Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

Meditations of
Marcus Aurelius


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Meditations of Marcus Aurelius 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.

Book IX - 2

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.

Book IX - 3

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.

Book IX - 4

He who does wrong does wrong against himself.  He who acts unjustly acts unjustly to himself, because he makes himself bad.

Book IX - 5

He often acts unjustly who does not do a certain thing; not only he who does a certain thing.

Book IX - 6

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.

Book IX - 7

Wipe out imagination: check desire: extinguish appetite: keep the ruling faculty in its own power.

Book IX - 8

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.

Book IX - 9

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. F or 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.

Book IX - 10

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.

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