CHAPTER 30: What to Do in Difficult Circumstances

When you are going to see any great personage, remember that another, also from above, sees what is occurring. You ought to please him rather than the great personage. He who sees from above asks you, "In the schools what did you use to say about exile and bonds and death and disgrace?" I used to say that they are things indifferent. "What then do you say of them now? Are they changed at all?" No. "Are you changed then?" No. "Tell me then what things are indifferent?" The things which are independent of the will are different. "Tell me, also, what follows from this." The things which are independent of the will are nothing to me. "Tell me also about the Good, what was your opinion?" My opinion was to have a will such as we ought to have and also such a use of appearances as is proper. "And the end, what is it?" To follow Thee. "Do you say this now also?" I say the same now also.

The last chapter of The Discourses contains a rather mild scene of final judgment. It is not a world-wide accounting to God, as in Revelations, but a personal meeting between God and a man.

Epictetus begins by conjuring a meeting between our hypothetical representative of the human race and someone who is rich and famous. He tells us that we should meet this person without trepidation for there is one far greater who judges each and every one of us, and he is watching us at every moment. Epictetus goes so far as to postulate the questions God will ask when we finally meet him. They concern belief and action. Our responses should be to the effect that the things which are independent of the will are nothing. The material world is only a tool; it is our souls that are important. Finally, Epictetus puts into the mouth of the man standing before God the statement that his (and our) ultimate end is to "Follow Thee (God)".

All through the Discourses Epictetus has hinted that we must be aware of and attempt to fulfill the will of God. But never before has he come out and stated it with such clarity.

Chapter 30:

  1. What to Do in Difficult Circumstances
  2. Conclusion - Stoicism and Christianity (30a)
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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