Translated by George Long
Search The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
1.  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.
2. 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
3.  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,
4. 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
5. 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 extinguished?
6. 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.
7. 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
8. 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
9. 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.
12. 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.
14. 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.
16. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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?
21. 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
22. Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy power.
Take away then, when thou choosest, thy opinion [judgments], and like a mariner, who
has doubled the promontory, thou wilt find calm, everything stable, and
a waveless bay.
23. 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.
24. 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?
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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 them.
29. 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?
30. 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.
31. 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 things.
32. 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.
35. 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 (iii. 7; vi. 23; x. 20; xii. 23).
36. 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 conformable 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 satisfied.