Sunday, April 22, 2007

(3) Salient Points

The spiritual outlook of the Ancient Stoa dates back
some 2300 years. Here's an abbreviated encyclopedic
account of such:

•The reason of things--that which accounts for
them--is no longer some external end to which they
are tending; it is something acting within them, "a
spirit deeply infused," germinating and developing as
from a seed in the heart of each separate thing that
exists. By its prompting the thing grows, develops
and decays, while this "germinal reason," the element
of quality in the thing, remains constant through
all its changes.

•God is Fire (divine energy) and Logos (reason)
diffused throughout the cosmos. The Law of Nature
(physical law) is his material presence in the universe.
As Cosmic Reason (logos) he is ipso facto Providence,
ordaining all things, and as Fate, imposing upon man
a physical determinism that allows for freedom merely
as man's inner acceptance of cosmic necessity.

•Fire is like a seed having in itself the reason of all
things and the causes of what was, is, and shall be.
It is the vital principle from which all plants and animals
spring. At any stage of development God remains as
a living force, molding and dominating passive matter
in view of further progress.

•Soul is the inherent property of God, a mode of
life activity.

•The Soul of the world fills and penetrates it; the
soul of man pervades the body, informing and guiding
it, stamping man with his essential natural character.

•Inborn ideas are part of the soul's inheritance from
that Universal Reason of which the soul is a fragment.

•Each human soul is a fragment of the universal divine
force, yet not completely sundered from its parent-stock.

•An immanent active God fills every corner of the
universe and is the cause of everything that happens.
It is man's duty to live harmoniously with the Law of
the Universe and to accept all that comes to him as the
doing of God.

•In the rational creatures--man and the gods--
Pneuma (Spirit) is manifested in a high degree of
purity and intensity as an emanation from the

•What God is for the world that the soul is for man.
The cosmos must be conceived as a single whole,
its variety being referred to as varying stages of
condensation in the Pneuma. So, too, the human
soul must possess absolute simplicity, its varying
functions being conditioned by the degrees or species
of its tension.

•The nature of man is the universal on a small scale,
or a "microcosm." Each human soul is a fragment of
the universal divine force, yet not completely sundered
from the parent-stock. "We are thy offspring." We are
all his family.

•The relation of the Soul of the Universe to God is quite
clear; it is an inherent property,a mode of His activity,
an effluence or emanation. A Stoic might consistently
maintain that World-Soul, Providence, Destiny and
Germinal Reason are not merely synonyms, for they
express different aspects of God, different relations of
God to things.

•There are gradations of soul, by which a hierarchy of
rank is established among living beings. Virtue for man
is to maintain his rank as a son of God; vice is to fall to
the level of the animals or the plants.

•Sooner or later souls (upon death) are merged in the
Soul of the Universe. (Although it was a moot point
whether all souls survive--some Stoics believed that
only the souls of the wise and good alone survived.)

•Virtue is self-knowledge: the quality of a spirit in
perfect harmony with itself.

•A truly wise man was therefore to live as much as
possible in conformity with nature--meaning within
the confines of his natural in-born disposition and
the Laws of the Universe.

•The end of action is therefore a harmonious
consistent life according to nature.

•Cosmopolitan citizenship.

•No longer any difference between Greek and Barbarian,
male and female, bond and free.

•The wise man is free--the unwise are slaves.

•God is best worshipped in the shrine of the heart by
the desire to know and obey Him.

•Concession to popular beliefs: traditional religious
beliefs/practices are a means of communication
between God and Man.

•Traditional Religions: "And it is always appropriate to
make libations and sacrifices and give firstfruits according
to the customs of one's forefathers, in a manner that is
pure and neither slovenly nor careless, nor indeed cheaply
nor beyond one's means." [Epictetus]

•True Religion is the recognition by men of his relation to
deity, and its essential features are not ceremony and
sacrifice, but prayer, self-examination and praise.

•Goal of man is to live in agreement with world design:
the cosmic citizen. As a cosmic citizen, man has a loyalty
and obligation to all things in that city (the world, the
cosmos)--man's essential worth, universal brotherhood.

•Logic is to be used as an instrument--not as an end in
itself. Human happiness is to be treated as a product of
nature. And the wise man serves as a model.

•Usual objects of desire (such as wealth and honors) are
not necessary to a virtuous life--these things are morally
indifferent, possessing relative values.

•Man knows that he is part of the universe. He should
realize that the apparent interests of the part must remain
subordinate to the interests of the whole.

•Every event in the whole universe is necessary,
providential and due to the divine will. Man can choose
what his own nature suggests, and acknowledge that
which Fate will prevent his attaining.

•Actions should be the product of knowledge--not
of guesswork.

•Wickedness is closely associated with mistaken

•Belief in Providence was joined to a belief in
divination and prophetic dreams.

•Moderation induces decent behavior.

•The only thing in our own control is our will; we can
exercise that so as neither to desire nor fear the things
of the world, which are assigned by God.

•The Stoic wise man was independent of the society
in which he lived. Yet a man could become more
virtuous only by exercising his virtue in his relations
with other men, and the exercise of virtue was to be
found in areas demanding responsibility. Thus it was
necessary for him to earn his living and take part
in public life.

•The highest philosophy is to recognize that Reason
and Will are one.

[Gleaned from the following encyclopedias: Britannica,
Americana, Philosophy, New Catholic and others.]