Jacob Needleman in his book Why Can't We Be Good? quotes Marcus Aurelius, for whom "power means more than dominion over nations and peoples. It means, first and foremost, dominion over oneself - specifically, an intentional relationship to one's own mind, one's own thoughts, one's own impulses and emotions. In striving for such a sustained and ever-deepening attention to one's own mind, a man opens himself to the mind and power of God within himself. Such was the essence of the way of life called philosophy."
Words of Marcus Aurelius, written while he was emperor of Rome.
"The duration of a person's life is only a point; our substance is flowing away this very moment; the senses are dim; the composition of the body is decaying, the psyche is chaos, our fate is unknowable ... What then can guide and protect you in this life? Only one thing: philosophy, and this consists in keeping the divine spirit within you free from pollution and damage ...."
"Stop letting the guiding principle within you be tugged around like a marionette by the strings of selfish impulses."
"If you do the task before you always rigourously adhering to the true dictates of the mind with zeal and energy and yet with compassion and humanity, disregarding all lesser ends and keeping the divinity within you pure and upright, as though at this very moment you were called to give it back to its Creator - if you hold steadily to this, expecting nothing and avoiding nothing, only seeking in each passing action a conformity with Nature and in each word and utterance a fearless truthfulness, then you will live a good life. And from this course no man has the power to hold you back.
Turn your attention within, for the fountain of all that is good lies within, and it is always ready to pour forth, if you continuously delve in.
Each and every hour make up your mind ... to accomplish the matter presently at hand with genuine seriousness, loving care, independence and justice. Allow your mind freedom from all other considerations. This you can do if you perform every action of your life as if it were your last, putting aside all wayward impulses and emotional resistance to the choices of reason, and all pretense, selfishness and discontent with what has been allowed to you. See how few are the things which a person needs to master in order to live a tranquil and godly existence. The gods ask nothing more of us."
- Marcus Aurelius -