Tuesday, April 27, 2010

emancipated from the thralldom of appearances...

Ulysses G.B. Pierce concludes his summary of methods that Epictetus advises if one is to live a life of philosophy.

"The law of use and disuse is also invoked by the teacher. By this law old manners and habits vanish away through disuse, and new habits are established by continuous practice. Here is the law: Darwin could have stated it no more clearly: " Every skill and faculty is maintained and increased by the corresponding acts; as the faculty of walking by walking. And thus it is in spiritual things also. When thou art wrathful, know that not this single evil hath happened to thee, but that thou hast increased the aptness to it, and, as it were, poured oil upon the fire. Wouldst thou then be no longer of a wrathful temper? Then do not nourish the aptness to it, give it nothing that will increase it, be tranquil from the outset, and number the days when thou hast not been wrathful . . . but if thou hast saved thirty days, then sacrifice to God in thanksgiving."Thus it is that old and vicious habits may be extirpated and wholesome manners developed.

Self-examination also has an important place. The disciple must watch himself as he would an enemy. He must know how the matter stands with himself. Epictetus commends to his followers the lines of Pythagoras:

Let sleep not come upon thy languid eyes
Before each daily action thou hast scanned;
What's done amiss, what done, what left undone;
From first to last examine all, and then
Blame what is wrong, in what is right rejoice.

 Epictetus also avails himself of the law of auto-suggestion. The principles of philosophy are to become part of ourselves, finding lodgement in the subconscious and becoming a second nature; so that these principles may uphold and guide one even in sleep or in despondency.

Furthermore the power of visualization is utilized. The disciple is to have always before him the form and type of character to which he aspires, the mental picture of the perfection toward which he would grow. As a sort of super-self this image must transform us into its own likeness...his recital of methods, by no means exhaustive, will suffice to show how seriously Epictetus regarded the matter. For what he contemplates is nothing less than the highest virtue of which man is capable and the fulfilment of the promise of our spiritual nature. So he admonishes us: " Hold thyself worthy to live as a man of full age and as one who is pressing forward; and let everything that appeareth the best be to thee as an inviolable law." 91 Thus the wise man and good is to educate and discipline his moral faculties until he is emancipated from the thralldom of appearances and finds himself superior to the pressure of circumstance. Such an endeavor issues in tranquillity, magnanimity, freedom ; and the Stoic, " while imprisoned in this mortal body, makes fellowship with God his aim."


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