mountain and night sky

In stoicism, you are part of a Whole

It's common to present Stoicism with the most emblematic phrases of the school. If you open a video on the subject from YouTube or any other platform, you'll come across one of these phrases in no time. They come from Epictetus, Seneca or Marcus Aurelius. They have stood the test of time, and if mankind doesn't one day succeed in truly understanding and changing the human brain, our children and grandchildren will be reading them too:

"There is that which depends on us and that which doesn't depend on us."

"It's not the things that worry us, but the judgment we make about things."

"Happiness depends on the quality of your thoughts."

But I don't want you to dive straight into the heart of the teaching. Before I serve you dinner, I want to set the table. Not far away, the food is simmering on the fire and it won't be long before it's served. But for now, just soak up the atmosphere.

Just to be clear: I like to talk about something fundamental first, so you understand why you shouldn't worry; why this infamous dichotomy of control: what depends on you and what doesn't. And so today I want to talk to you about the universe and your place in it.

Two kinds of nature

There are two kinds of nature,

The Universal or Common Nature (fate, the order of things, the cosmic law) and our Own Nature (your own character). Your Own Nature is interwoven with the Universal Nature, for your Own Nature is only an emanation of the latter.

Both have a will of their own.

The essence of stoicism is to reconcile them.

Your own nature, i.e. your perception of events, must be in harmony with those events. You mustn't regret them or get angry about them, because what happens, happens.

      — So you're saying that I've to accept what happens to me.

      — Yes, that's right, you have to accept what happens to you.

      — Nothing new under the sun, mmmarcus: /

      —The most important thing is __why__ you should accept what happens to you. You don't have to accept what happens to you just because it's easier to be fatalistic. You have to accept what happens to you because if you don't, you'd be going against what Nature intended for you. And you yourself are a part of Nature. So if you don't accept what happens, it ultimately means that you don't accept yourself.

Do you follow me?

Not yet? Then let's continue:

Marcus Aurelius - Meditations, 5, 8 tells us in his own words (please note that the ancient texts of Marcus Aurelius aren't easily accessible, but are of incredible depth, so please take the time to read them several times if necessary - no rush - just take your time):

“Thus there are two reasons why you must be content with what happens to you:
first because it was for you it came to pass, for you it was ordered and to you it was related, a thread of destiny stretching back to the most ancient causes;
secondly because that which has come to each individually is a cause of the welfare and the completion and in very truth of the actual continuance of that which governs the Whole. For the perfect Whole is mutilated if you sever the least part of the contact and continuity alike of its causes as of its members;
and you do this so far as in you lies, whenever you are disaffected, and in a measure you are destroying it.” 

Whether you're sick,
Whether you have lost a loved one
Whether you're sad for any reason,

it's all part of a universal totality of causes and consequences that make up the cosmos.

Each thing is interconnected with the other.

interwoven like the threads of a vast fabric that would make up the entire universe.

Every phenomenon, every obstacle, every variable that changes the course of a thing obeys a Universal Reason, this superior force that governs everything which stoics call: the Whole.

You can choose to see it as negative fate | or positive fate.


You must accept each event as a perfectly chiseled piece of a puzzle, that of a small ensemble: your life, and that of a large ensemble: the universe and its will.

The small puzzle of your life and the big puzzle of the universe with its own consciousness are interwoven into one and the same Whole, forming what Marcus Aurelius calls a "sacred connection."

Two principles

A sacred connection bond through two principles (1):

1/ a passive principle, which is matter,

2/ and an active principle, which is reason (energy/will) operating in the universe; Universal Reason, the omnipresent logic that governs everything that constitutes and surrounds us. This active principle holds everything together. It's a system in which all parts are interdependent and united by a principle based on the same relationship to the Universe, in which each microcosm reflects the divine macrocosm.

— I'm lost mmmarcus.

Stay with me,
it's important.

Let me put it another way:

Life, according to the Stoics, can only be understood if you understand that your being, **that which you are**, is amalgamated with this active principle, which is the Whole.

You must see everything that happens to you as part of this active principle.

Seeing this Whole
and accepting that every single component of your life
is part of it
is the first step.
That's why I'm telling you about it today.
The essence of Stoic logic is derived from this idea.

Stoicism is a practical philosophy that helps people to lead a happier lives by by assenting to destiny, by accepting what is .
But how can you regret this or that event, this or that thing, when that event or thing is part of a Whole that forms a seamless, logical and interconnected fabric that the universe has intended just so?

Understanding that you belong to it  means accepting that your destiny is not entirely in your hands, that you are partly at its mercy and that the only thing that is really in your power is ___ to do your best //.

Doing your best and accepting the rest is the core of the stoic theory.

Accept the rest out of //love// for the Whole.
This is what wisdom should lead you to.
To love and desire the Whole wholeness-ly.

That you embrace every event, whether sad or happy, as if it were your own wish.

All events that have brought you both pain and joy have been determined for you, and since they have happened according to the supreme will, you must also want them, even love them, even the most difficult ones. And so your will will be in harmony with the divine power.

Why can the people around you sometimes be depressed?

Because they can't accept what happens to them.
Because they don't want to believe that there's a reason for it all.

When you refuse to accept something that happens to you, you're resisting the omniscient will, and causing a disturbance within you. A mental disorder: restlessness, anxiety, depression. You disrupt the natural connection that should exist between the events as they happen and the way you receive these events, i.e. your emotional reaction, your judgment of these events.

This is what Epictetus, said 1,800 years ago in his Enchiridion (Handbook), 8.:

“Do not seek to have everything that happens happen as you wish, but wish for everything to happen as it actually does happen, and your life will be serene.” 

and I can't think of better explanation than the one given by Pierre Hadot, in the The Inner Citadel:

“By consenting to this present event that is coming to me and in which the whole world is involved, I want what universal reason wants, I identify with it, in a sense of participation and belonging to a Whole that goes beyond the limits of the individual. I experience a feeling of connectedness with the universe and immerse myself in the immensity of the cosmos.” 

Love of the Whole means accepting the sequence of all events, regardless of their nature, and experiencing a sense of intimacy with Universal Reason.

Stoicism is sometimes seen as a philosophy of self-love; and this is partly true, as it encourages you to be in harmony with yourself. But this is only possible if your own human nature is in harmony with the Whole of which you are a part, i.e. the common nature.

The substance of which you are made and which determines your decisions, your human nature, is part of the same unifying substance, the common nature (Marcus Aurelius - Meditations, 12, 30).

“One light of the Sun, even though it be sundered by walls, by mountains, by a myriad other barriers.
One common Matter, even though it be sundered in a myriad individual bodies.
One vital spirit, even though it be sundered in a myriad natural forms and individual outlines.
One intelligent spirit, even though it appears to be divided.”

Marc Aurele, in another passage from the Meditations 3, 16 also tells us:

“It remains the peculiar mark of the good man
to love and welcome what befalls him and is the thread fate spins for him;
not to soil the divinity seated within his breast
nor to disquiet it with a mob of imaginations, but to preserve and to propitiate it, following God in orderly wise.”

Love the Whole,
Be coherent with the Whole. To this end, work towards raising your consciousness. Let it rise beyond your being, to an almost … cosmic level.


(1) As expounded by Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism, in texts that have not survived to the present day but are reproduced in secondary sources or summaries by other authors.