Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The Stoic Soul - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XII.15
Meditation XII.15 - The Stoic Soul - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Does the light of the lamp shine without losing its splendor until it is extinguished; and shall the truth which is in you and justice and temperance be extinguished before your death?1
(1) This light metaphor models human nature as inherently good. It stands in stark contrast to the Christian idea that the human soul, while inherently good, loses its luminosity when it falls from grace. The soul, in Christian terms, is rekindled only when the Christ reenters our lives and we are "born again." The Stoic has no need to be born again. The divine principle never leaves us. We are born divine, and so will we die. The difference in Stoic terms between being good and bad is that the bad are either unaware (ignorant) of the divine essence (the Logos) because they have not looked, or have willfully chosen to turn away from this light. Because the Stoic can not judge which of these is responsible, it is ignorance that the Stoic will always presume. The light, in Stoic terms, is not a transcendent idea - although it is divine and perfect. It is reason, the active principle in nature, and something we share with all sentient life in the universe. We access the reason in us through meditation. Reason, when engaged, expresses itself as truth, justice, temperance and wisdom. We engage reason through philosophy, which requires meditation, defined by Marcus as a withdrawal into the core of our being, the Stoic soul.
Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.