Meditations

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THE SEVENTH BOOK

1. What is vice? It is what you have often seen. In every instance of it keep in mind that you have often seen the like before. Search up and down; you will find sameness everywhere. Among the events which fill the history of ancient, middle, and present ages; among the things of which our cities and our households are full to-day, nothing is new, all is familiar and fleeting.

2. How can the great principles of life become dead if the impressions which correspond to them be not extinguished? These impressions you may still rekindle. I can always form the proper opinion of this or that; and, if so, why am I disturbed? What is external to my mind is of no consequence to it. Learn this, and you stand upright; you can always renew your life. See things again as once you saw them, and your life is made new again.

3. Your vain concern for shows, for stage plays, for flocks and herds, your little combats, are as bones cast for the contention of puppies, as baits dropped into a fishpond, as the toil of ants and the burdens that they bear, as the scampering of frightened mice, or the antics of puppets jerked by wires. It is then your duty amid all this to stand firm, kindly and not proud, yet to understand that a man’s worth is just the worth of that which he pursues.

4. In conversation we should give good heed to what is said, and in every enterprise we should attend to what is done. In the latter case, at once look to the end in view, and, in the former, note the meaning intended.

5. Is my understanding sufficient for this business or not? If it be sufficient, I use it for the work in hand as an instrument given to me by nature. If it be not sufficient, I either give place to one better fitted for the achievement, or, if for some reason this be not a proper course, I do it as best I can, taking the aid of those who, by directing my mind, can accomplish something fit and serviceable for the common good. For all that I do, whether by myself or with the help of others, should be directed solely towards what is fit and useful for the public service.

6. How many of those who were once so mightily acclaimed are delivered up to oblivion! And how many of those who acclaimed them are dead and gone this many a day!

7. Be not ashamed of taking assistance. It is laid upon you to do your part, as on a soldier when the wall is stormed. What, then, if you are lame, and cannot scale the battlements alone, but can with another’s help?

8. Be not troubled about the future. You will come to it, if need be, with the same power to reason, as you use upon your present business.

9. All things are twined together, in one sacred bond. Scarce is there one thing quite foreign to another. They are all ranged together, and leagued to form the same ordered whole. The Universe, compact of all things, is one; through all things runs one divinity; being is one; and law, which is the reason common to all intelligent creatures; and truth is one as well, that is if there be but one sort of perfection possible to all beings which are of the same nature and partake of the same rational power.

10. Everything material is soon engulfed in the matter of the whole, and every active cause is swiftly resumed into the Universal reason. The memory of all things is quickly buried in eternity.

11. In the reasoning being to act according to nature is to act according to reason.

12. Be upright either by nature or by correction.

13. In an organic unity bodily members play the same part as reasoning beings among separate existences, since both are fitted for one joint operation. This thought will come home to you the more vividly if you say often to yourself: “I am a member of the mighty organism which is made up of reasoning beings.” If, instead of a member, you say that you are merely a part, you have not as yet attained to a heartfelt love of mankind. As yet you love not well-doing for its own sake alone, and you still perform your bare duty, with no thought that you are your own benefactor by the deed.

14. From the world without let what will affect whatever parts are subject to such affection. Let the part which suffers complain, if it will, of the suffering. But I, if I admit not that the hap is evil, remain uninjured. Not to admit it is surely in my power.

15. Let any one say or do what he pleases, I must be a good man. It is just as gold, or emeralds, or purple might say continually: “Let men do or say what they please, I must be an emerald, and retain my lustre.”

16. The soul which rules you vexes not itself. It does not, for example, awake its own fears or arouse its own desires. If another can raise grief or terror in it, let him do so. By its own impressions it will not be led into such emotions.

Let the body take thought, if it can, for itself, lest it suffer anything, and complain when it suffers. The soul, by means of which we experience fear and sorrow, and by means of which, indeed, we receive any impression of these, will admit no suffering. You cannot force it to any such opinion.

The ruling part is, in itself, free from all dependence, unless it makes itself dependent. Similarly, it may be free from all disturbance and obstruction, if it does not disturb and obstruct itself.

17. To have good fortune is to have a good spirit, or a good mind. What do you here, Imagination? Be gone, I say, even as you came. I have no need for you. You came, you say, after your ancient fashion: I am not angry with you, only, be gone!

18. Do you dread change? What can come without it? What can be pleasanter or more proper to universal nature? Can you heat your bath unless wood undergoes a change? Can you be fed unless a change is wrought upon your food? Can any useful thing be done without changes? Do you not see, then, that this change also which is working in you is even such as these, and alike necessary to the nature of the Universe?

19. Through the substance of the Universe, as through a torrent, all bodies are borne. They are all of the same nature, and fellow-workers with the whole, even as our several members are fellow-workers with one another. How many a Chrysippus, how many a Socrates, how many an Epictetus hath the course of ages swallowed up! Let this thought be with you about every man, and upon all occasions.

20. For this alone I am concerned; that I do nothing that suits not the nature of man, nothing as man’s nature would not have it, nothing that it wishes not yet.

21. The time is at hand when you shall forget all things, and when all shall forget you.

22. It is man’s special business to love even those who err; and to this love you attain, if it is borne in upon you that even these sinners are your kin, and that they offend through ignorance and against their will. Remember also that in a little while both you and they must die: remember before all things that they have not harmed you, for they have not made your soul worse than it was before.

23. Presiding nature from the universal substance, as from wax, now forms a horse, now breaks it up again, making of its matter a tree, afterwards a man, and again something different. Each of these shapes subsists but for a little. Yet there is nothing dreadful for the chest in being taken to pieces, any more than there formerly was in being put together.

24. A wrathful look is completely against nature. When the countenance is often thus deformed, its beauty dies, in the end is quenched for ever, and cannot be revived again. Seek to comprehend from this very fact that it is against reason. And if the sense of moral evil be gone as well, why should a man wish to remain alive?

25. In a little space Nature, the supreme and universal ruler, will change all things that you behold; out of their substance she will make other things, and others again out of the substance of these, so that the Universe may be ever new.

26. Whenever someone offends you, consider straightway how he has erred in his conceptions of good or evil. When you see where his error lies you will pity him, and be neither surprised nor angry. Indeed you yourself perhaps still wrongly count good the same things as he does, or things just like them. Your duty then is to forgive. And, if you cease from these false ideas of good and bad, you will find it the easier to grant indulgence to him who is still mistaken.

27. Dwell not on what you lack so much as on what you have already. Select the best of what you have, and consider how passionately you would have longed for it had it not been yours. Yet be watchful, lest by this joy in what you have you accustom yourself to value it too highly; so that, if it should fail, you would be distressed.

28. Retire within yourself. The reasoning power that rules you naturally finds contentment with itself in just dealing, and in the calm which such dealing brings.

29. Blot out imagination. Check the brutal impulses of the passions. Confine your energies to the present time. Observe clearly all that happens either to yourself or to another. Divide and analyse all objects into cause and matter. Take thought for your last hour. Let another’s sin remain where the guilt lies.

30. Apply your mind to what is said. Penetrate all happenings and the causes thereof.

31. Rejoice yourself with simplicity, modesty, and indifference to all things that lie between good and bad. Love mankind, and obey God. “All things,” says someone, “go by law and order.” But what if there be naught beyond the atoms? Even if that be so, suffice it to remember that all things, save very few, are swayed by law.

32. Concerning death: If the Universe be a concourse of atoms, death is a scattering of these; if it be an ordered unity, death is an extinction or a translation to another state.

33. Concerning pain: Pain which cannot be borne brings us deliverance. Pain that lasts musts needs be bearable. The mind can abstract itself from the body, and the soul takes no hurt. As to the parts which suffer by pain, let them, if they can, make their own protest.

34. Concerning glory: Consider the understanding of men, what they shun, and what they pursue. And reflect that, as heaps of sand are driven one upon another, and the later drifts bury and hide those that went before, so, too, in life the former ages are soon buried by the next.

35. This from Plato: “‘To the man who has true grandeur of mind, and who contemplates all time and all being, can human life appear a great matter?’ ‘Impossible,’ says the other. ‘Can then such a one count death a thing of dread?’ ‘No, indeed.’”

36. It is a saying of Antisthenes, that it is the part of a king to do good and reap reproach.

37. It is a shameful thing that the countenance should obey the mind, should compose and order itself as the mind bids it, while the mind cannot compose and order itself as it wills.

38. Vain is all anger at external things
For they regard it nothing.—

39. Give joy to us and to the immortal Gods.

40. For life is, like the laden ear, cut down;
And some must fall and some unreaped remain.

41. Me and my children, if the Gods neglect,
It is for some good reason.

42. For I keep right and justice on my side.

43. Weep not with them, and still these throbs of woe.

44. From Plato:—“I would make him this just answer, ‘You are mistaken, my friend, to think that a man of any worth should count the chances of living and dying. Should he not rather, in all he does, consider simply whether he is acting justly or unjustly, whether he is playing the part of a good man or a bad?’”

45. He says again:—“In truth, Athenians, the matter stands thus: Wheresoever a man has chosen his stand, judging it the fittest for him, or wheresoever he is stationed by his commander, there, I think, he should stay at all hazards, making no account of death, or any other evil but dishonour.”

46. Again:—“Consider, my friend, whether the truly noble and the truly good be not something quite apart from saving and being saved. The man who is a man indeed should not set his heart on living through a few more years of life, nor should he make that the end of his desire. Rather he should commit the matter to the will of God; assenting to the maxim which even women use, that ‘no man can elude his destiny,’ and studying in addition how he may spend the life that remains to him for the best.”

47. Contemplate the courses of the stars, as one should do that revolves along with them. Consider also without ceasing the changes of elements, one into another. Speculations upon such things cleanse away the filth of this earthly life.

48. It is a good thought of Plato’s, that when we discourse of men we should “look down, as from a high place,” on all things earthly; on herds and armies; on husbandry and marriage; on partings, births, and deaths; on the tumults of the courts of justice; on the desert places of the earth; on the varied spectacle of savage nations; on feasting and lamentation; on traffic; on the medley of all things, and the order which emerges from their contrariety.

49. Consider the past, and the revolutions of so many Empires; and thence you may foresee what shall happen hereafter. It will be ever the same in all things; nor can events leave the rhythm in which they are now moving. Wherefore it is much the same to view human life for forty, as for a myriad of years. What more is there to see?

50. To earth returns whatever sprang from earth,
But what’s of heavenly seed remounts to heaven.

This imports either the loosing of a knot of atoms, or a similar dispersion of immutable elements.

51. By meats and drinks, and charms and magic arts
Death’s course they would divert, and thus escape.
.  .  .  .  .  .  .
The gale that blows from God we must endure,
Toiling, but not repining.....

52. He is a better wrestler than you, but not more public-spirited, more modest, or better prepared for the accidents of fate; not more gentle toward the short-comings of his neighbours.

53. Wherever we can act conformably to the reason which is common to Gods and men, there we have nothing to dread. Where we can profit by prosperous activity which proceeds in agreement with the constitution of our nature, we need suspect no harm.

54. In all places, and at all times you may devoutly accept your present fortune, and deal in justice with your present company. You may take pains to understand all arising imaginations, that none may steal upon you before you comprehend them.

55. Pry not into the souls of others; but rather look straight to the goal whither nature is leading you; whither the nature of the Universe by external events, and whither your own nature by the tendency of your own action. Each being must perform the part for which it was created. Now all other beings are created for the sake of those among them which have reason; as all lower things exist for the sake of things superior to them; and reasoning beings were created for one another. The leading principle in man’s nature, then, is the social spirit; and the second is victory over the solicitations of the body. For it is proper to the workings of reason to set bounds to themselves, and never to be overpowered by the calls of sense or by the stirrings of passion, both of which are animal in their nature. The intellect claims to reign over these, and never to be subjected to them; and rightly, because it is equipped to command and use all the lower powers. The third element in the constitution of a reasoning being is caution against rashness and error. Let the soul go forth straight upon her way in the possession of these principles, and she stands seized of her full estate.

56. Consider yourself as dead, your life as finished and past. Live what yet remains according to Nature’s laws, as an overplus granted to you beyond your hope.

57. Love that only which is your hap, which comes upon you as your part in Fate’s great spinning. What, indeed, can fit you better?

58. Upon every accident keep in view those to whom the like has happened. They stormed at the event, wondered and complained. But now where are they? They are gone for ever. Why should you act the like part? Leave these unnatural commotions to fickle men who change and are changed. Yourself take thought how you may make good use of such events. Good use for them there is; they will make matter for good actions. Let it be your sole effort and desire to gain your own approval in every action; and remember that the material objects of both that effort and of that desire are things indifferent.

59. Look inward. Within is the fountain of Good. Dig constantly and it will ever well forth.

60. Keep the body steady, without irregularity, whether in its motions or in its postures. For, as the soul shews itself in the countenance by a wise and graceful air, it should require the same expressive power of the whole body. But all this must be practised without affectation.

61. The art of Life is more like that of the wrestler than of the dancer; for the wrestler must always be ready on his guard, and stand firm against the sudden, unforeseen efforts of his adversary.

62. Consider constantly what manner of men they are whose approbation you desire, and what may be the character of their souls. Then you will neither accuse such as err unwillingly, nor need their commendation when you look into the springs of their opinions and their desires.

63. “Every soul,” says Plato, “parts unwillingly with truth.” You may say the same of justice, temperance, good-nature, and every virtue. It is most necessary to keep this ever in mind; for, if you do, you will be more kindly towards all men.

64. In all pain keep in mind that there is no baseness in it, that it cannot harm the soul which guides you, nor destroy that soul as a reasoning or as a social force. In most pain you may find help in the saying of Epicurus, that “pain is neither unbearable nor everlasting, if you bear in mind its narrow limits, and allow no additions from your imagination.” Remember also that we are fretted, though we see it not, by many things which are of the same nature as pain, things such as drowsiness, excessive heat, want of appetite. When any of these things annoy you, say to yourself that you are giving in to pain.

65. Look to it that you feel not towards the most inhuman of mankind, as they feel towards their fellows.

66. Whence do we conclude that Telauges had not a brighter genius than Socrates? ’Tis not enough that Socrates died more gloriously or argued more acutely with the sophists; or that he kept watch more patiently through a frosty night; or because, when ordered to arrest the innocent Salaminian, he judged it more noble to disobey; or because of any stately airs and graces he assumed in public, in which we may very justly refuse to believe. But, assuming all this true, when we consider Socrates, we must ask what manner of soul he had. Could he find contentment in acting with justice towards men, and with piety towards the Gods, neither vainly provoked by the vices of others, nor servilely flattering them in their ignorance; counting nothing strange that the Ruler of the Universe appointed, not sinking under anything as intolerable, and never yielding up his soul in surrender to the passions of the flesh.

67. Nature has not so blended the soul with the body that it cannot fix its own bounds, and execute its own office by itself. It is very possible to be a God among men, and yet be recognised by none. Remember that always, and this as well, that the happiness of life lies in very few things. And though you despair of becoming great in Logic or in Science, you need not despair of becoming a free man, full of modesty and unselfishness, and of obedience unto God.

68. It is in your power to live superior to all violence, and in the greatest calm of mind, were all men to rail against you as they pleased; and though wild beasts were to tear asunder the wretched members of this fleshly mass which has grown with your growth. What is to hinder the soul amid all this from preserving itself in all tranquillity, in just judgments about surrounding things, and in ready use of whatever is cast in its way? Judgment may say to accident:—“Your real nature is this or that, though you appear otherwise in the eyes of men.” Use may say to circumstance:—“I was looking for you. To me all that is present is ever matter for rational and social virtue, in sum, for that art which is proper both to man and God. All that befalls is fit and familiar for the purposes of God or man. Nothing is either new or intractable, but everything is well known and fit to work upon.”

69. It is the perfection of morals to spend each day as if it were the last of life, without excitement, without sloth, and without hypocrisy.

70. The Gods, who are immortal, are not vexed that in a long eternity they must ever bear with the wickedness and the multitude of sinners. Nay, they even lavish on them all manner of loving care. But you, who are presently to cease from being, can, forsooth, endure no more, though you are one of the sinners yourself!

71. It is ridiculous that you flee not from the vice that is in yourself, as you have it in your power to do; but are still striving to flee from the vice in others, which you can never do.

72. Whatever the rational and social faculty finds fit neither for rational nor for social ends, it justly ranks as inferior to itself.

73. When you have done a kind action, another has benefited. Why do you, like the fools, require some third thing in addition—a reputation for benevolence or a return for it.

74. No man wearies of what brings him gain, and your gain lies in acting according to nature. Be not weary, therefore, of gaining by the act which gives others gain.

75. Nature set about making an ordered universe; and now, either all that is follows a law of necessary consequence and connexion, or we must admit that there is least rationality in the things which are most excellent, and which appear to be most special objects for the impulses of the universal mind. Remembrance of this will give you calmness on many an occasion.

END OF THE SEVENTH BOOK.