CHAPTER 29

On constancy

The being of the Good is a certain Will; the being of the Bad is a certain kind of Will. What then are externals? Materials for the Will, about which the will being conversant shall obtain its own good or evil. How shall it obtain the good? If it does not admire the materials; for the opinions about the materials, if the opinions are right, make the will good: but perverse and distorted opinions make the will bad. God has fixed this law, and says, "If you would have anything good, receive it from yourself." You say, "No, but I have it from another." Do not so: but receive it from yourself. Therefore when the tyrant threatens and calls me, I say, "Whom do you threaten If he says, "I will put you in chains," I say, "You threaten my hands and my feet." If he says, "I will cut off your head," I reply, "You threaten my head." If he says, "I will throw you into prison," I say, "You threaten the whole of this poor body." If he threatens me with banishment, I say the same. "Does he, then, not threaten you at all?" If I feel that all these things do not concern me, he does not threaten me at all; but if I fear any of them, it is I whom he threatens. Whom then do I fear? the master of what? The master of things which are in my own power? There is no such master. Do I fear the master of things which are not in my power? And what are these things to me?

"Do you philosophers then teach us to despise kings?" I hope not. Who among us teaches to claim against them the power over things which they possess? Take my poor body, take my property, take my reputation, take those who are about me. If I advise any persons to claim these things, they may truly accuse me. "Yes, but I intend to command your opinions also." And who has given you this power? How can you conquer the opinion of another man? "By applying terror to it," he replies, "I will conquer it." Do you not know that opinion conquers itself, and is not conquered by another? But nothing else can conquer Will except the Will itself. For this reason, too, the law of God is most powerful and most just, which is this: "Let the stronger always be superior to the weaker." "Ten are stronger than one." For what? For putting in chains, for killing, for dragging whither they choose, for taking away what a man has. The ten therefore conquer the one in this in which they are stronger. "In what then are the ten weaker," If the one possess right opinions and the others do not. "Well then, can the ten conquer in this matter?" How is it possible? If we were placed in the scales, must not the heavier draw down the scale in which it is?

"How strange, then, that Socrates should have been so treated by the Athenians." Slave, why do you say Socrates? Speak of the thing as it is: how strange that the poor body of Socrates should have been carried off and dragged to prison by stronger men, and that any one should have given hemlock to the poor body of Socrates, and that it should breathe out the life. Do these things seem strange. do they seem unjust, do you on account of these things blame God? Had Socrates then no equivalent for these things, Where, then, for him was the nature of good? Whom shall we listen to, you or him? And what does Socrates say? "Anytus and Meletus can kill me, but they cannot hurt me": and further, he says, "If it so pleases God, so let it be."

But show me that he who has the inferior principles overpowers him who is superior in principles. You will never show this, nor come near showing it; for this is the law of nature and of God that the superior shall always overpower the inferior. In what? In that in which it is superior. One body is stronger than another: many are stronger than one: the thief is stronger than he who is not a thief. This is the reason why I also lost my lamp, because in wakefulness the thief was superior to me. But the man bought the lamp at this price: for a lamp he became a thief, a faithless fellow, and like a wild beast. This seemed to him a good bargain. Be it so. But a man has seized me by the cloak, and is drawing me to the public place: then others bawl out, "Philosopher, what has been the use of your opinions? see you are dragged to prison, you are going to be beheaded." And what system of philosophy could f have made so that, if a stronger man should have laid hold of my cloak, I should not be dragged off; that if ten men should have laid hold of me and cast me into prison, I should not be cast in? Have I learned nothing else then? I have learned to see that everything which happens, if it be independent of my will, is nothing to me. I may ask if you have not gained by this. Why then do you seek advantage in anything else than in that in which you have learned that advantage is?

Then sitting in prison I say: "The man who cries out in this way neither hears what words mean, nor understands what is said, nor does he care at all to know what philosophers say or what they do. Let him alone."

But now he says to the prisoner, "Come out from your prison." If you have no further need of me in prison, I come out: if you should have need of me again, I will enter the prison. "How long will you act thus?" So long as reason requires me to be with the body: but when reason does not require this, take away the body, and fare you well. Only we must not do it inconsiderately, nor weakly, nor for any slight reason; for, on the other hand, God does not wish it to be done, and he has need of such a world and such inhabitants in it. But if he sounds the signal for retreat, as he did to Socrates, we must obey him who gives the signal, as if he were a general.

"Well, then, ought we to say such things to the many?" Why should we? Is it not enough for a man to be persuaded himself? When children come clapping their hands and crying out, "To-day is the good Saturnalia," do we say, "The Saturnalia are not good?" By no means, but we clap our hands also. Do you also then, when you are not able to make a man change his mind, be assured that he is a child, and clap your hands with him, and if you do not choose to do this, keep silent.

A man must keep this in mind; and when he is called to any such difficulty, he should know that the time is come for showing if he has been instructed. For he who is come into a difficulty is like a young man from a school who has practiced the resolution of syllogisms; and if any person proposes to him an easy syllogism, he says, "Rather propose to me a syllogism which is skillfully complicated that I may exercise myself on it." Even athletes are dissatisfied with slight young men, and say "He cannot lift me." "This is a youth of noble disposition." But when the time of trial is come, one of you must weep and say, "I wish that I had learned more." A little more of what? If you did not learn these things in order to show them in practice, why did you learn them? I think that there is some one among you who are sitting here, who is suffering like a woman in labour, and saying, "Oh, that such a difficulty does not present itself to me as that which has come to this man; oh, that I should be wasting my life in a corner, when I might be crowned at Olympia. When will any one announce to me such a contest?" Such ought to be the disposition of all of you. Even among the gladiators of Caesar there are some who complain grievously that they are not brought forward and matched, and they offer up prayers to God and address themselves to their superintendents entreating that they might fight. And will no one among you show himself such? I would willingly take a voyage for this purpose and see what my athlete is doing, how he is studying his subject. "I do not choose such a subject," he says. Why, is it in your power to take what subject you choose? There has been given to you such a body as you have, such parents, such brethren, such a country, such a place in your country: then you come to me and say, "Change my subject." Have you not abilities which enable you to manage the subject which has been given to you? "It is your business to propose; it is mine to exercise myself well." However, you do not say so, but you say, "Do not propose to me such a tropic, but such: do not urge against me such an objection, but such." There will be a time, perhaps, when tragic actors will suppose that they are masks and buskins and the long cloak. I say, these things, man, are your material and subject. Utter something that we may know whether you are a tragic actor or a buffoon; for both of you have all the rest in common. If any one then should take away the tragic actor's buskins and his mask, and introduce him on the stage as a phantom, is the tragic actor lost, or does he still remain? If he has voice, he still remains.

An example of another kind. "Assume the governorship of a province." I assume it, and when I have assumed it, I show how an instructed man behaves. "Lay aside the laticlave and, clothing yourself in rags, come forward in this character." What then have I not the power of displaying a good voice? How, then, do you now appear? As a witness summoned by God. "Come forward, you, and bear testimony for me, for you are worthy to be brought forward as a witness by me: is anything external to the will good or bad? do I hurt any man? have I made every man's interest dependent on any man except himself?" What testimony do you give for God? "I am in a wretched condition, Master, and I am unfortunate; no man cares for me, no man gives me anything; all blame me, all speak ill of me." Is this the evidence that you are going to give, and disgrace his summons, who has conferred so much honour on you, and thought you worthy of being called to bear such testimony?

But suppose that he who has the power has declared, "I judge you to be impious and profane." What has happened to you? "I have been judged to be impious and profane?" Nothing else? "Nothing else." But if the same person had passed judgment on an hypothetical syllogism, and had made a declaration, "the conclusion that, if it is day, it is light, I declare to be false," what has happened to the hypothetical syllogism? who is judged in this case? who has been condemned? the hypothetical syllogism, or the man who has been deceived by it? Does he, then, who has the power of making any declaration about you know what is pious or impious? Has he studied it, and has he learned it? Where? From whom? Then is it the fact that a musician pays no regard to him who declares that the lowest chord in the lyre is the highest; nor yet a geometrician, if he declares that the lines from the centre of a circle to the circumference are not equal; and shall he who is really instructed pay any regard to the uninstructed man when he pronounces judgment on what is pious and what is impious, on what is just and unjust? Oh, the signal wrong done by the instructed. Did they learn this here?

Will you not leave the small arguments about these matters to others, to lazy fellows, that they may sit in a corner and receive their sorry pay, or grumble that no one gives them anything; and will you not come forward and make use of what you have learned? For it is not these small arguments that are wanted now: the writings of the Stoics are full of them. What then is the thing which is wanted? A man who shall apply them, one who by his acts shall bear testimony to his words. Assume, I, entreat you, this character, that we may no longer use in the schools the examples of the ancients but may have some example of our own.

To whom then does the contemplation of these matters belong? To him who has leisure, for man is an animal that loves contemplation. But it is shameful to contemplate these things as runaway slaves do; we should sit, as in a theatre, free from distraction, and listen at one time to the tragic actor, at another time to the lute-player; and not do as slaves do. As soon as the slave has taken his station he praises the actor and at the same time looks round: then if any one calls out his master's name, the slave is immediately frightened and disturbed. It is shameful for philosophers thus to contemplate the works of nature. For what is a master? Man is not the master of man; but death is, and life and pleasure and pain; for if he comes without these things, bring Caesar to me and you will see how firm I am. But when he shall come with these things, thundering and lightning, and when I am afraid of them, what do I do then except to recognize my master like the runaway slave? But so long as I have any respite from these terrors, as a runaway slave stands in the theatre, so do I: I bathe, I drink, I sing; but all this I do with terror and uneasiness. But if I shall release myself from my masters, that is from those things by means of which masters are formidable, what further trouble have I, what master have I still?

"What then, ought we to publish these things to all men?" No, but we ought to accommodate ourselves to the ignorant and to say: "This man recommends to me that which he thinks good for himself: I excuse him." For Socrates also excused the gaoler, who had the charge of him in prison and was weeping when Socrates was going to drink the poison, and said, "How generously he laments over us." Does he then say to the gaoler that for this reason we have sent away the women? No, but he says it to his friends who were able to hear it; and he treats the gaoler as a child.