Epictetus
Epictetus


Isaac Newton and the Mind of God

If plants and our bodies are bound up and united with the whole of nature, are not our souls much more so? Our souls are bound up and in contact with God. So then does not God perceive every motion of these parts as being His own motion? Now you can see the divine administration covers all things, and at the same time all human affairs. Can you not be moved by ten thousand things at the same time in your senses and in your understanding, and to assent to some, and to dissent from others, and again as to some things to suspend your judgment? Do you retain in your soul so many impressions from so many and various things, and being moved by them, do you fall upon notions similar to those first impressed, and do you retain numerous arts and the memories of ten thousand things. If you can retain so many thoughts in your mind, is not God capable of so much more - to oversee all things, and to be present with all, and to receive from all a certain communication? The sun is able to illuminate so large a part of the Earth, and to leave so little unillumined (that part only which is occupied by the earth's shadow). He who made the sun itself and makes it go round, being a small part of Himself compared with the whole, cannot He perceive all things?

We are part of nature. God is nature, not in the sense of a pantheistic, new age "Mother Earth", but in the sense that his intelligence motivates the motion of every molecule. The very atoms follow his laws. Sir Isaac Newton believed that his study of physics, optics, and calculus were none other than investigations into the "mind of God". Newton undoubtedly would have been exposed to the Stoic philosophy of Epictetus and would have taken seriously the notion that our bodies are bound with nature, as are our souls, and our souls then "are bound up and in contact with God." Epictetus is saying God is in us as he is in everything else.

Chapter 14:

  1. The Deity Oversees all Things
  2. Isaac Newton and the Mind of God (14a)
  3. An Oath to Caesar (14b)
Stoicism and Christianity Index

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This is a translation and explanation of the first book of the Discourses of Epictetus. His words are in regular text, comments are in bold.

Biographical Information on Epictetus


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