Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Shit Marcus Aurelius (and Epictetus) Actually Did Say about the Gods ("Live a Good Life", Part Two)

1. We are all kinsmen because we all have "the same intelligent divine part" (not because of "blood and seed").  

Meditations, Book II, Chp. 1 (Marcus Aurelius):
"1. Say thus to thyself every morning: to day I may have to do with some intermeddler in other mens affairs, with an ungrateful man; an insolent, or a crafty, or an envious, or an unsociable selfish man. These bad qualities have befallen them through their ignorance of what things are truly good or evil. But I have fully comprehended the nature of good, as only what is beautiful and honourable; and of evil, that it is always deformed and shameful; and the nature of those persons too who mistake their aim; that they are my kinsmen, by partaking, not of the same blood or seed, but of the same intelligent divine part; and that I cannot be hurt by any of them, since none of them can involve me in any thing dishonourable or deformed. I cannot be angry at my kinsmen, or hate them. We were formed by nature for mutual assistance, as the two feet, the hands, the eye-lids, the upper and lower rows of teeth. Opposition to each other is contrary to nature: All anger and aversion is an opposition."

Discourses, Book I, Chp. 3 (Epictetus):
"IF a person could be persuaded of this principle as he ought, that we are all originally descended from Zeus, and that he is the father of men and Gods; I conceive he never would think of himself meanly or ignobly. Suppose Cæsar were to adopt you, there would be no bearing your haughty looks; and will you not feel ennobled on knowing yourself to be the son of Zeus? Yet, in fact, we are not ennobled. But having two things united in our composition, a body in common with the brutes, and reason in common with the Gods, many incline to this unhappy and mortal kindred, and only some few to that which is happy and divine. And, as of necessity every one must treat each particular thing, according to the notions he forms about it; so those few, who suppose that they are made for faith and honor, and a wise use of things, will never think meanly or ignobly concerning themselves. But with the multitude the case is contrary; 'For what am I? A poor contemptible man, with this miserable flesh of mine?' Miserable indeed. But you have likewise something better than this poor flesh. Why then, overlooking that, do you pine away in attention to this?"

2. Our place (and that of the Gods) in the cosmic order: "It is high time to understand what sort of whole you are a part of."

Meditations, Book II, Chps 3-9 (Marcus Aurelius)

"3. Whatever the Gods ordain, is full of wise providence. What we ascribe to fortune, happens not without a presiding nature, nor without a connexion and intertexture with the things ordered by providence. Thence all things flow. Consider, too, the necessity of these events; and their utility to that whole universe of which you are a part. In every regular structure, that must always be good to a part, which the nature of the whole requires, and which tends to preserve it. Now, the universe is preserved, as, by the changes of the Elements, so, by the changes of the complex forms. Let these thoughts suffise; let them be your maxims, laying aside that thirst after multitudes of books; that you may die without repining, meek, and well satisfied, and sincerely grateful to the Gods.
"4. Remember how long you have put off these things; and how often you have neglected to use the opportunities offered you by the Gods. It is high time to understand what sort of whole you are a part of; and who that President in the universe is, from whom you flowed, as a small stream from a great fountain. There is a certain time appointed for you, which, if you don’t employ in making all calm and serene within you, it will pass away, and you along with it; and never more return.
"5. Let this be your steadfast purpose to act continually, in all affairs, as becomes a Roman, and a man, with true unaffected dignity, kindness of heart, freedom, and justice; and disentangle your soul from other solicitudes. You shall thus disentangle yourself, if you perform each action as if it were your last: without temerity, or any passionate aversion to what reason approves; without hypocrisy or selfishness, or fretting at what providence appoints. You see how few these maxims are, to which, whoever adheres, may live a prosperous and divine life. If a man observe these things, the Gods require no more of him.
"6. Go on, go on, o my soul! to affront and dishonour thy self! yet a little while, and the time to honour thyself shall be gone. Each man’s life is flying away, and thine is almost gone, before thou hast paid just honour to thyself; having hitherto made thy happiness dependent on the minds and opinions of others.
"7. Let nothing which befalls thee from without distract thee; and take leisure to thy self, to learn something truly good. Wander no more to and fro; and guard also against this other wandering. For there are some too who trifle away their activity, by wearying themselves in life, without having a settled scope or mark, to which they may direct all their desires and all their projects.
"8. Seldom are any found unhappy for not observing the motions and intentions in the souls of others. But such as observe not well the motions of their own souls, or their affections, must necessarily be unhappy.
"9. Remember these things always: what the nature of the universe is: what thine own nature: and how related to the universe: What sort of part thou art, and of what sort of whole: and that no man can hinder thee to act and speak what is agreeable to that whole, of which thou art a part."

3. That "all things are mutually connected and united" and under "divine administration", and that each of us is assigned a personal daemon.

Discourses, Book I, Chp. XIV (Epictetus)

"WHEN a person asked him, how any one might be convinced that his every act is under divine supervision? Do not you think, said Epictetus, that all things are mutually connected and united?

“'I do.'

"Well; and do not you think, that things on earth feel the influence of the heavenly powers?


"Else how is it that in their season, as if by express command, the Godz bid the plants to blossom and they blossom, to bud and they bud, to bear fruit and they bear it, to ripen it and they ripen; — and when again they bids them drop their leaves, and withdrawing into themselves to rest and wait, they rest and wait? Whence again are there seen, on the increase and decrease of the moon, and the approach and departure of the sun, so great changes and transformations in earthly things? Have then the very leaves, and our own bodies, this connection and sympathy with the whole; and have not our souls much more? But our souls are thus connected and intimately joined to the Gods, as being indeed members and distinct portions of the divine essence; and must not the Gods be sensible of every movement of our souls, as belonging and connatural to them? Can even you think of the divine administration, and every other divine subject, and together with these of human affairs also; can you at once receive impressions on your senses and your understanding, from a thousand objects; at once assent to some things, deny or suspend your judgment concerning others, and preserve in your mind impressions from so many and various objects, by whose aid you can revert to ideas similar to those which first impressed you? Can you retain a variety of arts and the memorials of ten thousand things? And is not Zeus capable of surveying all things, and being present with all, and in communication with all? Is the sun capable of illuminating so great a portion of the universe, and of leaving only that small part of it unilluminated, which is covered by the shadow of the earth, — and cannot he who made and moves the sun, a small part of himself, if compared with the whole, — cannot he perceive all things?

"'But I cannot,' say you, 'attend to all things at once.'
"Who asserts that you have equal power with Zeus? Nevertheless he has assigned to each man a director, his own good daemon, and committed him to that guardianship; a director sleepless and not to be deceived. To what better and more careful guardian could he have committed each one of us? So that when you have shut your doors, and darkened your room, remember, never to say that you are alone; for you are not alone; but Zeus is within, and your daemon is within; and what need have they of light, to see what you are doing? To Zeus you likewise ought to swear such an oath as the soldiers do to Cæsar. For they, in order to receive their pay, swear to prefer before all things the safety of Cæsar; and will not you swear, who have received so many and so great favors; or, if you have sworn, will you not fulfil the oath? And what must you swear? Never to distrust, nor accuse, nor murmur at any of the things appointed by the Gods; nor to shrink from doing or enduring that which is inevitable. Is this oath like the former? In the first oath persons swear never to dishonor Cæsar; by the last, never to dishonor themselves."