The divine nature of reality

Never forget that the universe is a single living organism possessed of one substance and one soul, holding all things suspended in a single consciousness and creating all things with a single purpose that they might work together spinning and weaving and knotting whatever comes to pass.

Marcus Aurelius

This is an interesting take on the nature of reality, because I wouldn’t expect to hear it from someone with Aurelius’s background. I guess I hadn’t put much thought into the idea of an afterlife from a Stoic point of view, because the philosophy predominantly addresses how to live in and enjoy the present.

What Aurelius is expressing is known as Pantheism, “the belief that God consists of everyone and everything. For example, a tree is God, a mountain is God, the universe is God, all people are God.” 1 It reminds me of the popular quote about how we are all the universe experiencing itself.

This is an artist’s impression of a black hole drifting through the Milky Way galaxy. 2

I’m also reminded of the fact that people are made up of smaller communities of creatures and systems that developed into humans over time, and then I think about the universe as a whole and wonder if the universe is some larger being, or part of a larger being. What if we’re actually just part of a digestive tract and black holes are how the energy we produce is passed on to the other systems of the larger organism? What if our universe is a marble in a sack of marbles? You never know.

But in terms of pantheism and how it was understood, that we are all manifestations of the divine or that some divine essence undergirds and flows through all existence, the idea seems to be common to some Buddhists, Hindus, and some forms of Christianity, like Unity, Christian Science, and Scientology. There is also some overlap between Stoicisms understanding of the soul returning to the Cosmic Fire and being reforged as a new soul and the Buddhist idea of the soul reaching Nirvana, escaping the cycle of rebirth and permanently reuniting with the divine essence. Early Christians believed in reincarnation as well, and the Christian idea was probably closer to the Stoic conception because in Buddhist reincarnation there is an expectation that souls retain something from previous lives, even if it’s just karma.

The concept of pantheism also has parallels with mainstream beliefs about Jesus being an expression of God in the physical realm. And of course, there’s the idea that God blew his breathe into humans to give us sentience, but humans carrying a divine spark is a bit different from the idea that all things are God.

Still, it’s interesting to see how ideas about divinity and existence develop over time, often overlapping, and have common themes between the past and present.

1 Zavada, Jack. “What Is Pantheism?” Learn Religions, Feb. 16, 2021,

2 Strickland, Ashley. “Hubble spies stellar ‘ghost’ wandering the Milky Way galaxy” CNN, June 14, 2022,

Being happy with enough

A lot of the problems we have in the world right now are because people want things that they don’t need, like a new phone every two years for example, and it creates a constant dissatisfaction with the present.

I wonder if this is why rich people kill themselves? They have so much, and not knowing what to do with it and not having time to use it must create additional layers of dissatisfaction.

The focus on living in the present moment that Marcus Aurelius wrote about reminds me of Buddhism. Aurelius even says that we shouldn’t worry about the past or the future because they do not exist.

Man’s life is as a point… ever flowing

The time of a man’s life is as a point; the substance of it ever flowing, the sense obscure; and the whole composition of the body tending to corruption. His soul is restless, fortune uncertain, and fame doubtful; to be brief, as a stream so are all things belonging to the body; as a dream, or as a smoke, so are all that belong unto the soul.

Marcus Aurelius

This is an interesting quote. I haven’t finished reading The Meditations or much about Aurelius’s life, so I don’t think I understand it fully, but it seems as though he’s saying that who we are physically and mentally changes from moment to moment and that we are all moving inexorably towards death.

I think it’s important to remember that people change over time and that the total time we have is fleeting. I’m not the same person I was 25 years ago and I won’t be the person I am today in 25 years, or even tomorrow. I do wonder if we should be struggling to make sure that every little thing we do is incredibly meaningful, though. I don’t know if that would make life more meaningful or just stressful. Sometimes it’s good to relax and enjoy frivolous things.

Trying to Approach the Day with the Right Mindset

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.

Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.”

Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, ~170 – 180 CE

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on Stoicism and came across this quote by Marcus Aurelius. It’s a very grounding message.

We should understand people’s bad behavior to be a normal, inherent part of life and living in a society. Rather than be affected, we should make sure that we continue to do the right thing and press on, understanding that people who behave badly are coming from a place of ignorance. And rather than retaliating or getting into a confrontation, we should continue to do our best because it is in the best interest of all involved, including ourselves.

Or at least, that’s what I understood from the quote. I’m not there yet, but it seems like a nice goal to work towards. Basically, not letting other people’s BS affect me and continuing to strive for excellence.