Book VIII

1. Let this too serve as a correction to excessive vanity, that you are no longer able to have lived your life wholly, or even from your youth up, as a philosopher. You can clearly perceive, and many others can see it too, that you are far from Philosophy. So then your life is in chaos,[1] and no longer is it easy for you to win the credit of being a philosopher; and the facts of your life too war against it. If then your eyes have really seen where the truth lies, do not care any more what men shall think of you, but be content if the rest of you life, whether long or short, be lived as your nature wills. Make sure then what that will is, and let nothing else draw you aside. For past experience tells you in how much you have gone astray, nor anywhere touched upon the true life; no, not in the subtleties of logic,[2] or in wealth or fame or enjoyment, or anywhere. Where then is it to be found? In doing that which is the quest of man’s nature. How then shall a man do this? By having axioms as the source of his impulses and actions. What axioms? On the nature of Good and Evil, showing that nothing is for a man’s good except what makes him just, temperate, manly, free; nor any thing for his ill that makes him not the reverse of these.

2. In every action ask thyself, How does it affect me? Shall I regret it? But a little and I am dead and all that lies between is past. What more do I ask for, as long as my present work is that of a living creature, intelligent, social, and under one law with God?

3. What are Alexander and Gains and Pompeius to Diogenes and Heraclitus[3] and Socrates? For these latter had their eyes opened to things and to the causes and the material substance of things, and their ruling Reason was their very own. But those – what a host of cares, what a world of slavery!

4. Thou mayst burst thyself with rage, but they will go on doing the same things none the less.

5. Firstly, fret not thyself, for all things are as the Nature of the Universe would have them, and within a little thou shalt be non-existent, and nowhere, like Hadrianus and Augustus. Secondly, look stead fastly at the thing, and see it as it is and, remembering withal that thou must be a good man, and what the Nature of man calls for, do this without swerving, and speak as seemeth to thee most just, only be it graciously, modestly, and without feigning.[4]

6. The Nature of the Universe is charged with this task, to transfer yonder the things which are here, to interchange them, to take them hence and convey them thither. All things are but phases of change, but nothing new-fangled need be feared; all things are of the wonted type,[5] nay, their distributions also are alike.

7. Every nature is content with itself when it speeds well on its way ; and a rational nature speeds well on its way, when in its impressions it gives assent to nothing that is false or obscure, and directs its impulses towards none but social acts, and limits its inclinations and its aversions only to things that are in its power, and welcomes all that the Universal Nature allots it. For it is a part of that, as the nature of the leaf is of the plant-nature; with the difference however, that in the case of the plant the nature of the leaf is part of a nature void both of sentience and reason, and liable to be thwarted, while a man’s nature is part of a nature unthwartable and intelligent and just, if indeed it divides up equally and in due measure to every one his quotas of time, substance, cause, activity, circumstance. And consider, not whether thou shalt find one thing in every case equal to one thing, but whether, collectively, the whole of this equal to the aggregate of that.

8. Thou canst not be a student. But thou canst refrain from insolence; but thou canst rise superior to pleasures and pains ; but thou canst tread under thy feet the love of glory ; but thou canst forbear to be angry with the unfeeling and the thankless,[6] aye and even care for them.

9. Let no one hear thee any more grumbling at life in a Court,[7] nay let not thine own ears hear thee.

10. Repentance is a sort of self-reproach at some useful thing passed by; but the good must needs be a useful thing, and ever to be cultivated by the true good man; but the true good man would never regret having passed a pleasure by. Pleasure therefore is neither a useful thing nor a good.

11. What of itself is the thing in question as individually constituted? What is the substance and material of it? What the causal[8] part? What doeth it in the Universe? How long doth it subsist?

12. When thou art loth to get up,[9] call to mind that the due discharge of social duties is in accordance with thy constitution and in accordance with man’s nature, while even irrational animals share with us the faculty of sleep; but what is in accordance with the nature of the individual is more congenial, more closely akin to him, aye and more attractive.

13. Persistently and, if possible, in every case test thy impressions by the rules of physics, ethics, logic.

14. Whatever man thou meetest, put to thyself at once this question: What are this man’s convictions[10] about good and evil? For if they are such and such about pleasure and pain and what is productive of them, about good report and ill report, about death and life, it will be in no way strange or surprising to me if he does such and such things. So I will remember that he is constrained to act as he does.[11]

15. Remember that, as it is monstrous to be surprised at a fig-tree bearing figs, so also is it to be surprised at the Universe bearing its own particular crop. Likewise it is monstrous for a physician or a steersman to be surprised[12] that a patient has fever or that a contrary wind has sprung up.

16. Remember that neither a change of mind nor a willingness to be set right by others is inconsistent with true freedom of will. For thine alone is the active effort that effects its purpose in accordance with thy impulse and judgment, aye and thy intelligence also.

17. If the choice rests with thee, why do the thing? if with another, whom dost thou blame? Atoms or Gods? To do either would be crazy folly. No one is to blame. For if thou canst, set the offender right. Failing that, at least set the thing itself right. If that too be impracticable, what purpose is served by imputing blame? For without a purpose nothing should be done.

18. That which dies is not cast out of the Universe. As it remains here, it also suffers change here and is dissolved into its own constituents, which are the elements of the Universe and thy own. Yes, and they too suffer change and murmur not.

19. Every thing, be it a horse, be it a vine, has come into being for some end. Why wonder? Helios himself will say: I exist to do some work; and so of all the other Gods. For what then dost thou exist? For pleasure? Surely it is unthinkable.

20. Nature has included in its aim in every case the ceasing to be no less than the beginning and the duration, just as the man who tosses up his ball.[13] But what good does the ball gain while tossed upwards, or harm as it comes down, or finally when it reaches the ground? Or what good accrues to the bubble while it coheres, or harm in its bursting? And the same holds good with the lampflame.

21. Turn it[14] inside out and see what it is like, what it comes to be when old, when sickly, when carrion.

They endure but for a season, both praiser and praised, rememberer and remembered.[15] All this too in a tiny corner of this continent, and not even there are all in accord, no nor a man with himself; and the whole earth is itself a point.[16]

22. Fix thy attention on the subject-matter or the act or the principle or the thing signified. Rightly served! Thou wouldst rather become a good man to-morrow than be one to-day.

23. Am I doing some thing? I do it with reference to the well-being of mankind. Does something befall me? I accept it with a reference to the Gods and to the Source of all things from which issue, linked together, the things that come into being.

24. What bathing is when thou thinkest of it ‑ oil, sweat, filth, greasy water, everything revolting ‑ such is every part of life and every object we meet with.

25. Lucilia[17] buried Verus, then Lucilla was buried; Secunda Maximus,[18] then Secunda; Epitynchanus Diotimus, then Epitynchanus; Antoninus Faustina, then Antoninus. The same tale always: Celer[19] buried Hadrianus and then Celer was buried. And those acute wits, men renowned for their prescience or their pride, where are they? Such acute wits, for instance, as Charax and Demetrius [the Platonist][20] and Eudaemon, and others like them. All creatures of a day, dead long ago! ‑ some not remembered even for a while, others transformed into legends,[21] and yet others from legends faded into nothingness! Bear then in mind that either this thy composite self must be scattered abroad, or thy vital breath be quenched, or be transferred[22] and set elsewhere.

26. It brings gladness to a man to do a man’s true work. And a man’s true work is to shew goodwill to his own kind, to disdain the motions of the senses, to diagnose specious impressions, to take a comprehensive view of the Nature of the Universe and all that is done at her bidding.

27. Thou hast three relationships ‑ the first to the vessel thou art contained in; the second to the divine Cause wherefrom issue all things to all; and the third to those that dwell with thee.[23]

28. Pain is an evil either to the body ‑ let the body then denounce it[24] ‑ or to the Soul; but the Soul can ensure her own fair weather and her own calm sea,[25] and refuse to account it an evil. For every conviction and impulse and desire and aversion is from within,[26] and nothing climbs in thither.

29. Efface thy impressions,[27] saying ever to thyself: Now lies it with me that thin soul should harbour no wickedness nor lust nor any disturbing element at all; but that, seeing the true nature of all things,[28] I should deal with each as is its due. Bethink thee of this power that Nature gives thee.

30. Say thy say in the Senate or to any person whatsoever becomingly and naturally.[29] Use sound speech.

31. The court of Augustus ‑ wife, daughter, descendants, ancestors, sister, Agrippa, kinsfolk, house hold, friends, Areius,[30] Maecenas, physicians, haruspices ‑ dead, the whole court of them! Pass on then to other records and the death not of individuals but of a clan, as of the Pompeii. And that well-known epitaph, Last of his race ‑ think over it and the anxiety shewn by the man’s ancestors that they might leave a successor. But after all some one must be the last of the line ‑ here again the dearth of a whole race!

32. Act by act thou must build up thy life, and be content, if each act as far as may be fulfils its end.[31] And there is never a man that can prevent it doing this. But there will be some impediment from without. There can be none to thy behaving justly, soberly, wisely. But what if some other exercise of activity be hindered? Well, a cheerful acceptance of the hindrance and a tactful transition to what is allowed will enable another action to be substituted that will be in keeping with the built-up life of which we are speaking.

33. Accept without arrogance, surrender without reluctance.

34. Thou hast seen a hand cut off or a foot, or a head severed from the trunk, and lying at some distance from the rest of the body. Just so does the man treat himself, as far as he may, who wills not what befalls and severs himself from mankind or acts unsocially. Say thou hast been torn away in some sort from the unity of Nature; for by the law of thy birth thou wast a part; but now thou hast cut thyself off. Yet here comes in that exquisite pro vision, that thou canst return again to thy unity.[32] To no other part has God granted this, to come together again, when once separated and cleft asunder. Aye, behold His goodness, wherewith He hath glorified man! For He hath let it rest with a man that he be never rent away from the Whole, and if he do rend himself away, to return again and grow on to the rest and take up his position again as part.

35. Just as the Nature of rational things has given each rational being almost all his other powers, so also have we received this one from it; that, as this Nature moulds to its purpose what ever interference or opposition it meets, and gives it a place in the destined order of things, and makes it a part of itself, so also can the rational creature convert every hindrance into material for itself[33] and utilize it for its own purposes.

36. Let not the mental picture of life as a whole confound thee. Fill not thy thoughts with what and how many ills may conceivably await thee, but in every present case ask thyself: What is there in this experience so crushing, so insupportable? Thou wilt blush to confess. Remind thyself further that it is not the future nor the past but the present always that brings thee its burden. But this is reduced to in significance if thou isolate it, and take thy mind to task[34] if it cannot hold out against this mere trifle.

37. Does Pantheia[35] now watch by the urn of her lord, or Pergamus? What, does Chabrias or Diotimus by Hadrian’s? Absurd! And had they sat there till now, would the dead have been aware of it? and, if aware of it, would they have been pleased? and, if pleased, would that have made the mourners immortal? Was it not destined that these like others should become old women and old men and then die? What then, when they were dead, would be left for those whom they had mourned to do? It is all stench and foul corruption in a sack of skin.[36]

38. Hast thou keenness of sight? Use it with judgment ever so wisely, as the saying goes.

39. In the constitution of rational creatures I see no virtue incompatible with justice, but incompatible with pleasure I see ‑ continence.

40. Take away thy opinion[37] as to any imagined pain, and thou thyself art set in surest safety. What is ‘thyself’? Reason. But I am not reason. Be it so. At all events let the Reason not cause itself pain, but if any part in thee is amiss, let it form its own opinion about itself.[38]

41. Transfer the application of all this to thyself. Does pain, does pleasure take hold of thee? The senses shall look to it. Wast thou impelled to a thing and wast thwarted? If thy impulse counts on an unconditional fulfilment, failure at once becomes an evil to thee as a rational creature. But accept the universal limitation, and thou hast so far received no hurt nor even been thwarted.[39] Indeed no one else is in a way to thwart the inner purposes of the mind. For it no fire can touch, nor steel, nor tyrant, nor obloquy,[40] nor any thing soever: a sphere[41] once formed continues round and true.

42. It were not right that I should pain myself for not even another have I ever knowingly pained.[42]

43. One thing delights one, another thing another. To me it is a delight if I keep my ruling Reason sound, not looking askance at man or anything that befalls man, but regarding all things with kindly eyes, accepting and using everything for its intrinsic worth.

44. See thou dower thyself with this present time. Those that yearn rather for after-fame do not realize that their successors are sure to be very much the same as the contemporaries whom they find such a burden, and no less mortal. What is it anyway to thee if there be this or that far-off echo of their voices, or if they have this or that opinion about thee?

45. Take me up and cast me where thou wilt. For even there will I keep my ‘genius’ tranquil, that is, content if in itself and in its activity it follow the laws of its own constitution.

Is this worth while, that on its account my soul should be ill at ease and fall below itself, grovelling, grasping, floundering, affrighted? What could make it worth while?

46. Nothing can befall a man that is not a contingency natural to man; nor befall an ox, that is not natural to oxen, nor a vine that is not natural to a vine, nor a stone that is not proper to it. If therefore only what is natural and customary befalls each, why be aggrieved? For the common Nature brings thee nothing that thou canst not bear.[43]

47. When thou art vexed at some external cross, it is not the thing itself that troubles thee,[44] but thy judgment on it. And this thou canst annul in a moment. But if thou art vexed at something in thine own character, who can prevent thee from rectifying the principle that is to blame?[45] So also if thou art vexed[46] at not undertaking that which seems to thee a sound act, why not rather undertake it than be vexed? But there is a lion in the path! Be not vexed then, for the blame of inaction rests not with thee. But life is not worth living, this left undone. Depart then from life,[47] dying with the same kindly feelings as he who effects his purpose, and accepting with a good grace the obstacles that thwart thee.

48. Never forget that the ruling Reason shews itself unconquerable when, concentrated in itself,[48] it is content with itself so it do nothing that itdoth not will, even if it refuse from mere opposition[49] and not from reason much more, then, if it judge of a thing on reasonable grounds and advisedly. Therefore the Mind, unmastered by passions, is a very citadel, for a man has no fortress more impregnable[50] wherein to find refuge and be untaken for ever. He indeed who hath not seen this is ignorant, but he that hath seen it and takes not refuge therein is luckless.

49. Say no more to thyself than what the initial impressions report.[51] This has been told thee, that so and so speaks ill of thee. This has been told thee, but it has not been told thee that thou art harmed.[52] I see that my child is ailing. I see it, but I do not see that he is in danger. Keep then ever to first impressions and supplement them not on thy part from within, and nothing[53] happens to thee. And yet do supplement them with this, that thou art familiar with every possible contingency in the world.

50. The gherkin is bitter. Toss it away. There are briars in the path. Turn aside. That suffices, and thou needest not to add: Why are such things found in the world? For thou wouldst be a laughing stock to any student of nature; just as thou wouldst be laughed at by a carpenter and a cobbler if thou tookest them to task because in their shops are seen sawdust and parings from what they are making. And yet they have space for the disposal of their fragments; while the Universal Nature has nothing outside herself; but the marvel of her crafts manship is that, though she is limited to herself, she transmutes into her own substance all that within her seems to be perishing and decrepit and useless, and again from these very things produces other new ones; whereby she shews that she neither wants any substance outside herself nor needs a corner where she may cast her decaying matter. Her own space, her own material, her own proper crafts manship is all that she requires.[54]

51. Be not dilatory in doing, nor confused in conversation, nor vague in thought ; let not thy soul be wholly concentred in itself nor uncontrollably agitated ; leave thyself leisure in thy life.

They kill us, they cut us limb from limb, they hunt us with execrations![55] How does that prevent thy mind being still pure, sane, sober, just? Imagine a man to stand by a crystal-clear spring of sweet water, and to rail at it; yet it fails not to bubble up with wholesome water. Throw in mud or even filth and it will quickly winnow them away and purge itself of them and take never a stain. How then possess thyself of a living fountain and no mere well?[56] By guiding thyself carefully every hour into freedom with kindliness, simplicity, and modesty.

52. He that knoweth not what the Universe is knoweth not where he is. He that knoweth not the end of its being knoweth not who he is or what the Universe is.[57] But he that is wanting in the knowledge of any of these things could not tell what is the end of his own being. What then must we think of those that court or eschew the verdict of the clappers, who have no conception where or who they are?

53. Carest thou to be praised by a man who execrates himself thrice within the hour? to win the approval of a man who wins not his own ? Can he be said to win his own approval who regrets almost every thing he does?

54. Be no longer content merely to breathe in unison with the all-embracing air, but from this moment think also in unison with the all-embracing Intelligence. For that intelligent faculty is every where diffused and offers itself on every side to him that can take it in no less than the aerial to him that can breathe.

55. Taken collectively wickedness does no harm to the Universe,[58] and the particular wickedness does no harm to others. It is harmful to the one individual alone, and he has been given the option of being quit of it the first moment he pleases.

56. To my power of choice[59] the power of choice of my neighbour is as much a matter of indifference as is his vital breath and his flesh. For however much we may have been made for one another, yet our ruling Reason is in each case master in its own house. Else might my neighbour’s wickedness become my bane; and this was not God’s will, that another might not have my unhappiness in his keeping.[60]

57. The sun’s light is diffused down, as it seems, yes, and in every direction, yet it does not diffuse itself away. For this diffusion is an extension. At any rate the beams of the Sun are called Extension rays, because they have an extension in space.[61] And what a ray is you may easily see, if you observe the sun’s light entering through a narrow chink into a darkened room, for it extends straight on, and is as it were brought up against any solid body it encounters that cuts off the air beyond. There the ray comes to a standstill, neither slipping off nor sinking down. Such then should be the diffusion and circumfusion of the mind, never a diffusing away but extension, and it should never make a violent or uncontrollable impact against any obstacle it meets with, no, nor collapse, but stand firm and illuminate what receives it. For that which conducts it not on its way will deprive itself wilfully of its beams.

58. Dread of death is a dread of non-sensation or new sensation.[62] But either thou wilt feel no sensation, and so no sensation of any evil; or a different kind of sensation will be thine, and so the life of a different creature, but still a life.

59. Mankind have been created for the sake of one another.[63] Either instruct therefore or endure.[64]

60. One is the way of an arrow, another of the mind. Howbeit the mind, both when it cautiously examines its ground and when it is engaged in its enquiry, is none the less moving straight forward and towards its goal.

61. Enter into every man’s ruling Reason, and give every one else an opportunity to enter into thine.[65]

<Book VII - Book IX>

[1] Or, thou hast been besmirched, but cp. vi. 16, § 3.

[2] i. 17 ad fin.; vii. 67.

[3] Justin (Apol. i. 46) mentions Heraclitus and Socrates and others like them as "living with the divine Logos." And in Apol. ii. 8 Heraclitus and Musonius are spoken of as hated and slain for their opinions.

[4] The word here used by Marcus occurs only in Christian writings.

[5] ii. 14; iv. 32; vii. 1 etc.

[6] St. Luke vi. 35.

[7] v. 16.

[8] Or, formative.

[9] v. 1.

[10] Or, axioms.

[11] v. 17 ; vii. 71 ; xi. 18, § 3.

[12] 1 St. Peter, iv. 12.

[13] Annius Verus, grandfather of Marcus, was the best ball-player of his day, see Wilmunns Inscr. 574. Marcus himself was an adept at the ball-game, Capit. iv. 9.

[14] i.e. the body.

[15] iii. 10; iv. 3, § 3.

[16] iv. 3, § 3; vi. 36.

[17] The mother of Marcus, not as Gataker, Long, etc. the daughter.

[18] i. 15.

[19] See Index II.

[20] Arethas on Lucian, de Salt. 63, alludes to this passage, but Lucian’s Demetrius is the Cynic whom in Demon. § 3 he couples with Epictetus. (cp. also adv. Ind. 19.) See Index II.

[21] xii. 27.

[22] Or, leave thee; but cp. v. 33.

[23] i. 12; v. 10, 48 ; ix. 3 ad fin.

[24] vii. 33.

[25] xii. 22.

[26] v. 19 ; St. Matt. xv. 18.

[27] vii. 17, 29 ; ix. 7.

[28] iii. 11.

[29] Dr. Bigg does not scruple to say that Marcus spoke in such a pedantic jargon as to be unintelligible to his hearers! This is pitiable nonsense. See Fronto, ad Ant. i. 1 : quanta studio quantoque favore. et voluptate dicentem te audit senatus populusque Romanus ; cp. ad Caes. ii. 1.

[30] Domestic philosopher to Augustus, as Rusticus was to Marcus. See Them. Orat. v. 63d; xiii. 173 c; Sen. ad Marciam, § 4.

[31] Or, receives its due reward.

[32] Sen. Ep. 98: licet in integrum restitni (a legal phrase for a restoration to all rights).

[33] iv. 1; v. 20; vi. 50.

[34] See on vi. 29.

[35] Lucian (?) (lmag. §§ 10, 22), seems to mention Pantlieia as the matchless concubine of Lucius Verus.

[36] Epict. Frag. 94. cp. Diog. Laert. Anaxarchus, § 2; Zeno Eleat. § 5. Howell, Familiar Letters, viii. 2, 50, speaks of "this small skinful or bagful of bones."

[37] vii. 10; viii. 47.

[38] vii. 33.

[39] vi. 50.

[40] vii. 68; Epict. iii. 22. 43.

[41] xi. 12; xii. 3.

[42] cp. Them. Orat. xv. p. 191 B, quoted App. ii. ; cp. Diog. Laert. Zeno 64.

[43] cp. St. Paul, 1 Cor. x. 13.

[44] cp. Epict. Man. 5.

[45] viii. 40.

[46] v. 9, 36; viii. 10; xi. 19.

[47] iii. 1; v. 29 ; Epict. i. 24, § 20.

[48] vii. 28.

[49] xi. 3. In both places Marcus seems to have the Christians in mind.

[50] cp. Fronto, ad Ver. ii. 1 (of Marcus): arcem munltam et inuictam et Inexptujnabiltm quae in fratrits tui peclore sita eat.

[51] iv. 7 etc.

[52] Yet Capit. (xx. § 5) says that Marcus was suae curiosissimus famae, cp. ibid. xxii. § 6 ; xxiii. § 7, 9 ; xxix. § 5.

[53] cp. viii. 28.

[54] Or, for space, material, craftsmanship she is content, with herself alone.

[55] Marcus must be thinking oi the Christians, cp. vii. 68. See Appendix.

[56] St. John, iv. 14-16.

[57] cp. Epict. ii. 24, § 19.

[58] v. 35.

[59] Not distinguishable from the ‘ruling Reason.’

[60] Sen. Ep. 70 ad med.: nemo nisi vitio suo miser est.

[61] A false etymology.

[62] cp Justin, Apol. i. § 57. addressed to Pius and Marcus.

[63] ix. 1 ad init.

[64] v. 28; ix. 11.

[65] iv. 38. cp. vii. 55 ; Epict. iii. 9, § 12.