THE MEDITATIONS

Of

MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS

Translated by George Long


BOOK IX

HE WHO acts unjustly acts impiously. For since the universal
nature has made rational animals for the sake of one another to help
one another according to their deserts, but in no way to injure one
another, he who transgresses her will, is clearly guilty of impiety
towards the highest divinity. And he too who lies is guilty of impiety
to the same divinity; for the universal nature is the nature of things
that are; and things that are have a relation to all things that
come into existence. And further, this universal nature is named
truth, and is the prime cause of all things that are true. He then who
lies intentionally is guilty of impiety inasmuch as he acts unjustly
by deceiving; and he also who lies unintentionally, inasmuch as he
is at variance with the universal nature, and inasmuch as he
disturbs the order by fighting against the nature of the world; for he
fights against it, who is moved of himself to that which is contrary
to truth, for he had received powers from nature through the neglect
of which he is not able now to distinguish falsehood from truth. And
indeed he who pursues pleasure as good, and avoids pain as evil, is
guilty of impiety. For of necessity such a man must often find fault
with the universal nature, alleging that it assigns things to the bad
and the good contrary to their deserts, because frequently the bad are
in the enjoyment of pleasure and possess the things which procure
pleasure, but the good have pain for their share and the things which
cause pain. And further, he who is afraid of pain will sometimes also
be afraid of some of the things which will happen in the world, and
even this is impiety. And he who pursues pleasure will not abstain
from injustice, and this is plainly impiety. Now with respect to the
things towards which the universal nature is equally affected- for it
would not have made both, unless it was equally affected towards
both- towards these they who wish to follow nature should be of the
same mind with it, and equally affected. With respect to pain, then,
and pleasure, or death and life, or honour and dishonour, which the
universal nature employs equally, whoever is not equally affected is
manifestly acting impiously. And I say that the universal nature
employs them equally, instead of saying that they happen alike to
those who are produced in continuous series and to those who come
after them by virtue of a certain original movement of Providence,
according to which it moved from a certain beginning to this ordering
of things, having conceived certain principles of the things which
were to be, and having determined powers productive of beings and of
changes and of such like successions.
  It would be a man's happiest lot to depart from mankind without
having had any taste of lying and hypocrisy and luxury and pride.
However to breathe out one's life when a man has had enough of these
things is the next best voyage, as the saying is. Hast thou determined
to abide with vice, and has not experience yet induced thee to fly
from this pestilence? For the destruction of the understanding is a
pestilence, much more indeed than any such corruption and change of
this atmosphere which surrounds us. For this corruption is a
pestilence of animals so far as they are animals; but the other is a
pestilence of men so far as they are men.
  Do not despise death, but be well content with it, since this too is
one of those things which nature wills. For such as it is to be
young and to grow old, and to increase and to reach maturity, and to
have teeth and beard and grey hairs, and to beget, and to be
pregnant and to bring forth, and all the other natural operations
which the seasons of thy life bring, such also is dissolution. This,
then, is consistent with the character of a reflecting man, to be
neither careless nor impatient nor contemptuous with respect to death,
but to wait for it as one of the operations of nature. As thou now
waitest for the time when the child shall come out of thy wife's womb,
so be ready for the time when thy soul shall fall out of this
envelope. But if thou requirest also a vulgar kind of comfort which
shall reach thy heart, thou wilt be made best reconciled to death by
observing the objects from which thou art going to be removed, and the
morals of those with whom thy soul will no longer be mingled. For it
is no way right to be offended with men, but it is thy duty to care
for them and to bear with them gently; and yet to remember that thy
departure will be not from men who have the same principles as
thyself. For this is the only thing, if there be any, which could draw
us the contrary way and attach us to life, to be permitted to live
with those who have the same principles as ourselves. But now thou
seest how great is the trouble arising from the discordance of those
who live together, so that thou mayest say, Come quick, O death,
lest perchance I, too, should forget myself.
  He who does wrong does wrong against himself. He who acts unjustly
acts unjustly to himself, because he makes himself bad.
  He often acts unjustly who does not do a certain thing; not only
he who does a certain thing.
  Thy present opinion founded on understanding, and thy present
conduct directed to social good, and thy present disposition of
contentment with everything which happens- that is enough.
  Wipe out imagination: check desire: extinguish appetite: keep the
ruling faculty in its own power.
  Among the animals which have not reason one life is distributed; but
among reasonable animals one intelligent soul is distributed: just
as there is one earth of all things which are of an earthy nature, and
we see by one light, and breathe one air, all of us that have the
faculty of vision and all that have life.
  All things which participate in anything which is common to them all
move towards that which is of the same kind with themselves.
Everything which is earthy turns towards the earth, everything which
is liquid flows together, and everything which is of an aerial kind
does the same, so that they require something to keep them asunder,
and the application of force. Fire indeed moves upwards on account
of the elemental fire, but it is so ready to be kindled together
with all the fire which is here, that even every substance which is
somewhat dry, is easily ignited, because there is less mingled with it
of that which is a hindrance to ignition. Accordingly then
everything also which participates in the common intelligent nature
moves in like manner towards that which is of the same kind with
itself, or moves even more. For so much as it is superior in
comparison with all other things, in the same degree also is it more
ready to mingle with and to be fused with that which is akin to it.
Accordingly among animals devoid of reason we find swarms of bees, and
herds of cattle, and the nurture of young birds, and in a manner,
loves; for even in animals there are souls, and that power which
brings them together is seen to exert itself in the superior degree,
and in such a way as never has been observed in plants nor in stones
nor in trees. But in rational animals there are political
communities and friendships, and families and meetings of people;
and in wars, treaties and armistices. But in the things which are
still superior, even though they are separated from one another, unity
in a manner exists, as in the stars. Thus the ascent to the higher
degree is able to produce a sympathy even in things which are
separated. See, then, what now takes place. For only intelligent
animals have now forgotten this mutual desire and inclination, and
in them alone the property of flowing together is not seen. But
still though men strive to avoid this union, they are caught and
held by it, for their nature is too strong for them; and thou wilt see
what I say, if thou only observest. Sooner, then, will one find
anything earthy which comes in contact with no earthy thing than a man
altogether separated from other men.
  Both man and God and the universe produce fruit; at the proper
seasons each produces it. But if usage has especially fixed these
terms to the vine and like things, this is nothing. Reason produces
fruit both for all and for itself, and there are produced from it
other things of the same kind as reason itself.
  If thou art able, correct by teaching those who do wrong; but if
thou canst not, remember that indulgence is given to thee for this
purpose. And the gods, too, are indulgent to such persons; and for
some purposes they even help them to get health, wealth, reputation;
so kind they are. And it is in thy power also; or say, who hinders
thee?
  Labour not as one who is wretched, nor yet as one who would be
pitied or admired: but direct thy will to one thing only, to put
thyself in motion and to check thyself, as the social reason requires.
  To-day I have got out of all trouble, or rather I have cast out
all trouble, for it was not outside, but within and in my opinions.
  All things are the same, familiar in experience, and ephemeral in
time, and worthless in the matter. Everything now is just as it was in
the time of those whom we have buried.
  Things stand outside of us, themselves by themselves, neither
knowing aught of themselves, nor expressing any judgement. What is it,
then, which does judge about them? The ruling faculty.
  Not in passivity, but in activity lie the evil and the good of the
rational social animal, just as his virtue and his vice lie not in
passivity, but in activity.
  For the stone which has been thrown up it is no evil to come down,
nor indeed any good to have been carried up.
  Penetrate inwards into men's leading principles, and thou wilt see
what judges thou art afraid of, and what kind of judges they are of
themselves.
  All things are changing: and thou thyself art in continuous mutation
and in a manner in continuous destruction, and the whole universe too.
  It is thy duty to leave another man's wrongful act there where it
is.
  Termination of activity, cessation from movement and opinion, and in
a sense their death, is no evil. Turn thy thoughts now to the
consideration of thy life, thy life as a child, as a youth, thy
manhood, thy old age, for in these also every change was a death. Is
this anything to fear? Turn thy thoughts now to thy life under thy
grandfather, then to thy life under thy mother, then to thy life under
thy father; and as thou findest many other differences and changes and
terminations, ask thyself, Is this anything to fear? In like manner,
then, neither are the termination and cessation and change of thy
whole life a thing to be afraid of.
  Hasten to examine thy own ruling faculty and that of the universe
and that of thy neighbour: thy own that thou mayest make it just:
and that of the universe, that thou mayest remember of what thou art a
part; and that of thy neighbour, that thou mayest know whether he
has acted ignorantly or with knowledge, and that thou mayest also
consider that his ruling faculty is akin to thine.
  As thou thyself art a component part of a social system, so let
every act of thine be a component part of social life. Whatever act of
thine then has no reference either immediately or remotely to a social
end, this tears asunder thy life, and does not allow it to be one, and
it is of the nature of a mutiny, just as when in a popular assembly
a man acting by himself stands apart from the general agreement.
  Quarrels of little children and their sports, and poor spirits
carrying about dead bodies, such is everything; and so what is
exhibited in the representation of the mansions of the dead strikes
our eyes more clearly.
  Examine into the quality of the form of an object, and detach it
altogether from its material part, and then contemplate it; then
determine the time, the longest which a thing of this peculiar form is
naturally made to endure.
  Thou hast endured infinite troubles through not being contented with
thy ruling faculty, when it does the things which it is constituted by
nature to do. But enough of this.
  When another blames thee or hates thee, or when men say about thee
anything injurious, approach their poor souls, penetrate within, and
see what kind of men they are. Thou wilt discover that there is no
reason to take any trouble that these men may have this or that
opinion about thee. However thou must be well disposed towards them,
for by nature they are friends. And the gods too aid them in all ways,
by dreams, by signs, towards the attainment of those things on which
they set a value.
  The periodic movements of the universe are the same, up and down
from age to age. And either the universal intelligence puts itself
in motion for every separate effect, and if this is so, be thou
content with that which is the result of its activity; or it puts
itself in motion once, and everything else comes by way of sequence in
a manner; or indivisible elements are the origin of all things.- In a
word, if there is a god, all is well; and if chance rules, do not thou
also be governed by it.
  Soon will the earth cover us all: then the earth, too, will
change, and the things also which result from change will continue
to change for ever, and these again for ever. For if a man reflects on
the changes and transformations which follow one another like wave
after wave and their rapidity, he will despise everything which is
perishable.
  The universal cause is like a winter torrent: it carries
everything along with it. But how worthless are all these poor
people who are engaged in matters political, and, as they suppose, are
playing the philosopher! All drivellers. Well then, man: do what
nature now requires. Set thyself in motion, if it is in thy power, and
do not look about thee to see if any one will observe it; nor yet
expect Plato's Republic: but be content if the smallest thing goes
on well, and consider such an event to be no small matter. For who can
change men's opinions? And without a change of opinions what else is
there than the slavery of men who groan while they pretend to obey?
Come now and tell me of Alexander and Philip and Demetrius of
Phalerum. They themselves shall judge whether they discovered what the
common nature required, and trained themselves accordingly. But if
they acted like tragedy heroes, no one has condemned me to imitate
them. Simple and modest is the work of philosophy. Draw me not aside
to indolence and pride.
  Look down from above on the countless herds of men and their
countless solemnities, and the infinitely varied voyagings in storms
and calms, and the differences among those who are born, who live
together, and die. And consider, too, the life lived by others in
olden time, and the life of those who will live after thee, and the
life now lived among barbarous nations, and how many know not even thy
name, and how many will soon forget it, and how they who perhaps now
are praising thee will very soon blame thee, and that neither a
posthumous name is of any value, nor reputation, nor anything else.
  Let there be freedom from perturbations with respect to the things
which come from the external cause; and let there be justice in the
things done by virtue of the internal cause, that is, let there be
movement and action terminating in this, in social acts, for this is
according to thy nature.
  Thou canst remove out of the way many useless things among those
which disturb thee, for they lie entirely in thy opinion; and thou
wilt then gain for thyself ample space by comprehending the whole
universe in thy mind, and by contemplating the eternity of time, and
observing the rapid change of every several thing, how short is the
time from birth to dissolution, and the illimitable time before
birth as well as the equally boundless time after dissolution.
  All that thou seest will quickly perish, and those who have been
spectators of its dissolution will very soon perish too. And he who
dies at the extremest old age will be brought into the same
condition with him who died prematurely.
  What are these men's leading principles, and about what kind of
things are they busy, and for what kind of reasons do they love and
honour? Imagine that thou seest their poor souls laid bare. When
they think that they do harm by their blame or good by their praise,
what an idea!
  Loss is nothing else than change. But the universal nature
delights in change, and in obedience to her all things are now done
well, and from eternity have been done in like form, and will be
such to time without end. What, then, dost thou say? That all things
have been and all things always will be bad, and that no power has
ever been found in so many gods to rectify these things, but the world
has been condemned to be found in never ceasing evil?
  The rottenness of the matter which is the foundation of
everything! Water, dust, bones, filth: or again, marble rocks, the
callosities of the earth; and gold and silver, the sediments; and
garments, only bits of hair; and purple dye, blood; and everything
else is of the same kind. And that which is of the nature of breath is
also another thing of the same kind, changing from this to that.
  Enough of this wretched life and murmuring and apish tricks. Why art
thou disturbed? What is there new in this? What unsettles thee? Is
it the form of the thing? Look at it. Or is it the matter? Look at it.
But besides these there is nothing. Towards the gods, then, now become
at last more simple and better. It is the same whether we examine
these things for a hundred years or three.
  If any man has done wrong, the harm is his own. But perhaps he has
not done wrong.
  Either all things proceed from one intelligent source and come
together as in one body, and the part ought not to find fault with
what is done for the benefit of the whole; or there are only atoms,
and nothing else than mixture and dispersion. Why, then, art thou
disturbed? Say to the ruling faculty, Art thou dead, art thou
corrupted, art thou playing the hypocrite, art thou become a beast,
dost thou herd and feed with the rest?
  Either the gods have no power or they have power. If, then, they
have no power, why dost thou pray to them? But if they have power, why
dost thou not pray for them to give thee the faculty of not fearing
any of the things which thou fearest, or of not desiring any of the
things which thou desirest, or not being pained at anything, rather
than pray that any of these things should not happen or happen? for
certainly if they can co-operate with men, they can co-operate for
these purposes. But perhaps thou wilt say, the gods have placed them
in thy power. Well, then, is it not better to use what is in thy power
like a free man than to desire in a slavish and abject way what is not
in thy power? And who has told thee that the gods do not aid us even
in the things which are in our power? Begin, then, to pray for such
things, and thou wilt see. One man prays thus: How shall I be able
to lie with that woman? Do thou pray thus: How shall I not desire to
lie with her? Another prays thus: How shall I be released from this?
Another prays: How shall I not desire to be released? Another thus:
How shall I not lose my little son? Thou thus: How shall I not be
afraid to lose him? In fine, turn thy prayers this way, and see what
comes.
  Epicurus says, In my sickness my conversation was not about my
bodily sufferings, nor, says he, did I talk on such subjects to
those who visited me; but I continued to discourse on the nature of
things as before, keeping to this main point, how the mind, while
participating in such movements as go on in the poor flesh, shall be
free from perturbations and maintain its proper good. Nor did I, he
says, give the physicians an opportunity of putting on solemn looks,
as if they were doing something great, but my life went on well and
happily. Do, then, the same that he did both in sickness, if thou
art sick, and in any other circumstances; for never to desert
philosophy in any events that may befall us, nor to hold trifling talk
either with an ignorant man or with one unacquainted with nature, is a
principle of all schools of philosophy; but to be intent only on
that which thou art now doing and on the instrument by which thou
doest it.
  When thou art offended with any man's shameless conduct, immediately
ask thyself, Is it possible, then, that shameless men should not be in
the world? It is not possible. Do not, then, require what is
impossible. For this man also is one of those shameless men who must
of necessity be in the world. Let the same considerations be present
to thy mind in the case of the knave, and the faithless man, and of
every man who does wrong in any way. For at the same time that thou
dost remind thyself that it is impossible that such kind of men should
not exist, thou wilt become more kindly disposed towards every one
individually. It is useful to perceive this, too, immediately when the
occasion arises, what virtue nature has given to man to oppose to
every wrongful act. For she has given to man, as an antidote against
the stupid man, mildness, and against another kind of man some other
power. And in all cases it is possible for thee to correct by teaching
the man who is gone astray; for every man who errs misses his object
and is gone astray. Besides wherein hast thou been injured? For thou
wilt find that no one among those against whom thou art irritated
has done anything by which thy mind could be made worse; but that
which is evil to thee and harmful has its foundation only in the mind.
And what harm is done or what is there strange, if the man who has not
been instructed does the acts of an uninstructed man? Consider whether
thou shouldst not rather blame thyself, because thou didst not
expect such a man to err in such a way. For thou hadst means given
thee by thy reason to suppose that it was likely that he would
commit this error, and yet thou hast forgotten and art amazed that
he has erred. But most of all when thou blamest a man as faithless
or ungrateful, turn to thyself. For the fault is manifestly thy own,
whether thou didst trust that a man who had such a disposition would
keep his promise, or when conferring thy kindness thou didst not
confer it absolutely, nor yet in such way as to have received from thy
very act all the profit. For what more dost thou want when thou hast
done a man a service? Art thou not content that thou hast done
something conformable to thy nature, and dost thou seek to be paid for
it? Just as if the eye demanded a recompense for seeing, or the feet
for walking. For as these members are formed for a particular purpose,
and by working according to their several constitutions obtain what is
their own; so also as man is formed by nature to acts of
benevolence, when he has done anything benevolent or in any other
way conducive to the common interest, he has acted conformably to
his constitution, and he gets what is his own.

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