Sunday, June 7, 2009

Hell - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. IX.37

Meditation IX.37 - Hell - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

Enough of this wretched life and murmuring and apish tricks. Why are you disturbed?1 What is there new in this? What unsettles you? Is it the form of the thing? Look at it. Or is it the matter? Look at it. But besides these there is nothing.2 Toward the gods, then, now become at last more simple and better. It is the same whether we examine these things for a hundred years or three.3


(1) These are symptoms of a generalized mental disorientation, depression, anxiety, and dissatisfaction. Whatever the specific diagnosis, these conditions are inevitable in those who moan about their own lot in life - the consequence of their separation from the order of being. In Stoicism mental disturbances such of these are the inevitable price of alienation. Alone in the universe we seek comfort in sensational pleasure, and we will do whatever is needed to dull the pain.

(2) This face-slapping rebuke to self-seeking behavior commands you to 'get a grip.' Your troubles stem from your ignorance of nature. The world was not made for you. You were made for the world. You don't know that? Well, look at the world. Study it then. Examine nature from all angles, both her structure and her substance. Understand nature's fabric - uncover her laws.

(3) The "gods" is a euphemism for nature and her laws - these laws are your templates for moral behavior. You will never experience peace in living for yourself. This is not why you exist. You are part of a whole. When you cut yourself off from the whole, you will experience annihilation and despair - the Stoic version of Hell. The universe is self-correcting.

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.

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