This got posted in one of the larger Facebook groups last week. I’ve been listening to it in the car on my daily commute the past few days and found it to be well worth the time.
The author discusses several problems in interpretation of spiritual exercises in a Philosophy descended from Socrates, where virtue is a kind of knowledge, and knowledge is sufficient for virtue. I found the arguments compelling.
Also, the author addresses three spiritual exercises, the Three Disciplines of Epictetus, and distils and describes them well.
Depending on which sections of the Stoic-internet you frequent, you may have a range of ideas about Stoicism and religion.
In some, there is the ahistorical idea that the Stoics were closet atheists, in others theists of various stripes, maybe pantheists, deists, or panentheists.
I’m interested in Stoic theology, a decidedly minority position on the internet today. And this got shared in one of the groups the other day, and I thought I’d pass it along.
It’s a Master’s thesis on Stoicism as a religion. Dangerous waters indeed, no?
“How long, then, will you delay to demand of yourself the noblest improvements, and in no instance to transgress the judgments of reason? You have received the philosophic principles with which you ought to be conversant; and you have been conversant with them. For what other master, then, do you wait as an excuse for this delay in self-reformation? You are no longer a boy, but a grown man. If, therefore, you will be negligent and slothful, and always add procrastination to procrastination, purpose to purpose, and fix day after day in which you will attend to yourself, you will insensibly continue to accomplish nothing, and, living and dying, remain of vulgar mind. This instant, then, think yourself worthy of living as a man grown up and a proficient. Let whatever appears to be the best, be to you an inviolable law. And if any instance of pain or pleasure, glory or disgrace, be set before you, remember that now is the combat, now the Olympiad comes on, nor can it be put off; and that by one failure and defeat honor may be lost – or won. Thus Socrates became perfect, improving himself by everything, following reason alone. And though you are not yet a Socrates, you ought, however, to live as one seeking to be a Socrates.”
— Epictetus, Enchirdion 51.
“Quite often people will come up to us after our events and they will say it’s great to see a couple of guys out here spreading Jesus’ message or they’ll say it’s great to a couple of Buddhists out on the road sharing these Buddhist principles, or (the thinking of) stoic philosophers like Seneca or Marcus Aurelius,” says Joshua.
Interesting to see some classical Stoics mentioned casually in this context. Seems to be a sea-change in how Stoicism is viewed around the globe. Of course, minimalism for minimalism’s sake isn’t virtue, but anyway ….