Richard G. Petty, MD

Cicero’s Six Mistakes of Man

Today is traditionally taken to be the birthday of the great Roman lawyer, political figure, orator and philosopher Cicero, whose full name was Marcus Tullius Cicero. Nobody really knows the exact date of his birth, but for several centuries, January the 3rd it has been.

His life was extraordinarily successful by the standards of the day, and generations of school children learned some basic history and philosophy from him.

We also learned that success is subjective.

Over two thousand years ago he wrote about the “Six Mistakes of Man:”

  1. The delusion that personal gain is made by crushing others
  2. The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected
  3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it
  4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences
  5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and studying
  6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do

Even after all this time, how much has really changed?

I urge you to think about those six and whether any of them are operating in your life. I often use “The Six” as a jumping off point in therapy or workshops: they often help us to focus on some of our false beliefs and perceptions.

And to celebrate his birthday, here are a few choice Cicero quotations from my own collection.

Enjoy and, perhaps, learn something from them.

“A liar is not believed even though he tells the truth.”

“A man’s own manner and character is what most becomes him.”

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.

“A youth of sensuality and intemperance delivers over a worn out body to old age.”

“Advice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey’s end.”

“All things are full of God.”

“As fire when thrown into water is cooled down and put out, so also a false accusation when brought against a man of the purest and holiest character, boils over and is at once dissipated, and vanishes and threats of heaven and sea, himself standing unmoved.”

“As I approve of a youth that has something of the old man in him, so I am no less pleased with an old man that has something of the youth. He that follows this rule may be old in body, but can never be so in mind.”

“As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age; first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death.”

“Avarice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey’s end.”

“Before beginning, plan carefully.”

“Before you trust a man, eat a peck of salt with him.”

“Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.”

“Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator.”

“By doubting we come at truth.”

“Cultivation to the mind is as necessary as food to the body.”

“Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.”

“Freedom suppressed and again regained bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered.”

“Generosity should never exceed ability.”

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

“Great is the power of habit. It teaches us to bear fatigue and to despise wounds and pain.”

“He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.”

“He who suffers, remembers.”

“If you would abolish avarice, you must abolish its mother, luxury.”

“In a disturbed mind, as in a body in the same state, health can not exist.”

“In everything satiety closely follows the greatest pleasures.”

“In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.”

“Inability to tell good from evil is the greatest worry of man’s life.”

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent.”

“It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.”

“Justice is the crowning glory of the virtues.”

“Many wish not so much to be virtuous, as to seem to be.”

“Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.”

“Nature has placed in our minds an insatiable longing to see the truth.”

“No man is so old as not to think he can live one year more.”

“One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul will ever be destroyed”

“Our minds possess by nature an insatiable desire to know the truth.”

“Reason should direct and appetite obey.”

“Study carefully, the character of the one you recommend, lest their misconduct bring you shame.”

“Superstition is a senseless fear of God.”

“That last day does not bring extinction to us, but change of place.”

“The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.”

“The beauty of the world and the orderly arrangement of everything celestial makes us confess that there is an excellent and eternal nature, which ought to be worshiped and admired by all mankind.”

“The beginnings of all things are small.”

“The celestial order and the beauty of the universe compel me to admit that there is some excellent and eternal Being, who deserves the respect and homage of men.”

“The countenance is the portrait of the soul, and the eyes mark its intentions.”

“The cultivation of the mind is a kind of food supplied for the soul of man.”

“The diseases of the mind are more and more destructive than those of the body.”

“The foolishness of old age does not characterize all who are old, but only the foolish.”

“The forehead is the gate of the mind.”

“The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil”

“The harvest of old age is the recollection and abundance of blessing previously secured.”

“The noblest spirit is most strongly attracted by the love of glory.”

“The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil.”

“There are gems of thought that are ageless and eternal.”

“There are more men ennobled by study than by nature.”

“There is no grief which time does not lessen and soften”

“There is nothing so absurd that some philosopher has not already said it.”

“Through doubt we arrive at the truth.”

“To be content with what we possess is the greatest and most secure of riches.”

“To the sick, while there is life there is hope.”

“True glory strikes root, and even extends itself; all false pretensions fall as do flowers, nor can any feigned thing be lasting.”

“Virtue is its own reward.”

“We are all motivated by a keen desire for praise, and the better a man is, the more he is inspired by glory

“Whatever that be which thinks, which understands, which wills, which acts, it is something celestial and divine and on that account must necessarily be eternal.”

“When you are aspiring to the highest place, it is honorable to reach the second or even the third rank.”

“Work makes a callus against grief.”

About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

logo logo logo logo logo logo