SLRP: XLI. On The God Within Us

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Seneca,

“If you see a man who is unterrified in the midst of dangers, untouched by desires, happy in adversity, peaceful amid the storm, who looks down upon men from a higher plane, and views the gods on a footing of equality, will not a feeling of reverence for him steal over you, will you not say: “This quality is too great and too lofty to be regarded as resembling this petty body in which it dwells? A divine power has descended upon that man.” “

The western conception, I think, has been muddled by a couple of millenia of Abrahamic context.  It’s hard to imagine this divine, holy man you describe and not think of him as a saint or prophet of some sort.  Maybe saint isn’t too far off, I don’t know.  The religious nature of the Stoics is on the face apparent.  Yet, there’s a lot to un-learn to grok it as it was intended, I suspect.

“The lion with gilded mane, in process of being trained and forced by weariness to endure the decoration, is sent into the arena in quite a different way from the wild lion whose spirit is unbroken; the latter, indeed, bold in his attack, as nature wished him to be, impressive because of his wild appearance, – and it is his glory that none can look upon him without fear, – is favoured in preference to the other lion, that languid and gilded brute.”

This idea that the lion, or man, is made great by what is his own and not by any sort of additition or ornamentation is a good reminder.  It’s very easy to see wealth, power, influence, property, social rank, etc. and use those as our common measure.  But as you say, Fate can sweep these away without so ever much as a ‘by your leave.’  Indeed, he gets to keep one thing and one thing only.  And this, is even on loan for a short time.  His character.

Farewell.


Part of Michel Daw’s Reading Plan of Seneca’s Letters.

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