The Teachers‎ > ‎Maurcus Aurelius‎ > ‎Meditations‎ > ‎

Book VI

1. The Universal Substance is docile[1] and ductile; and the Reason that controls it has no motive in itself to do wrong. For it hath no wrongness and doeth no wrong, nor is anything harmed by it. But all things come into being and fulfil their purpose as it directs.

2. Make no difference in doing thy duty[2] whether thou art shivering or warm, drowsy[3] or sleep-satisfied, defamed or extolled, dying or anything else. For the act of dying too is one of the acts of life.[4] So it is enough in this also to get the work in hand done well.[5]

3. Look within. Let not the special quality [6] or worth of anything escape thee.

4. All objective things will anon be changed and either etherialized into the Universal Substance, if that indeed be one, or dispersed abroad.[7]

5. The controlling Reason knows its own bent and its work and the medium it works in.

6. The best way of avenging thyself is not to do likewise.[8]

7. Delight in this one thing and take thy vest therein - from social act to go on to social act, keeping all thy thoughts on God.

8. The ruling Reason it is that can arouse and deflect itself, make itself whatever it will,[9] and invest everything that befalls with such a semblance as it wills.

9. In accordance with the Nature of the Universe is accomplished each several thing. For surely this cannot be in accordance with any other nature, that either envelops it from without, or is enveloped by it within, or exists in external detachment out side it.

10. Either a medley and a tangled web[10] and a dispersion abroad, or a unity and a plan and a Providence. If the former, why should I even wish to abide in such a random welter and chaos? Why care for anything else than to turn again to the dust at last.[11] Why be disquieted? For, do what I will, the dispersion must overtake me. But if the latter, I bow in reverence, my feet are on the rock, and I put my trust in the Power that rules.

11. When forced, as it seems, by thine environment to be utterly disquieted, return with all speed into thy self, staying in discord no longer than thou must. By constant recurrence to the harmony,[12] thou wilt gain more command over it.

12. Hadst thou at once a stepmother and a mother them wouldst pay due service to the former, and yet thy constant recourse would be to thy mother. So hast thou now the court and philosophy for step mother nnd mother. Cease not then to come to the latter and take thy rest in her,[13] whereby shall both thy court life seem more tolerable[14] to thee, and thou to thy court life.

13. As in the case of meat and similar eatables the thought strikes us, this is the dead body of a fish, this of a fowl or pig; and again that this Falernian is merely the juice of a grape-cluster, and this purpleedged robe is nought but sheep's wool[15] steeped in the blood of a shell-fish; or, of sexual inter course, that it is merely internal attrition and the spasmodic excretion of mucus[16] - such, I say, as are these impressions that get to grips with the actual things and enter into the heart of them, so as to see them as they really are, thus should it be thy life through, and where things look to be above measure convincing, laying them quite bare, behold their paltriness and strip off their conventional prestige. For conceit is a past master in fallacies and, when thou flatterest thyself most that thou art engaged in worthy tasks, then art thou most of all deluded by it. At any rate, see what Crates has to say about none other than Xenocrates.[17]

14. Objects admired by the common sort come chiefly under things of the most general kind, which are held together by physical coherence,[18] such as stones and wood, or by a natural unity, such as figs, vines, olives; and those which are admired by persons of a somewhat higher capacity may be classed as things which are held together by a conscious life, such as flocks and herds; and those which are admired by persons still more refined, as things held together by a rational soul; I do not mean rational as part of the Universal Reason, but in the sense of master of an art or expert in some other way, or merely in so far as to own a host of slaves. Hut he that prizes a soul which is rational, universal, and civic, no longer turns after anything else, but rather than everything besides keeps his own soul, in itself and in its activity, rational and social, and to this end works conjointly with all that is akin to him.

15. Some things are hastening to be, others to be no more, while of those that haste into being some part is already extinct. Fluxes and changes per petually renew the world, just as the unbroken march of time makes ever new the infinity of ages. In this river of change,[19] which of the things which swirl past him, whereon no firm foothold is possible, should a man prize so highly? As well fall in love with a sparrow[20] that flits past and in a moment is gone from our eyes. In fact a man's life itself is but as an exhalation from blood[21] and an inhalation from the air. For just as it is to draw in the air once into our lungs and give it back again, as we do every moment, so is it to give back thither, whence thou didst draw it first, thy faculty of breathing which thou didst receive at thy birth yesterday or the day before.

16. Neither is it an inner respiration,[22] such as that of plants, that we should prize, nor the breathing which we have in common with cattle and wild animals, nor the impressions we receive through our senses, nor that we are pulled by our impulses like marionettes,[23] nor our gregarious instincts, nor our need of nutriment; for that is on a par with the rejection of the waste products of our food.

What then is to be prized? The clapping of hands? No. Then riot the clapping of tongues either. For the acclamations of the multitude are but a clapping of tongues. So overboard goes that poor thing Fame also. What is left to be prized? This methinks: to limit our action or inaction to the needs of our own constitution, an end that all occup ations and arts set before themselves. For the aim of every art is that the thing constituted should be adapted to the work for which it has been constituted. It is so with the vine-dresser who looks after the vines, the colt-trainer, and the keeper of the kennels. And this is the end which the care of children and the methods of teaching have in view. There then is the thing to be prized!

This once fairly made thine own, thou wilt not seek to gain for thyself any of the other things as well. Wilt thou not cease prizing many other things also? Then thou wilt neither be free nor sufficient unto thyself nor unmoved by passion. For thou must needs be full of envy and jealousy, be suspicious of those that can rob thee of such things, and scheme against those who possess what thou prizest. In fine, a man who needs any of those things cannot but be in complete turmoil, and in many cases find fault even with the Gods.[24] But by reverencing and prizing thine own mind, thou shalt make thyself pleasing in thine own sight, in accord with mankind, and in harmony with the Gods, that is, grateful to them for all that they dispense and have ordained.

17. Up, down,[25] round-wise sweep the elements along. But the motion of virtue is in none of these ways. It is something more divine, and going forward on a mysterious path fares well upon its way.[26]

18. What a way to act! Men are chary of com mending their contemporaries and associates, while they themselves set great store by the commendation of posterity, whom they have never seen or shall see. But this is next door to taking it amiss that thy predecessors also did not commend thee.

19. Because thou findest a thing difficult for thyself to accomplish do not conceive it to be impracticable for others; but whatever is possible for a man and in keeping with his nature consider also attainable by thyself.

20. Suppose that a competitor in the ring has gashed us with his nails and butted us violently with his head, we do not protest or take it amiss or suspect our opponent in future of foul play. Still we do keep an eye on him, not indeed as an enemy, or from suspicion of him, but with good-humoured avoidance. Act much in the same way in all the other parts of life. Let us make many allowances for our fellow-athletes as it were. Avoidance is always possible, as I have said, without suspicion or hatred.

21. If any one can prove and bring home to me that a conception or act of mine is wrong, I will amend[27] it, and be thankful. For I seek the truth, whereby no one was ever harmed. But he is harmed who persists in his own self-deception and ignorance.

22. I do my own duty; other things do not distract me. For they are either inanimate or irrational, or such as have gone astray and know not the road.[28]

23. Conduct thyself with magnanimity and freedom towards irrational creatures and, generally, towards circumstances and objective things, for thou hast reason and they have none. But men have reason, therefore treat them as fellow creatures. And in all cases call upon the Gods, and do not concern thyself with the question, How long shall I do this? Three hours are enough so spent.

24. Death reduced to the same condition Alexander the Macedonian and his muleteer, for either they were taken back into the same Seminal Reason[29] of the Universe or scattered alike into the atoms.[30]

25. Bear in mind how many things happen to each one of us with respect to our bodies as well as our souls in the same momentary space of time, so wilt thou cease to wonder that many more things not to say all the things that come into existence in that One and Whole which in fact we call the Universe subsist in it at one time.

26. If one enquire of thee, How is the name Antoninus written? wilt thou with vehemence enunciate each constituent letter? What then? If thy listeners lose their temper, wilt thou lose thine? Wouldst them not go on gently to enumerate each letter? So recollect that in life too every duty is the sum of separate items.[31] Of these thou must take heed, and carry through methodically what is set before thee, in no wise troubled or shewing counter-irritation against those who are irritated with thee.

27. How intolerant it is not to permit men to cherish an impulse towards what is in their eyes congenial and advantageous! Yet in a sense thou withholdest from them the right to do this, when thou resentest their wrong-doing. For they are undoubtedly drawn to what they deem congenial and advantageous. But they are mistaken. Well, then, teach and enlighten them without any resentment.[32]

28. Death is a release from the impressions ot sense, and from impulses that make us their puppets, from the vagaries of the mind, and the hard service of the flesh.

29. It is a disgrace for the soul to be the first to succumb in that life in which the body does not succumb.[33]

30. See thou be not Caesarified, nor take that dye,[34] for there is the possibility. So keep thyself a simple and good man, uncorrupt, dignified, plain, a friend of justice, god-fearing, gracious, affectionate, manful in doing thy duty. Strive to be always such as Philosophy minded to make thee. Revere the Gods, save mankind. Life is short. This only is the harvest of earthly existence, a righteous disposition and social acts.

Do all things as a disciple of Antoninus.[35] Think of his constancy in every act rationally undertaken, his invariable equability, his piety, his serenity of countenance, his sweetness of disposition, his contempt for the bubble of fame, and his zeal for getting a true grip of affairs. How he would never on any account dismiss a thing until he had first thoroughly scrutinized and clearly con ceived it; how he put up with those who found fault with him unfairly, finding no fault with them in return; how he was never in a hurry; how he gave no ear to slander,[36] and with what nicety he tested dispositions and acts; was no imputer of blame, and no craven, not a suspicious man, nor a sophist; what little sufficed him whether for lodging or bed, dress, food or attendance; how fond he was of work, and how long-suffering; how he would remain the whole day at the same occupation,[37] owing to his spare diet[38] not even requiring to relieve nature except at the customary time; and how loyal he was to his friends and always the same; and his forbear ance towards those who openly opposed his views, and his pleasure when anyone pointed out something better[39]; and how god-fearing he was and yet not given to superstition. Take heed to all this, that thy last hour come upon thee as much at peace with thy conscience as he was.

31. Be sober once more and call back thy senses, and being roused again from sleep and, realizing that they were but dreams that beset thee, now awake again, look at these realities as thou didst at those thy dreams.

32. I consist of body and soul.[40] To the body indeed all things are indifferent, for it cannot concern itself with them. But to the mind[41] only those things are indifferent which are not its own activities; and all those things that are its own activities are in its own power. Howbeit, of these it is only concerned with the present; for as to its activities in the past and the future, these two rank at once among things indifferent.

33. For hand or foot to feel pain is no violation of nature, so long as the foot does its own appointed work, and the hand its own. Similarly pain for a man, as man, is no unnatural thing so long as he does a man's appointed work. But, if not unnatural, then is it not an evil either.

34. The pleasures of the brigand, the pathic [i.e. the catamite], the parricide, the tyrant[42] - just think what they are!

35. Dost thou not see how the mechanic craftsman, though to some extent willing to humour the non expert, yet holds fast none the less to the principles of his handicraft, and cannot endure to depart from them. Is it not strange that the architect and the physician should hold the rationale of their respective arts in higher reverence than a man his own reason, which he has in common with the Gods?

36. Asia, Europe, corners of the Universe: the whole Ocean a drop in the Universe: Athos but a little clod therein: all the present a point in Eternity: everything on a tiny scale, so easily changed, so quickly vanished.

All things come from that one source, from that ruling Reason of the Universe,[43] either under a primary impulse from it or by way of consequence. And therefore the gape of the lion's jaws[44] and poison and all noxious things, such as thorns and mire, are but after-results of the grand and the beautiful. Look not then on these as alien to that which thou dost reverence, but turn thy thoughts to the one source of all things.

37. He, who sees what now is, hath seen all that ever hath been from times everlasting, and that shall be to eternity[45]; for all things are of one lineage and one likeness.

38. Meditate often on the intimate union and mutual interdependence of all things in the Universe. For in a manner all things are mutually intertwined, and thus all things have a liking for one another. For these things are consequent one on another by reason of their contracting and expanding[46] motion, the sympathy[47] that breathes through them, and the unity of all substance.

39. Fit thyself to the environment that is thy portion,[48] and love the men among whom thy lot is thrown, but whole-heartedly.[49]

40. Every implement, tool, or vessel is well if it do the work for which it is made, and yet in their case the maker is not at hand. But in the things which owe their organic unity to Nature, the Power that made is within them and abides there. Wherefore also must thou reverence it the more, and realize that if thou keep and conduct thyself ever according to its will, all is to thy mind. So also to its mind are the things of the Universe.

41. If thou regardest anything not in thine own choice as good or evil for thyself, it is inevitable that, on the incidence of such an evil or the miscarriage of such a good, thou shouldst upbraid the Gods,[50] aye, and hate men as the actual or supposed cause of the one or the other; and in fact many are the wrong doings we commit by setting a value on such things.[51] But if we discriminate as good and evil only the things in our power, there is no occasion left for accusing the Gods[52] or taking the stand of an enemy towards men.

42. We are all fellow-workers towards the ful filment of one object, some of us knowingly and intelligently, others blindly; just as Heraclitus, I think, says that even when they sleep men are workers and fellow-agents in all that goes on in the world.[53] One is a co-agent in this, another in that, and in abundant measure also he that murmurs and seeks to hinder or disannul what occurs. For the Universe had need of such men also. It remains then for thee to decide with whom thou art ranging thyself. For He that controls the Universe will in any case put thee to a good use and admit thee to a place among his fellow-workers and coadjutors. But see that thou fill no such place as the paltry and ridiculous line in the play which Chrysippus mentions.[54]

43. Does the sun take upon himself to discharge the functions of the rain? or Asclepitis of the Fruit-bearer[55]? And what of each particular star? Do they not differ in glory yet co-operate to one end?

44. If the Gods have taken counsel about me and the things to befall me, doubtless they have taken good counsel. For it is not easy even to imagine a God without wisdom. And what motive could they have impelling them to do me evil? For what advantage could thereby accrue to them or to the Universe which is their special care? But if the Gods have taken no counsel for me individually, yet they have in any case done so for the interests of the Universe, and I am bound to welcome and make the best of[56] those things also that befall as a necessary corollary to those interests. But if so be they take counsel about nothing at all - an impious belief - in good sooth let us have no more of sacrifices and prayers and oaths, nor do any other of these things every one of which is a recognition of the Gods as if they were at our side and dwelling amongst us - but if so be, I say, they do not take counsel about any of our concerns, it is still in my power to take counsel about myself, arid it is for me to consider my own interest. And that is to every man's interest which is agreeable to his own constitution and nature. But my nature is rational and civic; my city and country, as Antoninus, is Koine; as a man, the world. The things then that are of advantage to these communities, these, and no other, are good for me.

45. All that befalls the Individual is to the interest of the Whole also.[57] So far, so good. But further careful observation will shew thee that, as a general rule, what is to the interest of one man is also to the interest of other men. But in this case the word interest must be taken in a more general sense as it applies to intermediate[58] things.

46. As the shows in the amphitheatre and such places grate upon thee[59] as being an everlasting repetition of the same sight, and the similarity makes the spectacle pall, such must be the effect of the whole of life. For everything above and below is ever the same and the result of the same things. How long then?

47. Never lose sight of the fact that men of all kinds, of all sorts of vocations and of every race under heaven, are dead; and so carry thy thought down even to Philistion and Phoebus and Origanion. Now turn to the other tribes of men. We must pass at last to the same bourne whither so many wonderful orators have gone, so many grave philosophers, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates: so many heroes of old time, and so many warriors, so many tyrants of later days : and besides them, Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes, and other acute natures, men of large minds, lovers of toil, men of versatile powers, men of strong will, mockers, like Menippus[60] and many another such, of man's perishable and transitory life itself. About all these reflect that they have long since been in their graves. What terrible thing then is this for them ? What pray for those whose very names are unknown ? One thing on earth is worth much - to live out our lives in truth and justice, and in charity with liars and unjust men.

48. When thou wouldst cheer thine heart, think upon the good qualities of thy associates[61]; as for instance, this one's energy, that one's modesty, the generosity of a third, and some other trait of a fourth. For nothing is so cheering as the images of the virtues mirrored in the characters of those who live with us, and presenting themselves in as great a throng as possible. Have these images then ever before thine eyes.

49. Thou art not aggrieved, art thou, at being so many pounds in weight and not three hundred? Then why be aggrieved if thou hast only so many years to live and no more? For as thou art contented with the amount of matter allotted thee, so be content also with the time.

50. Try persuasion first, but even though men would say no to you, act when the principles of justice so direct. Should any one however withstand you by force, take refuge in being well-content and unhurt, and use the obstacle for the display of some other virtue. Remember that the impulse you had was conditioned[62] by circumstances,[63] and your aim was not to do the impossible. What then was it? To act upon the impulse you had felt. In that you are successful. That alone which was in the sphere of our choice[64] is realized.

51. The lover of glory conceives his own good to consist in another's action, the lover of pleasure in his own feelings, but the possessor of understanding in his own actions.

52. We need not form any opinion about the thing in question or be harassed in soul, for Nature gives the thing itself no power to compel our judgments.

53. Train thyself to pay careful attention to what is being said[65] by another and as far as possible enter into his soul.

54. That which is not in the interests of the hive cannot be in the interests of the bee.[66]

55. If the sailors spoke ill of a steersman or the sick of a physician, what else would they have in mind but how the man should best effect the safety of the crew or the health of his patients?

56. How many have already left the world who came into it with me!

57. To the jaundiced honey tastes bitter; and the victim of hydrophobia has a horror of water; and to little children their ball is a treasure. Why then angry? Or dost thou think that error is a less potent factor than bile in the jaundiced and virus in the victim of rabies?

58. From living according to the reason of thy nature no one can prevent thee: contrary to the reason of the Universal Nature nothing shall befall thee.

59. The persons men wish to please,[67] the objects they wish to gain, the means they employ - think of the character of all these! How soon will Time hide all things! How many a thing has it already hidden!

<Book V - Book VII>

[1] Not so all Stoics; cp. Sen. de Prov. 5: non potest artifex mutare materiem.

[2] vi. 22.

[3] Galen (xiv. 3, Kühn) says of Marcus that, owing to the theriac which he prescribed him, συνέβαινεν αυτω νυστάζειν καρωδως εν ταις 'οσημέραις πράξεσιν.

[4] cp. Sen. Ep. 77 ad fin.: Unum ex vitae officiis, mori.

[5] A saying of the "Wise Men." See Suidas. cp. Luc. Necy. 21. It was a trait of Marcus, Dio 71. 26, § 4.

[6] = that which makes a thing what it is.

[7] viii. 25 ad fin.; x. 7, § 2.

[8] cp. Epict. Frag. 130. So Diogenes, being asked "How shall I avenge myself of mine enemy?" said, "By behaving like a gentleman," Plut. de Leg. Poet. 5.

[9] v. 19.

[10] iv. 27; vii. 50.

[11] Horn. Il. vii. 99; cp. below, vii. 50.

[12] cp. Dio Chrys. xxxii. 676 R. έξω της 'αρμονίας της κατα φύσιν.

[13] Sen. Ep. 103.

[14] For life in kings' courts see Lucian, Column. 10, and Icaro-Men. 16.

[15] cp. Lucian, Dem. § 41.

[16] cp. Tzetz. Chil. vii. 801. He reads νευρίου for εντερίου

[17] It is not known what Marcus here refers to.

[18] cp. Sext. Emp. adv. Math. viii. 2; ix. 81, τα μεν 'υπο ψιλης 'έξεως συνέχεται, τα δε 'υπο φύσεως, τα δε 'υπο ψυχης∙ και 'εξεως μεν 'ως λίθοι και ξύλα, φύσεως δε καθάπερ τα φυτά, ψυχης δε τα ζωα.

[19] iv. 4.3; vii. 19.

[20] cp. the parable of the sparrow in Bede ii. 13.

[21] v. 33.

[22] iii. 1.

[23] ii. 2 etc.

[24] vi. 41.

[25] vi. 17; iv. 46; ix. 28.

[26] vii. 53.

[27] iv. 12; vi. 30, § 2; viii. 16.

[28] iv. 46.

[29] Usually singular in the Greek. See iv. 14. 21; ix. 1.

[30] Marcus puts the two alternatives (Stoic and Epicurean), though he does not himself admit the second.

[31] iii. 1.

[32] v. 28.

[33] viii. 36. So Marcus himself in a letter to Fronto (ad Caes. iv. 8): Turpe fnerit dintius vifam corporis quam animi studium ad reciperandam sanitatem posse durare.

[34] There was also a "philosophic dye"; see Lucian, Bis Accus. 8.

[35] cp. i. 16 throughout.

[36] i. 5.

[37] Or, the same place./p>

[38] cp. i. 3.

[39] vi. 21; viii. 16.

[40] v. 13.

[41] Here διάνοια = ψυχή

[42] v. 10.

[43] ii. 3; v. 8, § 5; xii. 26.

[44] iii. 2.

[45] ii. 14; iv. 32; vii. 1, 49; xi. 1; xii. 24.

[46] τονικήν; see Index III.

[47] cp. Diog. Laert. Zeno 70: την των ουρνίων προς τα επίγεια συμπνοίαν και συντονίαν.

[48] vii. 57.

[49] vi. 48; viii/22. cp. 1 St. Peter, i. 22.

[50] vi. 16 § 3; ix. 1 ad med. cp. Epict. i. 27 § 13.

[51] i.e. treating as important things which are αδιάφορα, or of no consequence either way.

[52] vi. 16 § 3.

[53] cp. iv. 46. But Plutarch in his treatise On Superstition cites a saying of Heraclitus to the effect that sleepers live in a world of their own.

[54] Plutarch (adv. Stoic. 13, 14) vigorously denounces this sophism, as he counts it, of Chrysippus that what is evil in itself has a value as a foil to the good. He quotes Chrysippus (Frag. Phys. 1181 Arnim):

'ώσπερ γαρ αι κωμωδίαι επιγράμματα γελοια φέρουσιν 'α καθ' 'εαυτα μέν εστι φαυλα, τω δε 'όλω ποήματι χάριν τινα προστίθησιν, ο'ύτως ψέξειας αν αυτην εφ' 'εαυτης την κακίαν∙ τοις δε άλλοις ουκ άχρηστός εστιν.

[55] That is, the Earth, or possibly Demeter.

[56] v. 8 § 3; x. 6, 11.

[57] v. 8 ; x. 6 etc.

[58] i.e. indifferent, neither good nor bad.

[59] A personal touch. See Fronto, <1>ad Gaes. iv. 12: theatro libros lectitabas; ii. 6, idem theatrum, idem odium (v.l. otium); cp. ii. 10; Naber, p. 34; cp. Capit. xv. § 1.

[60] A Cynic philosopher of Gadara. His Syrian compatriot, Lucian, the prince of mockers, was yet alive and mocking. cp. Luc. Pice. 26, where the Scholiast (Arethas) refers to this passage. Diog. Laert. mentions a Meleager, the contemporary of Menippus, as a writer of similar character.

[61] But cp. v. 10.

[62] iv. 1; v. 20.

[63] Lit. was with a reservation, i.e. "should circumstances allow." cp. iv. 1; viii. 41.

[64] Casaubon translates "that for which we were brought into the world," but can προάγω mean this?

[65] Obviously no contradiction of iv. 18 etc. See also vii. 4. 30.

[66] v. 22

[67] vii. 62