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Epictetus - The Enchiridion - 29, 30, 31



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Enchiridion

           29. In every affair consider what precedes and follows, and

           then undertake it. Otherwise you will begin with spirit; but

           not having thought of the consequences, when some of them

           appear you will shamefully desist. "I would conquer at the

           Olympic games." But consider what precedes and follows, and

           then, if it is for your advantage, engage in the affair. You

           must conform to rules, submit to a diet, refrain from

           dainties; exercise your body, whether you choose it or not, at

           a stated hour, in heat and cold; you must drink no cold water,

           nor sometimes even wine. In a word, you must give yourself up

           to your master, as to a physician. Then, in the combat, you

           may be thrown into a ditch, dislocate your arm, turn your

           ankle, swallow dust, be whipped, and, after all, lose the

           victory. When you have evaluated all this, if your inclination

           still holds, then go to war. Otherwise, take notice, you will

           behave like children who sometimes play like wrestlers,

           sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and sometimes

           act a tragedy when they have seen and admired these shows.

           Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a

           gladiator, now a philosopher, then an orator; but with your

           whole soul, nothing at all. Like an ape, you mimic all you

           see, and one thing after another is sure to please you, but is

           out of favor as soon as it becomes familiar. For you have

           never entered upon anything considerately, nor after having

           viewed the whole matter on all sides, or made any scrutiny

           into it, but rashly, and with a cold inclination. Thus some,

           when they have seen a philosopher and heard a man speaking

           like Euphrates (though, indeed, who can speak like him?), have

           a mind to be philosophers too. Consider first, man, what the

           matter is, and what your own nature is able to bear. If you

           would be a wrestler, consider your shoulders, your back, your

           thighs; for different persons are made for different things.

           Do you think that you can act as you do, and be a philosopher?

           That you can eat and drink, and be angry and discontented as

           you are now? You must watch, you must labor, you must get the

           better of certain appetites, must quit your acquaintance, be

           despised by your servant, be laughed at by those you meet;

           come off worse than others in everything, in magistracies, in

           honors, in courts of judicature. When you have considered all

           these things round, approach, if you please; if, by parting

           with them, you have a mind to purchase apathy, freedom, and

           tranquillity. If not, don't come here; don't, like children,

           be one while a philosopher, then a publican, then an orator,

           and then one of Caesar's officers. These things are not

           consistent. You must be one man, either good or bad. You must

           cultivate either your own ruling faculty or externals, and

           apply yourself either to things within or without you; that

           is, be either a philosopher, or one of the vulgar.


           30. Duties are universally measured by relations. Is anyone a

           father? If so, it is implied that the children should take

           care of him, submit to him in everything, patiently listen to

           his reproaches, his correction. But he is a bad father. Is you

           naturally entitled, then, to a good father? No, only to a

           father. Is a brother unjust? Well, keep your own situation

           towards him. Consider not what he does, but what you are to do

           to keep your own faculty of choice in a state conformable to

           nature. For another will not hurt you unless you please. You

           will then be hurt when you think you are hurt. In this manner,

           therefore, you will find, from the idea of a neighbor, a

           citizen, a general, the corresponding duties if you accustom

           yourself to contemplate the several relations.


           31. Be assured that the essential property of piety towards

           the gods is to form right opinions concerning them, as

           existing "I and as governing the universe with goodness and

           justice. And fix yourself in this resolution, to obey them,

           and yield to them, and willingly follow them in all events, as

           produced by the most perfect understanding. For thus you will

           never find fault with the gods, nor accuse them as neglecting

           you. And it is not possible for this to be effected any other

           way than by withdrawing yourself from things not in our own

           control, and placing good or evil in those only which are. For

           if you suppose any of the things not in our own control to be

           either good or evil, when you are disappointed of what you

           wish, or incur what you would avoid, you must necessarily find

           fault with and blame the authors. For every animal is

           naturally formed to fly and abhor things that appear hurtful,

           and the causes of them; and to pursue and admire those which

           appear beneficial, and the causes of them. It is impractical,

           then, that one who supposes himself to be hurt should be happy

           about the person who, he thinks, hurts him, just as it is

           impossible to be happy about the hurt itself. Hence, also, a

           father is reviled by a son, when he does not impart to him the

           things which he takes to be good; and the supposing empire to

           be a good made Polynices and Eteocles mutually enemies. On

           this account the husbandman, the sailor, the merchant, on this

           account those who lose wives and children, revile the gods.

           For where interest is, there too is piety placed. So that,

           whoever is careful to regulate his desires and aversions as he

           ought, is, by the very same means, careful of piety likewise.

           But it is also incumbent on everyone to offer libations and

           sacrifices and first fruits, conformably to the customs of his

           country, with purity, and not in a slovenly manner, nor

           negligently, nor sparingly, nor beyond his ability.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items


Hermit, the

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps





Dont hurt