Monday, February 8, 2010

The Empathic Cosmos - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.41

Sierra Club

Meditation VII.41 - The Empathic Cosmos - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil

If gods care not for me and for my children, there is a reason for it.(1)


(1) This is an essential Stoic sentiment. There are no capricious "gods" in Stoicism. The reference here is poetic. There is nonetheless in Stoicism a universal intelligence - a divine governance - better understood as Natural Law. This governance does not "care" in the sense that a personal god cares for the welfare of what she creates. That sort of caring would imply that creation is fragile and vulnerable. But this is not so in Stoicism. The divine intelligence of the whole is embedded in each of its parts. Therefore "[you] and [your] children" yourselves are also divine and invulnerable. We may be physically fragile and subject to the accidents of nature, but the divine in us is immutable and enduring. Whenever it appears that we are not cared for we can assume therefore that we are misplacing our priorities: we mistake the 'passive' body for the divine soul or 'active' principle within us. When we shift to the right perspective we will see that our lives really do evolve as they ought to evolve. Because it is divine and good, the universal intelligence is, of necessity, empathic toward the whole and all of its parts, including you, and your children. This must be or the universal intelligence would not be divine. As individuals we can not comprehend the whole, but through meditation we can know that we are in fact part of the whole and as such we can know that the whole can never be at war with its parts.

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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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


Anonymous said...

This is an essential Stoic sentiment. There are no capricious "gods" in Stoicism. The reference here is poetic.

It seems to me that you're adjusting what Marcus Aurelius' words to better fit the paradigm you've constructed on stoic philosophy.

This whole "even though he's clearly saying X, the truth is that he's secretly saying is Y instead, it's just that you don't get it" thing really sounds pretentious. Not to mention far-fecthed.

Anyway, I'm happy for your blog, etc.

Have a nice day.

Russell McNeil said...

I've tried to be internally consistent throughout each of the 500 Meditations with Stoic philosophy in general, and with other Meditations offered by Marcus in both my book and in the blog.

There are indeed no gods in Stoicism, and Marcus is clearly in line with this. Stoicism is a materialistic philosophy and the divine is in and of nature.

That said, the challenge for an interpreter is to make sense of those meditations where Marcus or any other Stoic philosopher makes reference to the "gods." Of course, Marcus is also emperor of Rome and must in that capacity pay at least lip service to the officially recognized state gods - and does. When he does - as in this Meditation I have chosen to explain the references in this way.

If there was clear evidence of inconsistency and/or non-coherence with other aspects of Stoicism within the Meditations, I might tend to agree with your post - that I was forcing an interpretation into my particular paradigm. but what I find more remarkable about Marcus is his consistency with the tenets of Stoicism as developed during the 500 year history that led to his Meditations.

The materialistic and non-theistic nature of Stoicism is absolutely central to the philosophy and Marcus knows his stuff. For him to wonder whether the gods care about humanity and to mean it as if he really believed in the gods is what I would call far-fetched.