Epictetus on Philosophy as a Way of Life

“No thing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

—Epictetus – Discourses  – Book I, ch. 15.

See http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Epictetus.html

As I have practiced stoicism, what I find online is often superficial and analytical and unsourced. Pierre Hadot is an exception with his books “The Inner Citadel” and “Philosophy as a Way of Life.” He presents the stoic spiritual practices that must be practiced to benefit from.

I have noticed a trend in the modern stoics relying heavily on written commentary and readings and not a lot of talk on practical application. Many argue esoteric points missing the heart of Epictetus in my opinion.

Books are good weights, but not the real thing.

“Epictetus’s chief concerns are with integrity, self-management, and personal freedom, which he advocates by demanding of his students a thorough examination of two central ideas, the capacity he terms ‘volition’ (prohairesis) and the correct use of impressions (chrēsis tōn phantasiōn), Heartfelt and satirical by turns, Epictetus has had significant influence on the popular moralistic tradition, but he is more than a moralizer; his lucid resystematization and challenging application of Stoic ethics qualify him as an important philosopher in his own right.”

—From Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epictetus/

Thus it is very difficult to discuss these topics online without coming off as a moralizer of your own viewpoints when no one can see the application of said practices in your life.

Should we then say nothing online? Perhaps. But there is benefit in discussing and wrestling and pointing to the gold imho, but these dialogues are no substitute for practice and application.

I, as all of you, am a work of art in progress.

Epictetus spoke from the heart and was funny, not just in his mind. His philosophy was lived and practical.

You have to attain on your own. We can’t just moralize our viewpoints to others. Around normal folks not versed in these practices, example is the best teacher.

The below from “A SELECTION FROM THE DISCOURSES OF EPICTETUS WITH THE ENCHEIRIDION”

https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10661/pg10661-images.html

LII.

In every thing (circumstance) we should hold these maxims ready to hand:

Lead me, O Zeus, and thou O Destiny,
The way that I am bid by you to go:
To follow I am ready. If I choose not,
I make myself a wretch, and still must follow.

But whoso nobly yields unto necessity,
We hold him wise, and skill’d in things divine.

And the third also: O Crito, if so it pleases the gods, so let it be; Anytus and Melitus are able indeed to kill me, but they cannot harm me.

Golden

“I do not teach a definite Philosophy—I have no cocked and primed system—but I outline, suggest, hint—tell what I see—then each may make up the rest for himself. He who goes to my book expecting a cocked and primed philosophy, will depart utterly disappointed—and deserves to! I find anyhow that a great many of my readers credit my writings with things that do not attach to the writings themselves but to the persons that read them—things they supply, bring with them.

Epictetus says: “Do not let yourself be wrapt by phantasms”—and we must not: that is very profound: it often comes back to me.

Epictetus is the one of all my old cronies who has lasted to this day without cutting a diminished figure in my perspective. He belongs with the best—the best of the great teachers—is a universe in himself. He sets me free in a flood of light—of life, of vista.

My contention is for the whole man—the whole corpus not one member—not a leg, an arm, a belly alone, but the entire corpus, nothing left out of the account. I know it will be argued that the present is the time of specialization, but that don’t answer it.”

—Walt Whitman from “Walt Whitman Speaks”

There is a reason Marcus Aurelius sat at the feet of a crippled ex slave to learn what a human being looks like.

He saw gold and I see it in Walt and I see it in others and I see it in myself and I love it.

Thus Spake Zarathustra: Prologue 9

“Long slept Zarathustra; and not only the rosy dawn passed over his head, but also the morning. At last, however, his eyes opened, and amazedly he gazed into the forest and the stillness, amazedly he gazed into himself. Then he arose quickly, like a seafarer who all at once seeth the land; and he shouted for joy: for he saw a new truth. And he spake thus to his heart:

A light hath dawned upon me: I need companions—living ones; not dead companions and corpses, which I carry with me where I will.

But I need living companions, who will follow me because they want to follow themselves—and to the place where I will.

A light hath dawned upon me. Not to the people is Zarathustra to speak, but to companions! Zarathustra shall not be the herd’s herdsman and hound!

To allure many from the herd—for that purpose have I come. The people and the herd must be angry with me: a robber shall Zarathustra be called by the herdsmen.

Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the good and just. Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the believers in the orthodox belief.

Behold the good and just! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh up their tables of values, the breaker, the lawbreaker:—he, however, is the creator.

Behold the believers of all beliefs! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaketh up their tables of values, the breaker, the law-breaker—he, however, is the creator.

Companions, the creator seeketh, not corpses—and not herds or believers either. Fellow-creators the creator seeketh—those who grave new values on new tables.

Companions, the creator seeketh, and fellow-reapers: for everything is ripe for the harvest with him. But he lacketh the hundred sickles: so he plucketh the ears of corn and is vexed.

Companions, the creator seeketh, and such as know how to whet their sickles. Destroyers, will they be called, and despisers of good and evil. But they are the reapers and rejoicers.

Fellow-creators, Zarathustra seeketh; fellow-reapers and fellow-rejoicers, Zarathustra seeketh: what hath he to do with herds and herdsmen and corpses!

And thou, my first companion, rest in peace! Well have I buried thee in thy hollow tree; well have I hid thee from the wolves.

But I part from thee; the time hath arrived. ‘Twixt rosy dawn and rosy dawn there came unto me a new truth.

I am not to be a herdsman, I am not to be a grave-digger. Not any more will I discourse unto the people; for the last time have I spoken unto the dead.

With the creators, the reapers, and the rejoicers will I associate: the rainbow will I show them, and all the stairs to the Superman.

To the lone-dwellers will I sing my song, and to the twain-dwellers; and unto him who hath still ears for the unheard, will I make the heart heavy with my happiness.

I make for my goal, I follow my course; over the loitering and tardy will I leap. Thus let my on-going be their down-going!”

–Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche – Thus Spake Fire

My reading reading from Project Gutenberg’s – Thus Spake Zarathustra – https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1998/… by Friedrich Nietzsche.

The Gates Are Open

A reading and my useless commentary from the Mumonkan.

Let There Be Light!

A new video from my Philosophy as a Way of Life series.

ICECREAM

I heard a wise sheriff say today, I want to make this a PARADE, not a PROTEST!

There is yet one good person around and thus we are all given the benefit of the doubt.

I feel the same way as he does…YES!

Let’s celebrate our lives!

Not follow lies.

Trump doesn’t represent us. 

We love each other, we want the best for each other, we love nature and we feel a deep desire to be One and also to be known and respected as persons. 

We all just want our best lives here now minus the anger and fear.

This morning, watching the riots, I saw children marching instead and they were all laughing. I walked up to one and asked why are you marching and he said, ICECREAM!

The riots are complete lies. Personal rights are misunderstandings. 

Everything is a sign of this.

Then Seneca wrote me a letter, https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Moral_letters_to_Lucilius/Letter_16

Every moment, pointing here…

“You must persevere, must develop new strength by continuous study, until that which is only a good inclination becomes a good settled purpose. 2. Hence you no longer need to come to me with much talk and protestations; I know that you have made great progress. I understand the feelings which prompt your words; they are not feigned or specious words.”

“How can philosophy help me, if Fate exists? Of what avail is philosophy, if God rules the universe? Of what avail is it, if Chance governs everything? For not only is it impossible to change things that are determined, but it is also impossible to plan beforehand against what is undetermined; either God has forestalled my plans, and decided what I am to do, or else Fortune gives no free play to my plans.”

It doesn’t matter if God, Fate or Chance is rolling all this out. 

“Whether the truth, Lucilius, lies in one or in all of these views, we must be philosophers; whether Fate binds us down by an inexorable law, or whether God as arbiter of the universe has arranged everything, or whether Chance drives and tosses human affairs without method, philosophy ought to be our defence.”

“There is no reason why you should put confidence in yourself too quickly and readily. Examine yourself; scrutinize and observe yourself in divers ways; but mark, before all else, whether it is in philosophy or merely in life itself[1] that you have made progress. 3. Philosophy is no trick to catch the public; it is not devised for show. It is a matter, not of words, but of facts. It is not pursued in order that the day may yield some amusement before it is spent, or that our leisure may be relieved of a tedium that irks us. It moulds and constructs the soul; it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do and what we should leave undone; it sits at the helm and directs our course as we waver amid uncertainties. Without it, no one can live fearlessly or in peace of mind. Countless things that happen every hour call for advice; and such advice is to be sought in philosophy.“

We let philosophy hold the wheel. 

“She will encourage us to submit to God with cheerfulness and to Fortune with defiance; she will show you how to follow God and bear what chance may send you.”

Seneca advises to not let the spiritual enthusiasm cool off or fall away. 

He says now that you have it, keep a hold on it and put it on firm footing, so that what is at present an enthusiasm may become a settled spiritual disposition. 

So it goes, even smelly goats learn self integrity is the most valuable substance in creation come hell or high water. 

What are you gonna do when alone with the alone?

How will you act?

How will you know what to do when it is only you?

Others have been generous with me and I pass that on joyfully. Kindness has taken hold of me. This is the best way to be. To freely give and receive. But there is a balance between loving fool and deadly bastard, we must draw from both aspects.

Natural desires are limited, but falsity has no point of termination.The false has no limits. The road must have an end or one wanders in falseness forever. 

What wisdom humanity has realized, and haven’t we asked the questions we do today yesterday so much more clearly it seems to me. Seneca is a human being and his account of life is true wisdom, practical knowledge, the greatest stuff really. I love Seneca as another Father. When I read him, he sets me straight and is a clear mirror.

It is like the Tarot how I find this letter. This letter was written to me across time. That creates a wormhole. Space collapses between us. The universe sees me struggling and in it comes to set me straight. 

Who guides my steps indeed.

“But it is not my purpose now to be led into a discussion as to what is within our own control, – if foreknowledge is supreme, or if a chain of fated events drags us along in its clutches, or if the sudden and the unexpected play the tyrant over us; I return now to my warning and my exhortation, that you should not allow the impulse of your spirit to weaken and grow cold. Hold fast to it and establish it firmly, in order that what is now impulse may become a habit of the mind.“

“Recall your steps, therefore, from idle things, and when you would know whether that which you seek is based upon a natural or upon a misleading desire, consider whether it can stop at any definite point. If you find, after having travelled far, that there is a more distant goal always in view, you may be sure that this condition is contrary to nature.“

My deepest voice says to me…you must never believe anyone else can help you. 

Damn, so it’s like that.

And so it is, but I suspect still, this all is for our best. 

I have found my Fathers, now I must know my Mothers.

Straight on.