deed not more ominous than this, "to cut down grapes when they are ripe."
Green grapes, ripe grapes, dried grapes, or raisins; so many changes and mutations of one thing, not into that which was not absolute, but rather so many several changes and mutations, not into that which has no being at all, but into that which is not yet in being.
"Of the free will there is no thief or robber" out of Epictetus, whose is this also: "That we should find a certain area and method of assenting; and that we should always observe with great care and heed the inclinations of our minds that they may always be with their due restraint and reservation, always charitable, and according to the true worth of every present object.
"And as for earnest longing, that we should altogether avoid it and to be averse only to those things that wholly depend of our own wills. It is not about ordinary petty matters, believe it, that all our strife and contention is, but whether, with the vulgar, we should be mad, or by the help of philosophy wise and sober," said he.
Socrates said, "What will you have? The souls of reasonable or unreasonable creatures? Of reasonable. But what? Of those whose reason is sound and perfect? Or of those whose reason is vitiated and corrupted? Of those whose reason is sound and perfect. Then why not work for such? Because we have them already. What then do you so strive and contend between yourself?"