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Book X

1. WILT thou then, O my Soul, ever at last be good and simple and single and naked, shewing thyself more visible than the body that overlies thee? Wilt thou ever taste the sweets of a loving and a tender heart? Ever be full-filled and self-sufficing, longing for nothing, lusting after nothing animate or inanimate, for the enjoyment of pleasures not time wherein the longer to enjoy them, nor place or country or congenial climes or men nearer to thy liking but contented with thy present state[1] and delighted with thy present everything, convincing thyself withal that all that is present for thee is present from the Gods,[2] and that everything is and shall be well with thee that is pleasing to them and that they shall hereafter grant for the conservation of that Perfect Being[3] that is good and just and beautiful, the Begetter and Upholder of all things, that embraces and gathers them in, when they are dissolved, to generate therefrom other like things?[4] Wilt thou ever at last fit thyself so to be a fellow-citizen with the Gods and with men as never to find fault with them or incur their condemnation?

2. Observe what thy nature asks of thee, as one controlled by Nature alone, then do this and with a good grace, if thy nature as a living creature is not to be made worse thereby. Next must thou observe what thy nature as a living creature asks of thee. And this must thou wholly accept, if thy nature as a rational living creature be not made worse thereby. Now the rational is indisputably also the civic. Comply with these rules then and be not needlessly busy about anything.

3. All that befalls either so befalls as thou art fitted by nature to bear it or as thou art not fitted.[5] If the former, take it not amiss, but bear it as thou art fitted to do. If the latter, take not that amiss either, for when it has destroyed thee, it will itself perish. Howbeit be assured that thou art fitted by nature to bear everything which it rests with thine own opinion about it to render bearable and tolerable, according as thou thinkest it thy interest or thy duty to do so.

4. If a man makes a slip, enlighten him with loving-kindness, and shew him wherein he hath seen amiss.[6] Failing that, blame thyself or not even thyself.

5. Whatever befalls thee was set in train for thee from everlasting, and the interplication of causes was from eternity weaving into one fabric thy existence and the coincidence of this event.[7]

6. Whether there be atoms or a Nature, let it be postulated first, that I am a part of the whole Universe controlled by Nature; secondly, that I stand in some intimate connexion with other kindred parts. For bearing this in mind, as I am a part, I shall not be displeased with anything allotted me from the Whole. For what is advantageous to the whole can in no wise be injurious to the part.[8] For the Whole contains nothing that is not advantageous to itself; and all natures have this in common, but the Universal Nature is endowed with the additional attribute of never being forced by any external cause to engender anything hurtful to itself.

As long then as I remember that I am a part of such a whole, I shall be well pleased with all that happens; and in so far as I am in intimate connexion with the parts that are akin to myself, I shall be guilty of no unsocial act, but I shall devote my attention rather to the parts that are akin to myself,[9] and direct every impulse of mine to the common interest and withhold it from the reverse of this. That being done, life must needs flow smoothly, as them mayst see the life flow smoothly of a citizen who goes steadily on in a course of action beneficial to his fellow-citizens and cheerfully accepts whatever is assigned him by the State.

7. The parts of the Whole all that Nature has comprised in the Universe must inevitably perish, taking "perish" to mean "be changed." But if this process is by nature for them both evil and inevitable, the Whole could never do its work satisfactorily, its parts ever going as they do from change to change and being constituted to perish in diverse ways. Did Nature herself set her hand to bringing evil upon parts of herself and rendering them not only liable to fall into evil but of necessity fallen into it,[10] or was she not aware that such was the case ? Both alternatives are incredible.

But supposing that we even put Nature as an agent out of the question and explain that these things are "naturally" so, even then it would be absurd to assert that the parts of the whole are naturally subject to change, and at the same time to be astonished at a thing or take it amiss as though it befell contrary to nature, and that though things dissolve into the very constituents out of which they are composed. For either there is a scattering of the elements[11] out of which I have been built up, or a transmutation of the solid into the earthy and of the spiritual[12] into the aerial ; so that these too are taken back into the Reason of the Universe, whether cycle by cycle it be consumed with fire[13] or renew itself by everlasting permutations.

Aye and so then do not be under the impression that the solid and the spiritual date from the moment of birth. For it was but yesterday or the day before that all this took in its increment from the food eaten and the air breathed. It is then this, that it took in, which changes, not the product of thy mother’s womb. But granted that thou art ever so closely bound up with that by thy individuality, this, I take it, has no bearing upon the present argument.

8. Assuming for thyself the appellations, a good man,[14] a modest man,[15] a truthteller,[16] wise of heart, sympathetic of heart, great of heart, take heed thou be not new-named. And if thou shouldst forfeit these titles, e en make haste to get back to them. And bear in mind that wise of heart was meant to signify for thee a discerning consideration of every object and a thoroughness of thought; sympathetic of heart, a willing acceptance of all that the Universal Nature allots thee; great of heart an uplifting of our mental part above the motions smooth or rough of the flesh, above the love of empty fame, the fear of death, and all other like things. Only keep thyself entitled to these appellations, not itching to receive them from others, and thou wilt be a new man and enter on a new life. For to be still such as thou hast been till now, and to submit to the rendings and defilements of such a life, is worthy of a man that shews beyond measure a dull senselessness and a clinging to life, and is on a level with the wild-beast fighters that are half-devoured in the arena, who, though a mass of wounds and gore, beg to be kept till the next day, only to be thrown again, torn as they are, to the same teeth and talons.

Take ship then on these few attributes, and if thou canst abide therein, so abide as one who has migrated to some Isles of the Blest. But if thou feelest thyself adrift, and canst not win thy way, betake thyself with a good heart to some nook where thou shalt prevail, or even depart altogether from life,[17] not in wrath but in simplicity, independence, and modesty, having at least done this one thing well in life, that thou hast quitted it thus.

Howbeit, to keep these attributes in mind it will assist thee greatly if thou bear the Gods in mind, and that it is not flattery they crave but for all rational things to be conformed to their likeness,[18] and that man should do a man's work, as the fig tree does the work of a fig-tree, the dog of a dog, and the bee of a bee.

9. Stage-apery, warfare, cowardice, torpor, servility these will day by day obliterate all those holy principles of thine which, as a student of Nature, thou dost conceive and accept. But thou must regard and do everything in such a way that at one and the same time the present task may be carried through, and full play given to the faculty of pure thought, and that the self-confidence en gendered by a knowledge of each individual thing be kept intact, unobtruded yet unconcealed.

When wilt thou find thy delight in simplicity? When in dignity? When in the knowledge of each separate thing, what it is in its essence, what place it fills in the Universe, how long it is formed by Nature to subsist, what are its component parts, to whom it can pertain, and who can bestow and take it away?

10. A spider prides itself on capturing a fly; one man on catching a hare, another on netting a sprat, another on taking wild boars, another bears, another Sarmatians.[19] Are not these brigands, if thou test their principles?

11. Make thy own a scientific system of enquiry into the mutual change of all things, and pay diligent heed to this branch of study and exercise thyself in it. For nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind. Let a man do this and he divests himself of his body and, realizing that he must almost at once relinquish all these things and depart from among men, he gives himself up wholly to just dealing in all his actions, and to the Universal Nature in all that befalls him. What others may say or think about him or do against him he does not even let enter his mind, being well satisfied with these two things justice in all present acts and contentment with his present lot.[20] And he gives up all engrossing cares and ambitions, and has no other wish, than to achieve the straight course through the Law and, by achieving it, to be a follower of God.

12. What need of surmise when it lies with thee to decide what should be done, and if thou canst see thy course, to take it with a good grace and not turn aside ; but if thou canst not see it, to hold back and take counsel of the best counsellors ; and if any other obstacles arise therein, to go forward as thy present means shall allow with careful deliberation holding to what is clearly just ? For to succeed in this is the best thing of all, since in fact to fail in this would be the only failure. Leisurely without being lethargic and cheerful as well as composed shall he be who follows Reason in everything.

13. Ask thyself as soon as thou art roused from sleep: Will it make any difference to me if another does what is just and right? It will make none. Hast thou forgotten that those who play the wanton[21] in their praise and blame of others, are such as they are[22] in their beds, at their board; and what are the things that they do, the things that they avoid or pursue, and how they pilfer and plunder, not with hands and feet but with the most precious part of them, whereby a man calls into being at will faith, modesty, truth, law, and a good genius?[23]

14. Says the well-schooled and humble heart to Nature that gives and takes back all we have; Give what thou wilt, take back what thou wilt.[24] But he says it without any bravado of fortitude, in simple obedience and good will to her.

15. Thou has but a short time left to live. Live as on a mountain[25]; for whether it be here or there, matters not provided that, wherever a man live, he live as a citizen of the World-City[26]. Let men look upon thee, cite thee, as a man in very deed that lives according to Nature. If they cannot bear with thee, let them slay thee. For it were better so than to live their life.

16. Put an end once for all to this discussion of what a good man should be, and be one.

17. Continually picture to thyself Time as a whole, and Substance as a whole, and every individual thing, in respect of substance, as but a fig-seed and, in respect to time, as but a twist of the drill.

18. Regarding attentively every existing thing reflect that it is already disintegrating and changing, and as it were in a state of decomposition and dispersion, or that everything is by nature made but to die.

19. What are they like when eating, sleeping, coupling, evacuating, and the rest! What again when lording it over others, when puffed up with pride, when filled with resentment or rebuking others from a loftier plane ! Yet but a moment ago they were lackeying how many and for what ends, and anon will be at their old trade.[27]

20. What the Universal Nature brings to every thing is for the benefit of that thing, and for its benefit then when she brings it.[28]

21. The earth is in love with showers and the majestic sky is in love. And the Universe is in love with making whatever has to be. To the Universe I say: Together with thee I will be in love. Is it not a way we have of speaking, to say, This or that loves to be so?

22. Either thy life is here and thou art inured to it; or thou goest elsewhere and this with thine own will; or thou diest and hast served out thy service. There is no other alternative. Take heart then.

23. Never lose sight of the fact that a man’s ‘freehold’[29] is such as I told thee, and how all the conditions are the same here as on the top of a mountain[30] or on the sea-shore or wherever thou pleasest. Quite apposite shalt thou find to be the words of Plato[31]: Compassed about (by the city wall as) by a sheep-fold on the mountain, and milking flocks.

24. What is my ruling Reason and what am I making of it now? To what use do I now put it? Is it devoid of intelligence? Is it divorced and severed from neighbourliness? Does it so coalesce and blend with the flesh as to be swayed by it?

25. He that flies from his master is a runaway. But the Law is our master,[32] and he that transgresses the Law is a runaway. Now he also, that is moved by grief or wrath or fear, is fain that something should not have happened or be happening or happen in the future of what has been ordained by that which controls the whole Universe, that is by the Law laying down all that falls to a man's lot. He then is a runaway who is moved by fear, grief, or wrath.

26. A man passes seed into a womb and goes his way, and anon another cause takes it in hand and works upon it and perfects a babe – what a consummation from what a beginning![33] Again he[34] passes food down the throat, and anon another cause taking up the work creates sensation and impulse and in fine, life and strength and other things how many and how mysterious! Muse then on these things that are done in such secrecy, and detect the efficient force, just as we detect the descensive and the ascensive none the less clearly that it is not with our eyes.

27. Bear in mind continually how all such things as now exist existed also before our day[35] and, be assured, will exist after us. Set before thine eyes whole dramas and their settings, one like another, all that thine own experience has shewn thee or thou hast learned from past history, for instance the entire court of Hadrianus,[36] the entire court of Antoninus, the entire court of Philip, of Alexander, of Croesus. For all those scenes were such as we see now, only the performers being different.

28. Picture to thyself every one that is grieved at any occurrence whatever or dissatisfied, as being like the pig which struggles and screams when sacrificed; like it too him who, alone upon his bed, bewails in silence the fetters of our fate ; and that to the rational creature alone has it been granted to submit willingly to what happens, mere submission being imperative on all.[37]

29. In every act of thine pause at each step and ask thyself: Is death to be dreaded for the loss of this?

30. Does another’s wrong-doing shock you? Turn incontinently to yourself and think about the same wrong-doing there is of your own,[38] such as deeming money to be a good[39] or pleasure[40] or a little cheap fame[41] and the like. For by marking this you will quickly forget your wrath, with this reflection too to aid you, that a man is under constraint[42]; for what should he do? Or, if you are able, remove the constraint.

31. Let a glance at Satyron call up the image of Socraticus or Eutyches or Hymen, and a glance at Euphrates the image of Eutychion or Silvanus, and a glance at Alciphron Tropaeophorus, and at Severus Xeriophon or Crito.[43] Let a glance at thyself bring to mind one of the Caesars, and so by analogy in every case. Then let the thought strike thee : Where are they now ? Nowhere,[44] or none can say where. For thus shalt thou habitually look upon human things as mere smoke and as naught ; and more than ever so, if thou bethink thee that what has once changed will exist no more throughout eternity. Why strive then and strain? Why not be content to pass this thy short span of life in becoming fashion?

What material, what a field for thy work dost thou forgo! For what are all these things but objects for the exercise of a reason that hath surveyed with accuracy and due inquiry into its nature the whole sphere of life? Continue then until thou hast assimilated these truths also to thyself, as the vigorous digestion assimilates every food, or the blazing fire converts into warmth and radiance whatever is cast into it.[45]

32. Give no one the right to say of thee with truth that thou art not a sincere, that thou art not a good man, but let anyone that shall form any such an idea of thee be as one that maketh a lie. All this rests with thee. For who is there to hinder thee from being good and sincere[46]? Resolve then to live no longer if thou be not such.[47] For neither doth Reason in that case insist that thou shouldest.

33. Taking our material into account, what can be said or done in the soundest way ? Be it what it may, it rests with thee to do or say it. And let us have no pretence that thou art being hindered.

Never shalt thou cease murmuring until it be so with thee that the utilizing, in a manner consistent with the constitution of man, of the material pre sented to thee and cast in thy way shall be to thee what indulgence is to the sensual. For everything must be accounted enjoyment that it is in a man’s power to put into practice in accordance with his own nature; and it is everywhere in his power.

A cylinder we know has no power given it of individual motion everywhere, nor has fire or water or any other thing controlled by Nature or by an irrational soul. For the interposing and impeding obstacles are many. But Intelligence and Reason make their way through every impediment just as their nature or their will prompts them. Setting before thine eyes this ease wherewith the Reason can force its way through every obstacle, as fire upwards, as a stone downwards, as a cylinder down a slope,[48] look for nothing beyond. For other hindrances either concern that veritable corpse, the body,[49] or, apart from imagination and the surrender of Reason herself, cannot crush us or work any harm at all.[50] Else indeed would their victim at once become bad.

In fact in the case of all other organisms, if any evil happen to any of them, the victim itself becomes the worse for it. But a man so circumstanced becomes, if I may so say, better and more praise worthy by putting such contingencies to a right use.[51] In fine, remember that nothing that harms not the city can harm him whom Nature has made a citizen[52] ; nor yet does that harm a city which harms not law. But not one of the so-called mischances harms law. What does not harm law, then, does no harm to citizen or city.

34. Even an obvious and quite brief aphorism can serve to warn him that is bitten with the true doctrines against giving way to grief and fear ; as for instance,

Such are the races of men as the leaves that the wind scatters earthwards?[53]

And thy children too are little leaves. Leaves also they who make an outcry as if they ought to be listened to, and scatter their praises or, contrariwise, their curses, or blame and scoff in secret. Leaves too they that are to hand down our after-fame. For all these things

Burgeon again with the season of spring[54];

anon the wind hath cast them down,[55] and the forest puts forth others in their stead. Transitoriness is the common lot of all things, yet there is none of these that thou huntest not after or shunnest, as though it were everlasting. A little while and them shalt close thine eyes; aye, and for him that bore thee to the grave shall another presently raise the dirge.[56]

35. The sound eye should see all there is to be seen, but should not say: I want what is green only. For that is characteristic of a disordered eye. And the sound hearing and smell should be equipped for all that is to be heard or smelled. And the sound digestion should act towards all nutriment as a mill towards the grist which it was formed to grind. So should  the sound mind be ready for all that befalls. But the mind that says: Let my children be safe![57] Let all applaud my every act! is but as an eye that looks for green things or as teeth that look for soft things.

36. There is no one so fortunate as not to have one or two standing by his death-bed who will welcome the evil which is befalling him. Say he was a worthy man and a wise; will there not be some one at the very end to say in his heart, We can breathe again at last, freed from this schoolmaster[58] not that he was hard on any of us, but I was all, along conscious that he tacitly condemns us? So much for the worthy, but in our own case how many other reasons can be found for which hundreds would be only too glad to be quit of us! Think then upon this when dying, and thy passing from life will be easier if thou reason thus: I am leaving a life in which even my intimates for whom I have so greatly toiled, prayed, and thought,[59] aye even they wish me gone, expecting belike to gain thereby some further ease.[60] Why then should anyone cling to a longer sojourn here ?

Howbeit go away with no less kindliness towards them on this account, but maintaining thy true; characteristics be friendly and good-natured and gracious ; nor again as though wrenched apart, but rather should thy withdrawal from them be as that gentle slipping away of soul from body which we see when a man makes a peaceful end. For it was Nature that knit and kneaded thee with them, and now she parts the tie. I am parted from kinsfolk, not dragged forcibly away, but unresistingly. For this severance too is a process of Nature.[61]

37. In every act of another habituate thyself as far as may be to put to thyself the question: What end has the man in view?[62] But begin with thyself, cross-examine thyself first.

38. Bear in mind that what pulls the strings is that Hidden Thing within us: that makes our speech, that our life, that, one may say, makes the man. Never in thy mental picture of it include the vessel that overlies it[63] nor these organs that are appurtenances thereof. They are like the workman’s adze, only differing from it in being naturally attached to the body. Since indeed, severed from the Cause that bids them move and bids them stay, these parts are as useless as is the shuttle of the weaver, the pen of the writer, and the whip of the charioteer.

<Book IX - Book XI>

[1] ix. 6.

[2] iii. 11, § 3.

[3] i.e. Zeus = the Universe = the First Cause = Nature.

[4] vii. 28.

[5] viii. 46.

[6] viii. 59; xi. 9, 13, 18, § 9.

[7] iii. 11; iv. 26.

[8] vi. 54 ; x. 33, § 4.

[9] ix. 22.

[10] These words can also be translated : parts of herself that were both liable to fall into such evil and by necessity fell into doing evil.

[11] vii. 32.

[12] iv. 4. Lit. the pneumatic or breath element. See Index iii.

[13] iii. 3. Justin, Apol. i. 20 ; ii. 7, contrasts the Christian theory of the destruction of the world by fire with the Stoic.

[14] See on x. 16.

[15] Capitolinus and Amniianus call Marcus verecundus.

[16] Only two kings have had the honourable cognomen of Truthteller, Marcus and Alfred the Great. The former was given Verissimus as a pet name by Hadrian when a child, and the town of Tyras in Scythia stamped it on its coins and .Justin and Syncellus use it to designate Marcus.

[17] For Marcus views on suicide see iii. 1; v. 29; viii. 47 ad fin.; ix. 2; x. 22. 32. He permits it when external conditions render the life of virtue impossible, or when a man finds in himself a failure to live the true life (cp. St. Augustine's "Let me die lest I die").

[18] cp. Diog. Laert. Plato, 42; Ignat. Eph. 1, 10; Justin, Apol. i. 21 ; Diogn. Ep. 10; Julian, Conviv. 427. 21, puts similar words in the mouth of Marcus.

[19] See Domaszewski, Marcus-Saüle Plates, 62. 102, for Marcus "taking Sarmatians"; and cp. the story of Alexander and the Scythian, Quintus Curtius vii. 8.

[20] ix. 6 etc.

[21] vii. 3; ix. 41.

[22] iii. 4 ad fin.; vi. 59; vii. 62; viii. 52, 53; ix. 34.

[23] vii. 17.

[24] cp. Job i. 21.

[25] x. 23. This striking phrase seems from a comparison of § 23 to mean: Count your life here in the city and Court, or, maybe, camp, as no whit worse than life in the free and health-giving air of a mountain-top with all its serenity and leisure for .study and contemplation. It rests with you to make your "little plot within you" what you please. But, taken alone, "Live as on a mountain" might mean "Live in the open light of day under the eyes of God and men in a purer atmosphere above the pettinesses of the world."

[26] iv. 3, § 2.

[27] Or, taking Gatakers emendation, in what plight, will they be!

[28] iv. 23.

[29] v. 3, § 4.

[30] iv. 3 ad init.; x. 15.

[31] It is not easy to see the application of the words here. Marcus seems to mean that the king in the midst of his royal city is no better off, ipso facto, than the shepherd in his mountain fold. It is the little "plot within him," his ruling Reason that makes the difference. See § 15.

[32] ii. 16 ad fin.

[33] cp. the remarkable parallel in Justin, Apol. i. 19.

[34] There is no subject expressed. It is possible to take the child as the subject.

[35] vii. 49.

[36] viii. 25, 31.

[37] cp. Sen. Ep. 107: ducunt volentem fata nolentem trahunt; de Vit. Beat. 15; Cleanthes, Hymn to Zeus.

[38] vii. 26; xi. 18, § 4.

[39] Marcus had a horror of avarice ; cp. Vulc. Gallic. Vit. Avid. Cass. viii. 5 : in imperatore avaritiam acerbisaimum esse malum. Yet he was accused of it and repudiated the charge (Capit. xxix. 5) ; and he is also exculpated by Dio (71. 32, § 3)

[40] See on v. 5.

[41] See on iv. 19.

[42] vii. 63.

[43] Xenophon and Crito are well known. Severus was probably the father of Marcus' son-in-law (i. 14). Euphrates was the philosopher friend of Pliny and Hadrian. Nothing certain is known of the others.

[44] vii. 58.

[45] iv. 1.

[46] viii. 32.

[47] v. 29 ; x. 8, § 2.

[48] Aul. Gell. vi. 2, § 11 (from Chrysippus).

[49] iv. 41.

[50] iv. 7.

[51] vii. 58.

[52] x. 6.

[53] Hom. Il. vi. 147.

[54] Ibid.

[55] cp. Psalm 103. 16.

[56] iv. 48.

[57] i. 8; vii 41 ; viii. 49; ix. 40; xi. 34. Marcus was intensely fond of his children. Galen describes (xiv. 3, Kühn) his anxiety about Commodus ; cp. also Fronto, ad Caes. iv. 12.

[58] cp. Vopiscus, Vit. Aureliani, 37, § 3; Sen. Ep. 11.

[59] Herodian, i. 4, § 3.

[60] Is he thinking of Commodus?

[61] ix. 3.

[62] ii. 10.

[63] iii. 3 ad fin.; xii. 1.