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Marcus Aurelius Essay

640 words - 3 pages

In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius puts a strong emphasis on the tranquility of the soul by connecting mind and body in a spiritual sense, a somewhat unprecedented interpretation of Stoic ideals during the Antiquity period. Some of Aurelius’ quotations in Meditations display ideas that are comparable with those of modern religion. It can be argued that many modern day religions have their roots in the philosophy developed during the Antiquity, however, Meditations offers substantial evidence that Marcus Aurelius’ interpretation of Stoicism has had the biggest impact on modern day religion alone. Though Aurelius’ ideas agree with those of different religions on different spectrums of the spiritual plane (thus breaking any sort of collective agreement on the meaning of religion or life), Aurelius’ Meditations can be viewed as the Bible of the Antiquity due to his capacity “to write down what was in his ...view middle of the document...

Most modern day religions have a black and white perspective on what is “good” and what is “bad”, whereas Aurelius conveys strongly the Stoic belief of denial of emotion in order to free oneself from the pains and pleasures of the material world, while putting his own spin on it. This is where Meditations can be viewed as the guidelines for a new type of religion, however, many other ideas conveyed by Aurelius can be linked to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, even Zen Buddhism and Atheism.
“…do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.” [1] Most modern day belief systems are based off of this idea, with the exception of Atheism or Hedonism. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all teach the act of doing good things with all of your time on Earth, with Islam especially teaching the idea that God should be feared because he has the ability to take your life and/or bring you eternal pain (Hell). Otherwise, most modern religions hold virtue and “good” in the same regard as Aurelius does. “…do not consider the depraved morals of others, but cling to the straight and narrow path without deviating from it.” [2] Islam has a notion of the “straight path”, as does Zen Buddhism, which comes directly from Aurelius’ interpretation of Stoicism.
It is important to understand that Marcus Aurelius wrote Meditations as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. He had no intention of it really benefiting anybody else, and no consciousness of anyone else ever reading it, which is what makes it so innovative and intriguing. At points in the text he’ll reference another text, or quote another philosopher, but it all draws to the one single point that he is trying to make: to do good regardless of being happy, and to live neither according to nature nor contrary to nature. This indifference of the latter statement defines the former through a certain degree of transcendence that is only attainable through Stoicism.
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[1] Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. Trans. Martin Hammond. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006.

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