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BOOK VI - Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus 
The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, trans. Francis Hutcheson and James Moor, edited and with an Introduction by James Moore and Michael Silverthorne (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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1. The matter of the universe is obedient, and easily changed: the intelligence, which governs it, has no cause in itself, of doing evil to any. It has no malice; nor can it do any thing maliciously; nor is any one hurt by it. It is the cause of all that happens, as it executes all things.
2. Provided you act the part that becomes you, let it be of no account with you, whether you do it shivering with cold, or agreeably warm; whether drousy through long watching, or refreshed with sleep; whether in good report, or bad report; whether by dying, or by any other action. For, dying is one piece of the natural business of every living creature. ’Tis sufficient, then, if it be well performed.
3. Look narrowly into things. Let not the proper quality, or dignity, of any thing, escape your observation.
4. All things now existing shall speedily be changed, either* by exhaling and rarifying, if all be one substance; or be dissolved and dispersed into the several elements.
5. The governing mind in the universe, knows its own dispositions and actions, and the nature of that matter it is acting upon.
6. The best sort of revenge, is, not to become like the injurious.
7. Delight thy self in this one thing, and rest in it; to be going from one kind social action to another, with remembrance of God.1
8. The governing part is that which rouses, and turns, and forms itself, such as it chuses to be; and makes every event appear such to itself, as it inclines.
9. All things are accomplished by the nature presiding in the whole; nor can they be influenced by any other, either surrounding it without, or contained as distinct within it, or externally annexed to it.
10. Either the universe is a confused mass and intertexture, soon to be dispersed; or one orderly whole, under a providence. If the former; why should I wish to stay longer in this confused mix-ture; or be solicitous about any thing, further than “* how to become earth again”? Or, why should I be disturbed about any thing? The dispersion will overtake me, do what I please. But, if the latter be the case; then I adore the governour of the whole, I stand firm, and trust in him.
11. When you find yourself forced, as it were into some confusion or disturbance, by surrounding objects, return into yourself as speedily as you can; and depart no more from the true harmony of the soul, than what is absolutely unavoidable. You shall acquire greater power of retaining this harmony, by having frequent recourse to it.
12. Had you, at once, a step-mother, and a mother; tho’ you respected the former, yet your constant resort and refuge, would be the latter: Such to you is the court and philosophy. Return often to your true mother, philosophy; and refresh yourself: She will make the affairs of the court tolerable to you, and make you tolerable to those about it.
13. You may revolve such thoughts as these, about the nicest delicacies of sense: about food, this is the dead car-case of a fish, a fowl, a hog: about wine, this is the juice of a little grape: about your purple robes, this is the wool of a sheep, steeped in the blood of a little shell-fish: about venereal enjoyments, they are the attrition of a base part of our body, and a convulsive sort of excretion of a mucus. These conceptions, touching so nearly, and explaining the nature of these subjects, how powerful are they to display to us their despicable value? Thus2 we should employ the mind, in all parts of life: when things occur, which, at first, seem worthy of high estimation: we should strip them naked, and view their meanness; and cast aside these pompous descriptions of them, by which they seem so glorious. External pomp and high language, are great sophisters; and most impose upon us, when we are employed in matters commonly reputed of great dignity. Remember* what Crates said, about the solemn gravity of Xenocrates.
14. The objects of vulgar admiration, may be reduced to some general classes. First, such as are preserved by mere cohesion, or, regular, but inanimate structure, or organisation; such as stones, timber, fig-trees, vines, olive-trees. Men, a rank higher, admire things preserved by an animal soul; such as flocks and herds. The admiration of a third and higher class of men, with a more elegant taste, turns upon what is accomplished by a rational soul; not as it is akin to the universal spirit; but as artificial, and otherwise ingenious, and acute; and merely on this account. Thus, numbers of † slaves are valued. But he who honours and admires the rational soul, as universal, and social, or public-spirited, in this universal city, he will despise these other objects of admiration; and, above all things, he will study to preserve his own rational soul, in these social dispositions and affections; and co-operate with those souls which are akin to it, in the same purpose.
15. Some things hasten into being: Some hasten to be no more: Some parts of things in being, are already extinct. These fluxes and changes renew the world; as the constant flux of particular periods of time, ever present to us new parts of the infinite eternity. In this vast river, what is there, among the things swept away with it, that one can value; since it can never be stopped or retained? As if one should grow fond of one of the sparrows, as it flies by us, when it shall be immediately out of sight. Such is the life of each man; an exhalation from blood,‡ or a breathing in of air: and such as it is to draw in that air, which you are presently to breath out again every minute, such also is this whole power of breathing, which you received, as it were, yesterday, or the day before, when you were born; and must presently restore again to the source whence you derived it.
16. There is little valuable, either in perspiring, like vegetables; or breathing, as cattle, and wild beasts do; or in having sensible impressions made upon the imagination; or in being moved like puppets,4 by our several passions and appetites; or in mere herding together; or in being nourished. There is nothing in this superior to the discharging again what is superfluous of the food we have taken in. What, then, is valuable? To be received with claps of applause? Not at all. Nor is the applause of tongues more valuable. The praises of the vulgar are nothing but the noise of tongues. If you have, then, quit the pursuit of this trifling sort of glory, what remains as valuable? This one thing, I imagine, * to move, or stop yourself, in all desires or pursuits, according to the proper fabric or structure of your nature: For, this is what all design and art is tending to; this is all its aim, that the thing formed by art, should be adapted to the work it is designed for. This, the planter, and the vine-dresser, the horse-rider, and the breeder of the hound, are in quest of. At what does all education and instruction aim? In this, therefore, is placed all that is valuable. If you succeed well in this, you need not be solicitous to acquire any thing further. Won’t you, then, cease to value other things? If you don’t, you’ll never attain to freedom, self-contentment, independency, or tranquillity: for, you must be enviously and suspiciously vying with those who can deprive you of such things as you highly value; laying snares for those who possesss them; and pining with vexation, when you want them; and even accusing the Gods. But, the† reverencing and honouring your own intellectual part, will make you agreeable to yourself, harmonious with your fellows, and in a perfect concord with the Gods; praising whatsoever they distribute or appoint to men.
17. The elements are tossed upwards, downwards, and all around. The motions of virtue are like none of these; but are of a more divine sort; going on in a way not easily discerned, and‡ ever prosperous.
18. What strange conduct is this! Some men cannot speak a good word of their contemporaries, with whom they live; [and, one would thence imagine, they could not value being praised by them;] and yet are very solicitous, about gaining the praises of posterity, whom they never saw, nor shall see. This seems as foolish, as to be concerned that we cannot obtain the praises of the ages which preceeded our existence.
19. If any thing seems exceedingly difficult for you to accomplish, don’t conclude it to be impossible to all men: but rather, if you see any thing possible to man, and a part of his proper work, conclude that you also may attain to it.
20. If, in the exercises, one has torn us with his nails, or bruised us accidentally with his head, we express no resentment; we are not offended; nor do we suspect him for the future, as a person secretly designing our destruction: and yet we are on our guard against him; not as an enemy, or a person suspected; but with a good-natured caution, for our own safety. Let us thus behave in all parts of life, and conceive many things thus done, as in the exercises. Let us, as I said, be upon our guard; but without suspicion or enmity.
21. If any one can convince me, or shew me, that my sentiments, or conduct, has been wrong; I will joyfully alter them. ’Tis truth I am searching for, which never hurts any man. But men are often hurt, by remaining in error and ignorance.
22. I endeavour, to do my duty, and what becomes me. Other things don’t give me solicitude: They are either inanimate, or irrational; or wandering from the right way, and ignorant of it.
23. I endeavour, as one possessed of reason, to use the brute animals, and all other irrational objects, with magnanimity and freedom; and to act the kind and social part, toward my fellow-men; who enjoy reason as I do. In all things, implore the assistance of the Gods; and repute it of no consequence, for what space of time you shall continue thus employed. Three hours of such a life is sufficient. [As well as the three ages of Nestor.]5
25. Consider, how many different things are done, in each one of our bodies; and in our souls too, in the very same moment; and you will the less wonder, that far more, nay, that all things which now happen, at once exist in this one universal system, we call the world.
26. Should one desire you to spell the name Antoninus, would you not distinctly pronounce to him each one of the letters? Should he turn into any angry dispute about it, would you also turn angry, and not rather mildly count over the several letters to him? Thus, in our present business, our duty consists of a great many numbers, or elements: [according to the many different relations and obligations of each person:] ought we not to observe all these calmly; and, without anger at those who are angry with us, go straight on in executing what is our present business?
27. Is it not cruel, to restrain men from desiring, or pursuing, what appears to them as their proper good or advantage? And yet you seem chargeable in a certain manner with this conduct, when you are angry at the mistakes, and wrong actions of men: for, all are carried toward what appears to them their proper good. But, say you, it is not their proper good. Well: instruct them, then, and teach them better, and don’t be angry with them.
28. Death is the cessation of the sensual impressions, of the impulses of the appetites and passions, of the toilsome reasonings, and of the servitude to the flesh.
29. ’Tis very dishonourable in life, that the soul should fail and desert its duty; while the body can hold out, and sustain its part.
30. Take care you don’t degenerate into the manners of the Cesars, or be tinctured by them. Preserve your simplicity of manners, goodness, integrity, gravity, freedom from ostentation, love of justice, piety, good nature, kind affection, stedfast firmness in your duty. Endeavour earnestly to continue such as philosophy requires you to be. Reverence the Gods, support the interests of mankind. Life is short. The sole enjoyment of this terrestrial life, is in the purity and holiness of our dispositions, and in kind actions. Act as it becomes the scholar of Antoninus Pius.8 Imitate his constant resolute tenor of rational actions; his equability on all occasions; his sanctity; his serenity of countenance; his sweetness of temper; his contempt of vain glory; and his close attention in examining every thing. Remember how he never quitted any subject, till he had thoroughly examined it, and understood it; and how he bore those who accused him unjustly, without making any angry returns; how he was ever calm without hurry; how he discouraged all accusations; how accurately he inquired into the manners and actions of men; how cautious he was of reproaching any; how free from fear, suspicion, or sophistry; how he was contented with a little, as to his habitation, furniture, dress, table, attendants; how patient he was of labour; how hard to be provoked; he could persist in business till the evening, without easing himself, through his great abstemiousness; how stedfast and evenly he was in his conduct to his friends; and patient of their opposition to his sentiments; and how joyfully he received any better informations from them; how religious he was, without superstitious dread: that thus the hour of death may come upon you, well aware of it, and prepared to meet it; as it came on him.
31. Awake, and call yourself up; and, as you see, when you are fully roused, that these were but dreams which disturbed you; so, when you are awake in the business of life, consider the things which may disturb you, as of a like nature with those which disturbed you in sleep.
32. I consist of a mean body, and a soul. To the body all things are indifferent; for, it cannot distinguish them; and, to the intellectual part, all things are indifferent, which are not its own operations; and all its own operations are in its power; and of these, it is only affected by what are present. Its past and future operations are to it now indifferent.
33. Labour is not contrary to the nature of the hand, or the foot; while the hand is doing the proper work of an hand, and the foot what is proper to the foot. No more is labour contrary to the nature of man, as he is man; while he is doing what suits the nature of a man; and if it be not contrary to his nature, it cannot be evil to him.
34. What great sensual enjoyments may be obtained by robbers, by the most infamously dissolute, by parricides, by tyrants? [Can the happiness of man consist in them?]
35. Don’t you see, how common artificers, tho’ they may comply to a certain length with the unskilful, yet still adhere to the rules of their art, and can’t endure to depart from them? Is it not grievous, that the architect, or the physician, should shew a greater reverence to the rules of their peculiar arts, than the man [as he is rational] shews to the rules of human life; rules which are common to him with the Gods?
36. Asia, Europe, are but little corners of the universe: The whole ocean is but a drop of it: Athos9 but a little clod. All the time of this present age is but a point of eternity. All things are but little, changeable, and presently to vanish. All things proceed from the universal governing mind, either by direct and primary intention, or by necessary consequence and connexion with things primarily intended. Thus, the horrid jaws of the lion, poisons, and whatever is pernicious, as thorns, as mire, are the consequences of those venerable and lovely things you admire. Don’t, therefore, imagine them foreign to that constitution of nature which you reverence; but consider well the fountain of all things.
37. He who sees things present, has seen all things which either have been from eternity, or shall be to eternity; for, all are of the like nature, and similar.
38. Consider frequently the connexion of all things in the universe, and the relation they bear to each other. All things are, as it were, entangled with each other, and are, therefore, mutually friendly. This is a natural consequence, or, in a natural series, with the other; either by connexion of place, or mutual conspiring to the same end, or by continuity of substance.
39. Adapt thy self to those things which are destined for you by providence, and love those men, with whom it is your lot to live, and that with a sincere affection.
40. An instrument, a tool, an utensil, is then right, when it is fit for its work; even tho’ the artificer who formed it be gone. But, in the artful works of nature, the artificial power which formed them, remains and resides within them. You ought, therefore, to reverence them the more; and to judge, that, if you are disposed, and conduct yourself according to the intention of this artificial power which formed you, all things are as you should wish. Thus, all things are to the whole, according to its inclination.
41. Whenever you imagine, any of these things which are not in your power, are good or evil to you; if you fall into such imagined evils, or are disappointed of such goods,* you must necessarily accuse the Gods, and hate those men, who, you deem, were the causes, or suspect will be causes of such misfortunes. Our solicitude about such things leads to a great deal of injustice. But, if we judge only the things in our power, to be good or evil, there remains no further cause of accusing the Gods, or of any hostile disposition against men.
42. We are all co-operating to one great work, [The intention of the universal mind in the world;] some, with knowledge and understanding, others, ignorantly, and undesignedly. Thus, I fancy, Heraclitus says, that “men asleep are also then labouring,”10 accomplishing, on their part, the events of the universe. One contributes to this one way, and another, another way. Nay, what’s beyond expectation, even the querulous and the murmurers, who attempt to oppose the course of nature, and to obstruct what happens, contribute also to this purpose: for,† the world must needs have within it such persons also. Think, then, in what class you would wish to rank yourself. The presiding mind will certainly make a right use of you, one way or other; and will inlist you among his labourers and fellow-workers. Don’t chuse to be such a part, as, Chrysippus says, a silly ridiculous sentiment expressed by a fool in a comedy makes, which, “of its self is very silly and vitious, but yet is an agreeable part in the play.”11
43. Does the sun affect to perform the work of the rain, or Aesculapius that of Ceres?12 The several stars, too, have they not different courses, but all jointly contributing to the same end?
44. If the Gods have taken counsel about me, and the things to befall me, the result of their counsel is certainly good. A God without counsel and providence is inconceivable; and, what could move them to do me any mischief? What advantage could thence accrue, either to themselves, or to the universe, about which they are chiefly concerned? If they have not taken counsel about me in particular, they certainly have about the common interest of the universe. I ought, therefore, to love, and chearfully embrace, that which happens in consequence of what is well ordered for the universe. If, indeed, they take no counsel about any thing; which it would be impious to believe; for, then, we might quit sacrifising, prayers, and swearing by them, and all acts of devotion; which we now perform, from a persuasion of their presence, and concern in the affairs of human life: but, grant they took no thought about our affairs; yet, certainly, I may deliberate about myself. My deliberation must be about my true interest. Now, that is the true interest of every one, which is agreeable to the structure of his nature. My natural constitution is that of a rational being, fitted for civil society. My city and country, as I am Antoninus, is Rome; but, as I am a man, ’tis the universe. That alone, therefore, which is profitable to those cities, can be good to me.
45. Whatever happens to any one, is profitable to the whole. This is enough. But, if you attend, you will see this also holds universally; that, what happens to any one man, is profitable also to others. Let the word profitable be * taken, here, in a more popular sense, to relate to things indifferent.
46. As it happens in the theatre and such places of the shows, that the same and like things, always presented, at last cloy us; the same happens in the whole of life: for, all things, earlier or later, are just the same, and from the same causes. How long, then, can we desire to stay gazing on them.
47. Consider frequently, that all men, of all sorts, of all kinds of studies or pursuits, of all nations, have died. Return back to Philistio, Phoebus, and Origanio.14 Go to other tribes, we must all remove to that place, whither so many great orators, so many venerable philosophers, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Socrates, and so many heroes, have gone before; and so many generals and princes have followed. Add to these, Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes,15 and other acute, sublime, laborious, artful, and arrogant genii; yea, such as have wittily derided this fading mortal life, which is but for a day; such as Menippus,16 and his brethren. Consider that all these are long since in their graves. And, what is there calamitous in this to them; or even to such obscure men, whose names don’t remain? The one thing valuable in this life, is, to spend it in a steddy course of truth, justice, and* humanity, toward even the false and unjust.
48. When you would chear your heart, consider the several excellencies and abilities of your acquaintances; such as, the activity of one, the high sense of honour and modesty in another, the liberality of a third, and other virtues, in others. Nothing rejoyces the heart so much as the appearances or resemblances of the virtues, in the manners of those we converse with, frequently occurring to our view. Let us, therefore, have them ready to reflect upon.
49. Are you grieved that you are only of such or such a small weight, and not three hundred weight? No more reason have you to be grieved that you live to such an age, and not to a greater. Be content, as with the quantity of matter, so, with the space of time appointed for you.
50. Let us study to convince others of what is just; but, let us ourselves act what is just, whether they will or not. Should one oppose you with superior force, then rouse your resignation to providence, and your tranquillity; and improve this obstruction for the exercise of some other virtue; and remember, your former purpose was taken up with this† reservation, that you were never to aim at impossibilities. What, then, did you chiefly propose? To make a good attempt. In this you succeed; altho’ you don’t obtain what you first aimed at.
51. The vain-glorious man places his good in the action of another; but the sensual, in his own suffering or passive feeling: The wise man places it in his own action.
52. You have it in your power, to have no such opinion, and thus to keep your soul undisturbed. The external things themselves have no power of causing opinions in us.
53. Enure yourself to attend exactly to what is said by others, and to enter into the soul of the speaker.
54. What is not the interest of the hive, is not the interest of the bee.
55. If the sailors revile the pilot, and the patients the physician, whom will they attend to, and obey? And, how will the one procure safety to the sailorsr the other to the patients?
56. How many of those who entered the world along with me, are gone off before me?
57. To men in the jaundice, honey seems bitter; and water is formidable to those who are bitten with a mad-dog. To boys the ball seems beautiful and honourable. Why am I angry? Has error in the mind less power than a little bile in the man who is in the jaundice, or a little poison in the man who was bit?
58. No man can hinder you to live according to the plan of your nature. And nothing can befall you, contrary to the plan of the universe.
59. Examine well, what sort of men they are; whom they study to please; and with what views; and by what actions they expect to please them. How speedily eternity will sweep them away into obscurity! and how many it hath already swept away!
[* ] See above, B. V. 13. Others of the antients believed, there were four original immutable elements, out of which all compound bodies were formed, and into which they were resolved.
[* ] This saying is not known.
[† ] Slaves were chiefly valued, according as they had Genius for, and were instructed in the more elegant arts, painting, statuary, sculpture, music, acting, and even medicine.
[‡ ] See, B. II. 2. and the note upon it.
[* ] See, IX. 12.
[† ] B. II. 6. and the note upon it.
[‡ ] B. IV. 37. and B. V. 14. and 19. and the notes.
[* ] The Stoics spoke doubtfully about a future state,6 whether the rational souls subsisted as separate intelligences, or were absorbed in the divinity. Many believed a separate existence of good souls for a thousand years, and of the eminently virtuous, for eternity, in the dignity of Gods, which we would call that of angels, with delegated powers of governing certain parts of the universe.
[† ] This later branch, is the Epicurean doctrine, which the Stoics opposed. But they, and the Platonists too, imitating Socrates’s manner, generally propose this alternative, to shew that, at the very worst, there is no evil in death; that all external things are but mean, since they are of short duration, and are no preservatives against death. And they endeavoured to make virtue eligible, from the very feelings of the heart, abstracting from these their incertain tenets about futurity.7
[* ] IX. 1.
[* ] See, B. II. 1.
[† ] See above, B. IV. 1.
[1.] This sentence was cited by Hutcheson (in the original Greek) as one of the epigraphs prefaced to Philosophiae moralis (1745). In the translation of that work, A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy (1747), this adage is rendered: “In this one thing delight and rest yourself, in going on constantly from one social action to another with remembrance of the Deity.”
[2.] The sentences from here to the end of this article were cited by Shaftesbury to reinforce his view that wit is sometimes needed to explode pomposity: “Soliloquy or Advice to an Author,” in Characteristics (1999), ed. Klein, p. 113n38. See also bk. IV, art. 27, p. 52, and bk. XI, art. 6, p. 135n.
[3.] Homer, Iliad 7.99 in modern editions.
[4.] See bk. II, art. 2, p. 34n; bk. X, art. 38, p. 132; and bk. XII, art. 19, p. 148.
[5.] Here and elsewhere Hutcheson inserts into his translation a number of phrases in square brackets, which correspond to nothing in the Greek text. They seem to be interpretative additions. For Nestor, see the endnotes, p. 176n20.
[6.] See also bk. VIII, art. 19, p. 98n, and bk. XII, art. 5, pp. 145–46. Hutcheson’s strongest arguments for a future state of the soul are found in “A Synopsis of Metaphysics,” pt. II, chap. 4, sec. 3, in Logic, Metaphysics, and Natural Sociability, pp. 147–49.
[7.] Like the Stoics, Hutcheson thought that one may have ideas of virtue and moral goodness and be motivated to act virtuously without “any Thoughts of future Rewards.” See Inquiry, sec. I, art. 5, and sec. II, art. 7 (Liberty Fund ed., pp. 96 and 108–10).
[8.] Emperor, 138–161; Marcus’s adoptive father. See also bk. I, art. 13, pp. 28– 30.
[9.] Athos, a mountain headland at the end of the Chalcidic peninsula, through which Xerxes notoriously cut a canal in preparation for his invasion of Greece in 480 bc
[10.] Fragment B75 (Diels-Kranz). Diels, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. I, p. 168.
[11.] Von Arnim, Stoicorum veterum fragmenta, vol. II, fragment 1181 (from Plutarch, Moralia 1065e). Chrysippus was head of the Stoic school in the third century bc and was recognized as the “second founder” of Stoicism.
[12.] Aesculapius (Asclepius), god of healing (see the endnotes, bk. V, p. 176n1); Ceres, goddess of the corn.
[13.] See also bk. V, art. 17, p. 64n; bk. VIII, art. 14, p. 97; and bk. IX, art. 27, pp. 112–13.
[14.] These three figures are unknown.
[15.] Eudoxus, mathematician and astronomer (fourth century bc); Hipparchus, astronomer (second century bc); Archimedes, mathematician (third century bc).
[16.] Influential Cynic writer of the third century bc, author of satirical works thought to have been imitated by Lucian (born about ad 120).
[17.] This sentiment and the parallel theme in the New Testament are a repeated refrain in the notes provided by Hutcheson and Moor. See bk. V, art. 31, p. 68; bk. VII, art. 22, p. 86; bk. VII, art. 70, p. 94; bk. IX, art. 3, p. 108; bk. IX, art. 8, p. 109; bk. IX, art. 27, pp. 112–13.