Epictetus, the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual, and Fragments/Book 1/Chapter 3


From the thesis that God is the father of mankind how may one proceed to the consequences?

If a man could only subscribe heart and soul, as he ought, to this doctrine, that we are all primarily begotten of God, and that God is the father of men as well as of gods, I think that he will entertain no ignoble or mean thought about himself. Yet, if Caesar adopts you no one will be able to endure your conceit, but if you know that you are a son of Zeus, will you not be elated? As it is, however, we are not, but inasmuch as these two elements were comingled in our begetting, on the one hand the body, which we have in common with the brutes, and, on the other, reason and intelligence, which we have in common with the gods, some of us incline toward the former relationship, which is unblessed by fortune and is mortal, and only a few toward that which is divine and blessed. Since, then, it is inevitable that every man, whoever he be, should deal with each thing according to the opinion which he forms about it, these few, who think that by their birth they are called to fidelity, to self-respect, and to unerring judgement in the use of external impressions, cherish no mean or ignoble thoughts about themselves, whereas the multitude do quite the opposite. 5"For what am I? A miserable, paltry man," say they, and, "Lo, my wretched, paltry flesh!" Wretched indeed, but you have also something better than your paltry flesh. Why then abandon that and cleave to this?

It is because of this kinship with the flesh that those of us who incline toward it become like wolves, faithless and treacherous and hurtful, and others like lions, wild and savage and untamed; but most of us become foxes, that is to say, rascals of the animal kingdom. For what else is a slanderous and malicious man but a fox, or something even more rascally and degraded? Take heed, therefore, and beware that you become not one of these rascally creatures.