*Marcus Aurelius

Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE, Ephesus)

Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE, Ephesus)



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Marcus Aurelius

Roman Emperor & Stoic Philosopher Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.)
Metaphysics / Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius & Stoicism
All is One (Nature, Universe, God) and Interconnected
Humans are Citizens of the Universe

All things are woven together and the common bond is sacred, and scarcely one thing is foreign to another, for they have been arranged together in their places and together make the same ordered Universe. For there is one Universe out of all, one God through all, one substance and one law, one common Reason of all intelligent creatures and one Truth.
Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe.
We should not say ‘I am an Athenian’ or ‘I am a Roman’ but ‘I am a citizen of the Universe.
(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations)

Introduction to Marcus Aurelius
Stoic Philosophy

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor was also a true ‘philosopher king’. His Meditations express a profound understanding that All is One, Interconnected and governed by absolute laws, as he writes;

For there is one Universe out of all, one God through all, one substance and one law, one common Reason of all intelligent creatures and one Truth.

From these absolute laws humans derive their reason and morality of which we are to live by. The practical ethics of the Stoics emphasises self control, contentment and living simply in harmony with nature.

Everything harmonises with me which is harmonious to thee, O Universe .. Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe. (Aurelius, Meditations)

While Marcus Aurelius was a profound and beautiful philosopher, he did not understand how all things were interconnected in the Universe. The Stoic’s mystical realisation that All is One and Interconnected (which is the foundation of all philosophy and metaphysics) can now be explained from a logical / scientific foundation of Space and its properties as a Wave Medium. The error has been the conception of matter as discrete particles – which obviously does not explain matter’s activity / flux nor its interconnection to all other matter in the universe. (See links at the top of this page).

Below you will find some very profound quotes from Marcus Aurelius – we hope you enjoy the beauty and wisdom of his Meditations.

Geoff Haselhurst, Karene Howie

Marcus Aurelius, ‘Meditations’ Quotations

The Universe is change, life is an opinion. (Marcus Aurelius)

Everything harmonises with me which is harmonious to thee, O Universe. Nothing for me is too early or too late, which is in due time for thee. Everything is fruit to me which thy seasons bring, O Nature: from thee are all things, in thee are all things, to thee all things return.’ (Marcus Aurelius) (Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy)

‘Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe.’ (Marcus Aurelius) (Russell)

‘We should not say ‘I am an Athenian’ or ‘I am a Roman’ but ‘I am a citizen of the Universe.’’ (Marcus Aurelius) (Russell)

Constantly think of the Universe as one living creature, embracing one being and one soul; how all is absorbed into the one consciousness of this living creature; how it compasses all things with a single purpose, and how all things work together to cause all that comes to pass, and their wonderful web and texture. (Marcus Aurelius)

Men look for retreats for themselves, the country, the seashore, the hills; and you yourself, too, are peculiarly accustomed to feel the same want. Yet all this is very unlike a philosopher, when you may at any hour you please retreat into yourself. For nowhere does a man retreat into more quiet or more privacy than into his own mind, especially one who has within such things that he has only to look into, and become at once in perfect ease; and by ease I mean nothing else but good behaviour. Continually therefore grant yourself this retreat and repair yourself. But let them be brief and fundamental truths, which will suffice at once by their presence to wash away all sorrow, and to send you back without repugnance to the life to which you return. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p18)

Death is like birth, a mystery of Nature; a coming together out of identical elements and a dissolution into the same. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p19)

24. Democritus has said: ‘Do few things, if you would enjoy tranquility.’ (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p22)

45. What follows is always organically related to what went before; for it is not like a simple enumeration of units separately determined by necessity, but a rational combination; and as Being is arranged in a mutual co-ordination, so the phenomena of Becoming display no bare succession but a wonderful organic interrelation. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p24)

Reason and the method of reasoning are abilities, sufficient to themselves and their own operations. Thus they start from their appropriate principle and proceed to their proposed end; wherefore reasonable acts are called right acts, to indicate the rightness of their path. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p31)

As are your repeated imaginations so will your mind be, for the soul is dyed by its imaginations. Dye it then in a succession of imaginations like these: for instance, where it is possible to live, there also it is possible to live well: but it is possible to live in a palace, ergo it is also possible to live well in a palace. Or once more: a creature is made for that in whose interest it was created: and that for which it was made, to this it tends: and to what it tends, in this is its end: and where its end is, there is the advantage and the good alike of each creature: therefore fellowship is the good of a reasonable creature. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p31)

Is it not strange that ignorance and complaisance are stronger than wisdom. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p31)

23. Repeatedly dwell on the swiftness of the passage and departure of things that are and of things that come to be. For substance is like a river in perpetual flux, its activities are in continuous changes, and its causes in myriad varieties, and there is scarce anything which stands still, even what is near at hand; dwell, too, on the infinite gulf of the past and the future, in which all things vanish away. Then how is he not a fool who in all this is puffed up or distracted or takes it hardly, as if he were in some lasting scene, which has troubled him for so long?

24. Call to mind the whole of Substance of which you have a very small portion, and the whole of time whereof a small hair’s breadth has been determined for you, and of the chain of causation whereof you are how small a link.

6. The noblest kind of retribution is not to become like your enemy. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p35)

Reflect upon the multitude of bodily and mental events taking place in the same brief time, simultaneously in every one of us and so you will not be surprised that many more events, or rather all things that come to pass, exist simultaneously in the one and entire unity, which we call the Universe. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p38)

30. Take heed not to be transformed into a Caesar, not to be dipped in the purple dye; for it does happen. Keep yourself therefore simple, good, pure, grave, unaffected, the friend of justice, religious, kind, affectionate, strong for your proper work. Wrestle to continue to be the man Philosophy wished to make you. Reverence the gods, save men. Life is brief; there is one harvest of earthly existence, a holy disposition and neighbourly acts. In all things like a pupil of Antoninus; his energy on behalf of what was done in accord with reason, his equability everywhere, his serene expression, his sweetness, his disdain of glory, his ambition to grasp affairs. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p39)

38. Meditate often upon the bond of all in the Universe and their mutual relationship. For all things are in a way woven together and all are because of this dear to one another; for these follow in order one upon another because of the stress movement and common spirit and the unification of matter. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p40)

One thing here is of great price, to live out life with truth and righteousness … (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, P42)

48. Whenever you desire to cheer yourself, think upon the merits of those who are still alive with you; the energy of one, the instance, the modesty of another, the generosity of a third, of another some other gift. For nothing is so cheering as the images of the virtues shining in the character of contemporaries, and meeting so far as possible in a group. Therefore you should keep them read to your hand. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, P42)

50. Endeavour to persuade them, but act even if they themselves are unwilling, when the rule of justice so directs. (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, p42)

Summary of Stoicism Philosophy

Introduction to Meditations, by D.A. Rees. 1960

His tutor Fronto, was a leader of the literary movement of the day, and affected a highly precious style studded with archaisms; Marcus felt considerable affection for him personally, but it was not long before he began to react against an education which stressed form rather than content, and whose sole ideal was that of literary excellence. His reaction was towards philosophy, but towards philosophy seen not as a matter of abstract theory but as a way of life, in the Cynic and Stoic tradition of the times, stressing moral self-sufficiency and an ascetic disregard for external goods. (p. ii. Rees. 1960)

What of the philosophical religion of Stoicism, which Marcus himself professed, and of which his Meditations form the most widely known document for the modern world, the Manual of Epictetus occupying the second place? The Stoic school has as its founder Zeno of Citium in Cyprus, who came to Athens as a young man about 315-313 B.C., studied philosophy there under various teachers and in particular under Crates the Cynic and soon after 300 B.C. set up his own school in the Painted Porch or Arcade (Stoa Poikile), from which his followers took their name. But to understand Stoicism we must go back a little earlier, and see what the philosophical tradition was into which Zeno thus entered.
The earliest phase of Greek philosophy was that of the Ionian cosmologists, who, from the time of Thales (c.585 B.C.) onwards, set out to interpret the universe in terms of some primary form of matter, water or air (probably mist) or ‘the infinite’ (indefinite matter). (p.v. Rees. 1960)

Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500B.C) , celebrated in antiquity as ‘the dark’ by reason of his oracular and cryptic mode of utterance. This indeed exposed him only too easily to misrepresentation, sympathetic and unsympathetic alike, and the Stoics saw in him the progenitor of their doctrines of cosmic reason, and of a universe in which a special significance attached to the element of fire, and which would eventually return to fire and be absorbed in it, through an endless series of periodical conflagrations. This last doctrine, it is now agreed, was not of Heraclitus himself.

The early cosmological phase of Greek philosophy drew gradually to a close (apart from later manifestations, such as the atomism of Democritus in the second half of the fifth century.) Bewildered by the variety of conflicting speculations with which they were confronted, and influenced in some cases by a radical scepticism of the possibility of knowing anything at all of the ultimate nature of the universe, men turned their attention to the human rather than to the cosmic scene, to the questions of ethics and politics, to the most pressing question of all: ‘What is the good life, and how should men know it and live it?’ For there were men like Protagoras, sophists as they were called, who claimed to teach precisely this, and there was Socrates too (469-399) who questioned such pretensions among the sophists, but whose interest like theirs was centered on problems of human conduct:‘What is virtue, and how can it be acquired?’ ‘What is justice?’ ‘What is piety?’ and so on.

But Socrates was not a constructive philosopher- which helps to explain why his followers held such a bewildering variety of views – and what struck men above all in him was his fearless and rugged independence of character, conjoined with the assertion of the place of man’s reason in the proper government of his life. For he seems to have held, in accord with what we may call the sophist tradition, that knowledge of the right course of action would suffice to ensure that a man carried it out, that virtue was knowledge and vice ignorance. For him , as the Stoics later, the ideal of the wise man was all-sufficient.

Among Socrates’ followers, Plato (427-347), the greatest of all, went further than his master and constructed a daring system of metaphysics, a system one of whose mainsprings lay in man’s moral conceptions. The Platonic Idea or Forms, it was held, were the most fully real and fully knowable entities, and at the apex of their hierarchy, at any rate in the Republic, stood the Idea of the Good, in some sense the principle of thought and of action alike. Plato’s ethical system, in this as in much else typically Greek, was grounded in his cosmology, and ideal conduct was not ultimately separable from the knowledge of the philosopher; his knowledge was, indeed, itself the highest good. (p. vi. Rees. 1960)

Like both Plato and Aristotle, Zeno based his teaching about conduct on his theory of the nature of the universe in general, and the nature of man in particular. Again, though interpreting wisdom differently, Zeno, like Plato and Aristotle, and (more closely, perhaps) like Socrates before them, found his complete ideal realised in his picture of the wise man. (p. viii. Rees. 1960)

In the period stretching from Zeno to Marcus, Stoicism was the most important of the Greek philosophical schools. As against the Epicureans, it asserted the claims of virtue as higher than pleasure, and, rejecting the domination of atoms and chance, proclaimed a universe ordered by divine providence; as against the Sceptics it upheld a dogmatic cosmology, and maintained the existence of truths which could be grasped with certainty. (p. viii. Rees. 1960)

Hence both the rationalistic and the universalistic aspects of Stoic ethics, which held that all shared a like in a common nature and so were akin to one another, and hence also its predestinarian stress on recognition of the divine necessity in all things, and glad acceptance of the wise providence present throughout. In such a world the citadel of a man’s soul was all-important, for there and there only had he control … (p. ix. Rees. 1960)

Stoicism was forced to disregard in its doctrine of freedom those all-pervading social pressures which radically condition our beliefs and attitudes, of which Aristotle had shown more awareness, and upon which thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have laid so much stress. (p. xi. Rees. 1960)

Links / Marcus Aurelius, Stoic Philosophy, Stoicism

Philosophy: Stoicism Zeno – Famous Roman Stoic Philosopher Zeno realised the Interconnection of All Things in the Universe.

Cicero – WSM explains Famous Roman Philosopher Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods ‘As a philosopher, I have a right to ask for a rational explanation of religious faith.’

Seneca – Famous Roman Stoic Philosopher Seneca on Truth, Wisdom and Virtue. ‘Language of Truth should be Simple and Plain’

Philosophy: Greek Philosophers – All is One (Space) and Active-Flux (Wave Motion). Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Atomists (Democritus, Lucretius), Socrates, Plato, Epicurus.

Philosophy: Morality Ethics – The Fundamental Morality of World Religions ‘Do Unto Others …’is Logically True as the Other is Part of Self.

Metaphysics: Problem of One and the Many – Brief History of Metaphysics and Solutions to the Fundamental Problems of Uniting the; One and the Many, Infinite and the Finite, Eternal and the Temporal, Absolute and Relative, Continuous and Discrete, Simple and Complex, Matter and Universe.

Tesla, Nikola – Tesla was influenced by Vedic Philosophy that all is one and dynamic. The Wave Structure of Matter confirms Nikola Tesla’s Theories on Resonance and Transfer of Energy by Waves in Space. ‘One day man will connect his apparatus to the very wheel work of the universe … and the very forces that motivate the planets in their orbits and cause them to rotate will rotate his own machinery.’

Marcus Aurelius-Glyptothek, Munich

Marcus Aurelius-Glyptothek, Munich


Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) – full name Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Roman Emperor and Stoic, the author of Meditations in twelve books. Its first printing appeared in English in 1634. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius the celebrated Pax Romana collapsed – perhaps this made the emperor the most forbearing of all Stoics. An important feature of the philosophy was that everything will recur: the whole universe becomes fire and then repeats itself.

Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web. (from The Meditations)

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was born in Rome. He came from an aristocratic family long established in Spain. His father was Annius Verus. When only a small child, he caught the attention of the Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138) – a pedophile and his fellow countryman. He was appointed by the Emperor to priesthood in the year 129, and Hadrian also supervised his education, which was entrusted to the best professors of literature, rhetoric and philosophy of the time. His letters to one of the teachers, Marcus Cornelius Fronto (c. 100 – 170), the foremost orator of his day, were found by Cardinal Mai in 1815.

Marcus Aurelius discovered Stoicism by the time he was 11 and from his early twenties he deserted his other studies for philosophy. The Emperor Antoninus Pius, who succeeded Hadrian, adopted Marcus Aurelius as his son in 138. “He never bathed at odd hours,” Marcus Aurelius said of him in Meditations, “or took a passion for building; never set up for a table connoisseur, and expert on textures and tints, or an authority on good looks… One might fairly apply to him what is recorded of Socrates, that he could either enjoy or leave things which most people find themselves too weak to abstain from, and too self-indulgent to enjoy.” Antoninus Pius treated Aurelius as a confidant and helper throughout his reign; Marcus Aurelius also married his daughter, Faustina, in 139. He was admitted to the Senate, and then twice the consulship. In 147 he shared tribunician power with Antoninus. During this time he began composition of his Meditations, which he wrote in Greek in army camps. Thus Book I is headed ‘This among the Quadi on the Gran’, and Book II ‘Written at Carnuntum’.

At the age of 40, in 161 Marcus Aurelius ascended the throne and shared his imperial power with his adopted brother Lucius Aurelius Verus. Useless and lazy, Verus was regarded as a kind of junior emperor; he died in 169. After Verus’s death he ruled alone, until he admitted his own son, Commodus, to full participation in the government in 177.

As an emperor Marcus Aurelius was conservative and just by Roman standards. He was beset by internal disturbances – famine, earthquakes, fires, and plague – and by the external threat posed by the Germans in the north and the Parthians in the east. However, Sir Edward Gobbon has praised the period of ‘Five Good Emperors’ – Narva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius – of which Marcus’ own life spanned almost three-quarters: “If a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.”

Toward the end of his reign, in 175, Marcus Aurelius was faced with a revolt by Avidius Cassius, the governor of Syria, who perhaps believed rumors that the Emperor had died. His head was sent to Marcus Aurelius. According to some sources, Faustina, Marcus’ wife, may have been involved in this conspiracy. An epidemic of plague followed Cassius’s army from the East. Year after year Aurelius tried to push barbarians back but witnessed the gradual crumbling of the Roman frontiers. In these times of disasters, he turned more and more to the study of Stoic philosophy.

The Latin writings of Marcus Aurelius, letters to a teacher, Fronto, are not interesting, but the “Writings to Himself”, called Meditations, are remarkable. They are personal reflections and aphorisms, written for his own edification during a long career of public service, after marching or battle in the remote Danube. Meditations are valuable primarily as a personal document, what it is to be a Stoic. His opinions in central philosophical questions are very much similar to Epictetus’s (c. 55-135 AD) teachings. Epictetus’s two basic principles were: Endure and Abstain. He stressed that inner freedom is to be attained through submission to providence, and rigorous detachment from everything not in our power.

He who fears death either fears the loss of sensation or a different kind of sensation. But if thou shalt have no sensation, neither wilt thou feel any harm; and if thou shalt acquire another kind of sensation, thou wilt be a different kind of living being and thou wilt not cease to live. (from The Meditations)

Marcus Aurelius’s melancholic writings reveal that the public duties depressed him and he wanted to retire to live a simple country life. After his death in Vindobona (now Vienna, Austria) on March 17, 180 the emperor’s only son Commodus became Emperor and turned out to be one of the worst rulers. Marcus Aurelius’s reputation is shadowed by his persecution of Christians. A devout adherent of the Roman religion, Marcus Aurelius considered the Christians fanatics, who don’t die with stoic dignity. “How lovely the soul that is prepared – when its hour comes to slough off this flesh – for extinctions, dispersion, or survival! But this readiness should result from a personal decision, not from sheer contrariness like the Christians…” Probably Marcus Aurelius knew very little about Christian beliefs. The fierce cruelty, with which the persecution was carried out in Gaul, was not consistent with his writings. However, Stoics had a profound influence upon both Neoplatonism and Christianity. Besides Meditations Aurelius left behind among others two Roman monuments, the column which commemorates his victories in the Marcomannic Wars and the equestrian statue on the Capitol.

Stoicism, named after the Stoa Poikile, a hall in Athens where it was first formulated around 300 BC by Zeno of Citium. Zeno’s all writings are lost. The philosophy was developed by Cleanthes (331-232) and Chrysippus (280-207), who organized it into a system. Marcus Aurelius based his views in part on the later version, which was developed by the freed slave Epictetus (55-135). The Stoics were the first thoroughgoing pantheists: God is the universe, the universe is God. The wise and virtuous learns one’s place in the scheme. According to Stoic Ethics, the goal of human existence is to live consistently with Nature, which means “consistently with Reason”.

Meditations, or Writings to Himself (Ta eis heauton). First printed in 1559 in Zurich by Andreas Gesner with a Latin translation by William Xylander. Thereafter it has enjoyed a wide readership from poets to statesmen. Meditations contains 12 books, but while Book I offers a clear organization and unity, the others do not. Marcus Aurelius worked on his philosophical summary or pensées during the last years of his life while on campaign along the marshlands of the Danube. Among the central themes is man’s fate to die and be forgotten. “What should be valued?”, he asks, but sees not the answer in the rewards of glory. Aurelius had wanted to be untouched by passion, and generous by nature rather than by calculation. He had a firm sense of responsibility, but was perhaps more attracted to the Stoic ideal of the perfect man. When according to Stoicism humanity’s whole duty was to discover how it might live in harmony with the order of Nature, Aurelius hoped sadly that it could also apply to him: “Even in a palace life may be lived well.”

For further reading: Marcus Aurelius: His Life and His Works by A.S.L. Farquharson (1951); Marcus Aurelius by Anthony Birley (1987, original edition 1966); The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius by R.B. Rutheford (1989); The Therapy of Desire by Martha C. Nussbaum (1994); The Roman Empire in Transition by Michael Grant (1994) – Note: in some sources Marcus Aurelius’s birth date is April 16, 121 (Lexicon der Weltliteratur, ed. by Gero von Wilpert, 1988).

Selected works:

* Marcus Aurelius Antoninus the Roman emperour, His Meditations Concerning Himself, 1635 (notes by Meric Casaubon)
* The Emperor Marcus Antoninus, His Conversation with Himself, 1701
* The Thoughts of the Emperor M. Aurelius Antoninus, 1862 (tr. by George Long)
* Opera Inedits cum Epistulis Item Ineditis Antonni Pii M Aurelii L Veri et Appiani nec non Aliorum Veterum, 1815 – The Correspondence of Marcus Cornelius Fronto with Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Lucius Verus, Antoninus Pius, and Various Friends (ed. C.R. Haines, 1920)
* The Communings with Himself by Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, 1916 (tr. by Charkes S. Haines)
* The Meditations of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, I-II, 1944 (2nd ed. 1952, ed. by A.S.L. Farquharson)
* Marcus Aurelius: Ad se ipsum libri XII, 1979 (ed. by J. Dalfen)
* The Emperors Handbook: A New Translation of The Meditations, 2002 (tr. by David Hicks, C. Scot Hicks)
* Meditations, 2002 (tr. and introduction by Gregory Hays)



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