Works and Days

For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.”  –  Sirach

Knowing this divine art which must be undertaken, we have only to develop those means by which to reach our godly end.  Let our lives be carried out in ceaseless response to the call of virtue.  Let the tranquility we seek be recognized in even the tumult of life; the noble heart shall earn its comfort with its works, and faith shall live thereby.

By the same oath the sun and the moon complete their courses of travel, and do not deviate from the laws made for them, from the beginning of creation and forever.  And by the same oath the stars complete their courses of travel; if he calls their names, they shall respond from the beginning of creation and forever.  –  The Book of Enoch

The lives of human beings reach their apexes in the valiant ease of the righteous.  When the Mind moves bodies such that the vigor of life and the calming of the heart are one and the same, righteousness is perfected, and the strength of a holy man is found to be as natural as the movement of the heavenly bodies; unstoppable, inevitable, and irresistible.  Though his labors seem difficult to others, they are simply the natural consequence of his existence, and he is at peace in their undertaking.

They see the small and remain flexible, they are retiring and not possessive.  They emulate the rivers and seas; because the rivers and seas do not act deliberately, they come to be known for their merits by a natural process of development.  –  Wenzi

In the hands of every human being are the tools by which the Good is wrought, and in every moment of life is an opportunity for salvation by the power which moves those very hands.  To relent from interference with this holy will, to relax with the spirit into the well governed bodily effort of righteous labor, this is the secret to peace in one’s works and days.

The difficulty is to live in the world and to refrain from evil, for the life of a recluse is one of bodily ease.  –  Akbar the Great

So we shall not retreat to the mountains and found our monasteries, but we shall make of ourselves the mountains upon which we might found those very monasteries here and now.  Every home must be a temple, and every person a priest.

In front of Excellence the immortal gods have set sweat, and the path to her is long and steep, and rough at first – yet when one arrives at the top, then it becomes easy, difficult though it still is.  –  Hesiod

Though excellence in pursuit of universal love and benevolence is the goal of every righteous person, it should also be acknowledged that competition in such matters is petty ignorance.  After all, these bodies are captained by One God, undivided from one another in those matters to which competition is so often erroneously taken up.  Though the pursuit of excellence shall be ceaseless for the master of this lifetime, a humble demeanor is the sign by which true mastery shall be known.

Never in history has there been anyone who could make his conduct perfect.  Therefore superior people do not press for completeness in one individual.  They are straight without being divisive, honest without being cutting, direct without being extreme, masterful without being critical.  –  Wenzi

Each body, each organ of the Over-Soul yields with its life an experience of God.  It is not for any one body to accomplish everything, but only for each body to be developed to the limit of perfection in the service of God which it might obtain.  Let each day be filled with works worthy of one whose life God watches with keen and loving interest.

The Way of Heaven has no familiars; it only associates with virtue.  When the attainment of fortune is not one’s own ambition, one is not proud of one’s achievements.  When the occurrence of calamities is not of one’s own making, one does not regret one’s actions.  When the inner mind is calm and quiet, it does not burden its powers.  –  Wenzi

To keep God as that sole object of focus, and yet to comprehend the place of this particular body is the way of wisdom.  To concentrate and labor over only that which is the genuine obligation of this body is to rightly govern its existence.  To fret and worry over that which cannot be done is to voluntarily don chains and fetters.

Those whose words are not consistently true and whose behavior is not consistently appropriate are small people.  Those who are perceptive in a single matter and expert in one skill are middling people.  Those who have everything and use their abilities in a measured way are sages.  –  Wenzi

Though the opportunities in interaction with society are infinite, it is through wise moderation in the application of one’s own dextrous strength and prudence that one may craft for oneself the leisure necessary in which to cultivate the Way.

Sages minimize their affairs, which are thus orderly.  They seek to have little, and thus are sufficed, they are benevolent without trying, trusted without speaking.  They gain without seeking, succeed without striving.  They take naturalness to heart, preserve ultimate reality, embrace the Way, and promote sincerity, so the whole world follows them as echoes respond to sounds, as shadows imitate forms.  What they work on is the root.  –  Wenzi

Not through neglect, but intensity of labor in achieving moderation, reduce the time demanded by the roaring noise of society and turn over the resulting leisure to the Wild, that unmitigated expression of God, the ultimate manifestation of freedom.  Away from the corrupt rules of man, the supreme Law bounding the seemingly endless expanse of reality in which to roam, we stand tall, walk long, and cultivate virtue in the peace of righteousness.

A cattle driver was driving his cart out of town.  When it fell down into a deep gully, something needed to be done, but he stood idly by and prayed to Heracles, who was the only one of all the gods he truly worshiped and honored.  The god appeared next to him and said, “Grab the wheels and whip your oxen.  Pray to the gods when you are doing something or you’ll pray in vain.”  –  Babrius, Fables

The righteous act of Mind is the act of God.  To the extent that prayer is effective, it is in inducing the proper course of that action in this manner.  Adversity arises because the elements of creation are many and disparate, and their guiding force capable of action or inaction.  Inaction provides for action as action provides for inaction.  The flux of creation remains relentlessly in pursuit of God.

If you wish to return to the supreme Way, have deep faith and first accept three precepts.  If you practice in accord with these three precepts consistently from beginning to end, then you will attain the true Way.  The three precepts are: (1) simplifying involvements, (2) not craving anything, (3) quieting the mind.  –  Sima Chengzhen, Sitting in Oblivion

Elegance is perhaps the most important precept of engineering work.  One must endeavor not to take unnecessary action in pursuit of that which is necessary.  With the extreme power afforded by modern technology, one is capable of developing for one’s needs impressively elegant, yet broad and deep solutions which solve that invaluable purpose of simplifying involvements.

With involvements simplified to the greatest possible extent, Mind is free to see to the ends of autonomy.  With one’s house in order, one’s family’s needs met, and one’s community sustained, a tranquil stability arises which lends itself to the cessation of craving and the quieting of the brain.  Extraneous noise having been eliminated, one walks the Way freely and easily.

The wise man is hard on himself and easy on others.  –  The Analects of Confucius

The sage rests in that which others find turmoil.  In doing so, the sage brings unity to the disparate, and the universality of Mind is sent rushing through the particularity of creation.  The virtue of the sage radiates outward, and creation is drawn into harmony therewith.  It is through the sage, the saint, that a persistent, tranquil, yet forceful effort is exerted on behalf of God.  Where necessary, such a person takes on the problems of others, but never to an unsustainable extent.

So mind is the master of form, spirit is the jewel of mind.  When the body is worked without rest, it collapses; when vitality is used without rest, it is exhausted.  Therefore sages, heedful of this, do not dare to be excessive.  –  Wenzi

The way forward has been grasped by human beings of every culture.  But it is up to those who live today to take the helm and steer creation rightly.

Perfected people lean on a pillar that is never shaken, travel a road that is never blocked, are endowed from a resource that is never exhausted, and learn from a teacher that never dies.  They are successful in whatever they undertake, and arrive wherever they go.  Whatever they do, they embrace destiny and go along without confusion.  Calamity, fortune, profit, and harm cannot trouble their minds.  –  Wenzi

All that remains of the religious life is to live.

Now you, whoever you are who try to read these books, since you have received the whole knowledge of this divine science and are now endowed with the secrets of the stars and have learned the first principles of the art, shape yourself in the image and likeness of divinity, so that you may always be a model of excellence.  He who daily speaks about the gods or with the gods must shape his mind to approach the likeness of divinity.

Therefore study and pursue all the distinguishing marks of virtue and, when you have trained yourself in these, be easy of access so that if anyone wishes to consult you about anything, he may approach you without fear.  Be modest, upright, sober, eat little, be content with few goods, so that the shameful love of money may not defile the glory of this divince science.  Try with your training and principles to outdo the training and principles of worthy priests.  For it is necessary that the acolyte of the Sun and Moon and the other gods, through whom all earthly things are governed, should so educate his mind always that it be proved worthy by the attestation of all mankind.  –  Firmicus Maternus, Mathesos Libri VIII

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