Meditations

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THE EIGHTH BOOK

1. For repressing vain glory, it serves to remember that it is no longer in your power to make your whole life, even from your youth onwards, a life worthy of a philosopher. It is known to many, and you yourself know also, how far you are from wisdom. Confusion is upon you, and it now can be no easy matter for you to gain the reputation of a philosopher. The conditions of your life are against it. Now therefore, as you see how the matter truly lies, put from you all thoughts of reputation among men; and let it suffice you to live so long as your nature wills, though that be but the scanty remnant of a life. Study, therefore, the will of your nature, and be solicitous about nothing else. You have made many efforts and wandered much, but you have nowhere found happiness; not in syllogisms, not in riches, not in fame or pleasure, not in anything. Where, then, is it? In acting that part which human nature requires. How can you act that part? By holding principles as the source of your desires and actions. What principles? The principles of good and evil: That nothing is good for a man which does not make him just, temperate, courageous, and free; and that nothing can be evil which tends not to make him the contrary of all these.

2. Upon every action ask yourself, what is the effect of this for me? Shall I never repent of it? I shall presently be dead, and all these things gone. What more should I desire if my present action is becoming to an intelligent and a social being, subject to the same law with Gods?

3. Alexander, Caesar, Pompey, what were they compared with Diogenes, Heraclitus, Socrates? These knew the nature of things, their causes and their matter, and the minds within them were at one. As to the former, how many things they schemed for, and to how many were they enslaved!

4. Men will go their ways none the less, though you burst in protest.

5. Before all things, be not perturbed. Everything comes to pass as directed by universal Nature, and in a little time you will be departed and gone, like Hadrianus and Augustus. Then, scan closely the nature of what has befallen, remembering that it is your duty to be a good man. Do unflinchingly whatever man’s nature requires, and speak as seems most just, yet in kindliness, modesty, and sincerity.

6. It is Nature’s work to transfer what is now here into another place, to change things, to carry them hence, and set them elsewhere. All is change, yet is there no need to fear innovation, for all obey the laws of custom, and in equal measure all things are apportioned.

7. For every nature it is sufficient that it goes on its way, and prospers. The rational nature prospers while it assents to no false or uncertain opinion, while it directs its impulses to unselfish ends alone, while it aims its desires and aversions only at the things within its power, and while it welcomes with contentment all that universal Nature ordains. The nature of each of us is part of universal Nature, as the leaf is part of the tree; the leaf, indeed, is part of an insensible and unreasoning system which can be obstructed in its workings; but human nature is part of that universal system which cannot be impeded, and which is intelligent and just. Hence is meted out, suitably to all, our proper portions of time, of matter, of active principle, of powers, and of events. Yet look not to find that each several thing corresponds exactly with any other. Consider rather the whole nature and circumstances of the one, and compare them with the whole of the other.

8. You lack leisure for reading; but leisure to repress all insolence you do not lack. You have leisure to keep yourself superior to pleasure and pain and vain glory, to restrain all anger against the ungrateful, nay, even to lavish loving care upon them.

9. Let no man any more hear you railing on the life of the court; nay, revile it not to your own hearing.

10. Repentance is a self-reproving, because we have neglected something useful. Whatever is good must be useful in some sort, and worthy of the care of a good and honourable man. Now, such a man could never repent of neglecting some opportunity of pleasure. Pleasure, then, is neither useful nor good.

11. Of each thing ask: What is this in itself and by its constitution? What is its substance or matter? What is its cause? What is its business in the Universe? How long shall it endure?

12. When you are reluctant to be roused from sleep, remember that it accords with your constitution and with human nature to perform social actions. Sleep is common to us with the brutes. Now, whatever accords with the nature of each species must be most proper, most fitting, and most delightful to it.

13. Constantly, and, if possible, on every occasion, apply to your imaginations the methods of Physics, Ethics, and Dialectic.

14. Whomsoever you meet, say straightway to yourself:—What are this man’s principles of good and evil? For if he holds this or that doctrine concerning pleasure and pain, and the causes thereof, concerning glory and infamy, death and life, it will seem to me neither strange nor wondrous that this or that should be his conduct. I shall bear in mind that he has no choice but to act so.

15. Remember that, as ’tis folly to be surprised that a fig-tree bears figs, so is it equal folly to be surprised that the Universe produces those things of which it was ever fruitful. It is folly in a physician to be surprised that a man has fallen into a fever; or in a pilot that the wind has turned against him.

16. Remember that to change your course, and to follow any man who can set you right is no compromise of your freedom. The act is your own, performed on your own impulse and judgment, and according to your own understanding.

17. If the doing of this be in your own power, why do it thus? If it be in another’s, whom do you accuse? The atoms or the Gods? To accuse either is a piece of madness. Therefore accuse no one. Set right, if you can, the cause of error; if you cannot, correct the result at least. If even that be impossible, what purpose can your accusations serve? Nothing should be done without a purpose.

18. That which dies falls not out of the Universe. If then it stays here, here too it suffers a change, and is resolved into those elements of which the world, and you too, consist. These also are changed, and murmur not.

19. The horse, the vine—all things are formed for some purpose. Where is the wonder? Even the sun saith, “I was formed for a certain work;” and similarly the other Gods. For what end are you formed? For pleasure? Look if your soul can endure this thought.

20. Nature has an aim in all things, in the end and surcease of them no less than in their beginning and continuance. It is even as a man casting a ball. Where, then, is the good for the ball in its rising; where the harm in dropping; where even is the harm when it has fallen down? Where is the bubble’s good while it holds together, where is the evil when it is broken? So it is with the lamp which now burns and anon goes out.

21. Turn out the inner side of this body, and view it as it is. What shall it become when it grows old, or sickly, or decayed? The praiser and the praised, the rememberer and the remembered are of short continuance, and that in a mere corner of this narrow region, where, narrow though it be, men cannot live in concord, no, not even with themselves. And yet the whole world is but a point.

22. Attend well to what is before you, whether it be a principle, an act, or a word. This your suffering is well merited, for you would rather become good to-morrow than be good to-day.

23. Am I doing aught? Let me do it in a spirit of service to mankind. Does aught befall me? I accept it and refer it to the Gods, the universal source from which come all things in the chain of consequence.

24. The accompaniments of bathing: oil, sweat, filth, foul water—how nauseous are they all! Even so is every part of life, and everything that meets us.

25. Lucilla buried Verus, and soon followed him to the grave. Secunda saw the death of Maximus, and soon herself died. Epitynchanus buried Diotimus, and then Epitynchanus was buried. Antoninus mourned Faustina, and thereafter Antoninus was mourned. Celer buried Hadrian, and then Celer was buried. All go the same way. The cunning men who foretold the fates of others, or who swelled with pride—where are they now? Where are these keen wits, Charax, and Demetrius the Platonist, and Eudaemon, and their like? All were for a day, and are long dead and gone; some scarce remembered even for a little after death; some turned to fables; some faded even from the memory of tales. Wherefore remember this: either the poor mixture which is you, must be dispersed, or the faint breath of life must be quenched, or removed and brought into another place.

26. The joy of man is to do his proper business. And his proper business is to be kindly to his fellows, to rise above the stirrings of sense, to be critical of every plausible imagination, and to contemplate universal Nature and all her consequences.

27. We have all of us three relations: the first to the manifold occasions of our state; the second to the supreme divine cause from which proceed all things unto all men; the third to those with whom we live.

28. Pain is either an evil to the body; and then let the body so declare it; or an evil to the soul. But the soul can maintain her own serenity and calm; and refuse to conceive pain as an evil. All judgment, intention, desire and aversion are within the soul, to which no evil can ascend.

29. Blot out false imaginations, and say often to yourself:—It is now in my power to preserve my soul free from all wickedness, all lust, all confusion or disturbance. And then, as I truly discern the nature of things, I can use them all in due proportion. Be ever mindful of this power which Nature has given you.

30. Speak, whether in the Senate or elsewhere, with dignity rather than elegance; and let your words ever be sound and virtuous.

31. The court of Augustus, his wife, his daughter, his descendants and his ancestors; his sister, and Agrippa; his kinsmen, familiars and friends; Areius and Maecenas; his physicians and his flamens—death has them all. Think next of the death of a whole house, such as Pompey’s, and of what we meet sometimes inscribed on tombs: He was the last of his race. Last of all, consider the solicitude of the ancestors of such men to leave a succession of their own posterity. Yet, at the end, one must come the last, and with him dies all that house.

32. Order your life in its single acts, so that if each, as far as may be, attains its end, it will suffice. In this no one can hinder you. But, you say, may not something external withstand me?—Nothing can keep you from justice, temperance, and wisdom.—Yet, perhaps some other activity of mine may be obstructed.—True, but by yielding to this impediment, and by turning with calmness to that which is in your power, you may happen on another course of action equally suited to the ordered life of which we are speaking.

33. Receive the gifts of fortune without pride; and part with them without reluctance.

34. You have seen a hand, a foot, or a head, cut off from the rest of the body, and lying dead at a distance from it. Even such as these does he make himself, so far as he can, who repines at what befalls, who severs himself from his fellow-men, or who does any selfish deed. Are you cast forth from the natural unity? Nature made you to be a part of the whole, but you have cut yourself off from it. Yet here there is the glorious provision that you may re-unite yourself if you will. In no other case has God granted the privilege of re-union to a separated or severed part. Yet behold the goodness and bounty with which God hath honoured mankind. He first puts it in their power not to be severed from this unity; and then, even when they are thus severed, he suffers them to return once more, to take their places as parts of the whole, and to grow one with it again.

35. Universal Nature, as she has imparted to each rational being almost all its faculties and powers, has given to us this one in particular among them. As Nature converts to her use, ranges in destined order, and makes part of herself all that withstands or opposes her; so each rational being can make every impediment in his way a proper matter for himself to act upon, and can use it for his guiding purpose, whatever it may be.

36. Do not confound yourself by considering the whole of life, and by dwelling upon the multitude and greatness of the pains and troubles to which you may probably be exposed. As each presents itself ask yourself: Is there anything intolerable and insufferable in this? You will be ashamed to own it. And then recollect that it is neither the past nor the future that can oppress you, but always the present only. And the ills of the present will be much diminished if you restrict it within its own proper bounds, and take your soul to task if it cannot bear up even against this one thing.

37. Does Panthea or Pergamus now sit mourning at the tomb of Verus, or Chabrias or Diotimus at the tomb of Hadrian? Absurd! And if they were still mourning could their masters be sensible of it? Or if they were sensible of it, would it give them any pleasure? Or if they were pleased with it, could the mourners live for ever? Was it not fate that they should grow old men and women, and then die? What, then, would become of the illustrious dead when these faithful souls were gone? And all this toil for a vile body, naught but blood and corruption!

38. If you have keen sight, says the philosopher, use it in discretion and in wisdom.

39. In the constitution of the rational being I discern no virtue made to restrain justice; but I see continence made to restrain sensual pleasure.

40. Take away your opinion about the things that seem to give you pain, and you stand yourself upon the surest ground. What is that self?—It is reason.—I am not reason, you say.—So be it; then let not reason pain itself, but leave any part of you which suffers to its own opinions of the pain.

41. Obstruction of any sense is an evil for the animal nature; so is the obstruction of any of its impulses. There are other kinds of obstruction which are evil for the nature of plants. For the rational nature in like manner, therefore, obstruction of the understanding is evil. Apply all this to yourself. Do pain and pleasure affect you? Let the senses look to it. Does anything hinder your designs? If you have designed without the proper reservations, that in itself is an evil for you as a reasoning being. If you designed under the general reservation, you are neither hurt nor hindered. No man can hinder the proper work of the mind. Nor fire, nor sword, nor tyrant, nor calumny can reach it, nor any other thing, when it is become even as a sphere, complete and perfect within itself.

42. I have no right to vex myself who never yet willingly vexed any one.

43. Each man has his own pleasure. Mine lies in having my ruling part sound; without aversion to any man, or to any hap that may befall mankind. Yet let me look on all things with kindly eyes. Let me accept and use them all according to their worth.

44. See that you secure the benefit of the present time. They who pursue a fame which is to live after them reflect not that posterity will be men even as are those who vex them now, and that they too will be mortal. And afterwards, what shall signify to you the clatter of their voices, or the opinions they shall entertain about you?

45. Take me up and cast me where you will; I shall have my own divinity within me serene, that is, satisfied while its every state and action is according to the law of its proper constitution.

Is any event of such account that my soul should suffer for it or be the worse; that my soul should become abject and prostrate as a mean suppliant, or should be affrighted? Shall you find anything that is worth all this?

46. Nothing can befall a man which is not human fortune. Nothing can happen to an ox, to a vine, or to a stone which is not the natural destiny of their species. If, then, that alone can befall anything which is usual and natural, what cause is there for indignation? Universal Nature hath brought nothing upon you which you cannot bear.

47. When you are grieved about anything external it is not the thing itself which afflicts you, but your judgment about it. This judgment it is in your power to efface. If you are grieved about anything in your own disposition, who can prevent you from correcting your principles of life? If you are grieved because you do not set about some work which seems to you sound and virtuous, go about it effectually rather than grieve that it is undone.—But some superior force withstands.—Then grieve not, for the fault of the omission lies not in you.—But life is not worth living with this undone.— Quit life then, in the same kindly spirit as though you had done it, and with goodwill even to those who withstand you.

48. Remember that the governing part becomes invincible when, collected into itself, it is satisfied in refusing to do what it would not, even when its resistance is unreasonable. What then will it be when, after due deliberation it has fixed its judgment according to reason? The soul, thus free from passions, is a strong fort; nor can a man find any stronger to which he can fly and become henceforth invincible. The man who has not discerned this is ignorant. He who has discerned and flies not thither is miserable.

49. Pronounce no more to yourself than what appearances directly declare. It is told you that so-and-so has spoken ill of you. This alone is told you, and not that you are hurt by it. I see my child is sick; this only I see. I do not see that he is in danger. Dwell thus upon first appearances; add nothing to them from within, and no harm befalls you: or rather add the recognition that all is part of the world’s lot.

50. Is the gourd bitter? Put it from you. Are there thorns in the way? Walk aside. That is enough. Do not add, “Why were such things brought into the world?” The naturalist would laugh at you, just as would a carpenter or a shoemaker, if you began fault-finding because you saw shavings and parings from their work strewn about the workshop. These craftsmen have places where they can throw away this rubbish, but universal Nature has no such place outside her sphere. Yet the wonder of her art is that, having confined herself within certain bounds, she transforms into herself all things within her scope which seem to be corrupting, or waxing old and useless; and out of them she makes other new forms; so that she neither needs matter from without nor a place where to cast out her refuse. She is satisfied with her own space, her own material, and her own art.

51. Be not languid in action, nor confused in conversation, nor vague in your opinions. Let there be no sudden contractions or forth-sallyings of your soul. In your life be not over-hurried.

Men slay you, cut you to pieces, pursue you with curses. What has this to do with your soul remaining pure, prudent, temperate, and just? What if some one, standing by a clear sweet fountain, should reproach it? It would not cease to send forth its refreshing waters. Should he throw into it mud or dung, it will speedily scatter them and wash them away, and be in nowise stained thereby. How then shall you get this perpetual living fount within you? If you reserve yourself unto liberty every hour you live, in a spirit of calmness, simplicity, and modesty.

52. He who knows not what the Universe is knows not what is his place therein. He who knows not for what end it was created, knows not himself and knows not the world. He who is deficient in either of these parts of knowledge cannot even say for what end he himself was created. What sort of man then does he appear to you who pursues the applause or dreads the anger of those who know neither where nor what they are?

53. Do you wish to be praised by a man who curses himself thrice within an hour? Can you desire to please one who is not pleased with himself? Can he be pleased with himself who repents of almost everything he does?

54. No longer be content to breathe in harmony with the air which surrounds you; but set about feeling in sympathy with the intelligence which embraces all things. For the power of that intelligence is no less diffused, and no less pervasive for all who can draw it in, than is the virtue of the air for him who can breathe it.

55. There is no universal wickedness to hurt the world; and the particular wickedness of any individual hurts not another. It hurts himself alone, and even he has this gracious privilege that, as soon as he desires it, he may be free from it altogether.

56. To my will the will of another is as indifferent as his poor breath and flesh. And how much soever we were formed for the sake of each other, yet the governing part of each of us has its own proper power; otherwise the vice of another might become my own misery. God thought fit that this should not be; lest it should be in another’s power to make me unhappy.

57. The sun seems to us diffused everywhere, pervasive of all things, yet never exhausted. This diffusion is a sort of extension, and hence the Greek word for rays is thought to be derived. You may observe the nature of a ray if you see it entering through some small hole into a darkened chamber. Its direction is straight; and it is reflected around when it falls upon any solid body, which shuts it off from the air beyond. There it stands and does not slip or fall. Now, such should be the flow and diffusion of the understanding; never exhausted, always extending; not violently or furiously dashing against the obstacles that meet it, nor falling aside, but resting there and illuminating whatever will receive it. That which will not transmit the light does but deprive itself of radiance.

58. He who dreads death dreads either the extinction of all sense or the experience of a new one. If all sense be extinguished, there can be no sense of evil. If a different sort of sense be acquired you become a different creature, and do not cease to live.

59. Men were created the one for the other. Teach them better then, or bear with them.

60. Mind moves in one way, and an arrow in another. The mind, when cautiously proceeding, or when casting round in deliberation about what to pursue, is nevertheless carried onward straight toward its proper mark.

61. Penetrate into the governing part of others; and also allow others to enter into your own.

END OF THE EIGHTH BOOK.