The Nature of the Soul

Cicero

Cicero

It’s impossible to locate an earthly origin of souls. There’s nothing mixed or compounded in souls, they’re not earth or made of earth. They’re not even moist or airy or fiery. There’s nothing in these elements that accounts for the power of memory, mind or thought, that recalls the past, foresees the future or comprehends the present. These faculties are divine; you won’t find a way for them to get to man except from god. The natural power of the soul is therefore unique, distinct from the usual and familiar elements. Whatever it is that thinks, knows, lives and grows must be heavenly, divine, and therefore eternal. And god, who is recognized by us, can only be recognized by a mind that is free and unencumbered, distinct from any mortal compound, sensing all and setting all in motion, itself endowed with eternal movement. The human mind consists of the same element, the same nature.—Marcus Tullius Cicero, Consolation

“The Divine Felicity of His Style”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Marcus Tullius Cicero

When I was a boy, I was fonder of Seneca than of Cicero, and till I was twenty years old could not bear to spend any time in reading him; while all the other writers of antiquity generally pleased me. Whether my judgment be improved by age, I know not; but am certain, that Cicero never pleased me so much when I was fond of those juvenile studies as he does now when I am grown old; not only for the divine felicity of his style, but the sanctity of his heart and morals: in short, he has inspired my soul, and made me feel myself a better man. I make no scruple, therefore, to exhort our youth to spend their hours in reading and getting his books by heart, rather than in the vexatious squabbles and peevish controversies with which the world abounds. For my own part, though I am now in the decline of life, yet as soon as I have finished what I have in hand, I shall think it no reproach to me to seek a reconciliation with my Cicero, and renew an old acquaintance with him, which for many years has been unhappily intermitted.—Erasmus, Letter #499 to Johannes Ulattenus