Search Results for Plato
Neoplatonism is the philosophical system of Plotinus (205-70 CE), extending into the 7th century, that synthesizes Platonic, Aristotelian and Pythagorean ideas.
Essentially, Plotinus proposes a series of increasingly specific emanations from a single metaphysical Source. The first emanation from the Source is a ‘World Soul,’ regarded as a metaphysical repository of intelligence and knowledge, something like a Platonic Form.
From the Word Soul emanate individual souls.
Plotinus’ works were edited and put into six groups of nine, called the “Enneads,” by his disciple Porphyry.
Perhaps his most important contribution to the history of ideas is his notion of the One. For Plotinus the One is Goodness and Beauty existing before, and the ultimate source of all observable differentiations found in, our world of becoming. Our world emanates from the One, this process setting up a complicated and hierarchical series of arrangements, or dyads, all leading back up to the One.
Psycho-spiritual liberation, then, is best found in personal union with the One, described as an ephemeral experience of pure, insurmountable delight. According to Porphyry, Plotinus had four of these ecstatic experiences during the period in which these two men associated with one another.¹
- Theurgy and Drawing Down the Moon: Theurgicon 2010 (beliefnet.com)
- New Research on Plato and Pythagoras (personalpages.manchester.ac.uk)
- Where Capitalism is a Thing of Beauty (blogs.hbr.org)
- Hypatia: Martyred for Her Gender (socyberty.com)
- 6 Basic Kinds Of Answer To The Question “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?” (camelswithhammers.com)
- Catholicism must paganize or die — Vasquez (beliefnet.com)
- Occult gender regimes: Polarity and Tradition (enfolding.org)
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Platonism refers to any system of belief based on the metaphysical ideas expressed in Plato‘s dialogues.
These include Plato’s division of an ideal realm of the intellect and an ordinary realm of the soul.
The notion that mathematical truths have an independent existence would be an example of Platonism.
Platonism is also premised on Plato’s idea of the Forms.
Neoplatonist thinkers such as Plotinus argued for the “One” from which all else proceeds, and which is comprehended only through mystical union.
Platonism has many different expressions. It spans from the early Church Fathers to the European Middles Ages,¹ to the 17th century theologians known as the ‘Cambridge Platonists’, right into the New Age philosophies of today.
Plato’s ideas have been influential to the extent that A. N. Whitehead said all of European philosophy is a “footnote to Plato.”
¹ S. G. F. Brandon notes that Platonism in the Middle Ages was temporarily “eclipsed” by the ideas of Aristotle (Dictionary of Comparative Religion, New York: Scribner’s, 1970, p. 505).
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Plato (427-347 BCE) was a Greek philosopher born into an aristocratic Athenian family. Over the centuries he’s proved to be one of the most influential philosophers known to mankind.
Plato believed in reincarnation and the idea that all knowledge is contained in the soul before a particular birth.
According to Plato, the trauma of birth makes us forget what we knew. Learning is just “remembering” what we already knew at a more fundamental level of knowledge.
Plato’s Forms are understood as perfect, unchanging and eternal reality. As with various schools of Buddhism, everything in our changing world is viewed as imperfect and perishable.
But the similarities end there. For Plato, by gaining knowledge of the Forms while living our worldly life, we learn about eternity and personal immortality. Buddhists, on the other hand, champion the squelching out of individuality.
Plato’s beliefs about a personal afterlife led him to say that “life is a preparation for death.”
Plato’s most influential philosophical teacher was Socrates. Soctrates was sentenced to death in Athens on charges of “atheism” and “corrupting the youth.” Socrates could have escaped, but chose to drink poisonous hemlock rather than flee and live dishonorably.
Some suggest that it’s unclear as to why Socrates felt that absconding from such a silly charge would be dishonorable. If he truly believed that his own views were right, why would he play the martyr for the flawed beliefs and practices of a corrupt state?
Others say he died in accord with his principles. Either way, Plato was so impressed by his teacher that he made Socrates the protagonist in most of his philosophical dialogues. In these dialogues the Platonic character Socrates discusses with other characters the fundamental questions of human existence.
Plato is often charged with being hostile to poetry, branding it as a shabby attempt to get at truth, while his equally celebrated student Aristotle (384 BCE–322 CE) is seen as more sympathetic to poets and the poetic process.
This observation isn’t entirely right, however. Plato admires poetry that he feels is divinely inspired, in contrast to that which he believes is merely the product of practice and studied technique.
Aristotle, on the other hand, writes detailed prose commentaries on the psychological and social importance of the artistic process, along with the rules that creative artists follow.
Perhaps feeling that he is eternally justified in doing so, Plato uses a rather poetic style in his exposition, far more so than Aristotle.
Plato condemns or severely restricts the use of poetry in education, yet he uses poetry extensively in his own works, citing verses with approval, imitating poetic style and imagery, or subjecting poems to critical study.¹
Unless one believes that Plato is a divinely inspired philosopher, he seems a bit self-indulgent here. And his distinction between inspired poetry and poetry based on mere technique seems unwarranted.
Aristotle, in fact, begins to collapse that distinction by arguing, much like Sigmund Freud or C. G. Jung, that well crafted poetry can be cathartic. In other words, Aristotle recognizes that good poetry taps into something deeper than superficial daytime reality.
From a contemporary standpoint a distinction between inspired vs. cleverly crafted art seems dubious. Instead of seeing inspiration and technique in terms of discrete categories, its seems that every work of art contains some degree of both inspiration and technique.
The two questions that follow, then, are:
- What type, quality and degree of inspiration(s) does the artist encounter?
- What type, quality and degree of technique(s) does he or she use while expressing that inspiration?
After the Christian church began to take hold on the European imagination, St. Augustine of Hippo favored Plato’s works and recast his ideas to support Christian belief. And his grip on Christian theology wasn’t really challenged until medieval theologians got their hands on translations of Aristotle made by Muslim scholars.
¹Paul Woodruff, “Plato’s Use of Poetry” in Oxford Art Online (Plato)
Ancius Manlius Severinus Boethius (480-524) was an educated Roman Statesman, philosopher and man of letters.
He became court minister under the Gothic ruler, Theodoric. In 510 he was elevated to consul but later got caught up in politics when trying to block an informer’s letter to protect the Senate’s reputation. Sadly for Boethius, the letter got through and the Senate charged him with treason, condemning him to death.
While in prison awaiting certain death he wrote De Consolatione Philosophiae (The Consolation of Philosophy). In the Middle Ages the Consolation was translated into several languages, second in popularity only to the Bible.
In a nutshell, it goes like this: While contemplating his grave situation, ‘Philosophy’ comes to Boethius in the form of a beautiful woman, her garment slightly dusty. She drives away the Muses of Poetry who’d previously been dictating to Boethius.
Philosophy and Boethius engage in debate, much like a Platonic dialogue. She instructs him on how human beings should rightly relate to God. Fear of material loss and desire for material gain are both rejected in favor of hope for eternal salvation through an all-knowing, good God. Ephemeral worldly concerns are to be replaced by the desire to lead a virtuous life with God.
Much like St. Augustine’s theology, personal free will is emphasized but, at the same time, God is said to know how one will choose—both in the present and in the future.
Judging from the content and style of The Consolation of Philosophy, many believe that Boethius must have been an early Christian, although Jesus is not mentioned. Because the Consolation is a book on philosophy, some commentators say that Boethius prefers to use concepts germane to philosophy. At the same time, however, a good deal of the text employs lengthy quotations from Greek and Roman mythology to support and illustrate his philosophical ideas. Why then, would the apparently Christian Boethius exclude Christian stories?
Boethius never escaped imprisonment and was put to death after completing his book, which makes reading it all the more poignant.
- The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (yalebooks.wordpress.com)
- Worldly Success: How Much is Enough? (maverickphilosopher.typepad.com)
- Book Review: The Consolation of Philosophy – By Boethius (ellipsisomnibusreviews.wordpress.com)
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Blessed Isles, or Isles of the Blessed – According to Hesiod, this is the afterlife paradise for the dead favored by the Greek gods.
Some believe the idea was influenced by optimistic Minoan beliefs. Previously in Greece the next world had been predominantly conceived of as Hades, a sort of gloomy underworld.
In Homer‘s epic verse the Elysian Plain is filled with supreme joy, located at the end of the world, aside the River Oceanus. In early times, only heroes blessed by the gods gained the immortality of Elysium. But for Hesiod, Elysium is for all blessed dead—as opposed to the cursed.
Pindar too believes that all the righteous on earth achieve this happy abode, while Plutarch clearly links the Blessed Isles to the Elysian Fields.
Where the air was never extreme, which for rain had a little silver dew, which of itself and without labour, bore all pleasant fruits to their happy dwellers, till it seemed to him that these could be no other than the Fortunate Islands, the Elysian Fields.¹
Plato sees it as a region where the good soul awaits its next incarnation. In the general poetic sense, Elysium or the Elysian fields refers to a place or mindset filled with wonder, lasting contentment and bliss.
Ptolemy mentions the Blessed Isles as reference points in his discussion about longitude. And right up to the Middle Ages they continued to figure in texts concerning the Prime Meridian.
Wikipedia lists related Isles, in several mythic frameworks, where the dead may live for an extended period or for eternity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortunate_Isles
¹ Plutarch, Life of Sertorius, ch. viii., cited at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortunate_Isles.
- Blogging From A to Z: Day 5 – Elysium or The Elysian Fields (casyb360.wordpress.com)
- Megalensia 2013 (aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com)
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Not until fairly recently has corruption been recognized as a valid topic within the social sciences, perhaps partly because it’s not easily verified. Also, shrewd researchers wishing to avoid repercussions in an imperfect world may know when it’s best to keep quiet.
Corruption most often involves bribery and abuses of legitimate authority.¹ In business and government corruption may take place between as few as two people or among a relatively small number or insiders. Some examples in government would be employing a less qualified person than others or closing a business deal as a result of clandestine social and/or economic connections. In business, examples would be market collusion and all types of fraud involving more than one person.
Extreme conspiracy theorists contend that a so-called ‘culture of fear’ is purposefully orchestrated by inherently deceptive governments in order to legitimize wars and bolster certain markets. Along these lines, some believe that corruption has permeated Western culture to a degree formerly associated with so-called third and second world countries. But again, proof is usually hard to find and, most likely, always will be.
Within psychology and especially theology, the term corruption refers to specific individuals or groups whenever an action is deemed morally degrading by another group claiming moral authority. In some circles of Eastern and Western mystical theology corrupt acts are said to “pollute” the individual soul (or in Buddhism, to attract negative skandhas).
These two ideas of corruption – the social vs. the psychological and theological – may at first seem separate. But on closer inspection, they’re arguably connected. As Jesus puts it in Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a rotten tree cannot produce good fruit.” True, Christ is talking about true and false religious prophets in this passage, but it seems fair to generalize this idea to all aspects of life.
So what does this mean for the average person in our imperfect world? Even the upright schoolteacher or respected academic has probably photocopied material that is under copyright. And many decent folks made cassette tapes of their favorite albums back in the day.
The answer to this question has spawned a lot of debate in philosophy and theology about ethics, and clever thinkers have come up with a range of ideas from “situational ethics” to “necessary evil” to try to grapple with the realities of imperfect beings living in an imperfect world.
Moreover, in sociology and economics were hear arguments about the alleged positive aspects of crime–for instance, crime is said to be good for anti-crime businesses and services (e.g. anti-virus software), as well as for neutral market areas (e.g. the old cassette tape). And even the classical sociologist Emile Durkheim believed that a limited amount of crime was good for society because it helped to define boundaries for acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior, this awareness strengthening society as a whole.² But ultimately, it seems only God can know what’s right and wrong, this also being one of Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 7:1).
¹ For a good list of these potential abuses, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption.
² For a good discussion on Durkheim’s view, see http://misssrobinson.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/how-do-functionalists-explain-crime
Corruption - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (plato.stanford.edu/entries/corruption)
Transparency International (transparency.org)
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Comparative Religion is the academic study of world religions to determine differences, similarities and points of equivalence.
Most scholars cite Max Müller (1823-1900), Sir E. B. Tylor (1832-1917) and Sir J. G. Frazer (1854-1941) as the most important figures in the birth of comparative religion. And some will also mention Joseph-Francois Lafitau (1681- 1746).
But this can be misleading because as far back as Xenophanes (6th century BCE) we find writers comparing different religions. Plato and Aristotle also discuss diverse worldviews. And, as S. G. F. Brandon points out, several lesser known ancient Greek and Latin writers realized the importance of discerning similarities among different religious beliefs.¹
In the 19th century scholars of comparative religion tended to believe that their work was objective. They also assumed that mankind evolved from primitive to advanced states of being. Moreover, Christian biases were often present. Ruldolf Otto (1869-1937) is often criticized in this regard.
More recently, far more subtle Christian biases can be found in the works of Mircea Eliade and C. G. Jung. Before the second Vatican Council Catholic theology studied other religions mostly to demonstrate their allegedly misguided or, worse, demonic status.
The notion of objectivity was challenged by poststructuralism in the 1960′s to 1990′s—that is, the very idea of scientific and (most forms of) absolute truth were questioned.² But this kind of thinking isn’t terribly new. It’s been present for centuries with figures like Friedrich Nietszche and Pontius Pilate.
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18: 37-38).
Today the poststructural perspective has permeated religious studies. And a recent branch of ‘postmodern theology’ offers compelling arguments for the deconstruction of Biblical and related religious assumptions.
Meanwhile, comparative religion usually involves theory and methodology courses to grapple with issues of subjectivity and interpretation vs. objectivity and truth. And also, a sociologist might argue, to try to legitimize itself as a “scientific” enterprise, which usually increases eligibility for grants, funding, and the like.
¹ S. G. F. Brandon ed., Dictionary of Comparative Religion (1970: 202).
² Ironically, some second-rate historians still talk about historical records as if they “prove” (rather than suggest) this or that point of view.
Clairaudience is the alleged inner hearing of sound different from, or beyond the range of, normal human hearing. Rosemary Ellen Guiley notes that the term comes from the French, “clear-hearing.”¹
The spiritually inclined see clairaudience as a phenomenon common to saints, mystics and seers throughout the ages.
The recently canonized Catholic Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-38) writes in her Divine Mercy Diary that she often heard a quiet inner voice, accompanied with a feeling of grace. This synchrony lead her to believe that the voice was from God.²
St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) heard voices which prompted her to masquerade as a man and enlist in the French army. She was eventually declared a heretic by the Catholic Church and burned at the stake at age 19 under a politically predetermined trial. Not until almost 500 years later did the Church canonize her in 1920.
St. Teresa of Ávila provides a more intellectual assessment of hearing voices, which she calls “locutions.” In her spiritual classic, Interior Castle, she says one must learn to discriminate among locutions that are from God, from the devil, and from the imagination. Locutions from God, she adds, are usually quite simple and accompanied with a strong and undeniable feeling of peace.³
In the Biblical Old Testament the voice of God tells King Solomon of his great wisdom. In the New Testament Christ beseeches Paul from the heavens, “Why do you persecute me?” Both of these example could be interpreted as instances of clairaudience.
Other possible examples of clairaudience are found in the religious and even philosophical literature. Plato’s Socrates, for instance, has a daimon hovering about him, forever cautioning him what not to say.
The Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo writes of a voice which lead him to establish an ashram in the French settlement at Pondicherry, India. Aurobindo also speaks of “false voices.” These, he says, come from dark beings, called asuras, which forever try to distract and deceive spiritual seekers.4
The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung writes of a “ghost guru,” whom he called Philemon. Philemon apparently guided Jung via clairaudience until Jung got tired of his direction and stopped listening, at which point Philemon went away.5
The British scholar of religion Evelyn Underhill writes that mystics must apply rigorous logic and sincere self-analysis to ensure that inner voices are not products of the imagination or evil spiritual entities.6
With regard to the possibility of auditory hallucinations, contemporary psychiatry distinguishes between unhealthy hallucinations and healthy beliefs that are in keeping with one’s religious tradition. Psychiatry, however, still cannot fully explain how the brain creates hallucinations, leaving room for hypotheses concerning an interplay of biological, developmental and evil spiritual influences.
Concerning the notion of evil spiritual influences, practically every religious tradition in the world suggests that evil spirits actively deceive (or impart partial truths cleverly combined with lies), while Godly spiritual beings always tell the truth.
Along these lines the gospel writer of Matthew says that one may judge alleged prophets by their deeds—that is, by their fruit.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew NIV 7:15-20).
While many fundamentalists uncritically latch onto this passage, for thinking people, some methodological issues do arise. For instance, how long must one wait to determine whether a prophet’s utterances are true or not? For that matter, will a prophet’s truth be realized within a given lifetime?
According to the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ, himself, spoke actual words that the people around him did not understand. And it wasn’t until after his death that the subtlety and power of his prophesying was realized. For example, Jesus’ words “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV) is often interpreted to refer to Jesus’ own death, descent to hell and resurrection, a sequence of events which, according to scripture, lasted three days. But in his day, many would have supposed that Jesus was simply talking about a physical building.
With a misunderstanding like this arising from real, spoken words, it seems that ordinary people could be even more confused by inner voices.
¹ Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, 1991, p. 109.
² Saint Maria Faustina Helena Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, 2nd edition, Stockbridge Mass.: Marian Press, 1990.
³ St. Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers. Image Books, 1961, pp. 138-148.
4 Aurobindo Ghose, The Riddle of This World, Calcutta: Arya Publishing House, 1933, pp. 56-57.
5 See more details here: http://www.bodysoulandspirit.net/mystical_experiences/read/notables/jung.shtml
6 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (New York: The New American Library, 1955 ), p. 361.
- An example of my Medium, Clairaudient and Claircognizant work (kevinhunter.wordpress.com)
- A shout out to Evelyn Underhill and her wonderful book (carlmccolman.com)
- Review – The Trickster and the Paranormal (Hardcover Book) (epages.wordpress.com)
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Church Fathers is the title usually given to those regarded as the brightest theological lights in the early Christian Church.
Influential and usually learned Christian thinkers contributing to the formation of Church dogma, aspects of their writings are often cited as supportive “truths” within the contemporary Roman Catholic Catechism.
The Church Fathers are considered exemplars of holiness and are usually, but not always, canonized. Tertullian (160–225) is a good example of a leading Christian who was never canonized.¹
The study of the Fathers’ writings is known as Patristics, although the Church Fathers fall into two periods, the Apostolic and the Patristic.
Since the 17th-century the Apostolic Fathers have been designated as those who wrote just after the New Testament period, to include Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Hermas, Polycarp and Papias. This list also includes the anonymous writers of the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus, Clement and the Didache.
The well-known theologian Origen (184–254) was too far interested Platonism and ideas similar to reincarnation to be taken as a Church Father. He was excommunicated by the Church but his work continues to interest scholars. And sort of slipping in the back door, as it were, Origen’s writings are often included in compilations under the heading, “Church Fathers.”
The Patristics wrote up to the 8th-century, to include Isidore of Seville (7th-century) and John of Damascus (8th- century).
Feminists point out that there are no Church Mothers, perhaps because of the sexist environment of the early Christian era. This type of discrimination persists through the ages and, so they say, remains in many contemporary religious and secular organizations.
¹ Tertullian also demonstrates that the Church Fathers could be quite harsh against their opponents, in this case, the early Gnostics. As the British philosopher of religion, John Hick, points out in Evil and the God of Love, Tertullian wrote scathing attacks against the Gnostics.
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