All those things at which thou wishest to arrive by a circuitous road,
thou canst have now, if thou dost not refuse them to
thyself. And this means, if thou wilt take no notice of all
the past, and trust the future to providence, and direct
the present only conformably to piety and justice. Conformably to piety, that thou mayest be content with the lot
which is assigned to thee, for nature designed it for thee
and thee for it. Conformably to justice, that thou mayest
always speak the truth freely and without disguise, and do
the things which are agreeable to law and according to the
worth of each. And let neither another man's wickedness hinder thee, nor opinion nor voice, nor yet the sensations of the poor
flesh which has grown about thee; for the passive part will
look to this. If then, whatever the time may be when thou
shalt be near to thy departure, neglecting everything else
thou shalt respect only thy ruling faculty and the divinity within thee, and if thou shalt be afraid not because thou must some
time cease to live, but if thou shalt fear never to have
begun to live according to nature- then thou wilt be a man
worthy of the universe which has produced thee, and thou
wilt cease to be a stranger in thy native land, and to wonder at things which happen daily as if they were something
unexpected, and to be dependent on this or that.
God sees the minds (ruling principles) of all men
bared of the material vesture and rind and impurities. For
with his intellectual part alone he touches the
intelligence only which has flowed and been derived from
himself into these bodies. And if thou also usest thyself to do this, thou wilt rid thyself of thy much trouble. For he who regards
not the poor flesh which envelops him, surely will not
trouble himself by looking after raiment and dwelling and
fame and such like externals and show.
The things are three of which thou art composed, a
little body, a little breath (life), intelligence. Of these
the first two are thine, so far as it is thy duty to take
care of them; but the third alone is properly thine.
Therefore if thou shalt separate from thyself, that is, from thy understanding, whatever others do or say, and whatever thou
hast done or said thyself, and whatever future things
trouble thee because they may happen, and whatever in the
body which envelops thee or in the breath (life), which is
by nature associated with the body, is attached to thee independent of thy will, and whatever the external circumfluent vortex
whirls round, so that the intellectual power exempt from
the things of fate can live pure and free by itself, doing
what is just and accepting what happens and saying the
truth: if thou wilt separate, I say, from this ruling faculty the things which are attached to it by the impressions of
sense, and the things of time to come and of time that is
past, and wilt make thyself like Empedocles' sphere,
All round, and in its joyous rest reposing; and if
thou shalt strive to live only what is really thy life,
that is, the present- then thou wilt be able to pass that
portion of life which remains for thee up to the time of
thy death, free from perturbations, nobly, and obedient to thy own daemon
(to the god that is within thee).
have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own
opinion of himself than on the opinion of others. If then a
god or a wise teacher should present himself to a man and
bid him to think of nothing and to design nothing which he
would not express as soon as he conceived it, he could not
endure it even for a single day. So much more respect have we to what our neighbours shall think of us than to what we shall
think of ourselves.
How can it be
that the gods after having arranged all things well and
benevolently for mankind, have overlooked this alone, that some men and very good men, and men who, as we may say, have had most
communion with the divinity, and through pious acts and
religious observances have been most intimate with the
divinity, when they have once died should never exist
again, but should be completely extinguished?
if this is so, be assured that if it ought to have been otherwise, the gods would have done it. For if it were just, it would
also be possible; and if it were according to nature,
nature would have had it so. But because it is not so, if
in fact it is not so, be thou convinced that it ought not
to have been so:- for thou seest even of thyself that in this inquiry thou art disputing with the diety; and we should not thus
dispute with the gods, unless they were most excellent and
most just;- but if this is so, they would not have allowed
anything in the ordering of the universe to be neglected
unjustly and irrationally.
Practise thyself even in
the things which thou despairest of accomplishing. For even
the left hand, which is ineffectual for all other things for want of practice, holds the bridle more vigorously than the right
hand; for it has been practised in this.
Consider in what condition both in body and soul a man
should be when he is overtaken by death; and consider the
shortness of life, the boundless abyss of time past and
future, the feebleness of all matter.
Contemplate the formative principles (forms) of things
bare of their coverings; the purposes of actions; consider
what pain is, what pleasure is, and death, and fame; who is
to himself the cause of his uneasiness; how no man is
hindered by another; that everything is opinion.
In the application of thy principles thou must be like
the pancratiast, not like the gladiator; for the gladiator
lets fall the sword which he uses and is killed; but the
other always has his hand, and needs to do nothing else
than use it.
See what things are in themselves,
dividing them into matter, form and purpose.
What a power man has to do nothing except what God
will approve, and to accept all that God may give him.
With respect to that which happens conformably to
nature, we ought to blame neither gods, for they do
nothing wrong either voluntarily or involuntarily, nor
men, for they do nothing wrong except involuntarily. Consequently we should blame nobody.
How ridiculous and what a stranger he is who is
surprised at anything which happens in life.
Either there is a fatal necessity and invincible
order, or a kind Providence, or a confusion without a
purpose and without a director (Book IV). If then there is
an invincible necessity, why dost thou resist? But if
there is a Providence which allows itself to be propitiated, make thyself
worthy of the help of the divinity. But if there is a
confusion without governor, be content that in such a
tempest thou hast in thyself a certain ruling
intelligence. And even if the tempest carry thee away, let it carry away the poor flesh, the poor breath, everything else; for
the intelligence at least it will not carry away.
Does the light of the lamp shine without losing its
splendour until it is extinguished; and shall the truth
which is in thee and justice and temperance be
extinguished before thy death?
When a man has
presented the appearance of having done wrong, say, How
then do I know if this is a wrongful act? And even if he has done wrong,
how do I know that he has not condemned himself? and so
this is like tearing his own face. Consider that he, who
would not have the bad man do wrong, is like the man who
would not have the fig-tree to bear juice in the figs and
infants to cry and the horse to neigh, and whatever else must of necessity
be. For what must a man do who has such a character? If
then thou art irritable, cure this man's disposition.
If it is not right, do not do it: if it is not true,
do not say it. For let thy efforts be-
In everything always observe what the thing is which
produces for thee an appearance, and resolve it by
dividing it into the formal, the material, the purpose,
and the time within which it must end.
Perceive at last that thou hast in thee something
better and more divine than the things which cause the
various affects, and as it were pull thee by the strings.
What is there now in my mind? Is it fear, or suspicion, or
desire, or anything of the kind?
First, do nothing
inconsiderately, nor without a purpose. Second, make thy
acts refer to nothing else than to a social end.
Consider that before long thou wilt be nobody and
nowhere, nor will any of the things exist which thou now
seest, nor any of those who are now living. For all things
are formed by nature to change and be turned and to perish
in order that other things in continuous succession may exist.
Consider that everything is
opinion, and opinion is in thy power. Take away then, when
thou choosest, thy opinion, and like a mariner, who has
doubled the promontory, thou wilt find calm, everything stable, and a waveless bay.
Any one activity
whatever it may be, when it has ceased at its proper time,
suffers no evil because it has ceased; nor he who has done this act, does he suffer any evil for this reason that the
act has ceased. In like manner then the whole which
consists of all the acts, which is our life, if it cease
at its proper time, suffers no evil for this reason that
it has ceased; nor he who has terminated this series at the proper time, has he been ill dealt with. But the proper time and the
limit nature fixes, sometimes as in old age the peculiar
nature of man, but always the universal nature, by the
change of whose parts the whole universe continues ever
young and perfect. And everything which is useful to the universal is always good and in season. Therefore the termination of
life for every man is no evil, because neither is it
shameful, since it is both independent of the will and not
opposed to the general interest, but it is good, since it
is seasonable and profitable to and congruent with the universal. For thus too he is moved by the deity who is moved in the same
manner with the deity and moved towards the same things in
These three principles thou must have in
readiness. In the things which thou doest do nothing
either inconsiderately or otherwise than as justice
herself would act; but with respect to what may happen to thee from without, consider that it happens either by chance or
according to Providence, and thou must neither blame
chance nor accuse Providence. Second, consider what every
being is from the seed to the time of its receiving a
soul, and from the reception of a soul to the giving back of the same, and of what things every being is compounded and into what
things it is resolved. Third, if thou shouldst suddenly be
raised up above the earth, and shouldst look down on human
things, and observe the variety of them how great it is,
and at the same time also shouldst see at a glance how great is the number of beings who dwell around in the air and
the aether, consider that as often as thou shouldst be
raised up, thou wouldst see the same things, sameness of
form and shortness of duration. Are these things to be
Cast away opinion: thou art saved. Who
then hinders thee from casting it away?
When thou art troubled about anything, thou hast
forgotten this, that all things happen according to the
universal nature; and forgotten this, that a man's
wrongful act is nothing to thee; and further thou hast forgotten this, that everything which happens, always
happened so and will happen so, and now happens so
everywhere; forgotten this too, how close is the kinship
between a man and the whole human race, for it is a community, not of a little blood or seed, but of intelligence. And thou
hast forgotten this too, that every man's intelligence is
a god, and is an efflux of the deity; and forgotten this,
that nothing is a man's own, but that his child and his
body and his very soul came from the deity; forgotten this, that everything is opinion; and lastly thou hast forgotten that
every man lives the present time only, and loses only
Constantly bring to thy recollection those
who have complained greatly about anything, those who have
been most conspicuous by the greatest fame or misfortunes
or enmities or fortunes of any kind: then think where are
they all now? Smoke and ash and a tale, or not even a tale. And let there be present to thy mind also everything of this sort,
how Fabius Catullinus lived in the country, and Lucius
Lupus in his gardens, and Stertinius at Baiae, and
Tiberius at Capreae and Velius Rufus (or Rufus at Velia); and in fine think of the eager pursuit of anything conjoined with
pride; and how worthless everything is after which men
violently strain; and how much more philosophical it is
for a man in the opportunities presented to him to show.
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