Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The Wizard of Oz - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. IX.27
Meditation IX.27 - The Wizard of Oz - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
When another blames you or hates you, or when others say about you anything injurious, approach their poor souls, penetrate within, and see what kind of persons they are.1 You will discover that there is no reason to take any trouble that these men and women may have this or that opinion about you. However you must be well disposed towards them, for by nature they are friends.2 And the gods too aid them in all ways, by dreams, by signs, towards the attainment of those things on which they set a value.3
(1) Both blame and hate are irrational responses and contrary to nature because nature is rational. Anyone who acts in these ways is out of communion with the will of nature.
(2) Stoicism is a forgiving philosophy. It also recognizes that those who act in contrary ways do so not because they are fundamentally bad, or evil, but because they are literally out of their minds - that is, their actions are not rational. Actions such as blame or hate are triggered by self-interest and motivated by irrational or emotional states. Marcus asserts that while people will act irrationally, rational actions are always an option, the shift to rationality requiring only a shift in attitude or opinion. Because every human being is endowed with a rationality that comes from the same active aspect of nature, we are all connected through reason, and we are all inherently friends.
(3) Stoics do not formally acknowledge the existence of gods. Nonetheless Greco-Roman cultures did revere a variety of state sanctioned deities and Marcus Aurelius as emperor was expected to pay lip service to those traditions - not to do so would have been regarded as impious. The notion that occult forces, acting through dreams and signs, might come to the aid of those who act contrary to nature offers an acknowledgment to the possibility that human beings do reverse course. Sometimes people do shift thinking spontaneously. We wake up one morning having "seen the light." Dreaming can play a role. Dreams can serve as the sub-conscious stage for conscience decisions; by the same token sub-conscious associations can also trigger a shift in attitude. The trigger might be a strange event, a smell, an unusual pattern of tea-leaves, or a bird in the sky. In pre-Freudian cultures events like these were often read as signs, and regarded as evidence of the operation of occult forces in human life. Freud would explain these ego shifts as evidence of the operation of the super-ego on the id. Freud did acknowledge that these modern divisions of human consciousness were relabeled from the preexisting tripartite compartmentalization of the mind into rational (thinking), spirited (willing) and appetitive (emotive or feeling) divisions as developed by Plato in the Republic. Those divisions continue to exert enormous influence on popular culture as exemplified for example by the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Woodsman in the The Wizard of Oz.
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.