Monday, 16 March 2015

The Enchiridion Principles

"The world is governed by divine wisdom, not by blind chance, that we must not give too much importance to Fortune, for she is a fickle lady, taking away with one hand what she has given with the other. We must not become upset when she takes good things away from us; they were never ours to begin with."

"But for your part, do not desire to be a General, or a Senator, or a Consul, but to be free; and the only way to this is a disregard of things which lie not within our own power."

"Anyone who is dissatisfied with the present and what is given by Fortune is an ignorant man in life. But the person who bears all things nobly and rationally, as well as anything that proceeds from them, is worthy of being considered a man. "

"Demand not what events should happen as they wish; but wish them to happen as they do happen, and you will go on well."

"Sickness is an impediment to the body, but not to the will, unless it pleases. Lameness is an impediment to the leg, but not to the will; and say this to yourself with regard to everything that happens. For you will find it to be an impediment to something else, but not truly to yourself."

"If you would improve, be content to be thought foolish and dull with regard to externals. Do not desire to be thought to know anything; and though you should appear to others to be somebody, distrust yourself. For be assured, it is not easy at once to keep your will in harmony with nature and to secure externals; but while you are absorbed in the one, you must of necessity neglect the other. 

"Nothing is portended to me, either to my paltry body, or property, or reputation, or children, or wife. But to me all portents are lucky if I will. For whatsoever happens, it belongs to me to derive advantages therefrom."

"Never proclaim yourself a philosopher, nor make much talk among the ignorant about your principles, but show them by actions. Thus, at an entertainment, do not discourse how people ought to eat, but eat as you ought. For remember that Socrates also universally avoided ostentation. And when persons came to him and desired to be introduced by him to philosophers, he took them and introduced them; so well did he bear being overlooked. So if ever there should be among the ignorant any discussion of principles, be for the most part silent. For there is great danger in hastily throw out what is undigested. 

And if anyone tells you that you know nothing, and you are not nettled by it, then you may be sure that you have really entered on your work. For sheep do not hastily throw up the grass to show the shepherds how much they have eaten, but inwardly digesting their food, they produce it outwardly in wool and milk. Thus, therefore, do you not make an exhibition before the ignorant of your principles, but of the actions to which their digestions give rise.  

"The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best."

"The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things."

- Epictectus 

Some quotes that I have held dear and have tried to live in accordance to since getting to know about Stoicism almost six years ago. Till this day, I find deeper meaning and relation when re-reading these quotes, and they help to calm my mind and gather focus on the true north. 

The Ministry of Education should have made this essential reading material for literature back in secondary school. It would have set the foundations for generations to come. 


  1. Great write. Coincidentally, I recently come across Stoicism from great book - "Obstacle is the way" / Ryan Holiday.

    My favourite stoicism piece from Seneca:

    “It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself for difficult times; while fortune is bestowing favors on it is then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs.”

    Seneca, who enjoyed great wealth as the adviser of Nero, suggested that we ought to set aside a certain number of days each month to practice poverty. Take a little food, wear your worst clothes, get away from the comfort of your home and bed. Put yourself face to face with want, he said, you’ll ask yourself “Is this what I used to dread?”

    1. Thanks Jacky. I share your views on Stoicism and will be sure to check out the book you've highlighted above. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without pain, there can be no pleasure. What you mentioned sounds like it has a parallel in the concept of intermittent fasting (be it in the realms of food, body or soul).

      Apologies for the delayed response as well - I usually try to bang articles out and head off for other activities, with a view (which should follow on with action but usually slips my mind) to reply interesting comments and perspective from readers.

      Hope the long weekend has treated you well :)