Nature Philosophy of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161 to 180)

Bust of Marcus Aurelius from Cyrene, North Africa. Found by Lieutenant R. M. Smith, RE, and Commander E. A. Porcher, RN. Now in the British Museum, London. (

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180) was the Roman emperor from 161 to 180. His writings indicate he WAS NOT a Stoic like many claim. Instead his ideas are mostly Druidic or nature based deriving from the Neolithic farmer culture via the Etruscans. Modern writers ignorant of philosophical history call any philosopher teaching short term pleasure denial a "stoic" which is wrong. This would make almost all classical philosophers "stoics." A Stoic of the classical era was one who believed in the inherent dualism of reality between good and evil which made the material world evil and something to be avoided. Stoicism developed from Druidism when it encountered the duality of the Persian Zoroastrians (500 BCE onwards). The Epicureans were a reaction against the dualistic trend of Stoicism.

Marcus was educated at home and his teachers seem to have represented a variety of philosophies. He says this about three of his most important teachers at the beginning of book 1 of Meditations (their philosophic schools in parenthesis below were not mentioned by him but were added by myself):

From (the Skeptic) Diognetus, not to busy myself about trifling things, and not to give credit to what was said by miracle-workers and jugglers about incantations and the driving away of daemons and such things; and not to breed quails for fighting, nor to give myself up passionately to such things; and to endure freedom of speech; and to have become intimate with philosophy; and to have been a hearer, first of Bacchius, then of Tandasis and Marcianus; and to have written dialogues in my youth; and to have desired a plank bed and skin, and whatever else of the kind belongs to the Grecian discipline.
From (the Stoic) Rusticus I received the impression that my character required improvement and discipline; and from him I learned not to be led astray to sophistic emulation, nor to writing on speculative matters, nor to delivering little hortatory orations, nor to showing myself off as a man who practices much discipline, or does benevolent acts in order to make a display; and to abstain from rhetoric, and poetry, and fine writing; and not to walk about in the house in my outdoor dress, nor to do other things of the kind; and to write my letters with simplicity, like the letter which Rusticus wrote from Sinuessa to my mother; and with respect to those who have offended me by words, or done me wrong, to be easily disposed to be pacified and reconciled, as soon as they have shown a readiness to be reconciled; and to read carefully, and not to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book; nor hastily to give my assent to those who talk overmuch; and I am indebted to him for being acquainted with the discourses of Epictetus (another stoic), which he communicated to me out of his own collection.
From (the Druid) Sextus, a benevolent disposition, and the example of a family governed in a fatherly manner, and the idea of living conformably with nature; and gravity without affectation, and to look carefully after the interests of friends, and to tolerate ignorant persons, and those who form opinions without consideration: he had the power of readily accommodating himself to all, so that intercourse with him was more agreeable than any flattery; and at the same time he was most highly venerated by those who associated with him: and he had the faculty both of discovering and ordering, in an intelligent and methodical way, the principles necessary for life; and he never showed anger or any other passion, but was entirely free from passion, and also most affectionate; and he could express approbation without noisy display, and he possessed much knowledge without ostentation.

Yet Marcus Aurelius was not a happy man which was likely due to his position as Roman emperor in which he had to be ruthless and wary. He was using his journal as a way to keep his spirits up. Consider these passages:

  1. (Book 5) In one respect man is the nearest thing to me, so far as I must do good to men and endure them. But so far as some men make themselves obstacles to my proper acts, man becomes to me one of the things which are indifferent, no less than the sun or wind or a wild beast.
  2. (Book 5) Why then dost thou not wait in tranquility for thy end, whether it is extinction or removal to another state? And until that time comes, what is sufficient? Why, what else than to venerate the gods and bless them, and to do good to men, and to practice tolerance and self-restraint; but as to everything which is beyond the limits of the poor flesh and breath, to remember that this is neither thine nor in thy power.

The Greek world had two types of motion causing spirits deriving from the earlier Alphabetic Akkadian culture. Both of these are mentioned by Marcus Aurelius:

  1. Daemons - motion causation (spirit of motion) from inner emotions
  2. Formal - motion causation (spirit of motion) from heavenly bodies


Aurelius, Marcus (167 CE) “Meditations” Translated by George Long. Online at

Things can interact with each other only if they have some common connection. Therefore all physical energy and all emotional/spiritual energy exist in a network.

Living in an emotional/spiritual and social network has its consequences. Whatever emotional/spiritual feeling is put out into this network will flow around and eventually come back at the originator. This is the Law of Return.

Likewise, if certain emotional network channels are open you will receive more of those spiritual/emotional influences in your life. This is the Law of Attraction which is also called synchronicity (Jung's term).

No one is an island living in complete isolation from others. If you want a happy life make sure your friends and community around you are also in good shape. If they are not in good shape seek to help them or, if they are beyond help, separate yourself from them

Nature Virtue of Connection

(Book 2) The soul of man does violence to itself, first of all, when it becomes an abscess and, as it were, a tumour on the universe, so far as it can. For to be vexed at anything which happens is a separation of ourselves from nature,

(Book 3) Labour not unwillingly, nor without regard to the common interest

(Book 3) Never value anything as profitable to thyself which shall compel thee to break thy promise, to lose thy self-respect, to hate any man, to suspect, to curse, to act the hypocrite, to desire anything which needs walls and curtains

(Book 3) As physicians have always their instruments and knives ready for cases which suddenly require their skill, so do thou have principles (powers) ready for the understanding of things divine and human, and for doing everything, even the smallest, with a recollection of the bond which unites the divine and human to one another.

(Book 4) Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things which exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the contexture of the web

(Book 6) But towards human beings, as they have reason, behave in a social spirit. And on all occasions call on the gods, and do not perplex thyself about the length of time in which thou shalt do this; for even three hours so spent are sufficient.

(Book 6) Frequently consider the connection of all things in the universe and their relation to one another. For in a manner all things are implicated with one another, and all in this way are friendly to one another; for one thing comes in order after another, and this is by virtue of the active movement and mutual conspiration and the unity of the substance.

(Book 7) All things are implicated with one another, and the bond is holy; and there is hardly anything unconnected with any other thing. For things have been co-ordinated, and they combine to form the same universe (order). For there is one universe made up of all things, and one God who pervades all things, and one substance, and one law, one common reason in all intelligent animals, and one truth; if indeed there is also one perfection for all animals which are of the same stock and participate in the same reason.

(Book 7) It is peculiar to man to love even those who do wrong. And this happens, when they do wrong it occurs to thee that they are kinsmen, and that they do wrong through ignorance and unintentionally, and that soon both of you will die; and above all, that the wrong-doer has done thee no harm, for he has not made thy ruling faculty worse than it was before.

(Book 7) The prime principle (goal) then in man's constitution is the social. And the second is not to yield to the persuasions of the body (balance), for it is the peculiar office of the rational and intelligent motion to circumscribe itself, and never to be overpowered either by the motion of the senses or of the appetites

(Book 7) Adorn thyself with simplicity and modesty and with indifference towards the things which lie between virtue and vice. Love mankind. Follow God. The poet says that Law rules all.- And it is enough to remember that Law rules all.

(Book 8) There are three relations (connections) between thee and other things: the one to the body which surrounds thee; the second to the divine cause from which all things come to all; and the third to those who live with thee.

(Book 10) Whether the universe is a concourse of atoms, or nature is a system, let this first be established, that I am a part of the whole which is governed by nature; next, I am in a manner intimately related to the parts which are of the same kind with myself.


Aurelius, Marcus (167 CE) “Meditations” Translated by George Long. Online at

Balance means not allowing impulsive passions to govern your life. Do not be a leaf in the wind being blown around by whatever catches your fancy. Instead have some purpose to steady your life. Grow and sample experiences with forethought.

Nature Virtue of Balance

Balance in Nature

(Book 4) Always remember the saying of Heraclitus, that the death of earth is to become water, and the death of water is to become air, and the death of air is to become fire, and reversely.

(Book 5) I am composed of the formal (heavenly body motion spirit) and the material; and neither of them will perish into non-existence, as neither of them came into existence out of non-existence. Every part of me then will be reduced by change into some part of the universe, and that again will change into another part of the universe, and so on forever.

Balance in People

(Book 1) From my grandfather Verus I learned good morals and the government of my temper.

(Book 4) Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.

(Book 4) Always run to the short way; and the short way is the natural: accordingly say and do everything in conformity with the soundest reason. For such a purpose frees a man from trouble, and warfare, and all artifice and ostentatious display

(Book 5) Things themselves touch not the soul, not in the least degree; nor have they admission to the soul, nor can they turn or move the soul: but the soul turns and moves itself alone, and whatever judgements it may think proper to make, such it makes for itself the things which present themselves to it.

(Book 5) Let the part of thy soul which leads and governs be undisturbed by the movements in the flesh, whether of pleasure or of pain; and let it not unite with them, but let it circumscribe itself and limit those affects to their parts. But when these affects rise up to the mind by virtue of that other sympathy that naturally exists in a body which is all one, then thou must not strive to resist the sensation, for it is natural: but let not the ruling part of itself add to the sensation the opinion that it is either good or bad.

(Book 6) When thou hast been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in a manner, quickly return to thyself and do not continue out of tune longer than the compulsion lasts; for thou wilt have more mastery over the harmony by continually recurring to it.

(Book 7) Wipe out the imagination (passions). Stop the pulling of the strings. Confine thyself to the present. Understand well what happens either to thee or to another. Divide and distribute every object into the formal (spiritual causation) and the material. Think of thy last hour. Let the wrong which is done by a man stay there where the wrong was done.

(Book 7) This is a fine saying of Plato: That he who is discoursing about men should look also at earthly things as if he viewed them from some higher place; should look at them in their assemblies, armies, agricultural labours, marriages, treaties, births, deaths, noise of the courts of justice, desert places, various nations of barbarians, feasts, lamentations, markets, a mixture of all things and an orderly combination of contraries.

(Book 7) The prime principle (goal or virtue) then in man's constitution is the social (connection). And the second is not to yield to the persuasions of the body (balance), for it is the peculiar office of the rational and intelligent motion to circumscribe itself, and never to be overpowered either by the motion of the senses or of the appetites,

(Book 8) If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this thing that disturbs thee, but thy own judgement about it.

(Book 8) A cucumber is bitter.- Throw it away.- There are briars in the road.- Turn aside from them.- This is enough. Do not add, And why were such things made in the world? For thou wilt be ridiculed by a man who is acquainted with nature, as thou wouldst be ridiculed by a carpenter and shoemaker if thou didst find fault because thou seest in their workshop shavings and cuttings from the things which they make

Peace and Happiness come from Balance

(Book 5) How easy it is to repel and to wipe away every (conscious) impression which is troublesome or unsuitable, and immediately to be in all tranquility.

(Book 7) Eudaemonia (happiness) is a good daemon (personality spirit), or a good thing. What then art thou doing here, O imagination, Go away,

(Book 7) Retire into thyself. The rational principle which rules has this nature, that it is content with itself when it does what is just, and so secures tranquility.


Aurelius, Marcus (167 CE) “Meditations” Translated by George Long. Online at

Personal growth requires continuing experiences, education, and introspection. Every person is on their own path. Nature Religion is a path, not a faith.

Yet following a path into the unknown requires a courage and self-confidence which not everyone possesses.

Nature Virtue of Growth

Growth in Nature

(Book 4) Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are and to make new things like them. For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.

(Book 7) Is any man afraid of change? Why what can take place without change? What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And canst thou take a bath unless the wood undergoes a change? And canst thou be nourished, unless the food undergoes a change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Dost thou not see then that for thyself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature?

Growth in People

(Book 5) Reason and the reasoning art are powers which are sufficient for themselves and for their own works. They move then from a first principle which is their own, and they make their way to the end which is proposed to them, and this is the reason why such acts are named catorthoseis or right acts, which word signifies that they proceed by the right road.

(Book 6) If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance.

(Book 8) Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then or bear with them

(Book 12) I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.

Viktor Frankl was a Jewish Psychiatrist from Vienna, Austria who survived the Holocaust of WW2. From his observations he noticed those people with a purpose tended to survive at a greater rate than others. He published his findings in an important 1946 book entitled "Man's Search for Meaning." Creating this book was his purpose.
“As we said before, any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal. Nietzsche’s words, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how,” could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygienic efforts regarding prisoners.
Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why — an aim — for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, “I have nothing to expect from life any more.” What sort of answer can one give to that? (Man's Search for Meaning, 1946)

Alignment with the Divine Purpose

(Book 8) Everything exists for some end, a horse, a vine. Why dost thou wonder? Even the sun will say, I am for some purpose, and the rest of the gods will say the same. For what purpose then art thou? to enjoy pleasure? See if common sense allows this.

(Book 5) In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present- I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bed-clothes and keep myself warm?- But this is more pleasant.- Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe?

(Book 5) rest in these principles only: one, that nothing will happen to me which is not conformable to the nature of the universe; and the other, that it is in my power never to act contrary to my god and daemon: for there is no man who will compel me to this.

(Book 8) He who does not know what the world is, does not know where he is. And he who does not know for what purpose the world exists, does not know who he is, nor what the world is. But he who has failed in any one of these things could not even say for what purpose he exists himself.

(Book 10) Observe what thy nature requires, so far as thou art governed by nature only: then do it and accept it

Nature is not inherently good or evil like the faith based religions claim. Good and evil are value judgments made relative to some goal. Raining on my dry garden is good while raining on my parade is bad.
No conscious feelings are inherently evil. All have their purpose when properly applied. Emotions such as pain, fear and hate are used to keep people safe. Envy can be used to improve one's situation. The challenge is gaining the wisdom to know when and how to apply various emotions. Gaining that wisdom comes from spiritual training, something that is lacking in today's society.

Good and Evil Are Not Inherent In Nature (These Shows Marcus Was Not a Dualist)

(Book 2) To observe too ... what death is ... he will then consider it to be nothing else than an operation of nature; and if any one is afraid of an operation of nature, he is a child. This, however, is not only an operation of nature, but it is also a thing which conduces to the purposes of nature.

(Book 2) and nothing is evil which is according to nature.

(Book 4) It is no evil for things to undergo change, and no good for things to subsist in consequence of change

(Book 4) What is evil to thee does not subsist in the ruling principle of another ... Where is it then? It is in that part of thee in which subsists the power of forming opinions about evils. Let this power then not form such opinions, and all is well. … nevertheless let the part which forms opinions about these things be quiet, that is, let it judge that nothing is either bad or good which can happen equally to the bad man and the good. For that which happens equally to him who lives contrary to nature and to him who lives according to nature, is neither according to nature nor contrary to nature (this a comment against the idea that gods bless the healthy and prosperous because they are righteous and curse the poor and unhealthy because they are sinners. Therefore the unfortunate are judged as being evil and deserve their lot)

(Book 6) The substance of the universe is obedient and compliant; and the reason (the Divine) which governs it has in itself no cause for doing evil, for it has no malice, nor does it do evil to anything, nor is anything harmed by it. But all things are made and perfected according to this reason.

Clarity of Perception Uncorrupted from Primal Emotions

(Book 1) From my mother, piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.

(Book 5) A prayer of the Athenians: Rain, rain, O dear Zeus, down on the ploughed fields of the Athenians and on the plains.- In truth we ought not to pray at all, or we ought to pray in this simple and noble fashion.

(Book 6) Look within. Let neither the peculiar quality of anything nor its value escape thee

(Book 2) Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly.

(Book 7) Everything material soon disappears in the substance of the whole; and everything formal (motion sourced from heavenly bodies) is very soon taken back into the universal reason; and the memory of everything is very soon overwhelmed in time.

(Book 8) Receive wealth or prosperity without arrogance; and be ready to let it go.