Enchiridion. Chapter 5. Of the Diversity of Affection
6 min read
6 min read
Our king Reason may be oppressed verily, yet because of the eternal law which God hath graven in him he cannot be corrupted but that he shall grudge and call back.
To whom, if the residue of the commonalty will obey, he shall never commit anything at all either to be repented or of any jeopardy: but all things shall be administered with great moderation discreetly, with much quietness and tranquillity. But as touching affections, verily stoics and peripatetics vary somewhat, though both agree in this that we ought to live after reason, and not after affections. But stoics will when we have used for a season (as it were a schoolmaster to teach us our first principles) the affections which immediately are stirred up of the sensual powers, and now become to judgment and true examination what is to be ensured or chosen, and what to be eschewed or forsaken, that then we utterly damn and forsake them. For then are they (as they say) not only no profit to very wisdom, but also hurtful and noxious, and therefore they will that a perfect wise man should lack all such motions, as diseases or sicknesses of the mind, yea and scarcely they grant to a wise man those first motions, more gentle preventing reason which they call fantasies or imaginations. Peripatetics teach the affections not to be destroyed utterly, but to be refrained, and that the use of them is not utterly to be refused, for because they think them to be given of nature, as a prick or a spur to stir a man to virtue: as wrath maketh a man bold and hardy, and is a matter of fortitude. Envy is a great cause of policy, and in likewise of the other.
Socrates in a certain book that Plato made called Phedo seemeth to agree with stoics, where he thinketh philosophy to be nothing else but a meditation or practising of death, that is to say that the mind withdraw herself as much as she can from corporal and sensible things, and convey herself to those things which be perceived with reason only, and not of the sensible powers. First of all therefore thou must behold and consider diligently all the motions, movings or stirring of thy mind and have them surely known. Furthermore thou must understand no motions to be so violent but they may be either refrained of reason, or else turned to virtue. Notwithstanding I hear everywhere this contagious opinion, that some should say they be constrained to vices: and on the other side many for lack of knowledge of themselves follow such motions as the sayings or decrees of reason: in so much that whatsoever wrath or envy doth counsel or move them to do, that they call the zeal of God: and as thou seest one commonwealth to be more unquiet than another: so is one man more inclined or prone to virtue than another, which difference cometh not of the diversity of minds, but either of the influence of celestial bodies, or else of our progenitors, or else of the bringing up in youth, or of the complexion of the body. The fable of Socrates of carters and horses good and bad is none old wives’ tale: for thou mayst see some to be born of so moderate, soft, quiet and gentle disposition, so easy to be handled, to be turned and winded, that without business they may be induced to virtue, and runneth forward by their own courage without any spurring. To some clean contrary thou mayst perceive to have happened: a body rebellious as a wild and kicking horse: in so much that he which tameth him shall have enough to do and sweat apace, and yet scarce with a very rough bit, scarce with a waster and with sharp spurs can subdue his fierceness. If any such one hath happened to them, let never that, rather thy heart fail thee, but so much the more fervently set upon it, thinking on this wise: not that the way of virtue is stopped or shut up from thee: but a larger matter of virtue to be offered unto thee. But and if so be that nature hath endued thee with a gentle mind, thou art not therefore straightway better than another man, but happier, and yet again on that manner wise art thou more happy, so that thou art also more bound. How be it what is he that is endued with so happy gifts of nature, which hath not abundantly things enough to wrestle withal. Therefore in what part shall be perceived most rage or rebellion to be, in that part reason our king must watch diligently.
There be certain vices appropriate to every country, as to break promise is familiar to some: to some riot or prodigality: to some bodily lust or pleasure of the flesh, and this happeneth to them by the disposition of their countries. Some vices accompany the complexion of the body, as appetite and lust for the company of women and the desire of pleasures and wanton sports accompany the sanguine men. Wrath, fierceness, cursed speaking followeth the choleric men. Grossness of mind, lack of activity, sluggishness of body, and to be given to much sleep, followeth the phlegmatic man. Envy, inward heaviness, bitterness, to be solitary, self-minded, sullen and churlish followeth the melancholic person. Some vices abate and increase after the age of man, as in youth lust of the body, wasteful expenses and rashness, or foolish-hardiness. In old age niggardliness or too much saving, waywardness and avarice. Some vices there be which should seem appropriate to kind as fierceness to the man, vanity to the woman and desire of wreak, or to be revenged. It fortuneth now and then that nature, as it were to make amends, recompenseth one disease or sickness of the mind, with another certain contrary good gift or property. One man is somewhat prone or inclined to pleasure of worldly pastimes, but nothing angry, nothing envious at all. Another is chaste, but somewhat proud or high-minded, somewhat hasty, somewhat too greedy upon the world. And there be which be vexed with certain wonderful and fatal vices, with theft, sacrilege and homicide: which truly thou must withstand with all thy might, against whose assault must be cast a certain brazen wall of sure purpose. On the other side some affections be so nigh neighbours to virtue, that it is jeopardous lest we should be deceived, the diversity is so dangerous and doubtful.
These affections are to be corrected and amended, and may be turned very well to that virtue which they most nigh resemble. There is some man (because of example) which is soon set a-fire, is hot, at once provoked to anger with the least thing in the world, let him refrain and sober his mind, and he shall be bold and courageous, nothing faint-hearted or fearful, he shall be free of speech without dissimulation. There is another man somewhat holding, or too much saving, let him put to reason, and he shall be called thrifty and a good husband. He that is somewhat flattering shall be with moderation courtesy and pleasantness. He that is obstinate may be constant. Solemness may be turned to gravity. And that hath too much of foolish toys, may be a good companion.
And after the same manner of other somewhat easier diseases of the mind, we must beware of this only that we cloak not the vice of nature with the name of virtue, calling heaviness of mind gravity, cruelty justice, envy zeal, filthy niggardliness thrift, flattering good fellowship, knavery or ribaldry urbanity or merry speaking.
The only way therefore to felicity is first that thou know thyself: moreover that thou do nothing after affections, but in all things after the judgment of reason: let reason be sound and pure and without corruption: let not his mouth be out of taste, that is to say, let him behold honest things. But thou wilt say: it is an hard thing that thou commandest: who sayeth nay? And verily the saying of Plato is true: whatsoever things be fair and honest, the same be hard and travailful to obtain. Nothing is more hard than that a man should overcome himself. But then is there no greater reward than is felicity?
Jheronymus (Jerome) spake that thing excellently as he doth all other things: nothing is more happy than a christian man, to whom is promised the kingdom of heaven: nothing is in greater peril than he which every hour is in jeopardy of his life: nothing is more strong than he that overcometh the devil: nothing is more weak than he that is overcome of the flesh. If thou ponder thine own strength only, nothing is harder than to subdue the flesh unto the spirit. If thou shalt look on God thy helper, nothing is more easy. Then now therefore conceive with all thy might and with a fervent mind the purpose and profession of the perfect life. And when thou hast grounded thyself upon a sure purpose, set upon it and go to it lustily: man’s mind never purposed anything fervently that he was not able to bring to pass. It is a great part of a christian life to desire with full purpose and with all his heart to be a christian man, that thing which at the first sight or meeting, at the first acquaintance or coming to shall seem impossible to be conquered or won, in process of time shall be gentle enough and with use easy: in conclusion with custom it shall be very pleasant. It is a very proper saying of Hesiodus: the way of virtue is hard at the beginning, but after thou hast crept up to the top there remaineth for thee very sure quietness. No beast is so wild which waxeth not tame by the craft of man. And is there no craft to tame the mind of him that is the tamer of all things? That thou might be whole in thy body, thou canst steadfastly purpose and command thyself for certain years to abstain from drinking of wine, to forbear the flesh and company of women: which things the physician being a man prescribed to thee. And to live quietly all thy life canst thou not rule thine affections, no not a few months? Which thing God, that is thy creator and maker, commandeth thee to do? To save thy body from sickness there is nothing which thou doeth not: to deliver thy body and thy soul also from eternal death dost thou not these things which infidels, ethnics and gentiles have done.