Stoicism advocates for living in accordance with nature as one of its central principles. However, the concept of “living in accordance with nature” in Stoicism is somewhat different from what we might initially assume.
In Stoicism, “nature” refers not only to the natural world but also to the rational order of the universe. It’s the recognition that the cosmos operates according to a rational and harmonious plan. This plan is often referred to as the “Logos” in Stoic philosophy, representing an intelligent and purposeful design governing the universe.
Stoics believe that humans possess a unique faculty of rationality, which sets them apart from other creatures. Living in accordance with nature, from a Stoic perspective, means aligning one’s rational faculty with the rational order of the universe. This involves using reason to understand and accept the natural order of things, including events and circumstances beyond our control.
Acceptance of the External World
Stoicism teaches that many aspects of life, such as illness, death, and the behaviour of others, are beyond our control. Living in accordance with nature means accepting these external events as part of the natural order and not resisting them with emotional turmoil.
Focusing on Virtue
According to Stoicism, the one thing entirely within our control is our own character and choices. Therefore, living in accordance with nature also means focusing on the development of virtue (arete). Virtue, in the Stoic sense, includes qualities like wisdom, courage, justice, and self-discipline. By cultivating these virtues, individuals align their own characters with the rational order of the universe.
Embracing Stoic Ethics
Stoicism emphasises that the virtuous life is the most fulfilling and in harmony with the Logos. This ethical framework guides individuals to make choices that are just, courageous, and wise, regardless of external circumstances.
Living in accordance with nature to attain Eudaimonia
By living in accordance with nature, which entails practicing virtue and accepting the natural course of events, Stoicism aims to help individuals achieve eudaimonia, often translated as “flourishing” or “living a good life.” Eudaimonia is seen as the ultimate goal of human existence in Stoicism.
The Stoic idea of living accordance with nature involves aligning one’s rationality with the rational order of the universe, accepting external events with equanimity, and cultivating virtue in one’s character to attain a state of eudaimonia. It encourages individuals to focus on what they can control—namely, their own choices and moral development—while maintaining tranquility in the face of life’s inevitable ups and downs. These things are not easily attained quickly, but use of a daily mantra which focusses on this concept can help slowly change thought patterns.
How does this relate to meditation?
Stoicism’s call to live in accordance with nature finds a natural ally in meditation. Both practices share the aim of aligning one’s inner state with the fundamental order of the universe. Stoicism teaches that living in accordance with nature involves understanding and accepting the rational structure of the cosmos, as well as one’s own rational faculty. Meditation, on the other hand, helps individuals cultivate self-awareness, emotional balance, and a deeper connection to the present moment. Through meditation, practitioners can quiet the distractions of daily life and access a state of inner calm and clarity that mirrors the Stoic ideal of inner tranquility. In essence, meditation serves as a practical tool for individuals to better grasp and embody the Stoic principle of living in harmony with the natural order, both externally and within themselves.