Saturday, February 18, 2012
The telos (τέλοϛ) or Purpose of Stoic Life - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VI.58
Meditation VI.58 - The telos (τέλοϛ) or Purpose of Stoic Life - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
No person will hinder you from living according to the reason of your own nature:(1) nothing will happen to you contrary to the reason of the universal nature.(2)
(1) The power of this claim is its absolute certainty. Our human nature is divine. Every human being is coupled to this Universal through reason. The "reason of your own nature" and the "reason of the universal nature" are the same - that is, the Law of Nature. Our duty in life is to seek and to know this truth, a process that begins with the self-discovery that can be achieved only through meditation. Nothing can hinder this pursuit, because it is governed by the same immutable law that governs all of existence. That which is human in us is invulnerable, because our human nature was forged by, and distilled from the Law that governs all of nature. Those elements which are detached from reason in us - our diverse emotional drives and passions - are necessary for survival, but also necessarily fallible. The art of living is learning how to differentiate between these two often conflicting attractions - a distinction that meditation will invariably present to us in sharp relief.
(2) Divine Reason brings serenity, a genuine and sufficient state of true enlightenment that requires no amplification or enhancement. Stoic enlightenment - happiness - is the telos (τέλοϛ) or purpose of life. To know this experience is to be united with the divine. There is no hierarchy in Stoic enlightenment. It is meaningless to expect more, because there is no need for more. it is equally meaningless to express the experience of happiness with spatial or temporal qualifiers - particularly with expressions such as, 'in heaven,' or 'for all eternity.' Stoic happiness is of necessity decoupled from all spatial and temporal measures. We experience happiness - and then we die - nothing more is required of us - or indeed needed by us - because that which defines our self-hood dissolves when we recognize that we are - and always have been - in unity with the Universal. Our animal drives, while necessary for physical survival, will at best bring us only pleasures (or pain) - experiences which are as ephemeral and unsatisfying as the individual life of the self is brief.
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.