Thursday, May 26, 2011
The End of Time - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VII.10
Meditation VII.10 - The End of Time - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Everything material soon disappears in the substance of the whole;(1) and everything formal (causal) is very soon taken back into the universal reason;(2) and the memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in time.(3)
(1) This is the recycling principle of Stoic physics. The material universe is defined by active (Logos) and passive (massive) substance. Both are in continuous flux (change) according to the then unstated second law of thermodynamics (law of entropy). It is thus according to nature that the parts must continuously and irreversibly become reintegrated into the whole. The identities and defining characteristics of the short-lived parts of the universe (atoms, human beings, stars, galaxies) is temporally limited. According to the Ekpyrotic principle of Stoic cosmology (see also The Big Crunch - Meditation VIII.06) the entire manifold is once again re-differentiated once this process is complete and the universe is reborn as an endless cycle.
(2) Marcus is drawing on Aristotle's four causes (material, efficient, formal and final) as a guide. The material cause asks what something is made of; the efficient cause examines its origin or source; the formal cause places it within a category of things with similar form or essence; the final cause examines purpose.
(3) The memory of everything is not only overwhelmed, it is effectively extinguished. At the end of each cosmic cycle, time ceases to have referential meaning - since the sequences of events involving matter are no longer referential. All points of reference - spatial and material - are extinguished. In Stoic physics this might be regarded as a cosmic singularity and thus a new beginning when time and space begin anew. The meditative lesson is humbling. What value is personal pride if all memory of what we have been or might be is soon annihilated? Our role in this cosmic scheme is to participate in the whole - for we are from the whole and will return to the whole.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.