Book XII

1. ALL those things, which thou prayest to attain by a roundabout way, thou canst have at once if thou deny them not to thyself[1]; that is to say, if thou leave all the Past to itself and entrust the Future to Providence,[2] and but direct the Present in the way of piety and justice: piety, that thou mayest love thy lot, for Nature brought it to thee and thee to it; justice, that thou mayest speak the truth freely and without finesse, and have an eye to law and the due worth of things[3] in all that thou doest; and let nothing stand in thy way, not the wickedness of others, nor thine own opinion, nor what men say, nor even the sensations of the flesh that has grown around thee[4]; for the part affected will see to that.

If then, when the time of thy departure is near, abandoning all else thou prize thy ruling Reason alone and that which in thee is divine,[5] and dread the thought, not that thou must one day cease to live, but that thou shouldst never yet have begun to live according to Nature, then shalt thou be a man worthy of the Universe that begat thee, and no longer an alien[6] in thy fatherland, no longer shalt thou marvel at what happens every day as if it were unforeseen, and be dependent on this or that.

2. God sees the Ruling Parts of all men stripped of material vessels and husks and sloughs. For only with the Intellectual Part of Himself is He in touch with those emanations only which have welled forth and been drawn off from Himself into them. But if thou also wilt accustom thyself to do this, thou wilt free thyself from the most of thy distracting care. For he that hath no eye for the flesh that envelopes him will not, I trow, waste his time with taking thought for raiment and lodging arid popularity and such accessories and frippery.[7]

3. Thou art formed of three things in combination - body, vital breath, intelligence.[8] Of these the first two are indeed thine, in so far as thou must have them in thy keeping, but the third alone is in any true sense thine.[9] Wherefore, if thou cut off from thyself, that is from thy mind, all that others do or say and all that thyself hast done or said, and all that harasses thee in the future, or whatever thou art involved in independently of thy will by the body which envelopes thee and the breath that is twinned with it, and whatever the circumambient rotation outside of thee sweeps along, so that thine intellectual faculty, delivered from the contingencies of destiny, may live pure and undetached by itself, doing what is just, desiring what befalls it, speaking the truth - if, I say, thou strip from this ruling Reason all that cleaves to it from the bodily in fluences and the things that lie beyond in time and the things that are past, and if thou fashion thyself like the Empedoclean

Sphere with its circle true in its poise well-rounded rejoicing,[10]

and school thyself to live that life only which is thine, namely the present, so shalt thou be able to pass through the remnant of thy days calmly, kindly, and at peace with thine own 'genius.'[11]

4. Often have I marvelled how each one of us loves himself above all men, yet sets less store by his own opinion of himself than by that of everyone else. At any rate, if a God or some wise teacher should come to a man and charge him to admit no thought or design into his mind that he could not utter aloud as soon as conceived,[12] he could not endure this ordinance for a single day. So it is clear that we pay more deference to the opinion our neighbours will have of us than to our own.

5. How can the Gods, after disposing all things well and with goodwill towards men, ever have over looked this one thing, that some of mankind, and they especially good men, who have had as it were the closest commerce with the Divine, and by devout conduct and acts of worship have been in the most intimate fellowship with it, should when once dead have no second existence but be wholly extinguished?[13] But if indeed this be haply so, doubt not that they would have ordained it otherwise, had it needed to be otherwise. For had it been just, it would also have been feasible, and had it been in conformity with Nature, Nature would have brought it about. Therefore from its not being so, if indeed it is not so, be assured that it ought not to have been so. For even thyself canst see that in this presumptuous enquiry of thine thou art reasoning with God.[14] But we should not thus be arguing with the Gods were they not infinitely good and just. But in that case they could not have overlooked anything being wrongly and irrationally neglected in their thorough Ordering of the Universe.

6. Practise that also wherein thou hast no expect ation of success. For even the left hand, which for every other function is inefficient by reason of a want of practice, has yet a firmer grip of the bridle than the right. For it has had practice in this.

7. Reflect on the condition of body and soul befitting a man when overtaken by death, on the shortness of life,[15] on the yawning gulf[16] of the past and of the time to come, on the impotence of all matter.

8. Look at the principles of causation stripped of their husks; at the objective of actions; at what pain is, what pleasure, what death, what fame. See who is to blame for a man's inner unrest; how no one can be thwarted by another[17]; that nothing is but what thinking makes it.[18]

9. In our use of principles of conduct we should imitate the pancratiast not the gladiator.[19] For the latter lays aside the blade which he uses, and takes it up again, but the other always has his hand and needs only to clench it.

10. See things as they really are, analyzing them into Matter, Cause, Objective.[20]

11. What a capacity Man has to do only what God shall approve and to welcome all that God assigns him!

12. Find no fault with Gods for what is the course of Nature, for they do no wrong[21] voluntarily or involuntarily; nor with men, for they do none save involuntarily.[22] Find fault then with none.[23]

13. How ludicrous is he and out of place who marvels at anything that happens in life.[24]

14. There must be either a predestined Necessity and inviolable plan, or a gracious Providence, or a chaos without design or director. If then there be an inevitable Necessity, why kick against the pricks? If a Providence that is ready to be gracious, render thyself worthy of divine succour. But if a chaos without guide, congratulate thyself that amid such a surging sea thou hast in thyself a guiding Reason. And if the surge sweep thee away, let it sweep away the poor Flesh and Breath with their appurtenances: for the Intelligence it shall never sweep away. (15.) What! shall the truth that is in thee and the justice and the temperance be extinguished ere thou art, whereas the light of a lamp shines forth and keeps its radiance until the flame be quenched?

16. Another has given thee cause to think that he has done wrong: But how do I know that it is a wrong?[25] And even if he be guilty, suppose that his own heart has condemned him, and so he is as one who wounds his own face?

Note that he who would not have the wicked do wrong is as one who would not have the fig-tree secrete acrid juice[26] in its fruit, would not have babies cry, or the horse neigh, or have any other things be that must be. Why, what else can be expected from such a disposition? If then it chafes thee, cure the disposition.

17. If not meet, do it not: if not true, say it not. For let thine impulse be in thy own power.

18. Ever look to the whole of a thing, what exactly that is which produces the impression on thee, and unfold it, analyzing it into its causes, its matter, its objective,[27] and into its life-span within which it must needs cease to be.

19. Become conscious at last that thou hast in thyself something better and more god-like than that which causes the bodily passions and turns thee into a mere marionette.[28] What is my mind now occupied with[29]? Fear? Suspicion? Concupiscence[30]? Some other like thing?

20. Firstly, eschew action that is aimless and has no objective. Secondly, take as the only goal of conduct what is to the common interest.[31]

21. Bethink thee that thou wilt very soon be no one and nowhere, and so with all that thou now seest and all who are now living. For by Nature's law all things must change, be transformed, and perish, that other things may in their turn come into being.[32]

22. Remember that all is but as thy opinion of it,[33] and that is in thy power. Efface thy opinion then, as thou mayest do at will, and lo, a great calm! Like a mariner that has turned the head land thou findest all at set-fair and a halcyon sea.[34]

23. Any single form of activity, be it what it may, ceasing in its own due season, suffers no ill because it hath ceased, nor does the agent suffer in that it hath ceased to act.[35] Similarly then if life, that sum total of all our acts, cease in its own good time, it suffers no ill from this very fact, nor is he in an ill plight who has brought this chain of acts to an end in its own due time. The due season and the terminus are fixed by Nature, at times even by our individual nature, as when in old age, but in any case by the Universal Nature, the constant change of whose parts keeps the whole Universe ever youthful[36] and in its prime. All that is ad vantageous to the Whole is ever fair and in its bloom. The ending of life then is not only no evil to the individual - for it brings him no disgrace,[37] if in fact it be both outside our choice and not inimical to the general weal - but a good, since it is timely for the Universe, bears its share in it and is borne along with it.[38] For then is he, who is borne along on the same path as God, and borne in his judgment towards the same things, indeed a man god-borne.[39]

24. Thou must have these three rules ready for use. Firstly, not to do anything, that thou doest, aimlessly,[40] or otherwise than as Justice herself would have acted ; and to realize that all that befalls thee from without is due either to Chance or to Providence, nor hast tliou any call to blame Chance or to impeach Providence. Secondly this: to think what each crea ture is from conception till it receives a living soul, and from its reception of a living soul till its giving back of the same,[41] and out of what it is built up and into what it is dissolved. Thirdly, that if carried suddenly into mid-heaven thou shouldest look down upon human affairs[42] and their infinite diversity, thou wilt indeed despise them,[43] seeing at the same time in one view how great is the host that peoples the air and the aether around thee; and that, however often thou wert lifted up on high, thou wouldst see the same sights, everything identical in kind, everything fleeting. Besides, the vanity of it all!

25. Overboard with opinion[44] and thou art safe ashore. And who is there prevents thee from tin-owing it overboard?

26. In taking umbrage at anything, thou forgettest this, that everything happens in accordance with the Universal Nature[45]; and this, that the wrong-doing is another's[46]; and this furthermore that all that happens, always did happen,[47] and will happen so, and is at this moment happening everywhere. And thou forgettest how strong is the kinship between man and mankind, for it is a community not of corpuscles, of seed or blood, but of intelligence.[48] And thou forgettest this too, that each man's intelligence is God[49] and has emanated from Him; and this, that nothing is a man's very own, but that his babe, his body, his very soul came forth from Him[50]; and this, that everything is but opinion[51]; and this, that it is only the present moment that a man lives and the present moment only that he loses.[52]

27. Let thy mind dwell continually on those who have shewn unmeasured resentment at things, who have been conspicuous above others for honours or disasters or enmities or any sort of special lot. Then consider, Where is all that now?[53] Smoke and dust and a legend or not a legend even.[54] Take any instance of the kind - Fabius Catullinus in the country, Lusius Lupus in his gardens, Stertinius at Baiae, Tiberius in Capreae, and Velius Rufus - in fact a craze for any thing whatever arrogantly[55] indulged. How worthless is everything so in ordinately desired! How much more worthy of a philosopher is it for a man without any artifice to shew himself in the sphere assigned to him just, temperate, and a follower of the Gods. For the conceit that is conceited of its freedom from conceit is the most insufferable of all.[56]

28. If any ask, Where hast thou seen the Gods or how hast thou satisfied thyself of their existence that thou art so devout a worshipper?[57] I answer: In the first place, they are even visible to the eyes.[58] In the next, I have not seen my own soul either, yet I honour it.[59] So then from the continual proofs of their power I am assured that Gods also exist and I reverence them.

29. Salvation in life depends on our seeing every thing in its entirety and and its reality, in its Matter and its Cause[60]: on our doing what is just and speaking what is true with all our soul. What remains but to get delight of life by dovetailing one good act[61] on to another so as not to leave the smallest gap between?

30. There is one Light of the Sun, even though its continuity be broken by walls, mountains,[62] and countless other things. There is one common Substance, even though it be broken up into countless bodies individually characterized. There is one Soul, though it be broken up among countless natures and by individual limitations. There is one Intelligent Soul, though it seem to be divided. Of the things mentioned, however, all the other parts, such as Breath, are the material Substratum of things,[63] devoid of sensation and the ties of mutual affinity - yet even they are knit together by the faculty of intelligence and the gravitation which draws them together. But the mind is peculiarly impelled towards what is akin to it, and coalesces with it, and there is no break in the feeling of social fellowship.

31. What dost thou ask for? Continued existence? But what of sensation? Of desire? Of growth? Of the use of speech? The exercise of thought? Which of these, thinkest thou, is a thing to long for? But if these things are each and all of no account, address thyself to a final endeavour to follow Reason and to follow God.[64] But it militates against this to prize such things, and to grieve if death comes to deprive us of them.

32. How tiny a fragment of the boundless abyss of Time has been appointed to each man![65] For in a moment it is lost in eternity. And how tiny a part of the Universal Substance![66] How tiny of the Universal Soul! And on how tiny a clod of the whole Earth dost thou crawl! Keeping all these things in mind, think nothing of moment save to do what thy nature leads thee to do, and to bear what the Universal Nature brings thee.[67]

33. How does the ruling Reason treat itself?[68] That is the gist of the whole matter. All else, be it in thy choice or not, is but as dust and smoke.[69]

34. Most efficacious in instilling a contempt for death is the fact that those who count pleasure a good and pain an evil have nevertheless contemned it.[70]

35. Not even death can bring terror to him who regards that alone as good which comes in due season,[71] and to whom it is all one whether his acts in obedience to right reason are few or many, and a matter of indifference whether he look upon the world for a longer or a shorter time.[72]

36. Man, thou hast been a citizen in this World-City,[73] what matters it to thee if for five years or a hundred? For under its laws equal treatment is meted out to all. What hardship then is there in being banished from the city, not by a tyrant or an unjust judge but by Nature who settled thee in it? So might a praetor who commissions a comic actor, dismiss him from the stage. But I have not played my five acts, but only three. Very possibly, but in life three acts count as a full play.[74] For he, that is responsible for thy composition originally and thy dissolution now, decides when it is complete. But thou art responsible for neither. Depart then with a good grace, for he that dismisses thee is gracious.[75]

[1] x. 33; Hor. Ep. i. 11 ad fin.

[2] vii. 8; St. Matt. vi. 34.

[3] xi. 37 (Epictetus).

[4] vii. 68.

[5] ii. 26.

[6] iv. 29; xii. 13.

[7] Lit. stage-scenery; cp. Sen. ad Marc. 10.

[8] ii. 2; iii. 16. Here πνευμάτιον = ψυχη (soul) in its lower sense, see Index III.

[9] x. 38.

[10] viii. 41; xi. 12. cp. Hor. Sat. ii. 7, 95: in seipso totus teres atque rotundus.

[11] ii. 13; iii. 5 etc.

[12] iii. 4.

[13] For Marcus views on Immortality, see Introd.

[14] cp. Job (xiii. 3), I desire to reason with God, where a similar point is argued.

[15] iv. 26.

[16] iv. 50; v. 23; xii. 32.

[17] v. 34; vii. 16.

[18] v. 2; viii. 40; xii. 22. Shak. Ham. ii. 2. 256.

[19] Or, the prize-fighter not the duellist. Some take αναιρειται to mean 'is slain.'

[20] viii. 11; xii. 18, 29.

[21] ii. 11.

[22] vii. 22 etc.

[23] Epict. Man. 5.

[24] xii. 1.

[25] vii. 29; ix. 38.

[26] iv. 6.

[27] xii. 10. Or, application.

[28] ii. 2 etc.

[29] v. 11.

[30] ii. 16; ix. 40.

[31] v. 16; xi. 21.

[32] ix. 28, 32.

[33] ii. 15 etc.

[34] cp. Lucian, Scyth. ad fin.

[35] ix. 21.

[36] vii. 25.

[37] ii. 11; iv. 3; viii. 1.

[38] ii. 3; iii. 4.

[39] Epict. ii. 16, 42: προς τον θεον αναβλέψας ειπειν, όμογνωμονω σοι.

[40] iv. 2; viii. 17; ix. 28.

[41] The living soul was supposed by the Stoics to be received at birth, see Plut. de Placit. Phil. v. 15, and Stoic. Contr. 38; and for a reputed conversation on this subject between Marcus and the rabbi Jehuda, see Talmud, Sank. 91 b (Jewish Encyd. Funk & Wagnalls, 1902).

[42] vii. 48; ix. 30.

[43] cp. Lucian, Charon (throughout). What Marcus means by εναέριοι and εναιθέριοι (or the neuters of these) is not clear. But cp. Apul. de deo Socr., circa med., and his disquisition on δαίμονες; and the interesting parallel 2 Kings vi. 17.

[44] iv. 7; vii. 17, 29; viii. 29; ix. 7; xii. 22.

[45] v. 8, 10.

[46] ix. 38.

[47] vii. 1.

[48] ii. 1.

[49] cp. Eur. Frag. 1007, 'ο νους γαρ 'ημων εστιν εν 'εκάστω θεός: Cic. Tusc. i. 26, § 65.

[50] ii. 3.

[51] xii. 8, 22 etc.

[52] ii. 14; xii. 3.

[53] vi. 47; viii. 25; x. 31.

[54] cp. Pers. v. 132: cinis et manes et fabula fies.

[55] For οίησις see Epict. i. 8, § 6.

[56] See the story of Plato and Diogenes, Diog. Laert. vi. 2, § 4..

[57] cp. Dio 71. 34 § 2.

[58] The stars were Gods in the Stoic view. cp. above, viii. 19, and Sen. de Benef. iv. 8.

[59] Theoph. Ad Autol. i. 2 and 5.

[60] xii. 10, 18 etc.

[61] v. 6; ix. 23.

[62] viii. 57.

[63] With an alteration of stops these words may mean such as Breath and Matter, are devoid of sensation.

[64] vii. 31; xii. 27.

[65] iv. 50; v. 24.

[66] Epict. i. 12 § 26: ουκ οισθα 'ηλίκον ει προς τα οντα

[67] iii. 4.

[68] v. 11; x. 24.

[69] x. 31.

[70] e.g. Otho, Petronius, and Epicurus, for whose famous syllogism on death see Aul. Gell. ii. 8; Diog. Laert. Epic. xxxi. 2, and cp. Bacon's Essay "On Death."

[71] x. 20; xii. 23.

[72] iii. 7; xii. 36.

[73] ii. 16; iii. 11; iv. 4.

[74] iii. 8; xi. 1; Epict. Man 17.

[75] Here follow in A the verses translated in the Introduction.