Meditations of Marcus Aurelius



Meditations of
Marcus Aurelius

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Introduction
Biography

Book I Read Discuss
Book II Read Discuss
Book III Read Discuss
Book IV Read Discuss
Book V Read Discuss
Book VI Read Discuss
Book VII Read Discuss
Book VIII Read Discuss
Book IX Read Discuss
Book X Read Discuss
Book XI Read Discuss
Book XII Read Discuss

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Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Book IV

That which rules within, when it is according to nature, is so affected with respect to the events which happen, that it always easily adapts itself to that which is possible and is presented to it.  For it requires no definite material, but it moves toward its purpose, under certain conditions however; and it makes a material for itself out of that which opposes it, as fire lays hold of what falls into it, by which a small light would have been extinguished: but when the fire is strong, it soon appropriates to itself the matter which is heaped upon it, and consumes it, and rises higher by means of this very material.

Book IV - 2

Let no act be done without a purpose, nor otherwise according to the perfect principles of art.

Book IV - 3

Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much.  But this is a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself.  For nowhere either with some quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, paricularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is immediately in perfect tranquillity; and I affirm that tranquillity is nothing else than the good oredering of the mind.  Constantly then give to thyself this retreat, and renew thyself; and let thy principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as thou shalt recur to them, will be sufficient to cleanse thy soul completely, and to send thee back from all discontent with the things to which thou returnest.  For with what art thou discontented?  With the badness of men?  Recall to thy mind this conclusion, that rational animals exist for one another, and that men do wrong involuntarily; and consider how many already, after matual enmity, suspicion, hatred, and fighting, have been stretched dead, reduced to ashes; and be quiet at last. -- But perhaps thou art dissatisfied with that which is assigned to thee out of the universe. -- Recall to thy recollection this alternative; either there is providence or atoms, fortuitous concurrence of things; or remember the arguments by which it has been proved that the world is a political community, and be quiet at last. -- But perhaps corporeal things will still fasten upon thee. -- Consider then further that the mind mingles not with the breath, whether moving gently or violently, when it has once drawn itself apart and discovered its own power, and think also of all that thou hast heard and assented to about pain and pleasure, and be quiet at last. -- But perhaps the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee. -- See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness of want of judgement in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last.  For the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook in it is thy dwelling, and how few are there in it, and what kind of people are they who will praise thee.

This then remains: Remember to retire into this little territory of thy own, above all do not distract or strain thyself, but be free, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal.  But among the things readiest to thy hand to which thou shalt turn, let there be these, which are two.  One is that things do not touch the soul, for they are external and remain immovable; but our perturbations come only from the opinion which is within.  The other is that all these things, which thou seest, change immediately and will no longer be; and constantly bear in mind how many of these changes thou hast already witnessed.  The universe is transformation: life is opinion.

Book IV - 4

If our intellectual part is common, the reason also, in respect of which we are all rational beings, is common: if this is so, common also is the reason which commands us what to do, and what not to do; if this is so, there is a common law also; if this is so, we are fellow-citizens; if this is so, we are members of a political community; if this is so, the world in a manner is a state.  For of what other common political community will any one say that the whole human race are members?  And from thence, from this common political community comes also our very intellectual faculty and reasoning faculty and our capacity for law; or whence do they come?  For as my earthly part is given to me from certain earth, and that which is watery from another element, and that which is hot and fiery from some peculiar source (for nothing comes out of that which is nothing, as nothing also returns to non-existence), so also the intellectual part comes from some source.

Book IV - 5

Death is such as generation is, a mystery of nature; a composition out of the same elements, and a decomposition into the same; and altogether not a thing of which any man should be ashamed, for it is not contrary to the nature of a reasonable animal, and not contrary to the reason of our constitution.

Book IV - 6

It is natural that those things should be done by such persons, it is a matter of necessity; and if a man will not have it so, he will not allow the fig-tree to have juice.  But by all means bear this in mind, that within a very short time both thou and he will be dead; and soon not even your names will be left behind.

Book IV - 7

Take away thy opinion, and then there is taken away the complaint, "I have been harmed."  Take away the complaint, "I have been harmed," and the harm is taken away.

Book IV - 8

That which does not make a man worse than he was, also does not make his life worse, nor does it harm him either from without or from within.

Book IV - 9

The nature of that which is universally useful has been compelled to do this.

Book IV - 10

Consider that everything which happens, happens justly, and if thou observest carefully, thou wilt find it to be so.  I do not say only with respect to the continuity of the series of things, but with respect to what is just, as if it were done by one who assigns to each thing its value.  Observe then as thou hast begun; and whatever thou doest, do it in conjunction with this, the being good, and in the sense in which a man is properly understood to be good.  Keep to this in every action.

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