woman looking at mountain

The Universe and its consequences, a stoic view

— mmmarcus, you tell me that Universal Nature would therefore decide everything, and what is best, that everything would be dictated by a "benevolent" fate, but then why wars, why natural disasters, why individual misfortune?

Yes, I understand the question.

You have read that "everything coincides with fate", both good and bad things. But if fate has good intentions and watches over us, why isn't everything around us good? Why is there evil?

The answer, according to Stoicism, is as follows: Whatever unfortunate event occurs, Nature has no intention of harming you.

Its intention is always good.
Universally, it wishes only well.

      But in its work,
      some unintended things happen,
...... while others are a necessary evil.

A surgical operation can be painful, but it is necessary to save a person's life.

On an individual level, death is a sad event. But on a human level, death is necessary to ensure renewal. Steve Jobs brilliantly articulated this in one of his famous speeches: "Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new." (1)

The death of human beings allows humanity to evolve.

Sometimes the forest has to burn in order to regenerate its entire ecosystem. This is called controlled burn or "regeneration by fire." The burning of organic material releases nutrients that were previously locked up in the plant biomass and improves soil fertility by promoting seed germination.

Fire, a destructive element, thus becomes a stimulator of new growth.

Over time, natural events as catastrophic as a volcanic eruption serve as a catalyst for social change and the re-evaluation of values and beliefs. These events, which shake up humanity, usually heighten global awareness of ecological and human interdependencies. They almost always foster a sense of unity and increased cooperation between nations and cultures; when international solidarity manifests itself in post-disaster relief and reconstruction efforts. The collective memory that emerges from the emotions triggered by the shock seals the community's identity and encourages future generations to learn from the past.

What if tsunamis, storms and deadly floods were a necessary evil in humanity's grand plan? A tragedy that we humans cannot really understand.

Original impulse & accidental consequence

What seems sad or unjust to you in a moment of your life becomes an "accidental consequence" of the original will of Nature, an unavoidable side effect that results from the primary will of the universe: the "original impulse"

— "Accidental consequence"? "Original impulse"? Can you communicate with me in plain English?

Yes, I will try. Note that this teaching-specific vocabulary is in some ways necessary for learning. It helps to establish the terms.

>> The accidental consequence is also sometimes named the necessary consequence.

>> The original impulse is the primary will of the cosmos that may be behind events that you don't understand when you look at them individually.

The accidental/necessary consequence is essentially a side effect:

Universal Reason, in its original intention,
seeks only that which is good.

This fundamental aspect of Stoic philosophy holds that the cosmos functions according to a rational and benevolent plan, in which every event serves a purpose that serves the greater good, even if the immediate benefit is not obvious; and it is from this perspective, of which we perceive misfortune or adversity as an opportunity for growth and development, that we can perceive a fabric of universal harmony. When you align with this universal foundation, you are invited to view your experiences through a lens of
objective acceptance.

This alignment encourages us to face life's challenges with equanimity, understanding that every event, no matter how difficult, is guided by this inherent goodness and serves as a catalyst for our own evolution. In this way, you not only promote your inner peace, but also make a positive contribution to the cosmic order by actively participating in the unfolding of universal goodness.

Consider a craftsman who is given wood to craft a piece of furniture, he must saw, cut, chisel, get rid of useless scraps. The wood may even break during the work.
In this creative process there is change and destruction.
Just like in nature, just like in your life.

The same applies to the History of the World.
The same applies to your story.

In nature, as in life, these processes take place independently of our actions or will. The original intention is therefore good, but this intention of the Universal Reason has to deal with simultaneous phenomena that elude its original intention, due to unpredictable factors, due to the complex interrelationships that force it to make decisions.

Faced with a limited number of options, each of which has advantages and disadvantages, Nature creates unfortunate people along the way, who are precisely these "accidental consequences".
In spite of themselves.

The unfortunate, that is you/me, have to unlearn what has always seemed normal to us: to be sad when a sad event occurs. Yes, there is a natural phenomenon in us humans that causes this feeling. Our central nervous system as the control tower of our emotions triggers this or that feeling or emotion, but we must not allow it to take control. We will talk about this in a later article.


Let me share an image with you:

The Stoic philosopher Hierocles (2) developed the analogy of concentric circles, known today as "Circles of Hierocles". These nested circles illustrate our belonging to a global community. They are the image of our interdependence in this huge ensemble that is the universe/life. They represent our inner dialogue, the relationships with our closest environment, family and friends, the communities we belong to, and most importantly, humanity as a whole.

We form a Whole.

If Hierocles chose circles instead of squares, it is because they stand for perfection, for the natural interlocking of all things. Everything fits into this Whole. The world is a unified sphere. These circles fit together like Russian dolls and form a composition, a Whole that cannot exist perfectly without all its parts. Each part is therefore grateful for the existence of the other. This gives rise to our sense of unity, of connectedness between us, the men and women of the world.

The theory of stoicism says that if you oppose a natural phenomenon, one of these consequences, you break the unity of the circle. Therefore, it is necessary to accept things, because everything that happens is the consequence of a greater plan, the one the universe has in store for us.

Soon we will come back to the concept that is at the center of the Stoic teaching: Acceptance.


(1) Steve Jobs has always been a source of inspiration for me, despite his well-known dark side, so here's a brief introduction, explaining why I'm featuring him in this space:

# Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was an American entrepreneur and inventor, co-founder of Apple, who is often referred to as a visionary. He was an important figure in consumer electronics, most notably pioneering the introduction of the personal computer, the portable digital music player, the smartphone and the tablet computer. Steve Jobs' pursuit of perfection in product design, his appreciation of creativity and passion, and his ability to overcome failure reflect philosophical principles such as idealism, existentialism and stoicism. A bold innovator, Jobs embodies a willingness to go his own way, while his penchant for simplicity is reminiscent of minimalism. Something that echoes deeply in me. His view of death as motivation also provides food for thought in the context of our philosophy.
# The quote in the article is from his graduation speech to Stanford students in 2005: Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, Youtube. For many, this is one of Steve Jobs' most memorable public appearances.

(2) Hierocles was a Stoic philosopher from the first half of the second century AD. Hierocles is known to have written a treatise entitled Elements of Ethics, of which around 300 lines have survived. The most famous of these deals with Stoic cosmopolitanism, which is based on the analogy of concentric circles. The concept is as follows: The spirit of each individual forms the center of these circles, which then respectively include the body, the close relatives (father and mother, brothers and sisters, wife, children), the more distant relatives (grandparents, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, cousins), all our relatives, the demons, the tribe, the city, the ethnic group, and finally the entire human race. Our duty to the members of each circle, according to Hierocles, is to behave towards each circle as we behave towards the members of the lower circle. In this way, we gradually behave towards the whole of humanity as we would behave towards our parents and ourselves.