Epictetus, one of my favorite philosophers, was widely known for his fascinating philosophical ideas. Although he was a slave at a young age, he managed to pursue stoic philosophy under an influential teacher who played a huge role in making him great.
It’s said that Epictetus’ teachings influenced more people than Plato’s. Many people, including affluent folks and great thinkers, were highly interested in his teachings.
Here are some of his brilliant philosophical teachings I would love to share with you.
1.How To Achieve Your Goals
According to the stoic philosopher, you can only get what you want if you work extremely hard. He also believed you can achieve your goals if you quit doing anything that doesn’t move you towards them and only
2.Stop Being Concerned With Things Beyond Your Power
Epictetus taught that we should only be concerned with the things we can change. He believed it’s a waste of time and energy to be concerned with the things, such as other people’s character, the past, or the weather, which we don’t have the power to change. He argued that we only live well when we allow the things we can’t control do as they please.
3.Only Care About The Things That Matter
Epictetus noticed that people were stressed because they cared about many things. They cared about their estate, brother, slave, pet, emperor, the weather, and the society. He advised people that they could reduce their burdens by choosing to only care about the things that truly mattered to them.
4.There is A Creator
This great philosopher also argued that all the things in the universe reveal the presence of an artificer as they could not have occurred randomly. He believed that things such as our intellect and sexual intercourse were purposefully designed by a Higher Power. He asked non-believers to explain, ‘how objects so wonderful and workmanlike should come to being at random and spontaneously.’
5.Anxiety Occurs When We Want Things That Are Beyond Our Control
‘When I see a man in anxiety, I say to myself. What can it be that this fellow wants? For if he did not want something that was outside his control, how could he be in anxiety?’ – Epictetus, Stoic Philosopher
Epictetus argued that we become anxious when we want something that is beyond our control. He provided an example of a good singer who only becomes anxious when singing in front of a crowd because she wants the crowd to applause her but fears it might not do so. This singer could not have been anxious if she focused on her singing (which she can control). She only became anxious because she focused on applause (which she couldn’t control).
6.Understand The True Nature of Everything You Love
Epictetus urged his students to understand the true nature of the things they loved so that they won’t be sad when they lose them. For instance, he advised people who loved their family members to realize that they are vulnerable to death so that they won’t be disturbed when they die. Also, he advised people who owned an earthen vessel to understand its true nature so that they won’t be disturbed when the vessel breaks.
7.Your Opinions Determine Your Reactions
To illustrate this point, Epictetus provided an example of a man who wept after his son passed away. He revealed that the passing away of the man’s son was not a bad thing because it could have affected the whole society if it was bad. However, the fact that it only affected this man shows that this man had some opinions about his son. Maybe he thought that there is no one as wonderful as his son. His opinions made him devastated when he lost his son.
Epictetus also provided an example of an insult. He revealed that we react wrongly to an insult because of our opinions towards it.
Hope you enjoyed Epictetus’ ideas. I welcome you to add more of his ideas in the comment box or reveal the idea you agree or disagree with.
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Epictetus on How to Unite with God/Infinite Intelligence.
Many mystics and spiritual leaders believe the main goal of life is to unite with God/Infinite Intelligence. They believe uniting with God makes life blissful and brings higher wisdom and knowledge to an individual. For this reason, I researched on what great thinkers thought on how to unite with The Creator and I stumbled upon Epictetus’ idea.
According to Epictetus, you unite with God when you make God’s will your will. As he put it ‘A person who reasons well, understands and considers, that if he joins himself to God, he shall go safely through his journey. ‘How do you mean join himself to God?’ That whatever is the will of God may be his will too, that whatever is not the will of God, may not be his.’ (John Bonforte, Philosophy of Epictetus)
Epictetus thus trusted that accepting God’s will results in unity with God. According to him, you accept God’s will when you stop being attached to anything since God subjected everything to change: you realize that nothing you have is permanent because things are always changing. You also stop idolizing your material possessions and believing they are necessary for your survival.
Epictetus also believed that to accept God’s will, you must avoid feeling sad when something bad happens to your possessions because doing so is resisting God’s will. Feeling bad when something happens to your possessions shows that you want to retain forever what God made temporary. The Stoic philosopher wanted us to thankfully receive whatever the universe gives us, and let it go without regrets when the universe takes it back.
Furthermore, he trusted that you make God’s will your will when you place your ‘pursuits under the direction of God’ and accept whatever life throws at you. He wrote, ‘Say to yourself, ‘I have placed my pursuits under the direction of God. Is it his will that I should have a fever? It is my will too. Is it his will that I should obtain anything? It is my will too.’ Epictetus trusted God so much that he believed that whatever the Universe/God allowed to happen was good.
He believed God controlled everything including our experiences and possessions. He trusted that The Creator determined what happens to us and what we can amass in this world.
To sum up, Epictetus believed that accepting whatever happens showed one’s trust in God and understanding of the nature of the universe. This, he believed was the surest way to unite with God.
‘Conduct me, O God, and thou, O destiny. Wherever your decrees have fixed my lot. I follow cheerfully.’ – Epictetus (John Bonforte, Philosophy of Epictetus)
Bonforte, J. (1955). Philosophy of Epictetus. New York: The Philosphical Library
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12 Incredible Quotes That Reveal Epictetus’ Thoughts on God/Infinite Intelligence
I love Infinite Intelligence. (You can call it God if you like. I don’t care). I’m fascinated by how this Intelligence designed both living and non-living things. I always wonder how it designed the brain, digestive system, sun, stars, and everything in the universe. I’m obsessed with knowing how it works, what it wants, and how it created the world. For this reason, I love studying what great thinkers wrote about it. One of the great thinkers that loved talking about God/Infinite Intelligence was Epictetus, the great Stoic philosopher. I gathered some of his powerful thoughts on Infinite Intelligence/God.
- ‘Were I a nightingale, I would act the part of a nightingale; were I a swan, the part of a swan, but since I am a reasonable creature, it is my duty to praise God.’ (John Bonforte; the Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘If any is unhappy, remember that he is so for himself; for God made all men to enjoy happiness and peace.’ (John Bonforte; the Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘A person who reasons well, understands, and considers that if he joins himself to God, he shall go safely through his journey. How do you mean join himself to God? That whatever is the will of God may be his will too, that whatever is not the will of God, may not be his.’ (John Bonforte; the Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘If you will always remember that God stands by as a witness of whatever you do, either in soul or in body, you will never err, either in your prayers or actions, and you will always have God abiding with you.’ (John Bonforte; the Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘Great is God, who has supplied us with these instruments to till the ground; Great is God, who has given us hands and organs of digestion; Who has made us to grow insensibly, to breathe in sleep.’ (John Bonforte; the Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘So when you have shut your doors, and darkened your room, remember never to say that you are alone, but God is within, and your soul is within.’ (John Bonforte; The Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘But you are a primary existence. You are a distinct portion of the essence of God, and contain a certain portion of Him within yourself.’ (John Bonforte; The Philosophy of Epictetus).
- Assuredly from the very structure of all made objects we are accustomed to prove that the work is certainly the product of some artificer, and has not been constructed at random – (Oldfather, Epictetus, The Discourses)
- ‘You carry God about with you, poor wretch, and you know nothing of Him. Do you suppose I mean some external idol made of gold or silver? It is within yourself that you carry Him; and you do not observe that you profane Him by impure thoughts and unclean actions.’ (John Bonforte; The Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘From God, the seeds of our being are descended, not only to our fathers and grandfathers, but to all things that are produced and born on earth; especially, to rational creatures, since they alone are qualified to communicate with God.’ (John Bonforte; The Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘If you fix your desires on riches, health, power, honors, your country, friends, children. In short, on anything beyond the control of your will, – you will be unfortunate. But fix them on God, give yourself to Him, let Him govern, let your powers be ranged on the same side as His, and how can you any longer be unprosperous?’ (John Bonforte; The Philosophy of Epictetus).
- ‘If a person could be persuaded that we are originally descended from God, and that He is the Father of all on earth and in heaven, I conceive he would never think of himself, meanly or ignobly.’ (John Bonforte; The Philosophy of Epictetus).
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