Book 12

ALL those things at which thou wishest to arrive by a circuitous
road, thou canst have now, if thou dost not refuse them to thyself.
And this means, if thou wilt take no notice of all the past, and trust
the future to providence, and direct the present only conformably to
piety and justice. Conformably to piety, that thou mayest be content
with the lot which is assigned to thee, for nature designed it for
thee and thee for it. Conformably to justice, that thou mayest always
speak the truth freely and without disguise, and do the things which
are agreeable to law and according to the worth of each. And let
neither another man’s wickedness hinder thee, nor opinion nor voice,
nor yet the sensations of the poor flesh which has grown about thee;
for the passive part will look to this. If then, whatever the time may
be when thou shalt be near to thy departure, neglecting everything
else thou shalt respect only thy ruling faculty and the divinity
within thee, and if thou shalt be afraid not because thou must some
time cease to live, but if thou shalt fear never to have begun to live
according to nature- then thou wilt be a man worthy of the universe
which has produced thee, and thou wilt cease to be a stranger in thy
native land, and to wonder at things which happen daily as if they
were something unexpected, and to be dependent on this or that.
God sees the minds (ruling principles) of all men bared of the
material vesture and rind and impurities. For with his intellectual
part alone he touches the intelligence only which has flowed and
been derived from himself into these bodies. And if thou also usest
thyself to do this, thou wilt rid thyself of thy much trouble. For
he who regards not the poor flesh which envelops him, surely will
not trouble himself by looking after raiment and dwelling and fame and
such like externals and show.
The things are three of which thou art composed, a little body, a
little breath (life), intelligence. Of these the first two are
thine, so far as it is thy duty to take care of them; but the third
alone is properly thine. Therefore if thou shalt separate from
thyself, that is, from thy understanding, whatever others do or say,
and whatever thou hast done or said thyself, and whatever future
things trouble thee because they may happen, and whatever in the
body which envelops thee or in the breath (life), which is by nature
associated with the body, is attached to thee independent of thy will,
and whatever the external circumfluent vortex whirls round, so that
the intellectual power exempt from the things of fate can live pure
and free by itself, doing what is just and accepting what happens
and saying the truth: if thou wilt separate, I say, from this ruling
faculty the things which are attached to it by the impressions of
sense, and the things of time to come and of time that is past, and
wilt make thyself like Empedocles’ sphere,

All round, and in its joyous rest reposing;
{BK_12 ^paragraph 5}

and if thou shalt strive to live only what is really thy life, that
is, the present- then thou wilt be able to pass that portion of life
which remains for thee up to the time of thy death, free from
perturbations, nobly, and obedient to thy own daemon (to the god
that is within thee).
I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more
than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion
of himself than on the opinion of others. If then a god or a wise
teacher should present himself to a man and bid him to think of
nothing and to design nothing which he would not express as soon as he
conceived it, he could not endure it even for a single day. So much
more respect have we to what our neighbours shall think of us than
to what we shall think of ourselves.
How can it be that the gods after having arranged all things well
and benevolently for mankind, have overlooked this alone, that some
men and very good men, and men who, as we may say, have had most
communion with the divinity, and through pious acts and religious
observances have been most intimate with the divinity, when they
have once died should never exist again, but should be completely
But if this is so, be assured that if it ought to have been
otherwise, the gods would have done it. For if it were just, it
would also be possible; and if it were according to nature, nature
would have had it so. But because it is not so, if in fact it is not
so, be thou convinced that it ought not to have been so:- for thou
seest even of thyself that in this inquiry thou art disputing with the
diety; and we should not thus dispute with the gods, unless they
were most excellent and most just;- but if this is so, they would not
have allowed anything in the ordering of the universe to be
neglected unjustly and irrationally.
Practise thyself even in the things which thou despairest of
accomplishing. For even the left hand, which is ineffectual for all
other things for want of practice, holds the bridle more vigorously
than the right hand; for it has been practised in this.
{BK_12 ^paragraph 10}
Consider in what condition both in body and soul a man should be
when he is overtaken by death; and consider the shortness of life, the
boundless abyss of time past and future, the feebleness of all matter.
Contemplate the formative principles (forms) of things bare of their
coverings; the purposes of actions; consider what pain is, what
pleasure is, and death, and fame; who is to himself the cause of his
uneasiness; how no man is hindered by another; that everything is
In the application of thy principles thou must be like the
pancratiast, not like the gladiator; for the gladiator lets fall the
sword which he uses and is killed; but the other always has his
hand, and needs to do nothing else than use it.
See what things are in themselves, dividing them into matter, form
and purpose.
What a power man has to do nothing except what God will approve, and
to accept all that God may give him.
{BK_12 ^paragraph 15}
With respect to that which happens conformably to nature, we ought
to blame neither gods, for they do nothing wrong either voluntarily or
involuntarily, nor men, for they do nothing wrong except
involuntarily. Consequently we should blame nobody.
How ridiculous and what a stranger he is who is surprised at
anything which happens in life.
Either there is a fatal necessity and invincible order, or a kind
Providence, or a confusion without a purpose and without a director
(Book IV). If then there is an invincible necessity, why dost thou
resist? But if there is a Providence which allows itself to be
propitiated, make thyself worthy of the help of the divinity. But if
there is a confusion without governor, be content that in such a
tempest thou hast in thyself a certain ruling intelligence. And even
if the tempest carry thee away, let it carry away the poor flesh,
the poor breath, everything else; for the intelligence at least it
will not carry away.
Does the light of the lamp shine without losing its splendour
until it is extinguished; and shall the truth which is in thee and
justice and temperance be extinguished before thy death?
When a man has presented the appearance of having done wrong, say,
How then do I know if this is a wrongful act? And even if he has
done wrong, how do I know that he has not condemned himself? and so
this is like tearing his own face. Consider that he, who would not
have the bad man do wrong, is like the man who would not have the
fig-tree to bear juice in the figs and infants to cry and the horse to
neigh, and whatever else must of necessity be. For what must a man
do who has such a character? If then thou art irritable, cure this
man’s disposition.
{BK_12 ^paragraph 20}
If it is not right, do not do it: if it is not true, do not say
it. For let thy efforts be-
In everything always observe what the thing is which produces for
thee an appearance, and resolve it by dividing it into the formal, the
material, the purpose, and the time within which it must end.
Perceive at last that thou hast in thee something better and more
divine than the things which cause the various affects, and as it were
pull thee by the strings. What is there now in my mind? Is it fear, or
suspicion, or desire, or anything of the kind?
First, do nothing inconsiderately, nor without a purpose. Second,
make thy acts refer to nothing else than to a social end.
Consider that before long thou wilt be nobody and nowhere, nor
will any of the things exist which thou now seest, nor any of those
who are now living. For all things are formed by nature to change
and be turned and to perish in order that other things in continuous
succession may exist.
{BK_12 ^paragraph 25}
Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy power.
Take away then, when thou choosest, thy opinion, and like a mariner,
who has doubled the promontory, thou wilt find calm, everything
stable, and a waveless bay.
Any one activity whatever it may be, when it has ceased at its
proper time, suffers no evil because it has ceased; nor he who has
done this act, does he suffer any evil for this reason that the act
has ceased. In like manner then the whole which consists of all the
acts, which is our life, if it cease at its proper time, suffers no
evil for this reason that it has ceased; nor he who has terminated
this series at the proper time, has he been ill dealt with. But the
proper time and the limit nature fixes, sometimes as in old age the
peculiar nature of man, but always the universal nature, by the change
of whose parts the whole universe continues ever young and perfect.
And everything which is useful to the universal is always good and
in season. Therefore the termination of life for every man is no evil,
because neither is it shameful, since it is both independent of the
will and not opposed to the general interest, but it is good, since it
is seasonable and profitable to and congruent with the universal.
For thus too he is moved by the deity who is moved in the same
manner with the deity and moved towards the same things in his mind.
These three principles thou must have in readiness. In the things
which thou doest do nothing either inconsiderately or otherwise than
as justice herself would act; but with respect to what may happen to
thee from without, consider that it happens either by chance or
according to Providence, and thou must neither blame chance nor accuse
Providence. Second, consider what every being is from the seed to
the time of its receiving a soul, and from the reception of a soul
to the giving back of the same, and of what things every being is
compounded and into what things it is resolved. Third, if thou
shouldst suddenly be raised up above the earth, and shouldst look down
on human things, and observe the variety of them how great it is,
and at the same time also shouldst see at a glance how great is the
number of beings who dwell around in the air and the aether,
consider that as often as thou shouldst be raised up, thou wouldst see
the same things, sameness of form and shortness of duration. Are these
things to be proud of?
Cast away opinion: thou art saved. Who then hinders thee from
casting it away?
When thou art troubled about anything, thou hast forgotten this,
that all things happen according to the universal nature; and
forgotten this, that a man’s wrongful act is nothing to thee; and
further thou hast forgotten this, that everything which happens,
always happened so and will happen so, and now happens so
everywhere; forgotten this too, how close is the kinship between a man
and the whole human race, for it is a community, not of a little blood
or seed, but of intelligence. And thou hast forgotten this too, that
every man’s intelligence is a god, and is an efflux of the deity;
and forgotten this, that nothing is a man’s own, but that his child
and his body and his very soul came from the deity; forgotten this,
that everything is opinion; and lastly thou hast forgotten that
every man lives the present time only, and loses only this.
{BK_12 ^paragraph 30}
Constantly bring to thy recollection those who have complained
greatly about anything, those who have been most conspicuous by the
greatest fame or misfortunes or enmities or fortunes of any kind: then
think where are they all now? Smoke and ash and a tale, or not even
a tale. And let there be present to thy mind also everything of this
sort, how Fabius Catullinus lived in the country, and Lucius Lupus
in his gardens, and Stertinius at Baiae, and Tiberius at Capreae and
Velius Rufus (or Rufus at Velia); and in fine think of the eager
pursuit of anything conjoined with pride; and how worthless everything
is after which men violently strain; and how much more philosophical
it is for a man in the opportunities presented to him to show
himself just, temperate, obedient to the gods, and to do this with all
simplicity: for the pride which is proud of its want of pride is the
most intolerable of all.
To those who ask, Where hast thou seen the gods or how dost thou
comprehend that they exist and so worshipest them, I answer, in the
first place, they may be seen even with the eyes; * in the second
place neither have I seen even my own soul and yet I honour it. Thus
then with respect to the gods, from what I constantly experience of
their power, from this I comprehend that they exist and I venerate
The safety of life is this, to examine everything all through, what
it is itself, what is its material, what the formal part; with all thy
soul to do justice and to say the truth. What remains except to enjoy
life by joining one good thing to another so as not to leave even the
smallest intervals between?
There is one light of the sun, though it is interrupted by walls,
mountains, and other things infinite. There is one common substance,
though it is distributed among countless bodies which have their
several qualities. There is one soul, though it is distributed among
infinite natures and individual circumscriptions (or individuals).
There is one intelligent soul, though it seems to be divided. Now in
the things which have been mentioned all the other parts, such as
those which are air and matter, are without sensation and have no
fellowship: and yet even these parts the intelligent principle holds
together and the gravitation towards the same. But intellect in a
peculiar manner tends to that which is of the same kin, and combines
with it, and the feeling for communion is not interrupted.
What dost thou wish? To continue to exist? Well, dost thou wish to
have sensation? Movement? Growth? And then again to cease to grow? To
use thy speech? To think? What is there of all these things which
seems to thee worth desiring? But if it is easy to set little value on
all these things, turn to that which remains, which is to follow
reason and God. But it is inconsistent with honouring reason and God
to be troubled because by death a man will be deprived of the other
{BK_12 ^paragraph 35}
How small a part of the boundless and unfathomable time is assigned
to every man? For it is very soon swallowed up in the eternal. And how
small a part of the whole substance? And how small a part of the
universal soul? And on what a small clod of the whole earth thou
creepest? Reflecting on all this consider nothing to be great, except
to act as thy nature leads thee, and to endure that which the common
nature brings.
How does the ruling faculty make use of itself? For all lies in
this. But everything else, whether it is in the power of thy will or
not, is only lifeless ashes and smoke.
This reflection is most adapted to move us to contempt of death,
that even those who think pleasure to be a good and pain an evil still
have despised it.
The man to whom that only is good which comes in due season, and to
whom it is the same thing whether he has done more or fewer acts
conformable to right reason, and to whom it makes no difference
whether he contemplates the world for a longer or a shorter time- for
this man neither is death a terrible thing.
Man, thou hast been a citizen in this great state (the world): what
difference does it make to thee whether for five years (or three)? For
that which is comformable to the laws is just for all. Where is the
hardship then, if no tyrant nor yet an unjust judge sends thee away
from the state, but nature who brought thee into it? The same as if a
praetor who has employed an actor dismisses him from the stage.- “But
I have not finished the five acts, but only three of them.”- Thou
sayest well, but in life the three acts are the whole drama; for what
shall be a complete drama is determined by him who was once the cause
of its composition, and now of its dissolution: but thou art the cause
of neither. Depart then satisfied, for he also who releases thee is