The Living Organism of the Cosmos

Philosophical Forum Natural Philosophy

Created with Sketch.
How is the world around us to be understood? Are we surrounded by a disjointed hodgepodge of innumerable events, objects, and people? Is the world just a scattered multiplicity of things, a chaoctic, fragmented welter? Marcus fundamentally rejects this conception of the world. For him, the cosmos is a whole. That is, the cosmos is one throughly unified, tightly organized, cohesive, and coherent whole. He describes the world as one living being with one nature and one soul. Marcus beleived that every object and every event feeds into that single entity and moves with a single motion. Each and every element of the world cooperates in producing everything else. The living element of the world cooperates in producing everything else. The living organism of the cosmos contains within itself the power to produce all of the parts that come to be within it. 
The process of production is also fed by a continous, reciprocal process of absorption of its parts.
Thus the universe continually unravels old things and spin out new things, which themselves are awallowed back into the whole and again transformed and rewoven. Marcus urges himself to bear in mind the big picture and to keep a holistic perspective on on local events. Up close, the actions of individuals – twists and turns of eventsmay seem disjoined, capricious, or inscrutable. But from the viewpoint of the cosmis whol, all things are implicated in one another and systhetically connected with each other. Nothing that happens occurs at random. Every event is the direct consequence of another one. This causal continuity and connectedness is tight and ubiquitous, according toMarcus. He says “things push and pull each other, and breathe together and are one. He also speaks of the silent force that “pushes and pulls things” (1,77)
Cosmic Naturalism
Marcus Aurelius`philosophy is highly influenced by the early Greek thinkers Heraclitus of Ephesus (535-474 BCE) and the Stoic school master Epictetus (c. 55- c.135)  The prophetic poet-philosopher Heraclitus was a revered and inspiring source of wisdom. Marcus´own Stoicism was inspired hereby. He frequently echoes, and sometimes creatively refashions, Heraclitus´ideas. Indeed, Marcus admiration of the sage of Ephesus is explicit. The Emperor Marcus´ideas of the logos, divine law, cosmic holism and mereology etc. were highly inspired by Heraclitus.
The concept of logos is fundamental to both Heraclitus and the Stoicism:
Although this logos holds forever [is true], people ever fail to comprehend, both before hearing it and once they have heard. Although all things come to pass in accordance with his logos, people are like the untried when they try such words and works as I set forth, distinguishing each according to its nature and telling how it is. But other people are oblivious of what they do awake, just as they are fogetful of what they do asleep.
For Marcus the first and fundamental mereological relationship to recognize is that he is a part of the world controlled by nature. This is the starting point for sound mereology. Second, he reminds himself that he has relationship with other, similar parts. It is the world (= the cosmos = nature) which assigns to each of its parts. The parts do not self-assign. Consequently, Marcus beleives he has no right, as a part, to complain about what is assigned to him by the whole. In Book x, ch. 6 he explicitly states Principle A: what benefits the whole cannot harm the parts. Marcus adds that the whole does nothing that fails to benefit it. All nature he beleives , share this trait of non-self-harm. So, he reasons, by keeping in mind the whole he forms a part of, he will accept whatever happens(x 6)
This is the mereological lesson of cosmic naturalim. We can reconstruct Marcus`reasoning from cosmic naturalism to acceptance of events as follows:
  1.  Each of us is a human part of th whole that is the natural world
  2.  What benefits this whole (the naturalworld) cannot harm the parts [principle A]
  3.  Nothing that happens in this world (natural world) fails to benefit it
  4.  Therefore, each of us can (or at least ought to) accept whatever happens in the natural world(1,99)
The Inner Citadel
What is it that can escort you in order to protect you in this life?
Only one thing: philosophy. It consists in keeping your inner god free from pollution and from damage (2.ll, 17,3)
Be careful of becomming “caesarized”….Keep yourself simple, good, pure, grave, natural, a friend of justice. Revere the gods, be benevolent, affectionate, and fim in accomplishing your duties. Fight in order to remain as philosophy has wished you to be (2.Vl, 30, 1-3)
1. William O. Stephens:Marcus Aurelius: A guide for the Perplexed
2. The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, By Pierre Hadot, Mark Aurel (Römisches Reich, Kaiser), Emperor of Rome Marcus Aurelius