The Holy Spirit

God is near you, he is with you, he is inside you... A holy spirit resides within us, an observer of our evil and good deeds, and our guardian. This holy spirit treats us in the same manner as it is treated by us.

                                                            Seneca, Epistle 41

     That reasoning faculty within us, our mind or soul, that portion of us that makes us rational creatures and separates us from dumb animals, plants, and inanimate objects, is nothing less than a portion of God himself, of the divine reasoning faculty, the very mind and soul of the Cosmos. 
     When we treat this spirit with the reverence due to the sacred, it guards us from every hardship of live, cultivating Virtue within us and rooting out unnatural Vice. We reverence God, the spirit within us, when we place God not only before all other things, but make this God our only concern. 
     But when we treat the sacred as the profane, we make ourselves profane. We do so by indulging the body before the soul, by giving way to unnatural desires and passions, by living anything other than a virtuous life and by wanting anything other than what God wants.  
     If we neglect this holy spirit, it will neglect us. Our reasoning faculty, that divine Reason within us, will be of no help to us against the blows of Fortune or against Fear, Anger, Despair, Intemperance, Ungratefulness, Envy, Lust, Cowardliness, or against any other of the Vices. 
     This Spirit observes both our evil and good deeds. Observing too often our evil deeds and polluted by them, the reasoning faculty, the God within, having become habituated to Vice is weakened, and no longer has the power to guard us against our own evil or liberate us from sin. 

For A Certain Task I Exist

Everything - be it a horse or a vine - towards the particular function for which it came into being! Why are you surprised at this? The sun god himself will say, "for a certain task I exist"; and so also the rest of the gods. For what, then, do you exist? To feel pleasure? Surely, the mind does not even entertain such a thing!      

                                            Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8:19

     All things have a function, purpose, or end - what the ancient Greek philosophers called telos. The proper fulfilment of this function makes a thing good. The good vine produces grapes, for this is the function of a vine; the good horse rides well, for this is a function of a horse; the good hammer hammers well; and so on.
     Man, like anything else that exists, must have a particular, individual function. It is an "individual" function in the sense that it is particular to Man's particular species. Depending on the station of an individual man or woman of the species - be it a ruler, son, wife, official, brother, mother, etc. - specific duties that the function entails become more nuanced, more individualized. To fulfill this function is to fulfill that famous stoic motto: "To live in accordance with Nature."
     Man's telos is not arbitrary or mutable; it is not "individual" in the sense that it is subject to the whim of the individual man. This runs contrary to modern notions - indeed, the modern cult - of individualism, which tells us we should decide our own function and our own particular duties, and promoting, as it were, a rebellion against Nature and a glorification of impiety. What hubris of Man, to follow after the paths of his own whims, when the Sun Itself follows the course laid out for it. 
     And yet, perhaps, there is a worse impiety than the moral relativism of the modern individualist. There are those, both in Marcus's and in our own age, who consider Man's end to be something fickle, something base; even a transient thing like Pleasure. The former type of person is merely rebelling against God; the latter has made himself Nature's outright enemy.
     Is Pleasure our end? To set Vice in the place of Virtue has to be the most backward type of thinking indeed. Let us, for Reason's sake, not even entertain the thought!    
         

Want What God Wants

Do not want anything but what God wants.  Who, then, will be able to hinder you, will be able to force you do anything more than anyone can hinder or force God?
                                       - Epictetus, Discourses 2:17

     Epictetus, a former slave, knew only too well what it means to be hindered in his own will and to be forced against his own will.  Life itself surely confirmed for him the truths of his own stoic teachings - that there are things within our control and things not within our control, and that, essentially, the only thing within our control is our own moral purpose. In that we can exercise complete and autonomous freedom, unhindered and unforced by anyone, even our master - and so in this we should posit our happiness.  
     As for the rest, those things outside the sphere of our moral purpose, they are not our own; they are things indifferent.  Yet even in these "things indifferent" - for Epictetus and for the pious Stoic - one can be still be unhindered and unforced, exercising some level of autonomy and freedom.  All that occurs in the universe conforms to the will of the very Universe Itself, of God, of Nature.  And Providence can neither be hindered or forced.  The pious man, then, who aligns his own will to the will of God can likewise never be hampered in his own will or compelled against his own will.  
     We will always get what we want when we want to happen whatever does happen.   

Love of Pleasure and Fear of Pain

He who judges Pleasure to be a good and flees Pain as an evil commits impiety.  For it is necessary that such a man will often find fault with the Universal Nature as though it were unfair regarding its allotments to worthless and worthy men; for the worthless often live in pleasure and possess the things that make for pleasure, while the worthy meet pain and the things that make for pain.  He who fears Pain will eventually be in fear of things which must necessarily be in the world - this is already a form of impiety!  And he that pursues Pleasure will not refrain from committing injustice - and this is manifest impiety!

                                 Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9:1 

     The love of pleasure as though it were a good and the fear of pain as though it were an evil is incompatible with piety.  For the Stoic, Virtue is the sole good and Vice the sole evil.  It must necessarily be this way, for if we value pleasure as a thing valuable in and of itself, and pain as an evil in and of itself, then we must perpetually raise our fists in fury at God - for many good men suffer pain and are bereft of pleasure, while many wicked men live in the lap of luxury and rarely experience hardship.  
     The man that fears pain, moreover, fears reality.  He cringes at things that "must necessarily be in this world" and would that the Universe be other than what it is.  In this his impiety increases, for he hates Truth and God is Truth [see previous post].
     But he that not only fears pain but also loves pleasure increases his impiety even further in that he is bound to commit injustice (and, as Marcus Aurelius has already demonstrated, injustice is impiety).  What is just and what is expedient ("expedient", that is, in terms of attaining pleasure) are frequently at odds.  One must not even partially pursue pleasure as though it were an end in itself if one seeks to pursue justice fully.         

The Impious Liar

The liar also commits impiety against the same Deity.  For the Nature of the Universe is the Nature of the things that exist. And the things that exist are of the same stock as all that has ever existed.  Moreover, this Nature is called Truth and is the first cause of all that is true.  The willing liar, therefore, commits impiety, as he commits injustice by his deceiving. And even the unwilling liar commits impiety, as he is out of tune with the Nature of the Universe and as he creates disorder battling against the Nature of an orderly Universe.  For he battles against it when he carries himself in vain against the things that are true. For having begun by nature to be able to apprehend the true and the false, by neglecting this ability he can now no longer discern the difference between them.  

                              - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9:1
 
     Falsehood, like injustice [see previous post], is also impiety; for God is Truth, or, as Marcus Aurelius puts it: "The Nature of the Universe is the Nature of things that exist." Truth, like God, is eternal: "And the things that exist are of the same stock as all that has ever existed."
     As God is Truth, even the unwilling liar is "out of tune" with God's will, and thus commits impiety. This unwilling liar is responsible for his own mistaken falsehoods, and therefore for his own impiety.  God has fashioned him as a rational being "able to apprehend the true and the false", but he has so often neglected his own God-given ability to the point where it no longer functions.  Such a man shall always be defeated and thwarted in everything he does, and certainly grieved, for he is locked in a perpetual uphill and losing battle against God and Truth.      

Injustice Is Impiety

He who commits injustice commits impiety.  For as the Nature of the Universe has fashioned rational beings for the sake of one another, in order to benefit each other according to what is proper but by no means to harm each other, the transgressor of Nature's will acts with manifest impiety against the most venerable of gods. 

                               Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9:1

     All injustice is committed against God, the Nature of the Universe, who fashioned men for the sake of one another, not for each others harm.  We rage impiously against God's will when we hurt instead of help our fellow man.