Sunday, March 3, 2019

Epictetus Discourses 2.7 - How we should make use of divination

Astrology, divination, horoscopes ... personally speaking, all are mindless child's play.  This chapter is particularly useful for people who really think that divination has importance.

First off, Epictetus argues we already "have a diviner within [us] who has taught [us] the true nature of good and bad (v. 3, p. 83).

And while a diviner might tell us signs and ways of how to lengthen life, prolong death or gain riches, they cannot tell us that by gaining or avoiding those things, if they would be beneficial to us or not (see v. 6, p. 84).

I love the example he gives in the chapter.  "It was thus an excellent reply that the woman made when she wanted to send a boatload of provisions to the exiled Gratilla; for when someone said to her, 'Domitian will merely confiscate them,' she replied, 'Better that he should take them away than that I should fail to send them.'" (v. 8, p. 84).  She focused on what was in her control (the virtue of helping someone else) and left the results and the outcome fall where they would.

Why would a person approach and seek the services of a diviner?  "Simply cowardice, our fear of what may come about" (v. 9, p. 84).  Therefore, if we spent the time focusing on our desires and aversions (something in our control), would we not have greater success in gaining courage and avoiding fear and anxiety?  Fix the root cause!

If you were to approach God in prayer, ask not for wealth, riches, rewards, improved health, avoidance of bad health and a life of ease or even immortality and eternal life.  Rather, ask that you can desire a life of virtue; ask for understanding and a love of what God wants in the universe and in this world.  Ask that you love what God loves.  Ask for things to happen exactly as they do.

Pray thusly, "Universe, your harmony is my harmony: nothing in your good time is too early or too late for me. Nature, all that your seasons bring is fruit to me: all comes from you, exists in you, returns to you." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.23)

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