Page:Discourses of Epictetus volume 1 Oldfather 1925.djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


Religion as reconciliation to the inevitable—ἑκόντα δέχεσθαι τὰ ἀναγκαῖα (frg. 8), in gratiam cum fato revertere[1]—is almost perfectly exemplified in Epictetus, for with him philosophy has definitely turned religion, and his instruction has become less secular than clerical.[2] But it is astonishing to what heights of sincere devotion, of intimate communion, he attained, though starting with the monistic preconceptions of his school, for the very God who took, as he felt, such personal interest in him, was after all but "a subtle form of matter pervading the grosser physical elements . . . this Providence only another name for a mechanical law of expansion and contraction, absolutely predetermined in its everlasting recurrences."[3] Of his theology one can scarcely speak. His personal needs and his acquiescence with tradition led him to make of his God more than the materials of his philosophical tenets could allow. The result is for our modern thinking an almost incredible mixture of Theism, Pantheism, and Polytheism, and it is impossible, out of detached expressions, to construct a consistent system. As a matter of fact, with a naïve faith in God as a kind of personification of the soul's desire, he seems to have cherished simultaneously all of these mutually exclusive views of his nature. His moral end was eudaemonism,

  1. Seneca, Ep. 91, 15. "Dass der Mensch ins Unvermeidliche sich füge, darauf dringen alle Religionen; jede sucht auf ihre Weise mit dieser Aufgabe fertig zu werden."—Goethe.
  2. Cf. Lagrange, p. 211.—"The school of the philosophers is a hospital" (cf. Epict. III. 23, 30).
  3. More, p. 167, and cf. the whole brilliant passage, p. 162 ff.