The Enchiridion Part Thirty-Two

Reason directs, even with hazards, to stand by our friend and our country.

OPENING
I am A Man of Letters. I’ve been reading lately, and I have found some words I would like to share. Today, “The Enchiridion” by Epictetus. Part Thirty-Two…

BODY

When you have recourse to divination, remember that you know not what the event will be, and you come to learn it of the diviner; but of what nature it is you know before you come if you are a philosopher. For if it is among the things not within our own power, it can by no means be either good or evil. Do not therefore bring with you desire or aversion to the diviner, else you will approach him trembling; but first clearly understand that every event is indifferent and nothing to you, no matter what it may be, for it will be in your power to make a right use of it, and this no one can hinder. Then come with confidence to the gods as your counselors and afterwards, when any counsel is given you, remember what counselors you have taken on, and whose advice you will neglect if you disobey. Come to divination as Socrates prescribed, in cases of which the whole consideration relates to the event, and in which no opportunities are afforded by reason, or any other art, to discover the thing proposed to be learned. When, therefore, it is our duty to share the danger of a friend or of our country, we ought not to consult the oracle whether we will share it with them or not. For though the diviner should forewarn you that the auspices are unfavorable, this means no more than that either death or mutilation or exile is portended. But we have reason within us. Reason directs, even with these hazards, to stand by our friend and our country. Attend to the greater diviner, the Pythian god, who once cast out of the temple he who neglected to save his friend when another was murdering him.

COMMENTARY
That is what Epictetus had to say. Here is what I have to say. Stoicism is called a philosophy today, but in the past it might have thought of itself as part of the religion of the Greeks. In The Discourses, Epictetus talks of Stoicism as part of the religion of the Greeks.

A weak governor will say “do this; do not do this; obey me or I will throw you into prison.” This is not governing men like rational animals. But I say: As Zeus has ordained, so act. If you do not act so, you will feel the penalty, you will be punished. What will be the punishment? Nothing else than not having done your duty. You will lose the character of fidelity, modesty, propriety. Do not look for greater penalties than these.

I live as if Zeus said this to me: “Epictetus, if it were possible, I would have made both your little body and your little property free and not exposed to hindrance. But now be not ignorant of this: this body is not yours, but it is clay finely tempered. And since I was not able to do for you what I have mentioned, I have given you a small portion of us, this faculty of pursuing an object and avoiding it, and the faculty of desire and aversion, and, in a word, the faculty of using the appearances of things; and if you will take care of this faculty and consider it your only possession, you will never be hindered, never meet with impediments; you will not lament, you will not blame, you will not flatter any person.”

Zeus has placed by every man a guardian to whom He has committed the care of the man; a guardian who never sleeps, is never deceived. No better and more careful guardian could He have entrusted each of us. When you have shut the doors and made darkness within, remember never to say that you are alone, for you are not. Zeus is within, and your guardian is within, and they need no light to see what you are doing. To Zeus you ought to swear an oath, just as the soldiers do to Caesar. Those who are merely hired for pay swear to regard the safety of Caesar before all things, but you who have received so many and such great favors, will you swear, will you abide by your oath? And what shall you swear? Never to be disobedient, never to make any charges, never to find fault with anything that He has given, and never be unwillingly to suffer in anything that is necessary. Is this not like the soldier’s oath? The soldiers swear not to prefer any man to Caesar. In this oath, swear to honor yourself.

Animals other than man have no need of shoes nor beds nor clothing; but we require all these things. Animals are not made for themselves, but for service, and thus it was not fit for them to be made so as to need other things. Consider what it would be like for us to take care not only of ourselves, but also about how cattle should be clothed. Soldiers who are ready for their commander have shoes and clothes and arms. It would be a hard thing for the commander to shoe and clothe and arm his thousand men. So also nature has formed animals which are made for service, all ready, prepared, and requiring no further care. One little boy with only a stick can drive all the cattle.

But we, instead of being thankful that we need not take the same care of animals as we do of ourselves, complain to Zeus on our own account. In the name of Zeus and the gods, any one thing of those which exist would be enough to make a man perceive providence, at least a man who is modest and grateful. Do not speak to me now of the great things, but only that milk is produced from grass, and cheese from milk, and wool from skins. Who made these things or devised them? “No one,” you say. Oh, amazing shamelessness and stupidity!

CHORUS
Here again is Part Thirty-Two of The Enchiridion

When you have recourse to divination, remember that you know not what the event will be, and you come to learn it of the diviner; but of what nature it is you know before you come if you are a philosopher. For if it is among the things not within our own power, it can by no means be either good or evil. Do not therefore bring with you desire or aversion to the diviner, else you will approach him trembling; but first clearly understand that every event is indifferent and nothing to you, no matter what it may be, for it will be in your power to make a right use of it, and this no one can hinder. Then come with confidence to the gods as your counselors and afterwards, when any counsel is given you, remember what counselors you have taken on, and whose advice you will neglect if you disobey. Come to divination as Socrates prescribed, in cases of which the whole consideration relates to the event, and in which no opportunities are afforded by reason, or any other art, to discover the thing proposed to be learned. When, therefore, it is our duty to share the danger of a friend or of our country, we ought not to consult the oracle whether we will share it with them or not. For though the diviner should forewarn you that the auspices are unfavorable, this means no more than that either death or mutilation or exile is portended. But we have reason within us. Reason directs, even with these hazards, to stand by our friend and our country. Attend to the greater diviner, the Pythian god, who once cast out of the temple he who neglected to save his friend when another was murdering him.

CLOSING
Thank you for listening. For more information about the words I have read and the music to follow, please visit A Man of Letters. amoletters.com.

Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.

MUSIC
Cliff Edwards – Anything You Say (1928)

Episode 1632