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Is Stoicism Greek Daoism?

As Martin Bernal points out in his books Black Athena (Rutgers University Press - Vol. I (1987); Vol. II (1991)), the culture of ancient Greece was substantially influenced by African Egypt up to the time of the eruption of the volcano Santorini (Thera) near Crete around 1626 BC. The eruption of Santorini (Thera) probably caused the end of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, and severely disrupted Greek civilization. Greece remained relatively insular until Alexander the Great (born in 356 BC in Pella, Macedonia) extended Greek influence from the immediate vicinity of Greece to:

At the Beas River, Alexander's army threatened mutiny, forcing him to turn back. Although the Greek empire broke up shortly after Alexander's death in 323 BC, Greece had been opened to substantial contact with the outside world at least as far as Egypt, Central Asia, India, and the border of Tibet.

After Alexander reconnected Greece with much of the Outside World, Greek science and philosophy flourished.

For example, with respect to science, Eratosthenes (276 BC - 194 BC) measured the circumference of the Earth by measuring the angle of the sun near Aswan and at Alexandria, about 500 miles to the north. Since the angle was about 7 degrees, the circumference of the Earth should be about 25,000 miles, which is roughly correct. According to Needham (Science and Civilization in China, volume III, page 225), "... the Chinese and the Greeks were engaged in such observations at about the same time ...".

For example, with respect to philosophy, around 305 BC, a Phoenician merchant carrying Tyrian purple dye to Pireaus was shipwrecked in Greece. The shipwrecked merchant, Zeno of Citium, became a philosopher and began to teach in the Stoa Poikile (Painted Colonnade), so his philosophy was called Stocism. Although very few of Zeno's original writings are known today, some principles of Stocism have been passed down through secondary sources:

Stoicism is basically Pantheistic. According to the Philosophical web page article on Zeno of Citium : "... What is referred to in Stoic writings as "Zeus" in one place, may be referred to as "Nature" elsewhere. ... there is still little distinction between creator and created, or between physical and spiritual. The Stoic worldview is thus closer to that of Daoism, Vedanta or some varieties of Sufism than to orthodox Christianity or Islam. ...".

The two ungenerated and indestructible first principles (archai) of the Stoic Universe are similar to those of the Daoist Universe:

Qi - the matter which is acted upon by

Li - the eternal reason or intelligent designing fire which gives structure to Qi .


Stoicism was widely popular during the Roman Empire, appealing to all levels of Roman society. Two of the most important secondary sources of Stoicism, and some of their sayings, are:

Epictetus (c. 55-135 AD) - a Roman former Slave:

... Zeus [says] "... this body is not thine own, but only clay cunningly compounded. Yet ... we have given thee a certain portion of ourself, this faculty of choice and refusal ... in a word, the faculty which makes use of external impressions; if thou care for this and place all that thou hast therein, thou shalt never be thwarted ..." (Discourses I, 1)

It is a mark of an ungifted man to spend a great deal of time in what concerns his body; ... these things are to be done in passing; and let your whole attention be devoted to the mind. (Enchiridion 41)

... we must do what nature demands ... (Discourses I, 26)

Some things are under our control, while others are not under our control. ... if you think only what is your own to be your own, and what is not your own to be, as it really is, not your own, then ... you ... will do absolutely nothing against your will , ... no one will harm you, for neither is there any harm that can touch you. ... (Enchiridion 1)

When you have recourse to divination ... if it is one of the things which are not under our control ... approach [the diviner] ... having first made up your mind that every issue is indifferent and nothing to you, but that, whatever it may be, it will be possible for you to turn it to good use, and that no one will prevent this. ... (Enchiridion 32)

Keep before your eyes day by day death ... and then you will never have any abject thought, nor will you yearn for anything beyond measure. (Enchiridion 21)

Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) - a Roman Emperor:

The Mind of the universe is social. At all events, it has created the lower forms to serve the higher, and then linked together the higher in a mutual dependence on each other. ... each and all are given their just due ... (Meditations V 30)

Always think of the universe as one living organism, with a single substance, and a single soul; and observe how all things are submitted to the single perceptivity of this one whole, all are moved by its single impulse, and all play their part in the causation of every event that happens. Remark the intricacy of the skein, the complexity of the web. (Meditations VII 9)

Live with the Gods. To live with the gods is to show them at all times a soul contented with their awards, and wholly fulfilling the will of that inward divinity, that particle of himself, which Zeus has given to every man for ruler and guide - the mind and the reason. (Meditations V 27)

All parts of the Whole ... must suffer a change of form ... if dissolution is not simply a mere dispersion of the elements of which I am compounded, it must be a change of the grosser particles into earth-form, and the spritual into air-form, so that they can all be reabsorbed into the universal Reason ... (Meditations X 7)

It is possible to live on earth as you mean to live hereafter. But if men will not let you, then quit the house of life; though not with any feeling of ill-usage. "The hut smokes; I move out." ... (Meditations V 29)


What about Stocism after the Fall of the Roman Empire?

One of the legacies of the Roman Empire was the form of Christianity found in the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and various Protestant denominations.

Did Roman Stoicism influence those forms of Christianity?

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Stoicism, Platonism, and the philosphy of Aristotle were all reflected in the writings of the early Christian fathers. According to The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Stocism: "... The tradition of theories of natural law in ethics seems to stem directly from Stoicism. (Compare Cicero, de Legibus I, 18 with later writers like Aquinas in Summa Theologica II, 2, q. 94.) Christian theologians were certainly receptive to some of the elements of Stoicism. ... Augustine ... chose to follow the Stoics rather than the Platonists (his usual allies among the philosophers) on the question of animals' membership in the moral community (City of God 1.20). ...".

Does Stoicism have any influence in Today's World?

The parts of Earth that followed the cultural patterns of the Roman Empire, including the British Empire of the 19th Century and the United States of America Empire of the 20th Century, considered Greek and Roman philosophies to be their Cultural Foundation. Consequently, political, military, and cultural leaders of British and USA Empires were taught Greek and Roman philosophy.

When USA Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he relied on the Stoic philosophy of Epictetus as a source of strength (see his 1984 book In Love and War).

When Tom Wolfe wrote his 1998 novel A Man In Full, two of his main characters were an escapee from a California prison and an Atlanta real estate developer, each of whom found in Stocism the strength to survive in the contemporary USA (compare Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius of the Roman Empire).

What about the Rest of the Earth?

Although Stoicism may not have had much direct influence in the Outside World beyond Roman/Greek/Russian/Protestant Christianity and Roman/British/USA Empires, you should recall that Stoicism itself may have been brought to the Greeks by Zeno from the Outside World.

If Stoicism is regarded as a derivative of such ancient Outside World philosophies as Chinese Daoism, Indian Vedic Hinduism, and African IFA, and if Judaic Kabbala is regarded as the Natural Law that is the objective of Stoicism, and if Islamic Sufism is regarded as an Islamic derivative of those ancient Outside World philosophies, then the common principles of all those philosophies might be regarded as a Cultural Foundation for all humanity.



Some materials on Stoicism,

and related matters, from which much of the above was taken, are:


Note: Zeno of Citium is NOT the Zeno who formulated the mathematical Zeno's Paradox.



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