governance of self through difficulties

“Often it happens that the governance is given to the good that a restraint may be put upon superfluity of wickedness. To others providence assigns some mixed lot suited to their spiritual nature; some it will plague lest they grow rank through long prosperity; others it will suffer to be vexed with sore afflictions to confirm their virtues by the exercise and practice of patience. Some fear overmuch what they have strength to bear; others despise overmuch that to which their strength is unequal. All these it brings to the test of their true self through misfortune. …

“As to the other side of the marvel, that the bad now meet with affliction, now get their heart’s desire, this, too, springs from the same causes.” ~Boethius

Governance to the Good

If only it were true that only the good get to govern others, either in government positions, or as business leaders. Sadly, it isn’t. In most of the world today, we either have despots who rule by force and by fear, or some form of democracy where we have to choose among those who decide to run for office. In the business field, if it isn’t by inheritance, it is often the most greedy and the most ruthless who rise to the top.

Plato said that those who choose to run for political office prove by doing so that they are unfit for such office. As a general rule, I agree with him. There are rare exceptions, but usually those who run for office do so because they believe they are better than others, more suited to make decisions for them than they can make for themselves. This is almost always an egotistical belief that is not backed by any facts.

Long Prosperity

Boethus says some who achieve great prosperity (wealth), grow rank because of it. This should not be taken literally. Wealthy people generally don’t smell bad. But many of them do become rotten in a figurative way. They start to value money over people. They value man-made luxuries over the gifts of nature. As a result, they have no qualms about destroying the land to get the gems and gold beneath it. They have no concern for the people who are harmed, sometimes even killed, as a result of their greed. That is how they are “rank”. Of course, Boethus may have meant one of the other definitions of “rank”, but I think the one meaning offensive in odor is the most appropriate for what he was implying.

Boethus says that good people may be plagued with difficulties to prevent them from falling into such a state. We should remember that when we have difficulties. Sometimes, it is just demons having fun with us. Other times, we are being taught a lesson.

Testing Patience

Another reason we may be faced with illness and other difficulties is to test our patience. It is unlikely that it is God, or one of His angels, doing this, however. More likely, it is a demon trying to stop us from going any further on the path to spiritual enlightenment. Understandable, we don’t rejoice when that happens. But in a way, we should. Illness usually means we are paying off a karmic debt, or we are being attacked by demons to slow us down. Either of those means we are on the right path and should not give up. Continue down that path despite the obstacles that test our strength and patience.

From the Darkside

Boethus says that when evil people are likewise vexed with disease and other difficulties, it is the same cause. To a certain degree, that is true. Specifically, it is mostly from karma they have earned. It is unlikely that demons would attack them since they are kindred beings. It is not impossible, however. They are demons, after all. They don’t behave fairly and logically.

One case where the dark forces might choose to attack evil people is an interesting one. Suppose that with his evil deeds, this person is causing others to awaken to the need to develop their spiritual side. That is the last thing the dark forces want, so they will stop this guy, if they can.

Good Governance

So spiritual development is not all happiness and fun. If you are doing it right, you will probably have difficulties. Some come from external forces, some from your own resistance to truth. But besides government, there is another type of governance: self-governance. How we react to difficulties is just as important as how we react to pleasures. Patience and a peaceful disposition are a goal of self-governance. Those who can’t do that are unlikely to go far on the path of spiritual development.


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