Treating Sickness of the Mind

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 3.1

“What can I think is the reason, Brutus, that since we consist of soul and body an art for the care and keeping of the body has been sought out and its utility has been accredited to the discovery of the immortal gods, but a art of healing for the soul as not as much been desired because its discover nor has it been practiced once it was known, nor has it been applauded with gratitude by so many, and has in fact been held with suspicion or anger by most?

Is this because we judge the body’s sickness and sorrow with the mind but we cannot use the body to sense sickness of the spirit? The outcome is that the mind must render judgment on itself at that moment when the very tool it needs to do this is sick.

But if nature had crafted us at birth to be able to see the soul itself and to perceive it with it as our guide to complete the course of life, there would clear be no one who would require argument and doctrine. As it stands we have received a tiny spark of understanding that we put out so fast because we are twisted by bad habits and opinions that none of nature’s light remains.

Truly, the seeds of virtue are implanted naturally within us and if we let them develop nature would guide us to a happy life. But, still, we find ourselves taken out into the light in a world of evil and the most twisted ideas possible so that it seems like we sucked down madness with our nurse’s milk. When we go with our parents and are given over to teachers, we have already been so steeped in different fallacies that truth has to yield to vanity and nature bows before the confirmation of opinions.”

Quidnam esse, Brute, causae putem cur, cum constemus ex animo et corpore, corporis curandi tuendique causa quaesita sit ars atque eius utilitas deorum immortalium inventioni consecrata, animi autem medicina nec tam desiderata sit, ante quam inventa, nec tam culta, postea quam cognita est, nec tam multis grata et probata, pluribus etiam suspecta et invisa? An quod corporis gravitatem et dolorem animo iudicamus, animi morbum corpore non sentimus? Ita fit ut animus de se ipse tum iudicet, cum id ipsum, quo iudicatur, aegrotet.

Quod si tales nos natura genuisset, ut eam ipsam intueri et perspicere eademque optima duce cursum vitae conficere possemus, haud erat sane quod quisquam rationem ac doctrinam requireret. Nunc parvulos nobis dedit igniculos, quos celeriter malis moribus opinionibusque depravati sic restinguimus, ut nusquam naturae lumen appareat. Sunt enim ingeniis nostris semina innata virtutum, quae si adolescere liceret, ipsa nos ad beatam vitam natura perduceret: nunc autem, simul atque editi in lucem et suscepti sumus, in omni continuo pravitate et in summa opinionum perversitate versamur, ut paene cum lacte nutricis errorem suxisse videamur. Cum vero parentibus redditi, dein magistris traditi sumus, tum ita variis imbuimur erroribus, ut vanitati veritas et opinioni confirmatae natura ipsa cedat.

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From “Extraordinary Popular Delusions”

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