Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Born Again - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. X.16
Meditation X.16 - Born Again - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
No longer talk at all about the kind of man or woman that a good man or woman ought to be, but be such.1
(1) Stoicism requires more than an intellectual understanding of philosophy. Preaching or teaching Stoic principles requires full engagement. Why? Imagine teaching a course about flowers or precious gems or infants without ever having seen a single example of any of these. Stoicism is a "blazing fire [that] makes flame and brightness out of everything that is thrown into it (Meditation X.31)." The virtue that Stoicism demands of us requires witness. We must witness the good to ignite the fire. When we do this, it is no longer possible for us to not be good. This is very much the born again sort of experience that religious systems demand. There is a difference however. Stoicism is empirical. Stoicism makes no demand on faith. Christians maintain that the Christ will enter us when we are 'born again.' Christian theology identifies the Christ with the Logos, a concept Christianity borrowed from Stoicism. In Stoicism the Logos is in us always. We will recognize this because this same Logos is all around us in nature - not above nature as Christians maintain. The exercise of the Stoic requires a real turning away from the self to observe the other - using the natural tools of reason. Divesting ourselves of the self requires profound humility (please see Echoes of Buddha - Meditation X.17). A passage paraphrased from Mark 4:12 teaches that without faith 'we may see clearly, but not perceive; we may hear clearly, but not understand.' For the Stoic the perception and understanding needed to be good comes to us not from faith, but from reason.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.