Seneca: about Life, Destiny, Adversity, Willpower and Virtue.

“Gold is tried by fire, brave men by adversity”.

-Seneca

“Has relevance not what you have to endure, but how you are able to endure it”.

-Seneca

“To know yourself is necessary to prove yourself; only in this way a man can know what is his worth”.

-Seneca

“The safe road is followed by the weak and the cowards; the virtue seeks high and steep trails”.

-Seneca

“Is it any wonder that do not reach the summit those who have faced an arduous climb? If you are a man, however, admire the one who attempts great feats, even if you see him falling”.

-Seneca

“Wellness can happen even to the common and modest people; dominate the adversities and the misfortunes is precisely of the great men. Always be happy and go through life without the bite of pain means to ignore half of life”.

-Seneca

“Therefore we accept with serenity all that for law of the universe we have to bear. We are committed to this, to tolerate our mortal condition and not be disturbed in relation to what is not in our power to avoid”.

-Seneca

“The right man differs from the divinity only for his mortal condition”.

-Seneca

The best men are tested by destiny and consequently their existence is studded by adversities, so that they can manifest their virtues before the eyes of ordinary people, so that they can become role models. They are born to serve as examples, to become archetypes and teach to endure and overcome the difficulties of life. From the best we demand more, and destiny acts in the same way!

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Words of Wisdom #51

“Remember that you are an actor playing a part in a drama that is how the playwright wants it to be. A short part, if he wants it to be short, long if he wants it to be long. If he wants you to play the part of a beggar, perform this role with skill: or that of a lame, or of a magistrate, or of a private citizen. In fact this is your task: to perform well the role that has been assigned to you. The choice of this role, however, is up to someone else”.

-Epictetus

Maybe it will be useful to remember that the “playwright” referenced by Epictetus is nothing else than the Logos, the Universal Law, the divine essence that flows through all matter in the Universe, the reason, order, logic, necessity and harmony that govern the Cosmos (from Greek “kósmos”, “order”, in reference to an orderly and harmonic system). There is no randomness, everything is in its right place, as in heaven so on earth, as in the macrocosm so in the microcosm, though apparently it may seem the opposite is true. It is not the first time that I propose such a vision of destiny, according to which literally everything that happens during our individual lives was predisposed and “sewn” for us, without there being any real free will and any real possibility of forging our own destiny in the meaning that we usually give to this potentiality. However, even if we assume that this is the truth, i.e. predestination, we can not but acknowledge that we live inside a sort of illusion, of such a power that we can’t live even a day without acting and thinking as if we were the real masters of our destiny. In this perspective the best thing to do would be to see our very being (our external appearance and the way in which we tend to think and act) as the result of our previous lives, of our conduct in a previous existence. So we start with a base, a form that comes from the past but we can choose in which way we should live our lives and act accordingly, affecting in this way – for the better or for the worst – what will be our future existence.

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Other posts about Epictetus: About Stoicism, Words of Wisdom #32

Marcus Aurelius: about Destiny, Time and the Cyclicality and Metamorphosis of the Universal Nature

“Love only what happens to you and that is woven in the great plot of life: there is nothing that fits you best”.

-Marcus Aurelius

“Whatever happens to you was predisposed for you since the time of times, and a dense intertwinement of causes, starting from then, has bound your life to that particular event”.

-Marcus Aurelius

“Don’t live as if you had still thousands of years ahead of you: it chases you, fast, destiny. As long as you live, as long as you can, become virtuous”.

-Marcus Aurelius

***

“Many are the superfluous and annoying things that you can eliminate, because they exist only in the opinion that you create about them: so that you can give a wider space to your mind, embrace in thought the entire universe, reflect on the infinite and eternity, note how is rapid the transformation of every single thing, how is short the time that flows from birth to death and which infinite abyss is the one that precedes birth and the one that follows death”.

-Marcus Aurelius

“All the things you see will soon be transformed by the universal nature, that from their substance will give birth to others, which in turn will be transformed into still others and so on, so as to enable the universe to remain forever young”.

-Marcus Aurelius

Observe the course of the stars and participate in their movement, then think intensely about the continuous and mutual change of the elements: you will feel purified of the filth of earthly life”.

-Marcus Aurelius

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About Destiny: Words of Wisdom #12
About Time: Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2), Eternal Regret (Part 2 of 2)
Quotes by Marcus Aurelius (and Epictetus) about Stoicism: About Stoicism

Words of Wisdom #44, #45 & #46

“The good fortune, is Zeus who distributes it to men, to the good and the evil, as he wants, to each one. To you he gave this fate, thou must endure it”.

-Nausicaa to Odysseus in the Odissey

“It is easy for the gods, that the vast sky possess, to do splendid or miserable a mortal man”.

-Odysseus to Telemachus in the Odissey

“Not even you despise them, the gifts of the glorious gods, those that they offer us: we can’t choose them by ourselves”.

-Paris to Hector in the Iliad

In this consists Stoicism: in understanding what is beyond our control, accepting it as well as it’s destined to us, in any way it will affect our lives, and then act accordingly!

The Roman Genius

The Genius of the Roman Religion is a numen/guardian spirit that guides, plasm and govern the life of an individual from his birth until death. The etimology of the Latin word “genius” means “divinity or guardian/tutelary spirit that watches a person from his birth; spirit, incarnation, generative power, inborn nature”. It shares with the word “nature” and the Latin word “gens” (“tribe, people”) the PIE root *gene- (“to generate, give life”), encouraging “inborn nature” as the original meaning of the word.

Ancient depiction of a Genius:
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Analyzing these elements in the light of the European initiation ritual of reincarnation/rebirth in the long dead ancestors, or generally speaking in the European belief on the reincarnation/rebirth of the individual spirit in the ancestry, we can see that the figure of the Genius takes shape directly from that ritual and from that belief, because it symbolizes the dead ancestor. The festivity dedicated to the Genius coincides with the birthday of the person under its tutelage, the latter being no more than its reincarnation. In Rome the thalamus, the marital bed, was called “lectus genialis” (“bed of the genius”) because it’s thanks to the act of love that the Genius (the dead ancestor) is reborn, through the conception of a new member of the ancestry. The part of the body related with the Genius is the forehead, meaning the head/skull, since prehistory the part of the body symbolizing the mind/spirit of the individual. The Genius is consecrated to the forehead to symbolize how the descendant has inherited the mind/spirit of his ancestor, which is reborn in him. The Genius was abitually depicted in the form of a snake, as the various snakes/dragons that the heroes of the myths must fight during their initiation rituals: the snake/dragon represents the umbilical cord/placenta.

The Genius depicted as a snake:
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The Genius is equivalent to the Demon/Daimon of the Greeks (the one that Socrates says to have) and the Guardian Angel of the Christians (…). The Latin word “daemon” means “spirit” while the Greek word “daimon” means “divinity, divine power, guiding spirit, tutelary divinity, spirit of the dead, fortune”, and their common PIE root means “divider, supplier” (of fortune/destiny). Other equivalent figures are the Fylgja (literally “someone that accompanies”, sometimes designated as “aettarfylgja”, “fylgja of the ancestry”) and the Hamingja of the Nordics, both being a supernatural form of life connected with the fortune/destiny of a person. The word “fylgja” has the same root of the English word “follow” (from Ancient English “fylgian, fylgan”, with the meaning of “accompany” [referred to a disciple], “moving in the same direction”). The word “hamingja” is composed by “hamr” (“shape”) and the verb “gangr” (“go/walk”) in the sense of “he who walks in the shape/form” (the physical shape/form, i.e. the body), in reference to the memory of what there was of good, noble and honourable in our long gone ancestors, the noble and honourable part that lives on in the ancestry, handed down from body to body, through memory. In addition to the examples described above there are the Fravashi of the Persians and the Ka of the Egyptians. The Fravashi consists in the double of an individual and in his transcendental guardian (identified with the spirit of a dead ancestor). The word “fravashi” is commonly reconstructed as *fravarti, from the root -var (“to choose”), with the meaning of “one who has been selected”: only the child who has been chosen/selected to be reborn will obtain the Fravashi of one of his honourable ancestors. The Ka is also the double of an individual (it was often represented in Egyptian iconography as a second image of the king), it is transmitted from father to son and indicates the life force/spirit of an individual.

Another element to consider is the one related to the concepts of “fate” (in the sense of “predetermined course of life/the individual existence”) and “fame”, words that have the same PIE root *bha- (“to speak, talk, tell”) in reference to the good fame and reputation attributed to someone, fame/reputation that spreads by means of tales, stories and speeches. The concepts of “fate” and “fame” are strongly connected to the mental and spiritual heritage obtained by a descendant after his rebirth in one of his ancestors (in this context, the personal objects with which the deceased was buried are of fundamental importance, because their primary function is to awaken, in the descendant, the memories of his previous lives; the Norse mythology provides us with some excellent examples in this regard: the sword Aettartangi [“hilt of the lineage” or “sword of generations”], endowed with “heill” [the “luck of the lineage”], the armor Finnzleiff and the sword Dáinsleif [“inheritance of Dáinn”, a dwarf whose name means “dead”], whose suffix “-leif” means “inheritance”), the dead person chosen after hearing the honourable tales concerning him, tales handed down from his family and from the members of his tribe. The word “fairy” also have the same PIE root *bha-, and the Italian name of the fairies (“fata/fate”) makes clear the connection that these entities/figures have with destiny. The Parcae (the Roman equivalent of the Moirai of the Greeks, of the Norns of the Nordics and of the Egyptian goddess Neith) were also called Fatae by the Romans, from Latin “fatum” (“destiny”), since the Parcae/Fatae are the entities who preside to destiny: in Rome they were represented inside the Forum by three statues commonly called “Tria Fata” (“The three Fates/Destinies”).

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Even the concept of “fortune” falls in the same category of entities, having originally the same meaning of “destiny” as “project, purpose that predetermines the essential course of the individual existence”. Fortunate is the one who owns a destiny, in the sense of he who owns a Spirit, Genius, Daimon, Fylgja, Hamingja, Fravashi or Ka. Unfortunate is the one who doesn’t possess a destiny and is excluded from the eternal cycle of death and rebirth inside the ancestry. Indeed the PIE root of the word “fortune” is *bher- (“to carry”), in the sense of “what is carried/brought on”: what we carry inside us, the honour of the long dead ancestor that we are and that we have inside, that guides us, the ancestor that we have brought back to life in ourselves. Fortune, Destiny, Genius, Daimon, Fylgja, Hamingja, Fravashi, Ka and many other similar entities are all equivalent, their meaning and origin lies in the vision of life of our forebears!

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Words of Wisdom #27

“To know that against which we can do nothing and accept it as Destiny: here is the supreme virtue”.

-Zhuangzi

Freedom (Will) and Necessity (Destiny) coincide, are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other. It is right for each one everything that happens to him, that is what has been decided by our blood, spirit and destiny!

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Related posts: About Stoicism, Words of Wisdom #12

Words of Wisdom #12

One who submits to destiny suffers, but fate protects him“.

-Giorgio De Santillana

Always embrace your destiny, literally everything that happens in your life is decided by it. You are your destiny and your destiny is what you are, it is your shadow, you can’t run away from it, but only, if you are wise, accept it. It takes shape from your honour, from what you have accomplished in your previous lives. So, in a way, you yourself have decided your actual destiny and it fits you perfectly. It is nor good nor bad and no one merits a better or worse destiny instead of the one he is experiencing or has experienced. However, life will always make us think and believe that we are in possess of our destiny, that we can shape and change it to our liking…our mind is trapped in a sort of illusion, that probably protects us from a sort of metaphysical despair, a despair that maybe we can perceive when we realize even for a moment the true nature of Destiny, the most powerful of all deities!

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