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The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1

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  • Robert Wallace
    Hi everybody, I m copying below a chapter from a book that I m working on, called _The God Within Us: How I Found Philosophy s Heart and Mine_. It s meant to
    Message 1 of 26 , Jul 1 8:09 AM
      Hi everybody,

      I'm copying below a chapter from a book that I'm working on, called
      _The God Within Us: How I Found Philosophy's Heart and Mine_. It's
      meant to be a trade book, for a broader-than-academic audience. I've
      once or twice urged, on this list, that we need a piece of writing
      that can explain the real significance of Platonism to serious readers
      who have no scholarly background in the area and little or no
      acquaintance with the primary texts. A replacement for (and an answer
      to) Bertrand Russell's chapters on Plato in his History of Western
      Philosophy, which are so readable and informative and so desperately
      wrong on crucial issues. Of course there are many "introductory
      treatments" in reference works, etc., but none that I've seen convey
      the sheer power of Plato's most important insights. I hope that my
      book, which includes several additional chapters on Plato, will convey
      some of this.

      The book's Introduction introduces the idea of a "God within us," and
      some leading writers and teachers, including Plato, the Buddha, Jesus,
      St Augustine, Hegel, and Emerson, who contribute to this idea. It also
      describes some of the experience that has led me, personally, to
      embrace the idea.

      Then comes chapter 1, which I copy below. Beginning from some thoughts
      about the "problem of evil," this chapter outlines an interpretation
      of Plato, which also addresses other issues including the One's
      interest in the many, which Dennis raised with us a few weeks ago.
      It's not an entirely conventional interpretation, though the texts
      that it touches on are standard ones. I'd be grateful for any
      comments, objections, or questions that people might have.

      Best, Bob W

      Robert Wallace
      website: www.robertmwallace.com
      email: bob@...


      Chapter 1. Evil, Body, Soul, and God

      For many people, the problem of evil is the main stumbling-block
      between them and a relationship to �God.� In view of the injustice and
      undeserved suffering that I�ve experienced, as well as the far worse
      things that other people have experienced, how can I nevertheless feel
      deeply cared for?


      �Birth, Not Death, Is the Great Fact�

      My dear, now deceased friend Graham Andrews told me that one day
      while he was watching a group of quail cross a lawn in California, he
      realized: �Andrews, you always get it backwards. The great fact is not
      that you will die, but that you were born!� We have no �right� to
      eternal life, or to 70 years of life, or to five minutes of it; as
      Rumi says, we �deserve nothing,� from the universe. What we receive is
      a free gift, an unearned opportunity.

      What are we going to do with this opportunity? We seem to have two
      main options. We can focus on what�s being born in and through us and
      others. The divine doesn�t care about boundaries. Or, on the other
      hand, we can focus on our boundaries, that is, on our death rather
      than on our birth(s), and cut ourselves off from what could be born
      through us.


      When I love and live through others, as well as through myself, I
      find that my world is full of love, regardless of what the others and
      I may suffer. I�m able to love and to live through others as well as
      myself when I�m grateful for my life and their lives and the chance to
      collaborate with them. Having been given this opportunity, I know that
      I�m loved, and that my job is to pass it on. As Graham passed his
      love, and his wonderful insight, on to me. Then I know that rather
      than our struggles with death, it�s this passing-it-on, this process
      of giving birth, that�s permanently important�that birth, rather than
      death, is �the great fact.�

      By taking me beyond my everyday self, �passing it on� allows me,
      finally, to accept with gratitude my finite existence, including my
      wounds and the unfortunate people who�ve wounded me, and the wonderful
      people who�ve nurtured me. Rejecting all of this, I might (in effect)
      just as well be dead, right now. Being open and vulnerable to all of
      it, on the other hand, involved with other people, is the ticket to
      the opportunity that my finite existence gives me: the opportunity to
      contribute to something endlessly greater than my finite self.


      Choose transformation! Be inspired by the flame
      in which a thing that revels in transformations eludes you. �
      He who lets himself stream out is acknowledged by knowledge;
      she shows him, delighted, what�s serenely accomplished,
      which often closes with beginning, and begins with an end.


      (R.M. Rilke)



      �Hard-nosed� thinkers tend to see suffering and death, and the human
      selfishness, hostility, and aggression that fear of death so often
      promotes, as the great fact and the dominant issue in human life. I�m
      thinking of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, the English
      materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the German existentialist
      Martin Heidegger, and the many writers who suppose that Charles Darwin
      has shown that life is fundamentally about physical �self-
      preservation.� These writers all celebrate the courage that looks
      these �grim facts� in the face, without flinching.


      These writers are certainly right to value courage and truthfulness.
      But Graham in his moment of vision, and Plato, Rumi, and �mystics,� in
      general, see life, rather than death, as the great fact and the
      dominant issue. As Rilke wrote:


      "We should love life so generously, so without calculation and
      selection, that we involuntarily come to include, and to love, death
      too (life�s averted half)."


      Loving death as �life�s averted half��as a necessary feature of
      life, which is good�is very different from regarding death as the
      �grim� truth that reveals that life is primarily a matter of survival,
      of self-preservation. Self-preservation isn�t an end in itself; it�s
      what we finite things do for a while in order to give birth to the
      infinite, which is what we really are. And when one loves death as a
      precondition of the life of finite things, which is an aspect of the
      infinite, one has nothing to hide from. So that rather than being
      remarkable accomplishments, courage and truthfulness about death are
      simply natural.




      �What I Mean by �Mysticism��



      Having just referred again to �mystics,� I should explain that I use
      this word in a particular sense. What I mean by �mystic� is simply
      someone who doesn�t accept the fundamental separateness of one human
      being from other human beings, and of humans from God. �Mystics�
      believe that although in one sense we�re obviously many, we�re also,
      in an important sense, �one.� This is what follows from focusing on
      birth, rather than death, as the great fact.

      So mysticism, for me, needn�t be irrational and needn�t promote
      mystery, as such. Plato has Socrates say in his Phaedrus that
      prophecy, purification, poetry and love are �the best things we have,�
      and they �come from madness, when it is given as a gift of the
      god� (244a). By saying that they �come from madness,� Plato means that
      they don�t seem �reasonable� in an everyday way. This is also true of
      the mysticism, closely allied to poetry and love, which says that in
      some important way we�re all �one.� For most of my life, this was an
      idea that I admired from a distance, but which I couldn�t even begin
      to take seriously as a description of my own situation. I lacked the
      purification, the poetry, and especially the love that could have made
      it seem real. Now, overwhelmingly, I�ve been given them all.

      When Plato says that these things that come from �madness� are good
      for us when they�re �given as a gift of the god,� he implies that we
      need to distinguish the kinds of �madness� that are good and god-given
      from those that aren�t. Thus he suggests that even though prophecy,
      purification, poetry and love may seem �unreasonable� by everyday
      standards, we can nevertheless discover that they really are good for
      us. In the same way, I�m going to explain, drawing especially on other
      writings of Plato, how the mysticism that my experience supports is
      true in spite of its apparent craziness.




      �Challenges for Plato: Soul/Body �Dualism��



      I mentioned in the Introduction some of the major figures who have
      been influenced by Plato, including St Augustine, Meister Eckhart,
      Jelaluddin Rumi, Hegel, and Emerson. Numerous other teachers and poets
      could be added to this list, down to such present-day figures as the
      Harvard philosopher, Stanley Cavell, who explores what he calls
      ethical �perfectionism,� and the New England poet, Mary Oliver, who
      celebrates the transcendence that we can experience in nature.

      But there have always also been thinkers who resisted Plato�s
      influence. In the ancient world, these included the materialists,
      Epicurus and Lucretius. Many of Plato�s modern critics, such as Thomas
      Hobbes, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell, have suggested that key
      Platonic ideas are incompatible with the spirit of modern science, and
      therefore need to be replaced.


      Many of Plato�s critics object, in particular, to his apparent
      �dualism.� They suppose that Plato�s central idea is that the true
      �me,� which Plato calls the �soul,� should as much as possible reject
      involvement with the body and the physical world. Plato does speak
      early in his Phaedo of the soul as being �imprisoned� in the body, and
      needing to be liberated from this imprisonment. This kind of dualism
      is especially familiar to us from Gnostic and Christian ascetics who
      rejected the world, the �flesh,� as evil. Plato is sometimes thought
      to have prepared the way for these extreme views.

      Perhaps the notion of the soul�s �imprisonment� reflected Plato�s
      terrible experience of seeing his beloved teacher, Socrates, condemned
      to death by Athens. It would have been natural to flee from this
      experience to the notion that Socrates�s soul was better off
      elsewhere, anyway.


      But Plato went beyond this �imprisonment� notion elsewhere in the
      Phaedo and in his Republic, Symposium, and Timaeus. He did this
      through a kind of reconciliation of soul and body, which is closely
      related to the reconciliation of God and the world that I traced back
      to him in the Introduction. Like God and the world, soul and body
      can�t be �separate beings,� because if they�re separate, the soul
      would be determined partly by its relationship (the relationship of
      separation) to the body, and to that extent it wouldn�t be self-
      determining. But the point of the �soul,� like the point of �God,� is
      to be self-determining�to be something that�s fully responsible for
      itself.

      So if body and soul, the world and God aren�t separate beings, what
      are they? Why do we speak of �body� and �soul,� the �world� and �God,�
      rather than just of one or the other of them? Plato�s answer to this
      question is that the prior items, �body� and the �world,� are the less
      self-determining items, less fully �themselves,� that are nevertheless
      familiar to us in everyday experience. They are us in our everyday un-
      freedom, in which we think and do what our biological heritage or our
      social environment tells us to think and do. But at the same time we
      dream of being ourselves, of having thoughts and actions that are
      really our own. The �soul� represents this dream, this aspiration,
      inasmuch as one�s �soul� (psyche, in Greek) is one�s �life��it�s what
      makes one a functioning whole. So that a body that has a soul can be
      responsible, as a whole, for its actions, in a way that a soul-less
      rock, for example, is not responsible, but is simply a transmission
      belt for what impinges on it from elsewhere.

      �God� is a further stage in the dream or aspiration of having
      thoughts and actions that are really our own. This further stage
      becomes necessary when we realize that a multiplicity of separate
      souls are not going to be fully self-determining, because they�ll
      still be determined by their relationship (of separation) to each
      other. So the only fully self-determining reality will be the result
      of ascending, via individual �souls,� to something that�s no longer
      individual and multiple, but simply, as Plato is reported to have
      called it, �One.�

      Thus the conflict-ridden duality of soul versus body is not Plato�s
      last word. Rather, the intertwined concepts of �ascent� and the �One�
      are his last words. The famous ascent from the Cave, in Republic book
      vii, is simply one side of the ascent, via �souls,� to God. Achieving
      knowledge of the Good, outside the Cave, is getting free from the
      dictates of one�s biological heritage and social environment, to which
      one was subjected within the Cave, and thus achieving self-
      determination. Achieving knowledge of the Good is how the �soul�
      functions to unify the body of which it is the soul. If this knowledge
      takes the knower all the way to full self-determination, it takes him
      beyond the multiplicity of bodies and souls to, as in the Symposium
      and Timaeus, the unity of the divine One.

      So this is the gist of Plato�s argument for �mysticism��for rejecting
      the conventional assumption that you and I, and you and I and God, are
      ultimately separate.



      �Ascent, Descent, and Inwardness�



      Maybe now it�s clear why our bodies and souls need to �ascend� to God,
      in order to become fully themselves. But looking at this from the
      other direction, why does God, the �One,� take any interest in our
      multiple souls and bodies? As the Timaeus says, God isn�t possessive
      (he is subject to no phthonos [29e]). We can reasonably suppose that
      this is because a possessive God would be limited, determined by his
      relationship (of exclusion) toward what he viewed as "outside" him,
      and thus would not be fully self-sufficient or self-determining, as a
      God should be. For this reason, the necessary ascent from bodies to
      God is complemented by a necessary �descent� of concern from God to
      bodies. God �wanted everything to become as much like himself as
      possible,� as Plato says. It�s by treating everything as much as
      possible the way he treats himself, that he�s able to be fully
      himself, fully �One.�

      I should add that of course we shouldn�t take literally this
      �ascent� and �descent� that we�re talking about. An �upward� motion is
      a metaphor for the search for something that�s more authoritative than
      one�s initial opinions and desires. The authority that Plato finds is
      the authority of what is truly oneself. Another good metaphor for this
      authority, in this case a metaphor that�s tailored specifically for
      the authority of what�s truly oneself, would speak of the soul as
      inside the body and God as inside the soul. This metaphor is
      appropriate because the soul enables the body to be more itself, and
      God enables the soul and body to be more themselves, and we�re likely
      to think that the source of something�s being �itself� is more
      internal to the thing than anything else could be. This is how we get
      Augustine�s description of God as �more inward� to him than himself,
      and the conception of God as being �within us.� So we must understand
      the so-called �ascent,� the �upward� motion that Plato describes, as
      leading inward, in this way, into the person�s innermost selfhood.

      Plato�s mature conception of ascent, descent, and inward selfhood
      (all of which I�ll explore in more detail later) is undoubtedly a bit
      complex, in comparison to the simple idea of the soul as being
      �imprisoned� in the body and needing to be liberated from it. So it�s
      not surprising that the imprisonment idea is the one that many readers
      associate with Plato. This hasty reading has prevented many people,
      over the centuries, from appreciating what Plato is really up to.


      The most important thing that Plato is up to is showing how by
      appreciating our own freedom we can discover the necessary hierarchy
      of God, souls, and bodies, in which the more governing element (God,
      or the soul, as the case may be) makes what�s subordinate to it more
      �itself.� This account of the essential authority in reality explains
      religion, morality, and evil more comprehensively and more incisively
      than any other proposal that we have had.




      �Hierarchy, Free Inquiry, and God�



      Science-oriented atheists like Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell
      and Richard Dawkins all assume that someone who takes free inquiry and
      science seriously will have no need for concepts like those of the
      soul or God. Plato and many of his followers believe, on the contrary,
      that freedom and free inquiry are what the soul and God are composed
      of, when the soul and God are properly understood.

      In the necessary hierarchy that Plato presents, of God, souls, and
      bodies, what distinguishes souls and God from mere bodies is that
      souls and God have increasing degrees of self-determination or
      freedom. One important species of freedom is free inquiry, of which an
      important instance is science. So freedom, free inquiry, and science
      are part of what makes the soul, and God, what they are. Science is an
      aspect of God.


      Thus Plato reconciles what appears in present-day culture to be
      paradigmatically un-reconcilable, namely, science and religion, free
      inquiry and God. Rather than being in conflict with divinity, as Plato
      conceives it, true science is an aspect of the divine.




      �Hierarchy and Morality�



      As for morality, it�s not hard to see how the unification of free
      souls in God makes it impossible for these souls to mistreat or
      exploit one another. It�s our brute separateness that makes that sort
      of behavior possible. But Plato shows that for those who seek to be
      truly themselves, there can be no such brute separateness.



      �And Evil Again�



      As for �evil� and the �body,� to which dualists take such strong
      exception�the hierarchy that Plato teaches in his mature work shows us
      that they are not the enemy. There is no enemy. There is only the
      process of increasing self-determination and �oneness.� The God whose
      concern �descends� to us, descends to everything, no matter how
      corrupt, deformed, and lowly. There can be no limit to this concern,
      or God would not be self-determining and infinite. Thus Plato
      contemplated the �evil� in the people who had condemned Socrates and
      had committed other horrors in Athens, and saw that these people were
      struggling simply, to the best of their limited abilities, to be free,
      or truly themselves. And I, too, have found that it�s possible to have
      compassion for things within me that for decades seemed so ugly to me
      that I felt that actually looking at them would paralyze and disable
      me entirely. Instead, the compassionate light of day has made these
      things feel understood, and they have responded by shedding their
      hatred and their ugliness, revealing themselves instead as tendrils of
      freedom.


      Thus Plato�s apparently cerebral philosophy reaches deep into the muck
      and the heart. No limits. True freedom.


      And as for the question with which I began this chapter: I feel deeply
      cared for not because I believe in a powerful Being who cares for me.
      That would make the care rather contingent. Instead, I feel cared for
      because I�ve discovered that freedom�the divine, what�s fully itself�
      in myself and in others diminishes the significance of what separates
      us from one another, and produces a universal caring that in effect
      fills all of space and time. And this is not contingent; this is the
      ultimate and necessary reality.















      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Jason Wingate
      I m glad you posted this Bob; I had already seen it on your website. My reaction to it was that the transformation required in reaching that broader audience
      Message 2 of 26 , Jul 1 8:41 AM
        I'm glad you posted this Bob; I had already seen it on your website. My reaction to it was that the transformation required in reaching that broader audience was very revealing in terms what it meant that you personally included, or excluded. As a fellow-"mystic", I almost could not imagine a Platonism further from mine! And I feel that's rather interesting and welcome actually.

        For me... that you aredying *is* of great significance. Trauma tendsto awaken spiritual power and experience, cross-culturally, and mysticism is a quest is for immortality,which means overcoming death. (Of course I recognize that what you are doingessentially is arguing against materialism there. But I think science is alreadystarting to provide good evidence against that, itself.)

        I wonder how you'd react to my instinctive reaction... your ‘passing-it-on’ idea resonates as seeing personal immortalitycontinuing in others around us on an ordinary-life level, whereas immortality in the One is a personallyachieved experience. Platonic dualism on that level would seem to have a purpose in myopinion, as does the harshness of the dualism in Plotinus and Porphyry too.Part of this opinion in me came from mystical experience as purification. I just could not speakof having been purified without it becoming obvious that I had not been purepreviously! And furthermore, that catharsis was a coming together with theformless which transcends genesis -- it need not *devalue* it, but it doestranscend it and does in fact heal it. In other words the ‘reconciliation’between body and soul that you talk of is effected by the formless primarilyand the body only secondarily, acting as a receptacle. Now that does seem very Platonist to me... do you feel it would contradict you?


        Only if interested in my ravings! JW







        ___________________________________________________
        Lightning in an Oak Box





        -----Original Message-----
        From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
        To: Neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 16:09
        Subject: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1



        Hi everybody,

        I'm copying below a chapter from a book that I'm working on, called
        _The God Within Us: How I Found Philosophy's Heart and Mine_. It's
        meant to be a trade book, for a broader-than-academic audience. I've
        once or twice urged, on this list, that we need a piece of writing
        that can explain the real significance of Platonism to serious readers
        who have no scholarly background in the area and little or no
        acquaintance with the primary texts. A replacement for (and an answer
        to) Bertrand Russell's chapters on Plato in his History of Western
        Philosophy, which are so readable and informative and so desperately
        wrong on crucial issues. Of course there are many "introductory
        treatments" in reference works, etc., but none that I've seen convey
        the sheer power of Plato's most important insights. I hope that my
        book, which includes several additional chapters on Plato, will convey
        some of this.

        The book's Introduction introduces the idea of a "God within us," and
        some leading writers and teachers, including Plato, the Buddha, Jesus,
        St Augustine, Hegel, and Emerson, who contribute to this idea. It also
        describes some of the experience that has led me, personally, to
        embrace the idea.

        Then comes chapter 1, which I copy below. Beginning from some thoughts
        about the "problem of evil," this chapter outlines an interpretation
        of Plato, which also addresses other issues including the One's
        interest in the many, which Dennis raised with us a few weeks ago.
        It's not an entirely conventional interpretation, though the texts
        that it touches on are standard ones. I'd be grateful for any
        comments, objections, or questions that people might have.

        Best, Bob W

        Robert Wallace
        website: www.robertmwallace.com
        email: bob@...


        Chapter 1. Evil, Body, Soul, and God

        For many people, the problem of evil is the main stumbling-block
        between them and a relationship to “God.” In view of the injustice and
        undeserved suffering that I’ve experienced, as well as the far worse
        things that other people have experienced, how can I nevertheless feel
        deeply cared for?


        —Birth, Not Death, Is the Great Fact—

        My dear, now deceased friend Graham Andrews told me that one day
        while he was watching a group of quail cross a lawn in California, he
        realized: “Andrews, you always get it backwards. The great fact is not
        that you will die, but that you were born!” We have no “right” to
        eternal life, or to 70 years of life, or to five minutes of it; as
        Rumi says, we “deserve nothing,” from the universe. What we receive is
        a free gift, an unearned opportunity.

        What are we going to do with this opportunity? We seem to have two
        main options. We can focus on what’s being born in and through us and
        others. The divine doesn’t care about boundaries. Or, on the other
        hand, we can focus on our boundaries, that is, on our death rather
        than on our birth(s), and cut ourselves off from what could be born
        through us.


        When I love and live through others, as well as through myself, I
        find that my world is full of love, regardless of what the others and
        I may suffer. I’m able to love and to live through others as well as
        myself when I’m grateful for my life and their lives and the chance to
        collaborate with them. Having been given this opportunity, I know that
        I’m loved, and that my job is to pass it on. As Graham passed his
        love, and his wonderful insight, on to me. Then I know that rather
        than our struggles with death, it’s this passing-it-on, this process
        of giving birth, that’s permanently important—that birth, rather than
        death, is “the great fact.”

        By taking me beyond my everyday self, “passing it on” allows me,
        finally, to accept with gratitude my finite existence, including my
        wounds and the unfortunate people who’ve wounded me, and the wonderful
        people who’ve nurtured me. Rejecting all of this, I might (in effect)
        just as well be dead, right now. Being open and vulnerable to all of
        it, on the other hand, involved with other people, is the ticket to
        the opportunity that my finite existence gives me: the opportunity to
        contribute to something endlessly greater than my finite self.


        Choose transformation! Be inspired by the flame
        in which a thing that revels in transformations eludes you. …
        He who lets himself stream out is acknowledged by knowledge;
        she shows him, delighted, what’s serenely accomplished,
        which often closes with beginning, and begins with an end.


        (R.M. Rilke)



        “Hard-nosed” thinkers tend to see suffering and death, and the human
        selfishness, hostility, and aggression that fear of death so often
        promotes, as the great fact and the dominant issue in human life. I’m
        thinking of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, the English
        materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the German existentialist
        Martin Heidegger, and the many writers who suppose that Charles Darwin
        has shown that life is fundamentally about physical “self-
        preservation.” These writers all celebrate the courage that looks
        these “grim facts” in the face, without flinching.


        These writers are certainly right to value courage and truthfulness.
        But Graham in his moment of vision, and Plato, Rumi, and “mystics,” in
        general, see life, rather than death, as the great fact and the
        dominant issue. As Rilke wrote:


        "We should love life so generously, so without calculation and
        selection, that we involuntarily come to include, and to love, death
        too (life’s averted half)."


        Loving death as “life’s averted half”—as a necessary feature of
        life, which is good—is very different from regarding death as the
        “grim” truth that reveals that life is primarily a matter of survival,
        of self-preservation. Self-preservation isn’t an end in itself; it’s
        what we finite things do for a while in order to give birth to the
        infinite, which is what we really are. And when one loves death as a
        precondition of the life of finite things, which is an aspect of the
        infinite, one has nothing to hide from. So that rather than being
        remarkable accomplishments, courage and truthfulness about death are
        simply natural.




        —What I Mean by “Mysticism”—



        Having just referred again to “mystics,” I should explain that I use
        this word in a particular sense. What I mean by “mystic” is simply
        someone who doesn’t accept the fundamental separateness of one human
        being from other human beings, and of humans from God. “Mystics”
        believe that although in one sense we’re obviously many, we’re also,
        in an important sense, “one.” This is what follows from focusing on
        birth, rather than death, as the great fact.

        So mysticism, for me, needn’t be irrational and needn’t promote
        mystery, as such. Plato has Socrates say in his Phaedrus that
        prophecy, purification, poetry and love are “the best things we have,”
        and they “come from madness, when it is given as a gift of the
        god” (244a). By saying that they “come from madness,” Plato means that
        they don’t seem “reasonable” in an everyday way. This is also true of
        the mysticism, closely allied to poetry and love, which says that in
        some important way we’re all “one.” For most of my life, this was an
        idea that I admired from a distance, but which I couldn’t even begin
        to take seriously as a description of my own situation. I lacked the
        purification, the poetry, and especially the love that could have made
        it seem real. Now, overwhelmingly, I’ve been given them all.

        When Plato says that these things that come from “madness” are good
        for us when they’re “given as a gift of the god,” he implies that we
        need to distinguish the kinds of “madness” that are good and god-given
        from those that aren’t. Thus he suggests that even though prophecy,
        purification, poetry and love may seem “unreasonable” by everyday
        standards, we can nevertheless discover that they really are good for
        us. In the same way, I’m going to explain, drawing especially on other
        writings of Plato, how the mysticism that my experience supports is
        true in spite of its apparent craziness.




        —Challenges for Plato: Soul/Body “Dualism”—



        I mentioned in the Introduction some of the major figures who have
        been influenced by Plato, including St Augustine, Meister Eckhart,
        Jelaluddin Rumi, Hegel, and Emerson. Numerous other teachers and poets
        could be added to this list, down to such present-day figures as the
        Harvard philosopher, Stanley Cavell, who explores what he calls
        ethical “perfectionism,” and the New England poet, Mary Oliver, who
        celebrates the transcendence that we can experience in nature.

        But there have always also been thinkers who resisted Plato’s
        influence. In the ancient world, these included the materialists,
        Epicurus and Lucretius. Many of Plato’s modern critics, such as Thomas
        Hobbes, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell, have suggested that key
        Platonic ideas are incompatible with the spirit of modern science, and
        therefore need to be replaced.


        Many of Plato’s critics object, in particular, to his apparent
        “dualism.” They suppose that Plato’s central idea is that the true
        “me,” which Plato calls the “soul,” should as much as possible reject
        involvement with the body and the physical world. Plato does speak
        early in his Phaedo of the soul as being “imprisoned” in the body, and
        needing to be liberated from this imprisonment. This kind of dualism
        is especially familiar to us from Gnostic and Christian ascetics who
        rejected the world, the “flesh,” as evil. Plato is sometimes thought
        to have prepared the way for these extreme views.

        Perhaps the notion of the soul’s “imprisonment” reflected Plato’s
        terrible experience of seeing his beloved teacher, Socrates, condemned
        to death by Athens. It would have been natural to flee from this
        experience to the notion that Socrates’s soul was better off
        elsewhere, anyway.


        But Plato went beyond this “imprisonment” notion elsewhere in the
        Phaedo and in his Republic, Symposium, and Timaeus. He did this
        through a kind of reconciliation of soul and body, which is closely
        related to the reconciliation of God and the world that I traced back
        to him in the Introduction. Like God and the world, soul and body
        can’t be “separate beings,” because if they’re separate, the soul
        would be determined partly by its relationship (the relationship of
        separation) to the body, and to that extent it wouldn’t be self-
        determining. But the point of the “soul,” like the point of “God,” is
        to be self-determining—to be something that’s fully responsible for
        itself.

        So if body and soul, the world and God aren’t separate beings, what
        are they? Why do we speak of “body” and “soul,” the “world” and “God,”
        rather than just of one or the other of them? Plato’s answer to this
        question is that the prior items, “body” and the “world,” are the less
        self-determining items, less fully “themselves,” that are nevertheless
        familiar to us in everyday experience. They are us in our everyday un-
        freedom, in which we think and do what our biological heritage or our
        social environment tells us to think and do. But at the same time we
        dream of being ourselves, of having thoughts and actions that are
        really our own. The “soul” represents this dream, this aspiration,
        inasmuch as one’s “soul” (psyche, in Greek) is one’s “life”—it’s what
        makes one a functioning whole. So that a body that has a soul can be
        responsible, as a whole, for its actions, in a way that a soul-less
        rock, for example, is not responsible, but is simply a transmission
        belt for what impinges on it from elsewhere.

        “God” is a further stage in the dream or aspiration of having
        thoughts and actions that are really our own. This further stage
        becomes necessary when we realize that a multiplicity of separate
        souls are not going to be fully self-determining, because they’ll
        still be determined by their relationship (of separation) to each
        other. So the only fully self-determining reality will be the result
        of ascending, via individual “souls,” to something that’s no longer
        individual and multiple, but simply, as Plato is reported to have
        called it, “One.”

        Thus the conflict-ridden duality of soul versus body is not Plato’s
        last word. Rather, the intertwined concepts of “ascent” and the “One”
        are his last words. The famous ascent from the Cave, in Republic book
        vii, is simply one side of the ascent, via “souls,” to God. Achieving
        knowledge of the Good, outside the Cave, is getting free from the
        dictates of one’s biological heritage and social environment, to which
        one was subjected within the Cave, and thus achieving self-
        determination. Achieving knowledge of the Good is how the “soul”
        functions to unify the body of which it is the soul. If this knowledge
        takes the knower all the way to full self-determination, it takes him
        beyond the multiplicity of bodies and souls to, as in the Symposium
        and Timaeus, the unity of the divine One.

        So this is the gist of Plato’s argument for “mysticism”—for rejecting
        the conventional assumption that you and I, and you and I and God, are
        ultimately separate.



        —Ascent, Descent, and Inwardness—



        Maybe now it’s clear why our bodies and souls need to “ascend” to God,
        in order to become fully themselves. But looking at this from the
        other direction, why does God, the “One,” take any interest in our
        multiple souls and bodies? As the Timaeus says, God isn’t possessive
        (he is subject to no phthonos [29e]). We can reasonably suppose that
        this is because a possessive God would be limited, determined by his
        relationship (of exclusion) toward what he viewed as "outside" him,
        and thus would not be fully self-sufficient or self-determining, as a
        God should be. For this reason, the necessary ascent from bodies to
        God is complemented by a necessary “descent” of concern from God to
        bodies. God “wanted everything to become as much like himself as
        possible,” as Plato says. It’s by treating everything as much as
        possible the way he treats himself, that he’s able to be fully
        himself, fully “One.”

        I should add that of course we shouldn’t take literally this
        “ascent” and “descent” that we’re talking about. An “upward” motion is
        a metaphor for the search for something that’s more authoritative than
        one’s initial opinions and desires. The authority that Plato finds is
        the authority of what is truly oneself. Another good metaphor for this
        authority, in this case a metaphor that’s tailored specifically for
        the authority of what’s truly oneself, would speak of the soul as
        inside the body and God as inside the soul. This metaphor is
        appropriate because the soul enables the body to be more itself, and
        God enables the soul and body to be more themselves, and we’re likely
        to think that the source of something’s being “itself” is more
        internal to the thing than anything else could be. This is how we get
        Augustine’s description of God as “more inward” to him than himself,
        and the conception of God as being “within us.” So we must understand
        the so-called “ascent,” the “upward” motion that Plato describes, as
        leading inward, in this way, into the person’s innermost selfhood.

        Plato’s mature conception of ascent, descent, and inward selfhood
        (all of which I’ll explore in more detail later) is undoubtedly a bit
        complex, in comparison to the simple idea of the soul as being
        “imprisoned” in the body and needing to be liberated from it. So it’s
        not surprising that the imprisonment idea is the one that many readers
        associate with Plato. This hasty reading has prevented many people,
        over the centuries, from appreciating what Plato is really up to.


        The most important thing that Plato is up to is showing how by
        appreciating our own freedom we can discover the necessary hierarchy
        of God, souls, and bodies, in which the more governing element (God,
        or the soul, as the case may be) makes what’s subordinate to it more
        “itself.” This account of the essential authority in reality explains
        religion, morality, and evil more comprehensively and more incisively
        than any other proposal that we have had.




        —Hierarchy, Free Inquiry, and God—



        Science-oriented atheists like Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell
        and Richard Dawkins all assume that someone who takes free inquiry and
        science seriously will have no need for concepts like those of the
        soul or God. Plato and many of his followers believe, on the contrary,
        that freedom and free inquiry are what the soul and God are composed
        of, when the soul and God are properly understood.

        In the necessary hierarchy that Plato presents, of God, souls, and
        bodies, what distinguishes souls and God from mere bodies is that
        souls and God have increasing degrees of self-determination or
        freedom. One important species of freedom is free inquiry, of which an
        important instance is science. So freedom, free inquiry, and science
        are part of what makes the soul, and God, what they are. Science is an
        aspect of God.


        Thus Plato reconciles what appears in present-day culture to be
        paradigmatically un-reconcilable, namely, science and religion, free
        inquiry and God. Rather than being in conflict with divinity, as Plato
        conceives it, true science is an aspect of the divine.




        —Hierarchy and Morality—



        As for morality, it’s not hard to see how the unification of free
        souls in God makes it impossible for these souls to mistreat or
        exploit one another. It’s our brute separateness that makes that sort
        of behavior possible. But Plato shows that for those who seek to be
        truly themselves, there can be no such brute separateness.



        —And Evil Again—



        As for “evil” and the “body,” to which dualists take such strong
        exception—the hierarchy that Plato teaches in his mature work shows us
        that they are not the enemy. There is no enemy. There is only the
        process of increasing self-determination and “oneness.” The God whose
        concern “descends” to us, descends to everything, no matter how
        corrupt, deformed, and lowly. There can be no limit to this concern,
        or God would not be self-determining and infinite. Thus Plato
        contemplated the “evil” in the people who had condemned Socrates and
        had committed other horrors in Athens, and saw that these people were
        struggling simply, to the best of their limited abilities, to be free,
        or truly themselves. And I, too, have found that it’s possible to have
        compassion for things within me that for decades seemed so ugly to me
        that I felt that actually looking at them would paralyze and disable
        me entirely. Instead, the compassionate light of day has made these
        things feel understood, and they have responded by shedding their
        hatred and their ugliness, revealing themselves instead as tendrils of
        freedom.


        Thus Plato’s apparently cerebral philosophy reaches deep into the muck
        and the heart. No limits. True freedom.


        And as for the question with which I began this chapter: I feel deeply
        cared for not because I believe in a powerful Being who cares for me.
        That would make the care rather contingent. Instead, I feel cared for
        because I’ve discovered that freedom—the divine, what’s fully itself—
        in myself and in others diminishes the significance of what separates
        us from one another, and produces a universal caring that in effect
        fills all of space and time. And this is not contingent; this is the
        ultimate and necessary reality.















        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



        ------------------------------------

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        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • robin friedman
        I will look forward to reading your book. ... From: Robert Wallace Subject: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1 To:
        Message 3 of 26 , Jul 1 9:10 AM
          I will look forward to reading your book.

          --- On Fri, 7/1/11, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:


          From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
          Subject: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
          To: Neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
          Date: Friday, July 1, 2011, 11:09 AM



          Hi everybody,

          I'm copying below a chapter from a book that I'm working on, called 
          _The God Within Us: How I Found Philosophy's Heart and Mine_.  It's 
          meant to be a trade book, for a broader-than-academic audience. I've 
          once or twice urged, on this list, that we need a piece of writing 
          that can explain the real significance of Platonism to serious readers 
          who have no scholarly background in the area and little or no 
          acquaintance with the primary texts. A replacement for (and an answer 
          to) Bertrand Russell's chapters on Plato in his History of Western 
          Philosophy, which are so readable and informative and so desperately 
          wrong on crucial issues. Of course there are many "introductory 
          treatments" in reference works, etc., but none that I've seen convey 
          the sheer power of Plato's most important insights. I hope that my 
          book, which includes several additional chapters on Plato, will convey 
          some of this.

          The book's Introduction introduces the idea of a "God within us," and 
          some leading writers and teachers, including Plato, the Buddha, Jesus, 
          St Augustine, Hegel, and Emerson, who contribute to this idea. It also 
          describes some of the experience that has led me, personally, to 
          embrace the idea.

          Then comes chapter 1, which I copy below. Beginning from some thoughts 
          about the "problem of evil," this chapter outlines an interpretation 
          of Plato, which also addresses other issues including the One's 
          interest in the many, which Dennis raised with us a few weeks ago. 
          It's not an entirely conventional interpretation, though the texts 
          that it touches on are standard ones. I'd be grateful for any 
          comments, objections, or questions that people might have.

          Best, Bob W

          Robert Wallace
          website: www.robertmwallace.com
          email: bob@...


          Chapter 1. Evil, Body, Soul, and God

            For many people, the problem of evil is the main stumbling-block 
          between them and a relationship to “God.” In view of the injustice and 
          undeserved suffering that I’ve experienced, as well as the far worse 
          things that other people have experienced, how can I nevertheless feel 
          deeply cared for?


          —Birth, Not Death, Is the Great Fact—

            My dear, now deceased friend Graham Andrews told me that one day 
          while he was watching a group of quail cross a lawn in California, he 
          realized: “Andrews, you always get it backwards. The great fact is not 
          that you will die, but that you were born!” We have no “right” to 
          eternal life, or to 70 years of life, or to five minutes of it; as 
          Rumi says, we “deserve nothing,” from the universe. What we receive is 
          a free gift, an unearned opportunity.

            What are we going to do with this opportunity? We seem to have two 
          main options. We can focus on what’s being born in and through us and 
          others. The divine doesn’t care about boundaries. Or, on the other 
          hand, we can focus on our boundaries, that is, on our death rather 
          than on our birth(s), and cut ourselves off from what could be born 
          through us.


            When I love and live through others, as well as through myself, I 
          find that my world is full of love, regardless of what the others and 
          I may suffer. I’m able to love and to live through others as well as 
          myself when I’m grateful for my life and their lives and the chance to 
          collaborate with them. Having been given this opportunity, I know that 
          I’m loved, and that my job is to pass it on. As Graham passed his 
          love, and his wonderful insight, on to me. Then I know that rather 
          than our struggles with death, it’s this passing-it-on, this process 
          of giving birth, that’s permanently important—that birth, rather than 
          death, is “the great fact.”

            By taking me beyond my everyday self, “passing it on” allows me, 
          finally, to accept with gratitude my finite existence, including my 
          wounds and the unfortunate people who’ve wounded me, and the wonderful 
          people who’ve nurtured me. Rejecting all of this, I might (in effect) 
          just as well be dead, right now. Being open and vulnerable to all of 
          it, on the other hand, involved with other people, is the ticket to 
          the opportunity that my finite existence gives me: the opportunity to 
          contribute to something endlessly greater than my finite self.


          Choose transformation! Be inspired by the flame
          in which a thing that revels in transformations eludes you. …
          He who lets himself stream out is acknowledged by knowledge;
          she shows him, delighted, what’s serenely accomplished,
          which often closes with beginning, and begins with an end.


                                               (R.M. Rilke)



          “Hard-nosed” thinkers tend to see suffering and death, and the human 
          selfishness, hostility, and aggression that fear of death so often 
          promotes, as the great fact and the dominant issue in human life. I’m 
          thinking of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, the English 
          materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the German existentialist 
          Martin Heidegger, and the many writers who suppose that Charles Darwin 
          has shown that life is fundamentally about physical “self-
          preservation.” These writers all celebrate the courage that looks 
          these “grim facts” in the face, without flinching.


            These writers are certainly right to value courage and truthfulness. 
          But Graham in his moment of vision, and Plato, Rumi, and “mystics,” in 
          general, see life, rather than death, as the great fact and the 
          dominant issue. As Rilke wrote:


            "We should love life so generously, so without calculation and 
          selection, that we involuntarily come to include, and to love, death 
          too (life’s averted half)."


            Loving death as “life’s averted half”—as a necessary feature of 
          life, which is good—is very different from regarding death as the 
          “grim” truth that reveals that life is primarily a matter of survival, 
          of self-preservation. Self-preservation isn’t an end in itself; it’s 
          what we finite things do for a while in order to give birth to the 
          infinite, which is what we really are. And when one loves death as a 
          precondition of the life of finite things, which is an aspect of the 
          infinite, one has nothing to hide from. So that rather than being 
          remarkable accomplishments, courage and truthfulness about death are 
          simply natural.




          —What I Mean by “Mysticism”—



          Having just referred again to “mystics,” I should explain that I use 
          this word in a particular sense. What I mean by “mystic” is simply 
          someone who doesn’t accept the fundamental separateness of one human 
          being from other human beings, and of humans from God. “Mystics” 
          believe that although in one sense we’re obviously many, we’re also, 
          in an important sense, “one.” This is what follows from focusing on 
          birth, rather than death, as the great fact.

            So mysticism, for me, needn’t be irrational and needn’t promote 
          mystery, as such. Plato has Socrates say in his Phaedrus that 
          prophecy, purification, poetry and love are “the best things we have,” 
          and they “come from madness, when it is given as a gift of the 
          god” (244a). By saying that they “come from madness,” Plato means that 
          they don’t seem “reasonable” in an everyday way. This is also true of 
          the mysticism, closely allied to poetry and love, which says that in 
          some important way we’re all “one.” For most of my life, this was an 
          idea that I admired from a distance, but which I couldn’t even begin 
          to take seriously as a description of my own situation. I lacked the 
          purification, the poetry, and especially the love that could have made 
          it seem real. Now, overwhelmingly, I’ve been given them all.

            When Plato says that these things that come from “madness” are good 
          for us when they’re “given as a gift of the god,” he implies that we 
          need to distinguish the kinds of “madness” that are good and god-given 
          from those that aren’t. Thus he suggests that even though prophecy, 
          purification, poetry and love may seem “unreasonable” by everyday 
          standards, we can nevertheless discover that they really are good for 
          us. In the same way, I’m going to explain, drawing especially on other 
          writings of Plato, how the mysticism that my experience supports is 
          true in spite of its apparent craziness.




          —Challenges for Plato: Soul/Body “Dualism”—



          I mentioned in the Introduction some of the major figures who have 
          been influenced by Plato, including St Augustine, Meister Eckhart, 
          Jelaluddin Rumi, Hegel, and Emerson. Numerous other teachers and poets 
          could be added to this list, down to such present-day figures as the 
          Harvard philosopher, Stanley Cavell, who explores what he calls 
          ethical “perfectionism,” and the New England poet, Mary Oliver, who 
          celebrates the transcendence that we can experience in nature.

            But there have always also been thinkers who resisted Plato’s 
          influence. In the ancient world, these included the materialists, 
          Epicurus and Lucretius. Many of Plato’s modern critics, such as Thomas 
          Hobbes, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell, have suggested that key 
          Platonic ideas are incompatible with the spirit of modern science, and 
          therefore need to be replaced.


            Many of Plato’s critics object, in particular, to his apparent 
          “dualism.” They suppose that Plato’s central idea is that the true 
          “me,” which Plato calls the “soul,” should as much as possible reject 
          involvement with the body and the physical world. Plato does speak 
          early in his Phaedo of the soul as being “imprisoned” in the body, and 
          needing to be liberated from this imprisonment. This kind of dualism 
          is especially familiar to us from Gnostic and Christian ascetics who 
          rejected the world, the “flesh,” as evil. Plato is sometimes thought 
          to have prepared the way for these extreme views.

            Perhaps the notion of the soul’s “imprisonment” reflected Plato’s 
          terrible experience of seeing his beloved teacher, Socrates, condemned 
          to death by Athens. It would have been natural to flee from this 
          experience to the notion that Socrates’s soul was better off 
          elsewhere, anyway.


            But Plato went beyond this “imprisonment” notion elsewhere in the 
          Phaedo and in his Republic, Symposium, and Timaeus. He did this 
          through a kind of reconciliation of soul and body, which is closely 
          related to the reconciliation of God and the world that I traced back 
          to him in the Introduction. Like God and the world, soul and body 
          can’t be “separate beings,” because if they’re separate, the soul 
          would be determined partly by its relationship (the relationship of 
          separation) to the body, and to that extent it wouldn’t be self-
          determining. But the point of the “soul,” like the point of “God,” is 
          to be self-determining—to be something that’s fully responsible for 
          itself.

            So if body and soul, the world and God aren’t separate beings, what 
          are they? Why do we speak of “body” and “soul,” the “world” and “God,” 
          rather than just of one or the other of them? Plato’s answer to this 
          question is that the prior items, “body” and the “world,” are the less 
          self-determining items, less fully “themselves,” that are nevertheless 
          familiar to us in everyday experience. They are us in our everyday un-
          freedom, in which we think and do what our biological heritage or our 
          social environment tells us to think and do. But at the same time we 
          dream of being ourselves, of having thoughts and actions that are 
          really our own. The “soul” represents this dream, this aspiration, 
          inasmuch as one’s “soul” (psyche, in Greek) is one’s “life”—it’s what 
          makes one a functioning whole. So that a body that has a soul can be 
          responsible, as a whole, for its actions, in a way that a soul-less 
          rock, for example, is not responsible, but is simply a transmission 
          belt for what impinges on it from elsewhere.

            “God” is a further stage in the dream or aspiration of having 
          thoughts and actions that are really our own. This further stage 
          becomes necessary when we realize that a multiplicity of separate 
          souls are not going to be fully self-determining, because they’ll 
          still be determined by their relationship (of separation) to each 
          other. So the only fully self-determining reality will be the result 
          of ascending, via individual “souls,” to something that’s no longer 
          individual and multiple, but simply, as Plato is reported to have 
          called it, “One.”

            Thus the conflict-ridden duality of soul versus body is not Plato’s 
          last word. Rather, the intertwined concepts of “ascent” and the “One” 
          are his last words. The famous ascent from the Cave, in Republic book 
          vii, is simply one side of the ascent, via “souls,” to God. Achieving 
          knowledge of the Good, outside the Cave, is getting free from the 
          dictates of one’s biological heritage and social environment, to which 
          one was subjected within the Cave, and thus achieving self-
          determination. Achieving knowledge of the Good is how the “soul” 
          functions to unify the body of which it is the soul. If this knowledge 
          takes the knower all the way to full self-determination, it takes him 
          beyond the multiplicity of bodies and souls to, as in the Symposium 
          and Timaeus, the unity of the divine One.

          So this is the gist of Plato’s argument for “mysticism”—for rejecting 
          the conventional assumption that you and I, and you and I and God, are 
          ultimately separate.



          —Ascent, Descent, and Inwardness—



          Maybe now it’s clear why our bodies and souls need to “ascend” to God, 
          in order to become fully themselves. But looking at this from the 
          other direction, why does God, the “One,” take any interest in our 
          multiple souls and bodies? As the Timaeus says, God isn’t possessive 
          (he is subject to no phthonos [29e]). We can reasonably suppose that 
          this is because a possessive God would be limited, determined by his 
          relationship (of exclusion) toward what he viewed as "outside" him, 
          and thus would not be fully self-sufficient or self-determining, as a 
          God should be. For this reason, the necessary ascent from bodies to 
          God is complemented by a necessary “descent” of concern from God to 
          bodies. God “wanted everything to become as much like himself as 
          possible,” as Plato says. It’s by treating everything as much as 
          possible the way he treats himself, that he’s able to be fully 
          himself, fully “One.”

            I should add that of course we shouldn’t take literally this 
          “ascent” and “descent” that we’re talking about. An “upward” motion is 
          a metaphor for the search for something that’s more authoritative than 
          one’s initial opinions and desires. The authority that Plato finds is 
          the authority of what is truly oneself. Another good metaphor for this 
          authority, in this case a metaphor that’s tailored specifically for 
          the authority of what’s truly oneself, would speak of the soul as 
          inside the body and God as inside the soul. This metaphor is 
          appropriate because the soul enables the body to be more itself, and 
          God enables the soul and body to be more themselves, and we’re likely 
          to think that the source of something’s being “itself” is more 
          internal to the thing than anything else could be. This is how we get 
          Augustine’s description of God as “more inward” to him than himself, 
          and the conception of God as being “within us.” So we must understand 
          the so-called “ascent,” the “upward” motion that Plato describes, as 
          leading inward, in this way, into the person’s innermost selfhood.

            Plato’s mature conception of ascent, descent, and inward selfhood 
          (all of which I’ll explore in more detail later) is undoubtedly a bit 
          complex, in comparison to the simple idea of the soul as being 
          “imprisoned” in the body and needing to be liberated from it. So it’s 
          not surprising that the imprisonment idea is the one that many readers 
          associate with Plato. This hasty reading has prevented many people, 
          over the centuries, from appreciating what Plato is really up to.


            The most important thing that Plato is up to is showing how by 
          appreciating our own freedom we can discover the necessary hierarchy 
          of God, souls, and bodies, in which the more governing element (God, 
          or the soul, as the case may be) makes what’s subordinate to it more 
          “itself.” This account of the essential authority in reality explains 
          religion, morality, and evil more comprehensively and more incisively 
          than any other proposal that we have had.




          —Hierarchy, Free Inquiry, and God—



          Science-oriented atheists like Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell 
          and Richard Dawkins all assume that someone who takes free inquiry and 
          science seriously will have no need for concepts like those of the 
          soul or God. Plato and many of his followers believe, on the contrary, 
          that freedom and free inquiry are what the soul and God are composed 
          of, when the soul and God are properly understood.

            In the necessary hierarchy that Plato presents, of God, souls, and 
          bodies, what distinguishes souls and God from mere bodies is that 
          souls and God have increasing degrees of self-determination or 
          freedom. One important species of freedom is free inquiry, of which an 
          important instance is science. So freedom, free inquiry, and science 
          are part of what makes the soul, and God, what they are. Science is an 
          aspect of God.


            Thus Plato reconciles what appears in present-day culture to be 
          paradigmatically un-reconcilable, namely, science and religion, free 
          inquiry and God. Rather than being in conflict with divinity, as Plato 
          conceives it, true science is an aspect of the divine.




          —Hierarchy and Morality—



          As for morality, it’s not hard to see how the unification of free 
          souls in God makes it impossible for these souls to mistreat or 
          exploit one another. It’s our brute separateness that makes that sort 
          of behavior possible. But Plato shows that for those who seek to be 
          truly themselves, there can be no such brute separateness.



          —And Evil Again—



          As for “evil” and the “body,” to which dualists take such strong 
          exception—the hierarchy that Plato teaches in his mature work shows us 
          that they are not the enemy. There is no enemy.  There is only the 
          process of increasing self-determination and “oneness.” The God whose 
          concern “descends” to us, descends to everything, no matter how 
          corrupt, deformed, and lowly. There can be no limit to this concern, 
          or God would not be self-determining and infinite. Thus Plato 
          contemplated the “evil” in the people who had condemned Socrates and 
          had committed other horrors in Athens, and saw that these people were 
          struggling simply, to the best of their limited abilities, to be free, 
          or truly themselves. And I, too, have found that it’s possible to have 
          compassion for things within me that for decades seemed so ugly to me 
          that I felt that actually looking at them would paralyze and disable 
          me entirely. Instead, the compassionate light of day has made these 
          things feel understood, and they have responded by shedding their 
          hatred and their ugliness, revealing themselves instead as tendrils of 
          freedom.


          Thus Plato’s apparently cerebral philosophy reaches deep into the muck 
          and the heart. No limits. True freedom.


          And as for the question with which I began this chapter: I feel deeply 
          cared for not because I believe in a powerful Being who cares for me. 
          That would make the care rather contingent. Instead, I feel cared for 
          because I’ve discovered that freedom—the divine, what’s fully itself—
          in myself and in others diminishes the significance of what separates 
          us from one another, and produces a universal caring that in effect 
          fills all of space and time. And this is not contingent; this is the 
          ultimate and necessary reality.















          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



          ------------------------------------

          Yahoo! Groups Links





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Robert Wallace
          Thanks, Jason (and thank you Robin, too): ... Yes, death is undoubtedly of great significance. The question is whether death, or birth (in the broadest
          Message 4 of 26 , Jul 1 11:50 AM
            Thanks, Jason (and thank you Robin, too):


            On Jul 1, 2011, at 8:41 AM, Jason Wingate wrote:

            > I'm glad you posted this Bob; I had already seen it on your website.
            > My reaction to it was that the transformation required in reaching
            > that broader audience was very revealing in terms what it meant that
            > you personally included, or excluded. As a fellow-"mystic", I almost
            > could not imagine a Platonism further from mine! And I feel that's
            > rather interesting and welcome actually.
            >
            > For me... that you aredying *is* of great significance. Trauma
            > tendsto awaken spiritual power and experience, cross-culturally, and
            > mysticism is a quest is for immortality,which means overcoming death.
            >
            Yes, death is undoubtedly of great significance. The question is
            whether death, or "birth" (in the broadest sense), is of _greater_
            significance. I think that one "overcomes" death precisely by
            discovering the the greater significance of birth. Birth is the true
            immortality.

            > (Of course I recognize that what you are doingessentially is arguing
            > against materialism there. But I think science is alreadystarting to
            > provide good evidence against that, itself.)
            >
            > I wonder how you'd react to my instinctive reaction... your �passing-
            > it-on� idea resonates as seeing personal immortalitycontinuing in
            > others around us on an ordinary-life level, whereas immortality in
            > the One is a personallyachieved experience.
            >
            I can see how I've invited this misinterpretation of what I'm trying
            to say. I did not mean to suggest that personal immortality is simply
            our continuing in others around us on an ordinary-life level. Far from
            it. But I do believe that "personal" immortality (interpreting that
            phrase with caution, as immortality in the Symposium does not seem
            "personal" in the usual sense) is expressed in a different attitude to
            others, namely, the attitude that Diotima describes in terms of
            "giving birth in beauty." Which I paraphrase as "passing it on."


            > Platonic dualism on that level
            >
            Of course when you call it "Platonic" dualism, you assume that Plato
            fully endorses it. Whereas I doubt that he consistently endorses the
            idea that the soul is "imprisoned" in the body. The Republic books iv-
            vii, Symposium and Timaeus convey a very different sense of their
            relationship.

            > would seem to have a purpose in myopinion, as does the harshness of
            > the dualism in Plotinus and Porphyry too.Part of this opinion in me
            > came from mystical experience as purification. I just could not
            > speakof having been purified without it becoming obvious that I had
            > not been purepreviously!
            >
            Absolutely. I don't think we disagree about this.

            > And furthermore, that catharsis was a coming together with
            > theformless which transcends genesis -- it need not *devalue* it,
            > but it doestranscend it and does in fact heal it.
            >
            Absolutely, again.

            > In other words the �reconciliation�between body and soul that you
            > talk of is effected by the formless primarilyand the body only
            > secondarily, acting as a receptacle.
            >
            I tried to make it clear, in the latter half of the chapter, that the
            body is at the bottom, the least adequate level, of the process; that
            soul is indispensable; and that the divine is even more indispensable.
            The body is not (so to speak) an "equal partner." The "reconciliation"
            that I speak of does not assign equal status to what is "reconciled."
            What it does do is to overcome the _antagonism_ between soul and body,
            which is promoted by talking of the soul as "imprisoned" in the body.
            One does not have to reject the body as a mere "prison," in order to
            transcend the body. The body, as I understand it, has to be
            transcended because it is not capable of being fully "itself"--self-
            determining. The "hierarchy" that I describe in the latter part of the
            chapter is a hierarchy of transcendence.

            Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?

            Best, Bob


            > Now that does seem very Platonist to me... do you feel it would
            > contradict you?
            >
            > Only if interested in my ravings! JW
            >
            > ___________________________________________________
            > Lightning in an Oak Box
            >
            > -----Original Message-----
            > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
            > To: Neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
            > Sent: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 16:09
            > Subject: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
            >
            > Hi everybody,
            >
            > I'm copying below a chapter from a book that I'm working on, called
            > _The God Within Us: How I Found Philosophy's Heart and Mine_. It's
            > meant to be a trade book, for a broader-than-academic audience. I've
            > once or twice urged, on this list, that we need a piece of writing
            > that can explain the real significance of Platonism to serious readers
            > who have no scholarly background in the area and little or no
            > acquaintance with the primary texts. A replacement for (and an answer
            > to) Bertrand Russell's chapters on Plato in his History of Western
            > Philosophy, which are so readable and informative and so desperately
            > wrong on crucial issues. Of course there are many "introductory
            > treatments" in reference works, etc., but none that I've seen convey
            > the sheer power of Plato's most important insights. I hope that my
            > book, which includes several additional chapters on Plato, will convey
            > some of this.
            >
            > The book's Introduction introduces the idea of a "God within us," and
            > some leading writers and teachers, including Plato, the Buddha, Jesus,
            > St Augustine, Hegel, and Emerson, who contribute to this idea. It also
            > describes some of the experience that has led me, personally, to
            > embrace the idea.
            >
            > Then comes chapter 1, which I copy below. Beginning from some thoughts
            > about the "problem of evil," this chapter outlines an interpretation
            > of Plato, which also addresses other issues including the One's
            > interest in the many, which Dennis raised with us a few weeks ago.
            > It's not an entirely conventional interpretation, though the texts
            > that it touches on are standard ones. I'd be grateful for any
            > comments, objections, or questions that people might have.
            >
            > Best, Bob W
            >
            > Robert Wallace
            > website: www.robertmwallace.com
            > email: bob@...
            >
            > Chapter 1. Evil, Body, Soul, and God
            >
            > For many people, the problem of evil is the main stumbling-block
            > between them and a relationship to �God.� In view of the injustice and
            > undeserved suffering that I�ve experienced, as well as the far worse
            > things that other people have experienced, how can I nevertheless feel
            > deeply cared for?
            >
            > �Birth, Not Death, Is the Great Fact�
            >
            > My dear, now deceased friend Graham Andrews told me that one day
            > while he was watching a group of quail cross a lawn in California, he
            > realized: �Andrews, you always get it backwards. The great fact is not
            > that you will die, but that you were born!� We have no �right� to
            > eternal life, or to 70 years of life, or to five minutes of it; as
            > Rumi says, we �deserve nothing,� from the universe. What we receive is
            > a free gift, an unearned opportunity.
            >
            > What are we going to do with this opportunity? We seem to have two
            > main options. We can focus on what�s being born in and through us and
            > others. The divine doesn�t care about boundaries. Or, on the other
            > hand, we can focus on our boundaries, that is, on our death rather
            > than on our birth(s), and cut ourselves off from what could be born
            > through us.
            >
            > When I love and live through others, as well as through myself, I
            > find that my world is full of love, regardless of what the others and
            > I may suffer. I�m able to love and to live through others as well as
            > myself when I�m grateful for my life and their lives and the chance to
            > collaborate with them. Having been given this opportunity, I know that
            > I�m loved, and that my job is to pass it on. As Graham passed his
            > love, and his wonderful insight, on to me. Then I know that rather
            > than our struggles with death, it�s this passing-it-on, this process
            > of giving birth, that�s permanently important�that birth, rather than
            > death, is �the great fact.�
            >
            > By taking me beyond my everyday self, �passing it on� allows me,
            > finally, to accept with gratitude my finite existence, including my
            > wounds and the unfortunate people who�ve wounded me, and the wonderful
            > people who�ve nurtured me. Rejecting all of this, I might (in effect)
            > just as well be dead, right now. Being open and vulnerable to all of
            > it, on the other hand, involved with other people, is the ticket to
            > the opportunity that my finite existence gives me: the opportunity to
            > contribute to something endlessly greater than my finite self.
            >
            > Choose transformation! Be inspired by the flame
            > in which a thing that revels in transformations eludes you. �
            > He who lets himself stream out is acknowledged by knowledge;
            > she shows him, delighted, what�s serenely accomplished,
            > which often closes with beginning, and begins with an end.
            >
            > (R.M. Rilke)
            >
            > �Hard-nosed� thinkers tend to see suffering and death, and the human
            > selfishness, hostility, and aggression that fear of death so often
            > promotes, as the great fact and the dominant issue in human life. I�m
            > thinking of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, the English
            > materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the German existentialist
            > Martin Heidegger, and the many writers who suppose that Charles Darwin
            > has shown that life is fundamentally about physical �self-
            > preservation.� These writers all celebrate the courage that looks
            > these �grim facts� in the face, without flinching.
            >
            > These writers are certainly right to value courage and truthfulness.
            > But Graham in his moment of vision, and Plato, Rumi, and �mystics,� in
            > general, see life, rather than death, as the great fact and the
            > dominant issue. As Rilke wrote:
            >
            > "We should love life so generously, so without calculation and
            > selection, that we involuntarily come to include, and to love, death
            > too (life�s averted half)."
            >
            > Loving death as �life�s averted half��as a necessary feature of
            > life, which is good�is very different from regarding death as the
            > �grim� truth that reveals that life is primarily a matter of survival,
            > of self-preservation. Self-preservation isn�t an end in itself; it�s
            > what we finite things do for a while in order to give birth to the
            > infinite, which is what we really are. And when one loves death as a
            > precondition of the life of finite things, which is an aspect of the
            > infinite, one has nothing to hide from. So that rather than being
            > remarkable accomplishments, courage and truthfulness about death are
            > simply natural.
            >
            > �What I Mean by �Mysticism��
            >
            > Having just referred again to �mystics,� I should explain that I use
            > this word in a particular sense. What I mean by �mystic� is simply
            > someone who doesn�t accept the fundamental separateness of one human
            > being from other human beings, and of humans from God. �Mystics�
            > believe that although in one sense we�re obviously many, we�re also,
            > in an important sense, �one.� This is what follows from focusing on
            > birth, rather than death, as the great fact.
            >
            > So mysticism, for me, needn�t be irrational and needn�t promote
            > mystery, as such. Plato has Socrates say in his Phaedrus that
            > prophecy, purification, poetry and love are �the best things we have,�
            > and they �come from madness, when it is given as a gift of the
            > god� (244a). By saying that they �come from madness,� Plato means that
            > they don�t seem �reasonable� in an everyday way. This is also true of
            > the mysticism, closely allied to poetry and love, which says that in
            > some important way we�re all �one.� For most of my life, this was an
            > idea that I admired from a distance, but which I couldn�t even begin
            > to take seriously as a description of my own situation. I lacked the
            > purification, the poetry, and especially the love that could have made
            > it seem real. Now, overwhelmingly, I�ve been given them all.
            >
            > When Plato says that these things that come from �madness� are good
            > for us when they�re �given as a gift of the god,� he implies that we
            > need to distinguish the kinds of �madness� that are good and god-given
            > from those that aren�t. Thus he suggests that even though prophecy,
            > purification, poetry and love may seem �unreasonable� by everyday
            > standards, we can nevertheless discover that they really are good for
            > us. In the same way, I�m going to explain, drawing especially on other
            > writings of Plato, how the mysticism that my experience supports is
            > true in spite of its apparent craziness.
            >
            > �Challenges for Plato: Soul/Body �Dualism��
            >
            > I mentioned in the Introduction some of the major figures who have
            > been influenced by Plato, including St Augustine, Meister Eckhart,
            > Jelaluddin Rumi, Hegel, and Emerson. Numerous other teachers and poets
            > could be added to this list, down to such present-day figures as the
            > Harvard philosopher, Stanley Cavell, who explores what he calls
            > ethical �perfectionism,� and the New England poet, Mary Oliver, who
            > celebrates the transcendence that we can experience in nature.
            >
            > But there have always also been thinkers who resisted Plato�s
            > influence. In the ancient world, these included the materialists,
            > Epicurus and Lucretius. Many of Plato�s modern critics, such as Thomas
            > Hobbes, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell, have suggested that key
            > Platonic ideas are incompatible with the spirit of modern science, and
            > therefore need to be replaced.
            >
            > Many of Plato�s critics object, in particular, to his apparent
            > �dualism.� They suppose that Plato�s central idea is that the true
            > �me,� which Plato calls the �soul,� should as much as possible reject
            > involvement with the body and the physical world. Plato does speak
            > early in his Phaedo of the soul as being �imprisoned� in the body, and
            > needing to be liberated from this imprisonment. This kind of dualism
            > is especially familiar to us from Gnostic and Christian ascetics who
            > rejected the world, the �flesh,� as evil. Plato is sometimes thought
            > to have prepared the way for these extreme views.
            >
            > Perhaps the notion of the soul�s �imprisonment� reflected Plato�s
            > terrible experience of seeing his beloved teacher, Socrates, condemned
            > to death by Athens. It would have been natural to flee from this
            > experience to the notion that Socrates�s soul was better off
            > elsewhere, anyway.
            >
            > But Plato went beyond this �imprisonment� notion elsewhere in the
            > Phaedo and in his Republic, Symposium, and Timaeus. He did this
            > through a kind of reconciliation of soul and body, which is closely
            > related to the reconciliation of God and the world that I traced back
            > to him in the Introduction. Like God and the world, soul and body
            > can�t be �separate beings,� because if they�re separate, the soul
            > would be determined partly by its relationship (the relationship of
            > separation) to the body, and to that extent it wouldn�t be self-
            > determining. But the point of the �soul,� like the point of �God,� is
            > to be self-determining�to be something that�s fully responsible for
            > itself.
            >
            > So if body and soul, the world and God aren�t separate beings, what
            > are they? Why do we speak of �body� and �soul,� the �world� and �God,�
            > rather than just of one or the other of them? Plato�s answer to this
            > question is that the prior items, �body� and the �world,� are the less
            > self-determining items, less fully �themselves,� that are nevertheless
            > familiar to us in everyday experience. They are us in our everyday un-
            > freedom, in which we think and do what our biological heritage or our
            > social environment tells us to think and do. But at the same time we
            > dream of being ourselves, of having thoughts and actions that are
            > really our own. The �soul� represents this dream, this aspiration,
            > inasmuch as one�s �soul� (psyche, in Greek) is one�s �life��it�s what
            > makes one a functioning whole. So that a body that has a soul can be
            > responsible, as a whole, for its actions, in a way that a soul-less
            > rock, for example, is not responsible, but is simply a transmission
            > belt for what impinges on it from elsewhere.
            >
            > �God� is a further stage in the dream or aspiration of having
            > thoughts and actions that are really our own. This further stage
            > becomes necessary when we realize that a multiplicity of separate
            > souls are not going to be fully self-determining, because they�ll
            > still be determined by their relationship (of separation) to each
            > other. So the only fully self-determining reality will be the result
            > of ascending, via individual �souls,� to something that�s no longer
            > individual and multiple, but simply, as Plato is reported to have
            > called it, �One.�
            >
            > Thus the conflict-ridden duality of soul versus body is not Plato�s
            > last word. Rather, the intertwined concepts of �ascent� and the �One�
            > are his last words. The famous ascent from the Cave, in Republic book
            > vii, is simply one side of the ascent, via �souls,� to God. Achieving
            > knowledge of the Good, outside the Cave, is getting free from the
            > dictates of one�s biological heritage and social environment, to which
            > one was subjected within the Cave, and thus achieving self-
            > determination. Achieving knowledge of the Good is how the �soul�
            > functions to unify the body of which it is the soul. If this knowledge
            > takes the knower all the way to full self-determination, it takes him
            > beyond the multiplicity of bodies and souls to, as in the Symposium
            > and Timaeus, the unity of the divine One.
            >
            > So this is the gist of Plato�s argument for �mysticism��for rejecting
            > the conventional assumption that you and I, and you and I and God, are
            > ultimately separate.
            >
            > �Ascent, Descent, and Inwardness�
            >
            > Maybe now it�s clear why our bodies and souls need to �ascend� to God,
            > in order to become fully themselves. But looking at this from the
            > other direction, why does God, the �One,� take any interest in our
            > multiple souls and bodies? As the Timaeus says, God isn�t possessive
            > (he is subject to no phthonos [29e]). We can reasonably suppose that
            > this is because a possessive God would be limited, determined by his
            > relationship (of exclusion) toward what he viewed as "outside" him,
            > and thus would not be fully self-sufficient or self-determining, as a
            > God should be. For this reason, the necessary ascent from bodies to
            > God is complemented by a necessary �descent� of concern from God to
            > bodies. God �wanted everything to become as much like himself as
            > possible,� as Plato says. It�s by treating everything as much as
            > possible the way he treats himself, that he�s able to be fully
            > himself, fully �One.�
            >
            > I should add that of course we shouldn�t take literally this
            > �ascent� and �descent� that we�re talking about. An �upward� motion is
            > a metaphor for the search for something that�s more authoritative than
            > one�s initial opinions and desires. The authority that Plato finds is
            > the authority of what is truly oneself. Another good metaphor for this
            > authority, in this case a metaphor that�s tailored specifically for
            > the authority of what�s truly oneself, would speak of the soul as
            > inside the body and God as inside the soul. This metaphor is
            > appropriate because the soul enables the body to be more itself, and
            > God enables the soul and body to be more themselves, and we�re likely
            > to think that the source of something�s being �itself� is more
            > internal to the thing than anything else could be. This is how we get
            > Augustine�s description of God as �more inward� to him than himself,
            > and the conception of God as being �within us.� So we must understand
            > the so-called �ascent,� the �upward� motion that Plato describes, as
            > leading inward, in this way, into the person�s innermost selfhood.
            >
            > Plato�s mature conception of ascent, descent, and inward selfhood
            > (all of which I�ll explore in more detail later) is undoubtedly a bit
            > complex, in comparison to the simple idea of the soul as being
            > �imprisoned� in the body and needing to be liberated from it. So it�s
            > not surprising that the imprisonment idea is the one that many readers
            > associate with Plato. This hasty reading has prevented many people,
            > over the centuries, from appreciating what Plato is really up to.
            >
            > The most important thing that Plato is up to is showing how by
            > appreciating our own freedom we can discover the necessary hierarchy
            > of God, souls, and bodies, in which the more governing element (God,
            > or the soul, as the case may be) makes what�s subordinate to it more
            > �itself.� This account of the essential authority in reality explains
            > religion, morality, and evil more comprehensively and more incisively
            > than any other proposal that we have had.
            >
            > �Hierarchy, Free Inquiry, and God�
            >
            > Science-oriented atheists like Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell
            > and Richard Dawkins all assume that someone who takes free inquiry and
            > science seriously will have no need for concepts like those of the
            > soul or God. Plato and many of his followers believe, on the contrary,
            > that freedom and free inquiry are what the soul and God are composed
            > of, when the soul and God are properly understood.
            >
            > In the necessary hierarchy that Plato presents, of God, souls, and
            > bodies, what distinguishes souls and God from mere bodies is that
            > souls and God have increasing degrees of self-determination or
            > freedom. One important species of freedom is free inquiry, of which an
            > important instance is science. So freedom, free inquiry, and science
            > are part of what makes the soul, and God, what they are. Science is an
            > aspect of God.
            >
            > Thus Plato reconciles what appears in present-day culture to be
            > paradigmatically un-reconcilable, namely, science and religion, free
            > inquiry and God. Rather than being in conflict with divinity, as Plato
            > conceives it, true science is an aspect of the divine.
            >
            > �Hierarchy and Morality�
            >
            > As for morality, it�s not hard to see how the unification of free
            > souls in God makes it impossible for these souls to mistreat or
            > exploit one another. It�s our brute separateness that makes that sort
            > of behavior possible. But Plato shows that for those who seek to be
            > truly themselves, there can be no such brute separateness.
            >
            > �And Evil Again�
            >
            > As for �evil� and the �body,� to which dualists take such strong
            > exception�the hierarchy that Plato teaches in his mature work shows us
            > that they are not the enemy. There is no enemy. There is only the
            > process of increasing self-determination and �oneness.� The God whose
            > concern �descends� to us, descends to everything, no matter how
            > corrupt, deformed, and lowly. There can be no limit to this concern,
            > or God would not be self-determining and infinite. Thus Plato
            > contemplated the �evil� in the people who had condemned Socrates and
            > had committed other horrors in Athens, and saw that these people were
            > struggling simply, to the best of their limited abilities, to be free,
            > or truly themselves. And I, too, have found that it�s possible to have
            > compassion for things within me that for decades seemed so ugly to me
            > that I felt that actually looking at them would paralyze and disable
            > me entirely. Instead, the compassionate light of day has made these
            > things feel understood, and they have responded by shedding their
            > hatred and their ugliness, revealing themselves instead as tendrils of
            > freedom.
            >
            > Thus Plato�s apparently cerebral philosophy reaches deep into the muck
            > and the heart. No limits. True freedom.
            >
            > And as for the question with which I began this chapter: I feel deeply
            > cared for not because I believe in a powerful Being who cares for me.
            > That would make the care rather contingent. Instead, I feel cared for
            > because I�ve discovered that freedom�the divine, what�s fully itself�
            > in myself and in others diminishes the significance of what separates
            > us from one another, and produces a universal caring that in effect
            > fills all of space and time. And this is not contingent; this is the
            > ultimate and necessary reality.
            >
            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            >
            > ------------------------------------
            >
            > Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            >
            >
            >

            Robert Wallace
            website: www.robertmwallace.com
            email: bob@...
            phone: 414-617-3914











            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Jason Wingate
            Bob,
            Message 5 of 26 , Jul 1 1:30 PM
              Bob,

              <<Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?>>


              It does... on the death/birth thing, perhaps in your terms the value of death (in whatever sense) is realised by seeing it as birth? I don't think the Socrates of the Phaedo would disagree with that. Our takes are still somewhat different but I enjoy 'dissensus'.

              What role would virtue play in this process, and the 'passing-it-on' idea? jw


              ___________________________________________________
              Lightning in an Oak Box





              -----Original Message-----
              From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
              To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 19:50
              Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1


              Thanks, Jason (and thank you Robin, too):


              On Jul 1, 2011, at 8:41 AM, Jason Wingate wrote:

              > I'm glad you posted this Bob; I had already seen it on your website.
              > My reaction to it was that the transformation required in reaching
              > that broader audience was very revealing in terms what it meant that
              > you personally included, or excluded. As a fellow-"mystic", I almost
              > could not imagine a Platonism further from mine! And I feel that's
              > rather interesting and welcome actually.
              >
              > For me... that you aredying *is* of great significance. Trauma
              > tendsto awaken spiritual power and experience, cross-culturally, and
              > mysticism is a quest is for immortality,which means overcoming death.
              >
              Yes, death is undoubtedly of great significance. The question is
              whether death, or "birth" (in the broadest sense), is of _greater_
              significance. I think that one "overcomes" death precisely by
              discovering the the greater significance of birth. Birth is the true
              immortality.

              > (Of course I recognize that what you are doingessentially is arguing
              > against materialism there. But I think science is alreadystarting to
              > provide good evidence against that, itself.)
              >
              > I wonder how you'd react to my instinctive reaction... your ‘passing-
              > it-on’ idea resonates as seeing personal immortalitycontinuing in
              > others around us on an ordinary-life level, whereas immortality in
              > the One is a personallyachieved experience.
              >
              I can see how I've invited this misinterpretation of what I'm trying
              to say. I did not mean to suggest that personal immortality is simply
              our continuing in others around us on an ordinary-life level. Far from
              it. But I do believe that "personal" immortality (interpreting that
              phrase with caution, as immortality in the Symposium does not seem
              "personal" in the usual sense) is expressed in a different attitude to
              others, namely, the attitude that Diotima describes in terms of
              "giving birth in beauty." Which I paraphrase as "passing it on."


              > Platonic dualism on that level
              >
              Of course when you call it "Platonic" dualism, you assume that Plato
              fully endorses it. Whereas I doubt that he consistently endorses the
              idea that the soul is "imprisoned" in the body. The Republic books iv-
              vii, Symposium and Timaeus convey a very different sense of their
              relationship.

              > would seem to have a purpose in myopinion, as does the harshness of
              > the dualism in Plotinus and Porphyry too.Part of this opinion in me
              > came from mystical experience as purification. I just could not
              > speakof having been purified without it becoming obvious that I had
              > not been purepreviously!
              >
              Absolutely. I don't think we disagree about this.

              > And furthermore, that catharsis was a coming together with
              > theformless which transcends genesis -- it need not *devalue* it,
              > but it doestranscend it and does in fact heal it.
              >
              Absolutely, again.

              > In other words the ‘reconciliation’between body and soul that you
              > talk of is effected by the formless primarilyand the body only
              > secondarily, acting as a receptacle.
              >
              I tried to make it clear, in the latter half of the chapter, that the
              body is at the bottom, the least adequate level, of the process; that
              soul is indispensable; and that the divine is even more indispensable.
              The body is not (so to speak) an "equal partner." The "reconciliation"
              that I speak of does not assign equal status to what is "reconciled."
              What it does do is to overcome the _antagonism_ between soul and body,
              which is promoted by talking of the soul as "imprisoned" in the body.
              One does not have to reject the body as a mere "prison," in order to
              transcend the body. The body, as I understand it, has to be
              transcended because it is not capable of being fully "itself"--self-
              determining. The "hierarchy" that I describe in the latter part of the
              chapter is a hierarchy of transcendence.

              Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?

              Best, Bob


              > Now that does seem very Platonist to me... do you feel it would
              > contradict you?
              >
              > Only if interested in my ravings! JW
              >
              > ___________________________________________________
              > Lightning in an Oak Box
              >
              > -----Original Message-----
              > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
              > To: Neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
              > Sent: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 16:09
              > Subject: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
              >
              > Hi everybody,
              >
              > I'm copying below a chapter from a book that I'm working on, called
              > _The God Within Us: How I Found Philosophy's Heart and Mine_. It's
              > meant to be a trade book, for a broader-than-academic audience. I've
              > once or twice urged, on this list, that we need a piece of writing
              > that can explain the real significance of Platonism to serious readers
              > who have no scholarly background in the area and little or no
              > acquaintance with the primary texts. A replacement for (and an answer
              > to) Bertrand Russell's chapters on Plato in his History of Western
              > Philosophy, which are so readable and informative and so desperately
              > wrong on crucial issues. Of course there are many "introductory
              > treatments" in reference works, etc., but none that I've seen convey
              > the sheer power of Plato's most important insights. I hope that my
              > book, which includes several additional chapters on Plato, will convey
              > some of this.
              >
              > The book's Introduction introduces the idea of a "God within us," and
              > some leading writers and teachers, including Plato, the Buddha, Jesus,
              > St Augustine, Hegel, and Emerson, who contribute to this idea. It also
              > describes some of the experience that has led me, personally, to
              > embrace the idea.
              >
              > Then comes chapter 1, which I copy below. Beginning from some thoughts
              > about the "problem of evil," this chapter outlines an interpretation
              > of Plato, which also addresses other issues including the One's
              > interest in the many, which Dennis raised with us a few weeks ago.
              > It's not an entirely conventional interpretation, though the texts
              > that it touches on are standard ones. I'd be grateful for any
              > comments, objections, or questions that people might have.
              >
              > Best, Bob W
              >
              > Robert Wallace
              > website: www.robertmwallace.com
              > email: bob@...
              >
              > Chapter 1. Evil, Body, Soul, and God
              >
              > For many people, the problem of evil is the main stumbling-block
              > between them and a relationship to “God.” In view of the injustice and
              > undeserved suffering that I’ve experienced, as well as the far worse
              > things that other people have experienced, how can I nevertheless feel
              > deeply cared for?
              >
              > —Birth, Not Death, Is the Great Fact—
              >
              > My dear, now deceased friend Graham Andrews told me that one day
              > while he was watching a group of quail cross a lawn in California, he
              > realized: “Andrews, you always get it backwards. The great fact is not
              > that you will die, but that you were born!” We have no “right” to
              > eternal life, or to 70 years of life, or to five minutes of it; as
              > Rumi says, we “deserve nothing,” from the universe. What we receive is
              > a free gift, an unearned opportunity.
              >
              > What are we going to do with this opportunity? We seem to have two
              > main options. We can focus on what’s being born in and through us and
              > others. The divine doesn’t care about boundaries. Or, on the other
              > hand, we can focus on our boundaries, that is, on our death rather
              > than on our birth(s), and cut ourselves off from what could be born
              > through us.
              >
              > When I love and live through others, as well as through myself, I
              > find that my world is full of love, regardless of what the others and
              > I may suffer. I’m able to love and to live through others as well as
              > myself when I’m grateful for my life and their lives and the chance to
              > collaborate with them. Having been given this opportunity, I know that
              > I’m loved, and that my job is to pass it on. As Graham passed his
              > love, and his wonderful insight, on to me. Then I know that rather
              > than our struggles with death, it’s this passing-it-on, this process
              > of giving birth, that’s permanently important—that birth, rather than
              > death, is “the great fact.”
              >
              > By taking me beyond my everyday self, “passing it on” allows me,
              > finally, to accept with gratitude my finite existence, including my
              > wounds and the unfortunate people who’ve wounded me, and the wonderful
              > people who’ve nurtured me. Rejecting all of this, I might (in effect)
              > just as well be dead, right now. Being open and vulnerable to all of
              > it, on the other hand, involved with other people, is the ticket to
              > the opportunity that my finite existence gives me: the opportunity to
              > contribute to something endlessly greater than my finite self.
              >
              > Choose transformation! Be inspired by the flame
              > in which a thing that revels in transformations eludes you. …
              > He who lets himself stream out is acknowledged by knowledge;
              > she shows him, delighted, what’s serenely accomplished,
              > which often closes with beginning, and begins with an end.
              >
              > (R.M. Rilke)
              >
              > “Hard-nosed” thinkers tend to see suffering and death, and the human
              > selfishness, hostility, and aggression that fear of death so often
              > promotes, as the great fact and the dominant issue in human life. I’m
              > thinking of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, the English
              > materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the German existentialist
              > Martin Heidegger, and the many writers who suppose that Charles Darwin
              > has shown that life is fundamentally about physical “self-
              > preservation.” These writers all celebrate the courage that looks
              > these “grim facts” in the face, without flinching.
              >
              > These writers are certainly right to value courage and truthfulness.
              > But Graham in his moment of vision, and Plato, Rumi, and “mystics,” in
              > general, see life, rather than death, as the great fact and the
              > dominant issue. As Rilke wrote:
              >
              > "We should love life so generously, so without calculation and
              > selection, that we involuntarily come to include, and to love, death
              > too (life’s averted half)."
              >
              > Loving death as “life’s averted half”—as a necessary feature of
              > life, which is good—is very different from regarding death as the
              > “grim” truth that reveals that life is primarily a matter of survival,
              > of self-preservation. Self-preservation isn’t an end in itself; it’s
              > what we finite things do for a while in order to give birth to the
              > infinite, which is what we really are. And when one loves death as a
              > precondition of the life of finite things, which is an aspect of the
              > infinite, one has nothing to hide from. So that rather than being
              > remarkable accomplishments, courage and truthfulness about death are
              > simply natural.
              >
              > —What I Mean by “Mysticism”—
              >
              > Having just referred again to “mystics,” I should explain that I use
              > this word in a particular sense. What I mean by “mystic” is simply
              > someone who doesn’t accept the fundamental separateness of one human
              > being from other human beings, and of humans from God. “Mystics”
              > believe that although in one sense we’re obviously many, we’re also,
              > in an important sense, “one.” This is what follows from focusing on
              > birth, rather than death, as the great fact.
              >
              > So mysticism, for me, needn’t be irrational and needn’t promote
              > mystery, as such. Plato has Socrates say in his Phaedrus that
              > prophecy, purification, poetry and love are “the best things we have,”
              > and they “come from madness, when it is given as a gift of the
              > god” (244a). By saying that they “come from madness,” Plato means that
              > they don’t seem “reasonable” in an everyday way. This is also true of
              > the mysticism, closely allied to poetry and love, which says that in
              > some important way we’re all “one.” For most of my life, this was an
              > idea that I admired from a distance, but which I couldn’t even begin
              > to take seriously as a description of my own situation. I lacked the
              > purification, the poetry, and especially the love that could have made
              > it seem real. Now, overwhelmingly, I’ve been given them all.
              >
              > When Plato says that these things that come from “madness” are good
              > for us when they’re “given as a gift of the god,” he implies that we
              > need to distinguish the kinds of “madness” that are good and god-given
              > from those that aren’t. Thus he suggests that even though prophecy,
              > purification, poetry and love may seem “unreasonable” by everyday
              > standards, we can nevertheless discover that they really are good for
              > us. In the same way, I’m going to explain, drawing especially on other
              > writings of Plato, how the mysticism that my experience supports is
              > true in spite of its apparent craziness.
              >
              > —Challenges for Plato: Soul/Body “Dualism”—
              >
              > I mentioned in the Introduction some of the major figures who have
              > been influenced by Plato, including St Augustine, Meister Eckhart,
              > Jelaluddin Rumi, Hegel, and Emerson. Numerous other teachers and poets
              > could be added to this list, down to such present-day figures as the
              > Harvard philosopher, Stanley Cavell, who explores what he calls
              > ethical “perfectionism,” and the New England poet, Mary Oliver, who
              > celebrates the transcendence that we can experience in nature.
              >
              > But there have always also been thinkers who resisted Plato’s
              > influence. In the ancient world, these included the materialists,
              > Epicurus and Lucretius. Many of Plato’s modern critics, such as Thomas
              > Hobbes, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell, have suggested that key
              > Platonic ideas are incompatible with the spirit of modern science, and
              > therefore need to be replaced.
              >
              > Many of Plato’s critics object, in particular, to his apparent
              > “dualism.” They suppose that Plato’s central idea is that the true
              > “me,” which Plato calls the “soul,” should as much as possible reject
              > involvement with the body and the physical world. Plato does speak
              > early in his Phaedo of the soul as being “imprisoned” in the body, and
              > needing to be liberated from this imprisonment. This kind of dualism
              > is especially familiar to us from Gnostic and Christian ascetics who
              > rejected the world, the “flesh,” as evil. Plato is sometimes thought
              > to have prepared the way for these extreme views.
              >
              > Perhaps the notion of the soul’s “imprisonment” reflected Plato’s
              > terrible experience of seeing his beloved teacher, Socrates, condemned
              > to death by Athens. It would have been natural to flee from this
              > experience to the notion that Socrates’s soul was better off
              > elsewhere, anyway.
              >
              > But Plato went beyond this “imprisonment” notion elsewhere in the
              > Phaedo and in his Republic, Symposium, and Timaeus. He did this
              > through a kind of reconciliation of soul and body, which is closely
              > related to the reconciliation of God and the world that I traced back
              > to him in the Introduction. Like God and the world, soul and body
              > can’t be “separate beings,” because if they’re separate, the soul
              > would be determined partly by its relationship (the relationship of
              > separation) to the body, and to that extent it wouldn’t be self-
              > determining. But the point of the “soul,” like the point of “God,” is
              > to be self-determining—to be something that’s fully responsible for
              > itself.
              >
              > So if body and soul, the world and God aren’t separate beings, what
              > are they? Why do we speak of “body” and “soul,” the “world” and “God,”
              > rather than just of one or the other of them? Plato’s answer to this
              > question is that the prior items, “body” and the “world,” are the less
              > self-determining items, less fully “themselves,” that are nevertheless
              > familiar to us in everyday experience. They are us in our everyday un-
              > freedom, in which we think and do what our biological heritage or our
              > social environment tells us to think and do. But at the same time we
              > dream of being ourselves, of having thoughts and actions that are
              > really our own. The “soul” represents this dream, this aspiration,
              > inasmuch as one’s “soul” (psyche, in Greek) is one’s “life”—it’s what
              > makes one a functioning whole. So that a body that has a soul can be
              > responsible, as a whole, for its actions, in a way that a soul-less
              > rock, for example, is not responsible, but is simply a transmission
              > belt for what impinges on it from elsewhere.
              >
              > “God” is a further stage in the dream or aspiration of having
              > thoughts and actions that are really our own. This further stage
              > becomes necessary when we realize that a multiplicity of separate
              > souls are not going to be fully self-determining, because they’ll
              > still be determined by their relationship (of separation) to each
              > other. So the only fully self-determining reality will be the result
              > of ascending, via individual “souls,” to something that’s no longer
              > individual and multiple, but simply, as Plato is reported to have
              > called it, “One.”
              >
              > Thus the conflict-ridden duality of soul versus body is not Plato’s
              > last word. Rather, the intertwined concepts of “ascent” and the “One”
              > are his last words. The famous ascent from the Cave, in Republic book
              > vii, is simply one side of the ascent, via “souls,” to God. Achieving
              > knowledge of the Good, outside the Cave, is getting free from the
              > dictates of one’s biological heritage and social environment, to which
              > one was subjected within the Cave, and thus achieving self-
              > determination. Achieving knowledge of the Good is how the “soul”
              > functions to unify the body of which it is the soul. If this knowledge
              > takes the knower all the way to full self-determination, it takes him
              > beyond the multiplicity of bodies and souls to, as in the Symposium
              > and Timaeus, the unity of the divine One.
              >
              > So this is the gist of Plato’s argument for “mysticism”—for rejecting
              > the conventional assumption that you and I, and you and I and God, are
              > ultimately separate.
              >
              > —Ascent, Descent, and Inwardness—
              >
              > Maybe now it’s clear why our bodies and souls need to “ascend” to God,
              > in order to become fully themselves. But looking at this from the
              > other direction, why does God, the “One,” take any interest in our
              > multiple souls and bodies? As the Timaeus says, God isn’t possessive
              > (he is subject to no phthonos [29e]). We can reasonably suppose that
              > this is because a possessive God would be limited, determined by his
              > relationship (of exclusion) toward what he viewed as "outside" him,
              > and thus would not be fully self-sufficient or self-determining, as a
              > God should be. For this reason, the necessary ascent from bodies to
              > God is complemented by a necessary “descent” of concern from God to
              > bodies. God “wanted everything to become as much like himself as
              > possible,” as Plato says. It’s by treating everything as much as
              > possible the way he treats himself, that he’s able to be fully
              > himself, fully “One.”
              >
              > I should add that of course we shouldn’t take literally this
              > “ascent” and “descent” that we’re talking about. An “upward” motion is
              > a metaphor for the search for something that’s more authoritative than
              > one’s initial opinions and desires. The authority that Plato finds is
              > the authority of what is truly oneself. Another good metaphor for this
              > authority, in this case a metaphor that’s tailored specifically for
              > the authority of what’s truly oneself, would speak of the soul as
              > inside the body and God as inside the soul. This metaphor is
              > appropriate because the soul enables the body to be more itself, and
              > God enables the soul and body to be more themselves, and we’re likely
              > to think that the source of something’s being “itself” is more
              > internal to the thing than anything else could be. This is how we get
              > Augustine’s description of God as “more inward” to him than himself,
              > and the conception of God as being “within us.” So we must understand
              > the so-called “ascent,” the “upward” motion that Plato describes, as
              > leading inward, in this way, into the person’s innermost selfhood.
              >
              > Plato’s mature conception of ascent, descent, and inward selfhood
              > (all of which I’ll explore in more detail later) is undoubtedly a bit
              > complex, in comparison to the simple idea of the soul as being
              > “imprisoned” in the body and needing to be liberated from it. So it’s
              > not surprising that the imprisonment idea is the one that many readers
              > associate with Plato. This hasty reading has prevented many people,
              > over the centuries, from appreciating what Plato is really up to.
              >
              > The most important thing that Plato is up to is showing how by
              > appreciating our own freedom we can discover the necessary hierarchy
              > of God, souls, and bodies, in which the more governing element (God,
              > or the soul, as the case may be) makes what’s subordinate to it more
              > “itself.” This account of the essential authority in reality explains
              > religion, morality, and evil more comprehensively and more incisively
              > than any other proposal that we have had.
              >
              > —Hierarchy, Free Inquiry, and God—
              >
              > Science-oriented atheists like Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell
              > and Richard Dawkins all assume that someone who takes free inquiry and
              > science seriously will have no need for concepts like those of the
              > soul or God. Plato and many of his followers believe, on the contrary,
              > that freedom and free inquiry are what the soul and God are composed
              > of, when the soul and God are properly understood.
              >
              > In the necessary hierarchy that Plato presents, of God, souls, and
              > bodies, what distinguishes souls and God from mere bodies is that
              > souls and God have increasing degrees of self-determination or
              > freedom. One important species of freedom is free inquiry, of which an
              > important instance is science. So freedom, free inquiry, and science
              > are part of what makes the soul, and God, what they are. Science is an
              > aspect of God.
              >
              > Thus Plato reconciles what appears in present-day culture to be
              > paradigmatically un-reconcilable, namely, science and religion, free
              > inquiry and God. Rather than being in conflict with divinity, as Plato
              > conceives it, true science is an aspect of the divine.
              >
              > —Hierarchy and Morality—
              >
              > As for morality, it’s not hard to see how the unification of free
              > souls in God makes it impossible for these souls to mistreat or
              > exploit one another. It’s our brute separateness that makes that sort
              > of behavior possible. But Plato shows that for those who seek to be
              > truly themselves, there can be no such brute separateness.
              >
              > —And Evil Again—
              >
              > As for “evil” and the “body,” to which dualists take such strong
              > exception—the hierarchy that Plato teaches in his mature work shows us
              > that they are not the enemy. There is no enemy. There is only the
              > process of increasing self-determination and “oneness.” The God whose
              > concern “descends” to us, descends to everything, no matter how
              > corrupt, deformed, and lowly. There can be no limit to this concern,
              > or God would not be self-determining and infinite. Thus Plato
              > contemplated the “evil” in the people who had condemned Socrates and
              > had committed other horrors in Athens, and saw that these people were
              > struggling simply, to the best of their limited abilities, to be free,
              > or truly themselves. And I, too, have found that it’s possible to have
              > compassion for things within me that for decades seemed so ugly to me
              > that I felt that actually looking at them would paralyze and disable
              > me entirely. Instead, the compassionate light of day has made these
              > things feel understood, and they have responded by shedding their
              > hatred and their ugliness, revealing themselves instead as tendrils of
              > freedom.
              >
              > Thus Plato’s apparently cerebral philosophy reaches deep into the muck
              > and the heart. No limits. True freedom.
              >
              > And as for the question with which I began this chapter: I feel deeply
              > cared for not because I believe in a powerful Being who cares for me.
              > That would make the care rather contingent. Instead, I feel cared for
              > because I’ve discovered that freedom—the divine, what’s fully itself—
              > in myself and in others diminishes the significance of what separates
              > us from one another, and produces a universal caring that in effect
              > fills all of space and time. And this is not contingent; this is the
              > ultimate and necessary reality.
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
              > ------------------------------------
              >
              > Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
              >
              >

              Robert Wallace
              website: www.robertmwallace.com
              email: bob@...
              phone: 414-617-3914











              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



              ------------------------------------

              Yahoo! Groups Links






              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Jason Wingate
              Bob, On reflection I also need to clarify. When I talked about Platonic dualism I simply meant the dualism of the Phaedo (say), and I wasn t meaning an
              Message 6 of 26 , Jul 1 2:02 PM
                Bob,

                On reflection I also need to clarify. When I talked about 'Platonic dualism' I simply meant 'the dualism of the Phaedo' (say), and I wasn't meaning an appeal to authority (that is, to Plato's own opinion.)

                The 'body as prison' idea comes and goes in the Hermetic corpus too, say, just as much as in Plato, and to an extent in the move from Porphyry to Iamblichus. It seems possible to me that an 'unwritten doctrine' of paidea might have required the negative approach at one stage and the more positive one at another. If I'm honest I don't see much contradiction between 'Phaedo' and 'Symposium', or whatever -- they are really different emphases of the same thing. One emphasises the positive, the growth of love, as one would expect at a sparkling drinking do; the other emphasises the necessary opposition involved in getting that growth to happen, since it means a less bodily emphasis, as one might expect of the mood of that particular occasion.

                This may be influenced by the psychological (rather than philosophical) hat I often wear, from which point of view the opposition between mind and body has a huge number of possible causes, as genesis would. The denial of death, or loss etc., that which is feared in one form or another is not least amongst them. That is, the ability to let one's life go is a big part of the key to "redeeming" it, 'catharsis' etc.

                I look forward to reading the rest! jw





                ___________________________________________________
                Lightning in an Oak Box





                -----Original Message-----
                From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 19:50
                Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1


                Thanks, Jason (and thank you Robin, too):


                On Jul 1, 2011, at 8:41 AM, Jason Wingate wrote:

                > I'm glad you posted this Bob; I had already seen it on your website.
                > My reaction to it was that the transformation required in reaching
                > that broader audience was very revealing in terms what it meant that
                > you personally included, or excluded. As a fellow-"mystic", I almost
                > could not imagine a Platonism further from mine! And I feel that's
                > rather interesting and welcome actually.
                >
                > For me... that you aredying *is* of great significance. Trauma
                > tendsto awaken spiritual power and experience, cross-culturally, and
                > mysticism is a quest is for immortality,which means overcoming death.
                >
                Yes, death is undoubtedly of great significance. The question is
                whether death, or "birth" (in the broadest sense), is of _greater_
                significance. I think that one "overcomes" death precisely by
                discovering the the greater significance of birth. Birth is the true
                immortality.

                > (Of course I recognize that what you are doingessentially is arguing
                > against materialism there. But I think science is alreadystarting to
                > provide good evidence against that, itself.)
                >
                > I wonder how you'd react to my instinctive reaction... your ‘passing-
                > it-on’ idea resonates as seeing personal immortalitycontinuing in
                > others around us on an ordinary-life level, whereas immortality in
                > the One is a personallyachieved experience.
                >
                I can see how I've invited this misinterpretation of what I'm trying
                to say. I did not mean to suggest that personal immortality is simply
                our continuing in others around us on an ordinary-life level. Far from
                it. But I do believe that "personal" immortality (interpreting that
                phrase with caution, as immortality in the Symposium does not seem
                "personal" in the usual sense) is expressed in a different attitude to
                others, namely, the attitude that Diotima describes in terms of
                "giving birth in beauty." Which I paraphrase as "passing it on."


                > Platonic dualism on that level
                >
                Of course when you call it "Platonic" dualism, you assume that Plato
                fully endorses it. Whereas I doubt that he consistently endorses the
                idea that the soul is "imprisoned" in the body. The Republic books iv-
                vii, Symposium and Timaeus convey a very different sense of their
                relationship.

                > would seem to have a purpose in myopinion, as does the harshness of
                > the dualism in Plotinus and Porphyry too.Part of this opinion in me
                > came from mystical experience as purification. I just could not
                > speakof having been purified without it becoming obvious that I had
                > not been purepreviously!
                >
                Absolutely. I don't think we disagree about this.

                > And furthermore, that catharsis was a coming together with
                > theformless which transcends genesis -- it need not *devalue* it,
                > but it doestranscend it and does in fact heal it.
                >
                Absolutely, again.

                > In other words the ‘reconciliation’between body and soul that you
                > talk of is effected by the formless primarilyand the body only
                > secondarily, acting as a receptacle.
                >
                I tried to make it clear, in the latter half of the chapter, that the
                body is at the bottom, the least adequate level, of the process; that
                soul is indispensable; and that the divine is even more indispensable.
                The body is not (so to speak) an "equal partner." The "reconciliation"
                that I speak of does not assign equal status to what is "reconciled."
                What it does do is to overcome the _antagonism_ between soul and body,
                which is promoted by talking of the soul as "imprisoned" in the body.
                One does not have to reject the body as a mere "prison," in order to
                transcend the body. The body, as I understand it, has to be
                transcended because it is not capable of being fully "itself"--self-
                determining. The "hierarchy" that I describe in the latter part of the
                chapter is a hierarchy of transcendence.

                Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?

                Best, Bob


                > Now that does seem very Platonist to me... do you feel it would
                > contradict you?
                >
                > Only if interested in my ravings! JW
                >
                > ___________________________________________________
                > Lightning in an Oak Box
                >
                > -----Original Message-----
                > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                > To: Neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                > Sent: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 16:09
                > Subject: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                >
                > Hi everybody,
                >
                > I'm copying below a chapter from a book that I'm working on, called
                > _The God Within Us: How I Found Philosophy's Heart and Mine_. It's
                > meant to be a trade book, for a broader-than-academic audience. I've
                > once or twice urged, on this list, that we need a piece of writing
                > that can explain the real significance of Platonism to serious readers
                > who have no scholarly background in the area and little or no
                > acquaintance with the primary texts. A replacement for (and an answer
                > to) Bertrand Russell's chapters on Plato in his History of Western
                > Philosophy, which are so readable and informative and so desperately
                > wrong on crucial issues. Of course there are many "introductory
                > treatments" in reference works, etc., but none that I've seen convey
                > the sheer power of Plato's most important insights. I hope that my
                > book, which includes several additional chapters on Plato, will convey
                > some of this.
                >
                > The book's Introduction introduces the idea of a "God within us," and
                > some leading writers and teachers, including Plato, the Buddha, Jesus,
                > St Augustine, Hegel, and Emerson, who contribute to this idea. It also
                > describes some of the experience that has led me, personally, to
                > embrace the idea.
                >
                > Then comes chapter 1, which I copy below. Beginning from some thoughts
                > about the "problem of evil," this chapter outlines an interpretation
                > of Plato, which also addresses other issues including the One's
                > interest in the many, which Dennis raised with us a few weeks ago.
                > It's not an entirely conventional interpretation, though the texts
                > that it touches on are standard ones. I'd be grateful for any
                > comments, objections, or questions that people might have.
                >
                > Best, Bob W
                >
                > Robert Wallace
                > website: www.robertmwallace.com
                > email: bob@...
                >
                > Chapter 1. Evil, Body, Soul, and God
                >
                > For many people, the problem of evil is the main stumbling-block
                > between them and a relationship to “God.” In view of the injustice and
                > undeserved suffering that I’ve experienced, as well as the far worse
                > things that other people have experienced, how can I nevertheless feel
                > deeply cared for?
                >
                > —Birth, Not Death, Is the Great Fact—
                >
                > My dear, now deceased friend Graham Andrews told me that one day
                > while he was watching a group of quail cross a lawn in California, he
                > realized: “Andrews, you always get it backwards. The great fact is not
                > that you will die, but that you were born!” We have no “right” to
                > eternal life, or to 70 years of life, or to five minutes of it; as
                > Rumi says, we “deserve nothing,” from the universe. What we receive is
                > a free gift, an unearned opportunity.
                >
                > What are we going to do with this opportunity? We seem to have two
                > main options. We can focus on what’s being born in and through us and
                > others. The divine doesn’t care about boundaries. Or, on the other
                > hand, we can focus on our boundaries, that is, on our death rather
                > than on our birth(s), and cut ourselves off from what could be born
                > through us.
                >
                > When I love and live through others, as well as through myself, I
                > find that my world is full of love, regardless of what the others and
                > I may suffer. I’m able to love and to live through others as well as
                > myself when I’m grateful for my life and their lives and the chance to
                > collaborate with them. Having been given this opportunity, I know that
                > I’m loved, and that my job is to pass it on. As Graham passed his
                > love, and his wonderful insight, on to me. Then I know that rather
                > than our struggles with death, it’s this passing-it-on, this process
                > of giving birth, that’s permanently important—that birth, rather than
                > death, is “the great fact.”
                >
                > By taking me beyond my everyday self, “passing it on” allows me,
                > finally, to accept with gratitude my finite existence, including my
                > wounds and the unfortunate people who’ve wounded me, and the wonderful
                > people who’ve nurtured me. Rejecting all of this, I might (in effect)
                > just as well be dead, right now. Being open and vulnerable to all of
                > it, on the other hand, involved with other people, is the ticket to
                > the opportunity that my finite existence gives me: the opportunity to
                > contribute to something endlessly greater than my finite self.
                >
                > Choose transformation! Be inspired by the flame
                > in which a thing that revels in transformations eludes you. …
                > He who lets himself stream out is acknowledged by knowledge;
                > she shows him, delighted, what’s serenely accomplished,
                > which often closes with beginning, and begins with an end.
                >
                > (R.M. Rilke)
                >
                > “Hard-nosed” thinkers tend to see suffering and death, and the human
                > selfishness, hostility, and aggression that fear of death so often
                > promotes, as the great fact and the dominant issue in human life. I’m
                > thinking of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, the English
                > materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the German existentialist
                > Martin Heidegger, and the many writers who suppose that Charles Darwin
                > has shown that life is fundamentally about physical “self-
                > preservation.” These writers all celebrate the courage that looks
                > these “grim facts” in the face, without flinching.
                >
                > These writers are certainly right to value courage and truthfulness.
                > But Graham in his moment of vision, and Plato, Rumi, and “mystics,” in
                > general, see life, rather than death, as the great fact and the
                > dominant issue. As Rilke wrote:
                >
                > "We should love life so generously, so without calculation and
                > selection, that we involuntarily come to include, and to love, death
                > too (life’s averted half)."
                >
                > Loving death as “life’s averted half”—as a necessary feature of
                > life, which is good—is very different from regarding death as the
                > “grim” truth that reveals that life is primarily a matter of survival,
                > of self-preservation. Self-preservation isn’t an end in itself; it’s
                > what we finite things do for a while in order to give birth to the
                > infinite, which is what we really are. And when one loves death as a
                > precondition of the life of finite things, which is an aspect of the
                > infinite, one has nothing to hide from. So that rather than being
                > remarkable accomplishments, courage and truthfulness about death are
                > simply natural.
                >
                > —What I Mean by “Mysticism”—
                >
                > Having just referred again to “mystics,” I should explain that I use
                > this word in a particular sense. What I mean by “mystic” is simply
                > someone who doesn’t accept the fundamental separateness of one human
                > being from other human beings, and of humans from God. “Mystics”
                > believe that although in one sense we’re obviously many, we’re also,
                > in an important sense, “one.” This is what follows from focusing on
                > birth, rather than death, as the great fact.
                >
                > So mysticism, for me, needn’t be irrational and needn’t promote
                > mystery, as such. Plato has Socrates say in his Phaedrus that
                > prophecy, purification, poetry and love are “the best things we have,”
                > and they “come from madness, when it is given as a gift of the
                > god” (244a). By saying that they “come from madness,” Plato means that
                > they don’t seem “reasonable” in an everyday way. This is also true of
                > the mysticism, closely allied to poetry and love, which says that in
                > some important way we’re all “one.” For most of my life, this was an
                > idea that I admired from a distance, but which I couldn’t even begin
                > to take seriously as a description of my own situation. I lacked the
                > purification, the poetry, and especially the love that could have made
                > it seem real. Now, overwhelmingly, I’ve been given them all.
                >
                > When Plato says that these things that come from “madness” are good
                > for us when they’re “given as a gift of the god,” he implies that we
                > need to distinguish the kinds of “madness” that are good and god-given
                > from those that aren’t. Thus he suggests that even though prophecy,
                > purification, poetry and love may seem “unreasonable” by everyday
                > standards, we can nevertheless discover that they really are good for
                > us. In the same way, I’m going to explain, drawing especially on other
                > writings of Plato, how the mysticism that my experience supports is
                > true in spite of its apparent craziness.
                >
                > —Challenges for Plato: Soul/Body “Dualism”—
                >
                > I mentioned in the Introduction some of the major figures who have
                > been influenced by Plato, including St Augustine, Meister Eckhart,
                > Jelaluddin Rumi, Hegel, and Emerson. Numerous other teachers and poets
                > could be added to this list, down to such present-day figures as the
                > Harvard philosopher, Stanley Cavell, who explores what he calls
                > ethical “perfectionism,” and the New England poet, Mary Oliver, who
                > celebrates the transcendence that we can experience in nature.
                >
                > But there have always also been thinkers who resisted Plato’s
                > influence. In the ancient world, these included the materialists,
                > Epicurus and Lucretius. Many of Plato’s modern critics, such as Thomas
                > Hobbes, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell, have suggested that key
                > Platonic ideas are incompatible with the spirit of modern science, and
                > therefore need to be replaced.
                >
                > Many of Plato’s critics object, in particular, to his apparent
                > “dualism.” They suppose that Plato’s central idea is that the true
                > “me,” which Plato calls the “soul,” should as much as possible reject
                > involvement with the body and the physical world. Plato does speak
                > early in his Phaedo of the soul as being “imprisoned” in the body, and
                > needing to be liberated from this imprisonment. This kind of dualism
                > is especially familiar to us from Gnostic and Christian ascetics who
                > rejected the world, the “flesh,” as evil. Plato is sometimes thought
                > to have prepared the way for these extreme views.
                >
                > Perhaps the notion of the soul’s “imprisonment” reflected Plato’s
                > terrible experience of seeing his beloved teacher, Socrates, condemned
                > to death by Athens. It would have been natural to flee from this
                > experience to the notion that Socrates’s soul was better off
                > elsewhere, anyway.
                >
                > But Plato went beyond this “imprisonment” notion elsewhere in the
                > Phaedo and in his Republic, Symposium, and Timaeus. He did this
                > through a kind of reconciliation of soul and body, which is closely
                > related to the reconciliation of God and the world that I traced back
                > to him in the Introduction. Like God and the world, soul and body
                > can’t be “separate beings,” because if they’re separate, the soul
                > would be determined partly by its relationship (the relationship of
                > separation) to the body, and to that extent it wouldn’t be self-
                > determining. But the point of the “soul,” like the point of “God,” is
                > to be self-determining—to be something that’s fully responsible for
                > itself.
                >
                > So if body and soul, the world and God aren’t separate beings, what
                > are they? Why do we speak of “body” and “soul,” the “world” and “God,”
                > rather than just of one or the other of them? Plato’s answer to this
                > question is that the prior items, “body” and the “world,” are the less
                > self-determining items, less fully “themselves,” that are nevertheless
                > familiar to us in everyday experience. They are us in our everyday un-
                > freedom, in which we think and do what our biological heritage or our
                > social environment tells us to think and do. But at the same time we
                > dream of being ourselves, of having thoughts and actions that are
                > really our own. The “soul” represents this dream, this aspiration,
                > inasmuch as one’s “soul” (psyche, in Greek) is one’s “life”—it’s what
                > makes one a functioning whole. So that a body that has a soul can be
                > responsible, as a whole, for its actions, in a way that a soul-less
                > rock, for example, is not responsible, but is simply a transmission
                > belt for what impinges on it from elsewhere.
                >
                > “God” is a further stage in the dream or aspiration of having
                > thoughts and actions that are really our own. This further stage
                > becomes necessary when we realize that a multiplicity of separate
                > souls are not going to be fully self-determining, because they’ll
                > still be determined by their relationship (of separation) to each
                > other. So the only fully self-determining reality will be the result
                > of ascending, via individual “souls,” to something that’s no longer
                > individual and multiple, but simply, as Plato is reported to have
                > called it, “One.”
                >
                > Thus the conflict-ridden duality of soul versus body is not Plato’s
                > last word. Rather, the intertwined concepts of “ascent” and the “One”
                > are his last words. The famous ascent from the Cave, in Republic book
                > vii, is simply one side of the ascent, via “souls,” to God. Achieving
                > knowledge of the Good, outside the Cave, is getting free from the
                > dictates of one’s biological heritage and social environment, to which
                > one was subjected within the Cave, and thus achieving self-
                > determination. Achieving knowledge of the Good is how the “soul”
                > functions to unify the body of which it is the soul. If this knowledge
                > takes the knower all the way to full self-determination, it takes him
                > beyond the multiplicity of bodies and souls to, as in the Symposium
                > and Timaeus, the unity of the divine One.
                >
                > So this is the gist of Plato’s argument for “mysticism”—for rejecting
                > the conventional assumption that you and I, and you and I and God, are
                > ultimately separate.
                >
                > —Ascent, Descent, and Inwardness—
                >
                > Maybe now it’s clear why our bodies and souls need to “ascend” to God,
                > in order to become fully themselves. But looking at this from the
                > other direction, why does God, the “One,” take any interest in our
                > multiple souls and bodies? As the Timaeus says, God isn’t possessive
                > (he is subject to no phthonos [29e]). We can reasonably suppose that
                > this is because a possessive God would be limited, determined by his
                > relationship (of exclusion) toward what he viewed as "outside" him,
                > and thus would not be fully self-sufficient or self-determining, as a
                > God should be. For this reason, the necessary ascent from bodies to
                > God is complemented by a necessary “descent” of concern from God to
                > bodies. God “wanted everything to become as much like himself as
                > possible,” as Plato says. It’s by treating everything as much as
                > possible the way he treats himself, that he’s able to be fully
                > himself, fully “One.”
                >
                > I should add that of course we shouldn’t take literally this
                > “ascent” and “descent” that we’re talking about. An “upward” motion is
                > a metaphor for the search for something that’s more authoritative than
                > one’s initial opinions and desires. The authority that Plato finds is
                > the authority of what is truly oneself. Another good metaphor for this
                > authority, in this case a metaphor that’s tailored specifically for
                > the authority of what’s truly oneself, would speak of the soul as
                > inside the body and God as inside the soul. This metaphor is
                > appropriate because the soul enables the body to be more itself, and
                > God enables the soul and body to be more themselves, and we’re likely
                > to think that the source of something’s being “itself” is more
                > internal to the thing than anything else could be. This is how we get
                > Augustine’s description of God as “more inward” to him than himself,
                > and the conception of God as being “within us.” So we must understand
                > the so-called “ascent,” the “upward” motion that Plato describes, as
                > leading inward, in this way, into the person’s innermost selfhood.
                >
                > Plato’s mature conception of ascent, descent, and inward selfhood
                > (all of which I’ll explore in more detail later) is undoubtedly a bit
                > complex, in comparison to the simple idea of the soul as being
                > “imprisoned” in the body and needing to be liberated from it. So it’s
                > not surprising that the imprisonment idea is the one that many readers
                > associate with Plato. This hasty reading has prevented many people,
                > over the centuries, from appreciating what Plato is really up to.
                >
                > The most important thing that Plato is up to is showing how by
                > appreciating our own freedom we can discover the necessary hierarchy
                > of God, souls, and bodies, in which the more governing element (God,
                > or the soul, as the case may be) makes what’s subordinate to it more
                > “itself.” This account of the essential authority in reality explains
                > religion, morality, and evil more comprehensively and more incisively
                > than any other proposal that we have had.
                >
                > —Hierarchy, Free Inquiry, and God—
                >
                > Science-oriented atheists like Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell
                > and Richard Dawkins all assume that someone who takes free inquiry and
                > science seriously will have no need for concepts like those of the
                > soul or God. Plato and many of his followers believe, on the contrary,
                > that freedom and free inquiry are what the soul and God are composed
                > of, when the soul and God are properly understood.
                >
                > In the necessary hierarchy that Plato presents, of God, souls, and
                > bodies, what distinguishes souls and God from mere bodies is that
                > souls and God have increasing degrees of self-determination or
                > freedom. One important species of freedom is free inquiry, of which an
                > important instance is science. So freedom, free inquiry, and science
                > are part of what makes the soul, and God, what they are. Science is an
                > aspect of God.
                >
                > Thus Plato reconciles what appears in present-day culture to be
                > paradigmatically un-reconcilable, namely, science and religion, free
                > inquiry and God. Rather than being in conflict with divinity, as Plato
                > conceives it, true science is an aspect of the divine.
                >
                > —Hierarchy and Morality—
                >
                > As for morality, it’s not hard to see how the unification of free
                > souls in God makes it impossible for these souls to mistreat or
                > exploit one another. It’s our brute separateness that makes that sort
                > of behavior possible. But Plato shows that for those who seek to be
                > truly themselves, there can be no such brute separateness.
                >
                > —And Evil Again—
                >
                > As for “evil” and the “body,” to which dualists take such strong
                > exception—the hierarchy that Plato teaches in his mature work shows us
                > that they are not the enemy. There is no enemy. There is only the
                > process of increasing self-determination and “oneness.” The God whose
                > concern “descends” to us, descends to everything, no matter how
                > corrupt, deformed, and lowly. There can be no limit to this concern,
                > or God would not be self-determining and infinite. Thus Plato
                > contemplated the “evil” in the people who had condemned Socrates and
                > had committed other horrors in Athens, and saw that these people were
                > struggling simply, to the best of their limited abilities, to be free,
                > or truly themselves. And I, too, have found that it’s possible to have
                > compassion for things within me that for decades seemed so ugly to me
                > that I felt that actually looking at them would paralyze and disable
                > me entirely. Instead, the compassionate light of day has made these
                > things feel understood, and they have responded by shedding their
                > hatred and their ugliness, revealing themselves instead as tendrils of
                > freedom.
                >
                > Thus Plato’s apparently cerebral philosophy reaches deep into the muck
                > and the heart. No limits. True freedom.
                >
                > And as for the question with which I began this chapter: I feel deeply
                > cared for not because I believe in a powerful Being who cares for me.
                > That would make the care rather contingent. Instead, I feel cared for
                > because I’ve discovered that freedom—the divine, what’s fully itself—
                > in myself and in others diminishes the significance of what separates
                > us from one another, and produces a universal caring that in effect
                > fills all of space and time. And this is not contingent; this is the
                > ultimate and necessary reality.
                >
                > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                >
                > ------------------------------------
                >
                > Yahoo! Groups Links
                >
                > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                >
                >
                >

                Robert Wallace
                website: www.robertmwallace.com
                email: bob@...
                phone: 414-617-3914











                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



                ------------------------------------

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                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Robert Wallace
                ... I don t think I d want to say that. Rather, as in my second Rilke quote, simply that death is a precondition of the life of finite creatures, and that the
                Message 7 of 26 , Jul 2 5:08 PM
                  Jason, thanks again:


                  > Bob,
                  >
                  > <<Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?>>
                  >
                  >
                  > It does... on the death/birth thing, perhaps in your terms the value
                  > of death (in whatever sense) is realised by seeing it as birth?
                  >
                  I don't think I'd want to say that. Rather, as in my second Rilke
                  quote, simply that death is a precondition of the life of finite
                  creatures, and that the life of finite creatures is itself a Good
                  Thing. I think Plato confirms this latter statement when he says that
                  the demiurge "wanted everything to be as much like himself as
                  possible," and created the world in that way. So that finite things
                  aren't the opposite of the divine; they benefit from the attention of
                  the divine, they're as much like the divine as they could have been.
                  From which I infer that they have a significant amount of goodness.
                  This is where Plato seems to me in effect to _contradict_ what he says
                  in the "imprisonment" passages, which imply that a body is Bad Thing
                  that you'd be better off without.

                  > If I'm honest I don't see much contradiction between 'Phaedo' and
                  > 'Symposium', or whatever -- they are really different emphases of
                  > the same thing. One emphasises the positive, the growth of love, as
                  > one would expect at a sparkling drinking do; the other emphasises
                  > the necessary opposition involved in getting that growth to happen,
                  > since it means a less bodily emphasis, as one might expect of the
                  > mood of that particular occasion.

                  I just explained what I see as a contradiction between the
                  imprisonment passages and the Timaeus. I associate the Symposium with
                  the Timaeus, on this issue, because Diotima describes the most exalted
                  forms of love as developing out of the most vulgar, bodily forms.
                  Rather than presenting the heavenly as the opposite of the demotic,
                  she shows _how the demotic has the heavenly implicitly within it_. She
                  does indeed identify a "negative" _element_ in this development: one
                  has to see that what one loves is the Good in what one loves, and if
                  one discovers that something entirely lacks the good, like the
                  diseased arms and legs that she refers to (205e), then one can't love
                  it any longer. This is the beginning of the "ascent" that she
                  describes later, in her famous rising stairs (209-210). Where she ends
                  up is hardly a "bodily" place, as such--but the process of ascent to
                  it, begins very much within the body. That's how the Symposium seems
                  to me to imply a sharp criticism of the "imprisonment" passages. It
                  says that even in the seemingly thoroughly bodily experience of what
                  we might call "lust," there is an essential ingredient of intellect
                  and the Good. To lust after something you must view it as in some
                  significant way Good; you can't lust after something that you view as
                  completely diseased. But from the Imprisonment passages one would
                  conclude the opposite--that the body simply goes its own way, lusting
                  after whatever it lusts after, and has no interest whatever in
                  intellect or the Good.

                  That's why I see the Symposium (and Republic iv-vii, and Timaeus) as
                  analyzing and advocating a vertical ascent, a hierarchy, which is not
                  the _rejection_ of anything as being inherently unworthy and inimical
                  to ascent, but rather seeks to find the "tendrils" of ascent _within_
                  everything. This general process is what I refer to as "birth," and
                  Plato refers to as "birth in beauty" (206b).

                  >
                  > What role would virtue play in this process, and the 'passing-it-on'
                  > idea? jw
                  >
                  Virtue of course is a key step in Diotima's account of passing-it-
                  on--"such a man makes him instantly teem with ideas and arguments
                  about virtue ... and so he tries to educate him" (209c). In the "final
                  and highest mystery" (210), education merges into "beholding" Beauty
                  (211d), but even here the possibility of giving birth persists: "only
                  then will it become possible for him to give birth not to images of
                  virtue but to true virtue" (212a). Virtue is the implementation of the
                  Goodness that one perceives in what one loves.

                  Best, Bob


                  >
                  >
                  > ___________________________________________________
                  > Lightning in an Oak Box
                  >
                  > -----Original Message-----
                  > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                  > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                  > Sent: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 19:50
                  > Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                  >
                  > Thanks, Jason (and thank you Robin, too):
                  >
                  > On Jul 1, 2011, at 8:41 AM, Jason Wingate wrote:
                  >
                  > > I'm glad you posted this Bob; I had already seen it on your website.
                  > > My reaction to it was that the transformation required in reaching
                  > > that broader audience was very revealing in terms what it meant that
                  > > you personally included, or excluded. As a fellow-"mystic", I almost
                  > > could not imagine a Platonism further from mine! And I feel that's
                  > > rather interesting and welcome actually.
                  > >
                  > > For me... that you aredying *is* of great significance. Trauma
                  > > tendsto awaken spiritual power and experience, cross-culturally, and
                  > > mysticism is a quest is for immortality,which means overcoming
                  > death.
                  > >
                  > Yes, death is undoubtedly of great significance. The question is
                  > whether death, or "birth" (in the broadest sense), is of _greater_
                  > significance. I think that one "overcomes" death precisely by
                  > discovering the the greater significance of birth. Birth is the true
                  > immortality.
                  >
                  > > (Of course I recognize that what you are doingessentially is arguing
                  > > against materialism there. But I think science is alreadystarting to
                  > > provide good evidence against that, itself.)
                  > >
                  > > I wonder how you'd react to my instinctive reaction... your
                  > �passing-
                  > > it-on� idea resonates as seeing personal immortalitycontinuing in
                  > > others around us on an ordinary-life level, whereas immortality in
                  > > the One is a personallyachieved experience.
                  > >
                  > I can see how I've invited this misinterpretation of what I'm trying
                  > to say. I did not mean to suggest that personal immortality is simply
                  > our continuing in others around us on an ordinary-life level. Far from
                  > it. But I do believe that "personal" immortality (interpreting that
                  > phrase with caution, as immortality in the Symposium does not seem
                  > "personal" in the usual sense) is expressed in a different attitude to
                  > others, namely, the attitude that Diotima describes in terms of
                  > "giving birth in beauty." Which I paraphrase as "passing it on."
                  >
                  > > Platonic dualism on that level
                  > >
                  > Of course when you call it "Platonic" dualism, you assume that Plato
                  > fully endorses it. Whereas I doubt that he consistently endorses the
                  > idea that the soul is "imprisoned" in the body. The Republic books iv-
                  > vii, Symposium and Timaeus convey a very different sense of their
                  > relationship.
                  >
                  > > would seem to have a purpose in myopinion, as does the harshness of
                  > > the dualism in Plotinus and Porphyry too.Part of this opinion in me
                  > > came from mystical experience as purification. I just could not
                  > > speakof having been purified without it becoming obvious that I had
                  > > not been purepreviously!
                  > >
                  > Absolutely. I don't think we disagree about this.
                  >
                  > > And furthermore, that catharsis was a coming together with
                  > > theformless which transcends genesis -- it need not *devalue* it,
                  > > but it doestranscend it and does in fact heal it.
                  > >
                  > Absolutely, again.
                  >
                  > > In other words the �reconciliation�between body and soul that you
                  > > talk of is effected by the formless primarilyand the body only
                  > > secondarily, acting as a receptacle.
                  > >
                  > I tried to make it clear, in the latter half of the chapter, that the
                  > body is at the bottom, the least adequate level, of the process; that
                  > soul is indispensable; and that the divine is even more indispensable.
                  > The body is not (so to speak) an "equal partner." The "reconciliation"
                  > that I speak of does not assign equal status to what is "reconciled."
                  > What it does do is to overcome the _antagonism_ between soul and body,
                  > which is promoted by talking of the soul as "imprisoned" in the body.
                  > One does not have to reject the body as a mere "prison," in order to
                  > transcend the body. The body, as I understand it, has to be
                  > transcended because it is not capable of being fully "itself"--self-
                  > determining. The "hierarchy" that I describe in the latter part of the
                  > chapter is a hierarchy of transcendence.
                  >
                  > Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?
                  >
                  > Best, Bob
                  >
                  > > Now that does seem very Platonist to me... do you feel it would
                  > > contradict you?
                  > >
                  > > Only if interested in my ravings! JW
                  > >
                  > > ___________________________________________________
                  > > Lightning in an Oak Box
                  > >
                  > > -----Original Message-----
                  > > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                  > > To: Neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                  > > Sent: Fri, 1 Jul 2011 16:09
                  > > Subject: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                  > >
                  > > Hi everybody,
                  > >
                  > > I'm copying below a chapter from a book that I'm working on, called
                  > > _The God Within Us: How I Found Philosophy's Heart and Mine_. It's
                  > > meant to be a trade book, for a broader-than-academic audience. I've
                  > > once or twice urged, on this list, that we need a piece of writing
                  > > that can explain the real significance of Platonism to serious
                  > readers
                  > > who have no scholarly background in the area and little or no
                  > > acquaintance with the primary texts. A replacement for (and an
                  > answer
                  > > to) Bertrand Russell's chapters on Plato in his History of Western
                  > > Philosophy, which are so readable and informative and so desperately
                  > > wrong on crucial issues. Of course there are many "introductory
                  > > treatments" in reference works, etc., but none that I've seen convey
                  > > the sheer power of Plato's most important insights. I hope that my
                  > > book, which includes several additional chapters on Plato, will
                  > convey
                  > > some of this.
                  > >
                  > > The book's Introduction introduces the idea of a "God within us,"
                  > and
                  > > some leading writers and teachers, including Plato, the Buddha,
                  > Jesus,
                  > > St Augustine, Hegel, and Emerson, who contribute to this idea. It
                  > also
                  > > describes some of the experience that has led me, personally, to
                  > > embrace the idea.
                  > >
                  > > Then comes chapter 1, which I copy below. Beginning from some
                  > thoughts
                  > > about the "problem of evil," this chapter outlines an interpretation
                  > > of Plato, which also addresses other issues including the One's
                  > > interest in the many, which Dennis raised with us a few weeks ago.
                  > > It's not an entirely conventional interpretation, though the texts
                  > > that it touches on are standard ones. I'd be grateful for any
                  > > comments, objections, or questions that people might have.
                  > >
                  > > Best, Bob W
                  > >
                  > > Robert Wallace
                  > > website: www.robertmwallace.com
                  > > email: bob@...
                  > >
                  > > Chapter 1. Evil, Body, Soul, and God
                  > >
                  > > For many people, the problem of evil is the main stumbling-block
                  > > between them and a relationship to �God.� In view of the injustice
                  > and
                  > > undeserved suffering that I�ve experienced, as well as the far worse
                  > > things that other people have experienced, how can I nevertheless
                  > feel
                  > > deeply cared for?
                  > >
                  > > �Birth, Not Death, Is the Great Fact�
                  > >
                  > > My dear, now deceased friend Graham Andrews told me that one day
                  > > while he was watching a group of quail cross a lawn in California,
                  > he
                  > > realized: �Andrews, you always get it backwards. The great fact is
                  > not
                  > > that you will die, but that you were born!� We have no �right� to
                  > > eternal life, or to 70 years of life, or to five minutes of it; as
                  > > Rumi says, we �deserve nothing,� from the universe. What we
                  > receive is
                  > > a free gift, an unearned opportunity.
                  > >
                  > > What are we going to do with this opportunity? We seem to have two
                  > > main options. We can focus on what�s being born in and through us
                  > and
                  > > others. The divine doesn�t care about boundaries. Or, on the other
                  > > hand, we can focus on our boundaries, that is, on our death rather
                  > > than on our birth(s), and cut ourselves off from what could be born
                  > > through us.
                  > >
                  > > When I love and live through others, as well as through myself, I
                  > > find that my world is full of love, regardless of what the others
                  > and
                  > > I may suffer. I�m able to love and to live through others as well as
                  > > myself when I�m grateful for my life and their lives and the
                  > chance to
                  > > collaborate with them. Having been given this opportunity, I know
                  > that
                  > > I�m loved, and that my job is to pass it on. As Graham passed his
                  > > love, and his wonderful insight, on to me. Then I know that rather
                  > > than our struggles with death, it�s this passing-it-on, this process
                  > > of giving birth, that�s permanently important�that birth, rather
                  > than
                  > > death, is �the great fact.�
                  > >
                  > > By taking me beyond my everyday self, �passing it on� allows me,
                  > > finally, to accept with gratitude my finite existence, including my
                  > > wounds and the unfortunate people who�ve wounded me, and the
                  > wonderful
                  > > people who�ve nurtured me. Rejecting all of this, I might (in
                  > effect)
                  > > just as well be dead, right now. Being open and vulnerable to all of
                  > > it, on the other hand, involved with other people, is the ticket to
                  > > the opportunity that my finite existence gives me: the opportunity
                  > to
                  > > contribute to something endlessly greater than my finite self.
                  > >
                  > > Choose transformation! Be inspired by the flame
                  > > in which a thing that revels in transformations eludes you. �
                  > > He who lets himself stream out is acknowledged by knowledge;
                  > > she shows him, delighted, what�s serenely accomplished,
                  > > which often closes with beginning, and begins with an end.
                  > >
                  > > (R.M. Rilke)
                  > >
                  > > �Hard-nosed� thinkers tend to see suffering and death, and the human
                  > > selfishness, hostility, and aggression that fear of death so often
                  > > promotes, as the great fact and the dominant issue in human life.
                  > I�m
                  > > thinking of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, the English
                  > > materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the German existentialist
                  > > Martin Heidegger, and the many writers who suppose that Charles
                  > Darwin
                  > > has shown that life is fundamentally about physical �self-
                  > > preservation.� These writers all celebrate the courage that looks
                  > > these �grim facts� in the face, without flinching.
                  > >
                  > > These writers are certainly right to value courage and truthfulness.
                  > > But Graham in his moment of vision, and Plato, Rumi, and
                  > �mystics,� in
                  > > general, see life, rather than death, as the great fact and the
                  > > dominant issue. As Rilke wrote:
                  > >
                  > > "We should love life so generously, so without calculation and
                  > > selection, that we involuntarily come to include, and to love, death
                  > > too (life�s averted half)."
                  > >
                  > > Loving death as �life�s averted half��as a necessary feature of
                  > > life, which is good�is very different from regarding death as the
                  > > �grim� truth that reveals that life is primarily a matter of
                  > survival,
                  > > of self-preservation. Self-preservation isn�t an end in itself; it�s
                  > > what we finite things do for a while in order to give birth to the
                  > > infinite, which is what we really are. And when one loves death as a
                  > > precondition of the life of finite things, which is an aspect of the
                  > > infinite, one has nothing to hide from. So that rather than being
                  > > remarkable accomplishments, courage and truthfulness about death are
                  > > simply natural.
                  > >
                  > > �What I Mean by �Mysticism��
                  > >
                  > > Having just referred again to �mystics,� I should explain that I use
                  > > this word in a particular sense. What I mean by �mystic� is simply
                  > > someone who doesn�t accept the fundamental separateness of one human
                  > > being from other human beings, and of humans from God. �Mystics�
                  > > believe that although in one sense we�re obviously many, we�re also,
                  > > in an important sense, �one.� This is what follows from focusing on
                  > > birth, rather than death, as the great fact.
                  > >
                  > > So mysticism, for me, needn�t be irrational and needn�t promote
                  > > mystery, as such. Plato has Socrates say in his Phaedrus that
                  > > prophecy, purification, poetry and love are �the best things we
                  > have,�
                  > > and they �come from madness, when it is given as a gift of the
                  > > god� (244a). By saying that they �come from madness,� Plato means
                  > that
                  > > they don�t seem �reasonable� in an everyday way. This is also true
                  > of
                  > > the mysticism, closely allied to poetry and love, which says that in
                  > > some important way we�re all �one.� For most of my life, this was an
                  > > idea that I admired from a distance, but which I couldn�t even begin
                  > > to take seriously as a description of my own situation. I lacked the
                  > > purification, the poetry, and especially the love that could have
                  > made
                  > > it seem real. Now, overwhelmingly, I�ve been given them all.
                  > >
                  > > When Plato says that these things that come from �madness� are good
                  > > for us when they�re �given as a gift of the god,� he implies that we
                  > > need to distinguish the kinds of �madness� that are good and god-
                  > given
                  > > from those that aren�t. Thus he suggests that even though prophecy,
                  > > purification, poetry and love may seem �unreasonable� by everyday
                  > > standards, we can nevertheless discover that they really are good
                  > for
                  > > us. In the same way, I�m going to explain, drawing especially on
                  > other
                  > > writings of Plato, how the mysticism that my experience supports is
                  > > true in spite of its apparent craziness.
                  > >
                  > > �Challenges for Plato: Soul/Body �Dualism��
                  > >
                  > > I mentioned in the Introduction some of the major figures who have
                  > > been influenced by Plato, including St Augustine, Meister Eckhart,
                  > > Jelaluddin Rumi, Hegel, and Emerson. Numerous other teachers and
                  > poets
                  > > could be added to this list, down to such present-day figures as the
                  > > Harvard philosopher, Stanley Cavell, who explores what he calls
                  > > ethical �perfectionism,� and the New England poet, Mary Oliver, who
                  > > celebrates the transcendence that we can experience in nature.
                  > >
                  > > But there have always also been thinkers who resisted Plato�s
                  > > influence. In the ancient world, these included the materialists,
                  > > Epicurus and Lucretius. Many of Plato�s modern critics, such as
                  > Thomas
                  > > Hobbes, David Hume, and Bertrand Russell, have suggested that key
                  > > Platonic ideas are incompatible with the spirit of modern science,
                  > and
                  > > therefore need to be replaced.
                  > >
                  > > Many of Plato�s critics object, in particular, to his apparent
                  > > �dualism.� They suppose that Plato�s central idea is that the true
                  > > �me,� which Plato calls the �soul,� should as much as possible
                  > reject
                  > > involvement with the body and the physical world. Plato does speak
                  > > early in his Phaedo of the soul as being �imprisoned� in the body,
                  > and
                  > > needing to be liberated from this imprisonment. This kind of dualism
                  > > is especially familiar to us from Gnostic and Christian ascetics who
                  > > rejected the world, the �flesh,� as evil. Plato is sometimes thought
                  > > to have prepared the way for these extreme views.
                  > >
                  > > Perhaps the notion of the soul�s �imprisonment� reflected Plato�s
                  > > terrible experience of seeing his beloved teacher, Socrates,
                  > condemned
                  > > to death by Athens. It would have been natural to flee from this
                  > > experience to the notion that Socrates�s soul was better off
                  > > elsewhere, anyway.
                  > >
                  > > But Plato went beyond this �imprisonment� notion elsewhere in the
                  > > Phaedo and in his Republic, Symposium, and Timaeus. He did this
                  > > through a kind of reconciliation of soul and body, which is closely
                  > > related to the reconciliation of God and the world that I traced
                  > back
                  > > to him in the Introduction. Like God and the world, soul and body
                  > > can�t be �separate beings,� because if they�re separate, the soul
                  > > would be determined partly by its relationship (the relationship of
                  > > separation) to the body, and to that extent it wouldn�t be self-
                  > > determining. But the point of the �soul,� like the point of �God,�
                  > is
                  > > to be self-determining�to be something that�s fully responsible for
                  > > itself.
                  > >
                  > > So if body and soul, the world and God aren�t separate beings, what
                  > > are they? Why do we speak of �body� and �soul,� the �world� and
                  > �God,�
                  > > rather than just of one or the other of them? Plato�s answer to this
                  > > question is that the prior items, �body� and the �world,� are the
                  > less
                  > > self-determining items, less fully �themselves,� that are
                  > nevertheless
                  > > familiar to us in everyday experience. They are us in our everyday
                  > un-
                  > > freedom, in which we think and do what our biological heritage or
                  > our
                  > > social environment tells us to think and do. But at the same time we
                  > > dream of being ourselves, of having thoughts and actions that are
                  > > really our own. The �soul� represents this dream, this aspiration,
                  > > inasmuch as one�s �soul� (psyche, in Greek) is one�s �life��it�s
                  > what
                  > > makes one a functioning whole. So that a body that has a soul can be
                  > > responsible, as a whole, for its actions, in a way that a soul-less
                  > > rock, for example, is not responsible, but is simply a transmission
                  > > belt for what impinges on it from elsewhere.
                  > >
                  > > �God� is a further stage in the dream or aspiration of having
                  > > thoughts and actions that are really our own. This further stage
                  > > becomes necessary when we realize that a multiplicity of separate
                  > > souls are not going to be fully self-determining, because they�ll
                  > > still be determined by their relationship (of separation) to each
                  > > other. So the only fully self-determining reality will be the result
                  > > of ascending, via individual �souls,� to something that�s no longer
                  > > individual and multiple, but simply, as Plato is reported to have
                  > > called it, �One.�
                  > >
                  > > Thus the conflict-ridden duality of soul versus body is not Plato�s
                  > > last word. Rather, the intertwined concepts of �ascent� and the
                  > �One�
                  > > are his last words. The famous ascent from the Cave, in Republic
                  > book
                  > > vii, is simply one side of the ascent, via �souls,� to God.
                  > Achieving
                  > > knowledge of the Good, outside the Cave, is getting free from the
                  > > dictates of one�s biological heritage and social environment, to
                  > which
                  > > one was subjected within the Cave, and thus achieving self-
                  > > determination. Achieving knowledge of the Good is how the �soul�
                  > > functions to unify the body of which it is the soul. If this
                  > knowledge
                  > > takes the knower all the way to full self-determination, it takes
                  > him
                  > > beyond the multiplicity of bodies and souls to, as in the Symposium
                  > > and Timaeus, the unity of the divine One.
                  > >
                  > > So this is the gist of Plato�s argument for �mysticism��for
                  > rejecting
                  > > the conventional assumption that you and I, and you and I and God,
                  > are
                  > > ultimately separate.
                  > >
                  > > �Ascent, Descent, and Inwardness�
                  > >
                  > > Maybe now it�s clear why our bodies and souls need to �ascend� to
                  > God,
                  > > in order to become fully themselves. But looking at this from the
                  > > other direction, why does God, the �One,� take any interest in our
                  > > multiple souls and bodies? As the Timaeus says, God isn�t possessive
                  > > (he is subject to no phthonos [29e]). We can reasonably suppose that
                  > > this is because a possessive God would be limited, determined by his
                  > > relationship (of exclusion) toward what he viewed as "outside" him,
                  > > and thus would not be fully self-sufficient or self-determining,
                  > as a
                  > > God should be. For this reason, the necessary ascent from bodies to
                  > > God is complemented by a necessary �descent� of concern from God to
                  > > bodies. God �wanted everything to become as much like himself as
                  > > possible,� as Plato says. It�s by treating everything as much as
                  > > possible the way he treats himself, that he�s able to be fully
                  > > himself, fully �One.�
                  > >
                  > > I should add that of course we shouldn�t take literally this
                  > > �ascent� and �descent� that we�re talking about. An �upward�
                  > motion is
                  > > a metaphor for the search for something that�s more authoritative
                  > than
                  > > one�s initial opinions and desires. The authority that Plato finds
                  > is
                  > > the authority of what is truly oneself. Another good metaphor for
                  > this
                  > > authority, in this case a metaphor that�s tailored specifically for
                  > > the authority of what�s truly oneself, would speak of the soul as
                  > > inside the body and God as inside the soul. This metaphor is
                  > > appropriate because the soul enables the body to be more itself, and
                  > > God enables the soul and body to be more themselves, and we�re
                  > likely
                  > > to think that the source of something�s being �itself� is more
                  > > internal to the thing than anything else could be. This is how we
                  > get
                  > > Augustine�s description of God as �more inward� to him than himself,
                  > > and the conception of God as being �within us.� So we must
                  > understand
                  > > the so-called �ascent,� the �upward� motion that Plato describes, as
                  > > leading inward, in this way, into the person�s innermost selfhood.
                  > >
                  > > Plato�s mature conception of ascent, descent, and inward selfhood
                  > > (all of which I�ll explore in more detail later) is undoubtedly a
                  > bit
                  > > complex, in comparison to the simple idea of the soul as being
                  > > �imprisoned� in the body and needing to be liberated from it. So
                  > it�s
                  > > not surprising that the imprisonment idea is the one that many
                  > readers
                  > > associate with Plato. This hasty reading has prevented many people,
                  > > over the centuries, from appreciating what Plato is really up to.
                  > >
                  > > The most important thing that Plato is up to is showing how by
                  > > appreciating our own freedom we can discover the necessary hierarchy
                  > > of God, souls, and bodies, in which the more governing element (God,
                  > > or the soul, as the case may be) makes what�s subordinate to it more
                  > > �itself.� This account of the essential authority in reality
                  > explains
                  > > religion, morality, and evil more comprehensively and more
                  > incisively
                  > > than any other proposal that we have had.
                  > >
                  > > �Hierarchy, Free Inquiry, and God�
                  > >
                  > > Science-oriented atheists like Hume, Marx, Nietzsche, Bertrand
                  > Russell
                  > > and Richard Dawkins all assume that someone who takes free inquiry
                  > and
                  > > science seriously will have no need for concepts like those of the
                  > > soul or God. Plato and many of his followers believe, on the
                  > contrary,
                  > > that freedom and free inquiry are what the soul and God are composed
                  > > of, when the soul and God are properly understood.
                  > >
                  > > In the necessary hierarchy that Plato presents, of God, souls, and
                  > > bodies, what distinguishes souls and God from mere bodies is that
                  > > souls and God have increasing degrees of self-determination or
                  > > freedom. One important species of freedom is free inquiry, of
                  > which an
                  > > important instance is science. So freedom, free inquiry, and science
                  > > are part of what makes the soul, and God, what they are. Science
                  > is an
                  > > aspect of God.
                  > >
                  > > Thus Plato reconciles what appears in present-day culture to be
                  > > paradigmatically un-reconcilable, namely, science and religion, free
                  > > inquiry and God. Rather than being in conflict with divinity, as
                  > Plato
                  > > conceives it, true science is an aspect of the divine.
                  > >
                  > > �Hierarchy and Morality�
                  > >
                  > > As for morality, it�s not hard to see how the unification of free
                  > > souls in God makes it impossible for these souls to mistreat or
                  > > exploit one another. It�s our brute separateness that makes that
                  > sort
                  > > of behavior possible. But Plato shows that for those who seek to be
                  > > truly themselves, there can be no such brute separateness.
                  > >
                  > > �And Evil Again�
                  > >
                  > > As for �evil� and the �body,� to which dualists take such strong
                  > > exception�the hierarchy that Plato teaches in his mature work
                  > shows us
                  > > that they are not the enemy. There is no enemy. There is only the
                  > > process of increasing self-determination and �oneness.� The God
                  > whose
                  > > concern �descends� to us, descends to everything, no matter how
                  > > corrupt, deformed, and lowly. There can be no limit to this concern,
                  > > or God would not be self-determining and infinite. Thus Plato
                  > > contemplated the �evil� in the people who had condemned Socrates and
                  > > had committed other horrors in Athens, and saw that these people
                  > were
                  > > struggling simply, to the best of their limited abilities, to be
                  > free,
                  > > or truly themselves. And I, too, have found that it�s possible to
                  > have
                  > > compassion for things within me that for decades seemed so ugly to
                  > me
                  > > that I felt that actually looking at them would paralyze and disable
                  > > me entirely. Instead, the compassionate light of day has made these
                  > > things feel understood, and they have responded by shedding their
                  > > hatred and their ugliness, revealing themselves instead as
                  > tendrils of
                  > > freedom.
                  > >
                  > > Thus Plato�s apparently cerebral philosophy reaches deep into the
                  > muck
                  > > and the heart. No limits. True freedom.
                  > >
                  > > And as for the question with which I began this chapter: I feel
                  > deeply
                  > > cared for not because I believe in a powerful Being who cares for
                  > me.
                  > > That would make the care rather contingent. Instead, I feel cared
                  > for
                  > > because I�ve discovered that freedom�the divine, what�s fully
                  > itself�
                  > > in myself and in others diminishes the significance of what
                  > separates
                  > > us from one another, and produces a universal caring that in effect
                  > > fills all of space and time. And this is not contingent; this is the
                  > > ultimate and necessary reality.
                  > >
                  > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  > >
                  > > ------------------------------------
                  > >
                  > > Yahoo! Groups Links
                  > >
                  > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  > >
                  > >
                  > >
                  >
                  > Robert Wallace
                  > website: www.robertmwallace.com
                  > email: bob@...
                  > phone: 414-617-3914
                  >
                  > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  > ------------------------------------
                  >
                  > Yahoo! Groups Links
                  >
                  > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  >
                  >

                  Robert Wallace
                  website: www.robertmwallace.com
                  email: bob@...
                  phone: 414-617-3914











                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Jason Wingate
                  Bob, No thank*you*! I do get your viewpoint much better now... Much of your ascent idea (its Augustinian inward-movingness, for example) is just as I see it.
                  Message 8 of 26 , Jul 3 4:35 AM
                    Bob,

                    No thank*you*! I do get your viewpoint much better now... Much of your ascent idea (its Augustinian inward-movingness, for example) is just as I see it. What I'm still giving as an alternative view is simply that -- I can't quite help doing it, since in reading Plato I get as much confirmation from Phaedo as from Republic 7 and Symposium, and don't see the dualism as necessarily simplistic and mistaken in the way you do.

                    If I understand you right, you're saying that for you the value of death arises from its being an important part of life, which itself has significant goodness. But is there no afterlife in your thinking then Bob? (Nor any Phaedoesque beforelife?) I think that might account for some of the differences.

                    Stepping outside the Platonist milieu for a second, I'll give some practical examples. You're probably aware of the so-called 'death posture' in yoga, in which one lies as if dead. There are similar things in the Tao Canon, in which you 'abandon your body like abandoning a piece of clothing on a bed'. But the interesting thing is that these practices actually *rejuvenate* the body and increase longevity; that is, getting close to death brings more life. (As you probably know, there's now physiological evidence to support this, in the shape of changes in brain structure and nervous system etc.) You probably also know that as part of those practices breathing and even heartbeat can often stop. And this is not an isolated example. We also have research that indicates nearness to death tends to bring on spiritual experience, and more prospective study now going on in an attempt even to isolate the factor of post-death consciousness, based on the very transformative nature of nearness to death.

                    This is why I gave the idea of death *as* a kind of birth. It's perhaps not explicit in Platonism, but essentially in the world of becoming they do seem to play the same role. Think too of shamanic nearness to mortality of all kinds, from cliff-hanging and firewalking to being staked out in the desert -- or indeed of the Christian images of dying and rebirth, echoed in world myth (and still re-enacted in the form of actual Easter crucifixions in some places!) Think of holy books in Egypt and Tibet often termed 'Books of the Dead' (not with absolute scholarly justification necessarily, but still) -- they form a record of what death leads to, as a gateway. I think that worldwide, people who experience the actual sun of Republic 7 are seen as people who in some way have seen beyond the veil of death, and death therefore does act as a kind of birth into a bigger life in all these cases. In fact strongly related in my way of thinking to the 'birth in beauty'.

                    So that's the reason I give greater weight to death than I think you do -- of course also because my experience confirms these ideas. On this view, the instruction of Socrates to be as much like someone dead as possible, is actually the way to a more vital physical existence, and we are struck by the paradoxical vitality of his behaviour. To me, the idea that the body is 'a hinderer' at any rate, makes plenty of practical sense on that level.

                    Birth and death seem, in a Platonist mode, to be the moving image of something that has a timeless correlate away from the movement of genesis, and to be flipsides of one another therefore. And in that way of thinking, Phaedo comes to me to be a flipside rather than a negation of Diotima. I agree with what you say about her 'stairs' etc., and about the manner of ascent via 'tendrils' (or Ariadne's threads!) of good, totally -- it's just that, for me, the negative and the 'diseased limbs' are as much the means of ascent as the positive Good -- and sometimes more, because it is the attempt to pretend they don't exist that actually does a lot of the imprisoning; that is, people *choose not* to see the diseased limbs. But when they do take them in, that itself becomes the spur to ascent, as you say -- a great example being the famous story of how Buddha chose to give up his princeling status and seek enlightenment upon encountering the brute fact of death. In other words for me, the death which being in a body leads to is itself part of the good of it, not merely in the earthly 'it must be' sense, but in the 'means of ascent' sense. It isn't just that the appetite is a perception of "something good" (which has a reflection of immortality), but that the disastrous effects of unbridled appetite are equally good, and sometimes superior, in the motivation for attaining the One! Etc.

                    So that's perhaps why I don't regard 'Phaedo' as contradictory. And I must say that, just as feeling 'purified' seems to imply a previous impurity, so discovering a 'god of freedom' does seem to imply a prior imprisonment! (And imprisonment implies the possibility of freedom.) But in any case my reading seems equally Platonic or Platonist with yours, albeit different. For me there is absolutely a role that the dualist aspect can play in ascending the ladder, although maybe I've not brought it out... the "prison" idea doesn't imply 'inherent unworthiness' necessarily, just oppressive limitation preventing freedom, and I think Republic 7 could chime with either your view or mine there, to be honest. It is partly because to me, the *threat* of death is so much of what makes unjust action so possible, and part of what makes appetite so liable to control the soul, to its detriment. But looking into death's actual nature on an experiential level, the demiurge can be said to have given it to us, not merely as a bookend to life, but IMO positively as a key to life, and to me as kind of synonym for birth...

                    Very interesting stuff, anyhow... this may well form fodder for some future posts over on my humble blog! Best j






                    ___________________________________________________
                    Lightning in an Oak Box





                    -----Original Message-----
                    From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                    To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                    Sent: Sun, 3 Jul 2011 1:08
                    Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1


                    Jason, thanks again:


                    > Bob,
                    >
                    > <<Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?>>
                    >
                    >
                    > It does... on the death/birth thing, perhaps in your terms the value
                    > of death (in whatever sense) is realised by seeing it as birth?
                    >
                    I don't think I'd want to say that. Rather, as in my second Rilke
                    quote, simply that death is a precondition of the life of finite
                    creatures, and that the life of finite creatures is itself a Good
                    Thing. I think Plato confirms this latter statement when he says that
                    the demiurge "wanted everything to be as much like himself as
                    possible," and created the world in that way. So that finite things
                    aren't the opposite of the divine; they benefit from the attention of
                    the divine, they're as much like the divine as they could have been.
                    From which I infer that they have a significant amount of goodness.
                    This is where Plato seems to me in effect to _contradict_ what he says
                    in the "imprisonment" passages, which imply that a body is Bad Thing
                    that you'd be better off without.

                    > If I'm honest I don't see much contradiction between 'Phaedo' and
                    > 'Symposium', or whatever -- they are really different emphases of
                    > the same thing. One emphasises the positive, the growth of love, as
                    > one would expect at a sparkling drinking do; the other emphasises
                    > the necessary opposition involved in getting that growth to happen,
                    > since it means a less bodily emphasis, as one might expect of the
                    > mood of that particular occasion.

                    I just explained what I see as a contradiction between the
                    imprisonment passages and the Timaeus. I associate the Symposium with
                    the Timaeus, on this issue, because Diotima describes the most exalted
                    forms of love as developing out of the most vulgar, bodily forms.
                    Rather than presenting the heavenly as the opposite of the demotic,
                    she shows _how the demotic has the heavenly implicitly within it_. She
                    does indeed identify a "negative" _element_ in this development: one
                    has to see that what one loves is the Good in what one loves, and if
                    one discovers that something entirely lacks the good, like the
                    diseased arms and legs that she refers to (205e), then one can't love
                    it any longer. This is the beginning of the "ascent" that she
                    describes later, in her famous rising stairs (209-210). Where she ends
                    up is hardly a "bodily" place, as such--but the process of ascent to
                    it, begins very much within the body. That's how the Symposium seems
                    to me to imply a sharp criticism of the "imprisonment" passages. It
                    says that even in the seemingly thoroughly bodily experience of what
                    we might call "lust," there is an essential ingredient of intellect
                    and the Good. To lust after something you must view it as in some
                    significant way Good; you can't lust after something that you view as
                    completely diseased. But from the Imprisonment passages one would
                    conclude the opposite--that the body simply goes its own way, lusting
                    after whatever it lusts after, and has no interest whatever in
                    intellect or the Good.

                    That's why I see the Symposium (and Republic iv-vii, and Timaeus) as
                    analyzing and advocating a vertical ascent, a hierarchy, which is not
                    the _rejection_ of anything as being inherently unworthy and inimical
                    to ascent, but rather seeks to find the "tendrils" of ascent _within_
                    everything. This general process is what I refer to as "birth," and
                    Plato refers to as "birth in beauty" (206b).

                    >
                    > What role would virtue play in this process, and the 'passing-it-on'
                    > idea? jw
                    >
                    Virtue of course is a key step in Diotima's account of passing-it-
                    on--"such a man makes him instantly teem with ideas and arguments
                    about virtue ... and so he tries to educate him" (209c). In the "final
                    and highest mystery" (210), education merges into "beholding" Beauty
                    (211d), but even here the possibility of giving birth persists: "only
                    then will it become possible for him to give birth not to images of
                    virtue but to true virtue" (212a). Virtue is the implementation of the
                    Goodness that one perceives in what one loves.

                    Best, Bob






                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Robert Wallace
                    Hi Jason, Thanks again; this is very interesting. As I suggest below, when you say that death plays a vital role in our liberation, I think that what plays
                    Message 9 of 26 , Jul 3 6:17 PM
                      Hi Jason,

                      Thanks again; this is very interesting.

                      As I suggest below, when you say that "death" plays a vital role in
                      our liberation, I think that what plays that role is a _change in our
                      attitude toward_ death. The evidence that you mention all seems to be
                      consistent with this latter view.

                      > Bob,
                      >
                      > No thank*you*! I do get your viewpoint much better now... Much of
                      > your ascent idea (its Augustinian inward-movingness, for example) is
                      > just as I see it. What I'm still giving as an alternative view is
                      > simply that -- I can't quite help doing it, since in reading Plato I
                      > get as much confirmation from Phaedo as from Republic 7 and
                      > Symposium, and don't see the dualism as necessarily simplistic and
                      > mistaken in the way you do.
                      >
                      > If I understand you right, you're saying that for you the value of
                      > death arises from its being an important part of life, which itself
                      > has significant goodness. But is there no afterlife in your thinking
                      > then Bob? (Nor any Phaedoesque beforelife?) I think that might
                      > account for some of the differences.
                      >
                      I take the "afterlife" and "beforelife" of Plato's myths and the
                      Phaedo as a metaphor for a reality that's beyond time, such as
                      Diotima's speech seems to point to.

                      >
                      >
                      > Stepping outside the Platonist milieu for a second, I'll give some
                      > practical examples. You're probably aware of the so-called 'death
                      > posture' in yoga, in which one lies as if dead. There are similar
                      > things in the Tao Canon, in which you 'abandon your body like
                      > abandoning a piece of clothing on a bed'. But the interesting thing
                      > is that these practices actually *rejuvenate* the body and increase
                      > longevity; that is, getting close to death brings more life. (As you
                      > probably know, there's now physiological evidence to support this,
                      > in the shape of changes in brain structure and nervous system etc.)
                      > You probably also know that as part of those practices breathing and
                      > even heartbeat can often stop. And this is not an isolated example.
                      > We also have research that indicates nearness to death tends to
                      > bring on spiritual experience, and more prospective study now going
                      > on in an attempt even to isolate the factor of post-death
                      > consciousness, based on the very transformative nature of nearness
                      > to death.
                      >
                      > This is why I gave the idea of death *as* a kind of birth.
                      >
                      Yes, nearness to death is a powerful promoter of spiritual experience.
                      _Attitudes toward_ death are among the most crucial features of life.
                      When Muhammed and the Sufis tell us to "die before we die," and
                      Socrates in the Phaedo tells us that philosophy is preparation for
                      death, I completely agree--because preparation for death transforms
                      life! Makes it the real thing. This is the attitude of loving death as
                      part of life, that Rilke advises. So it's not death itself that does
                      the liberating. It's our experience of nearness to it or our (for
                      other reasons) changing our attitude toward it, that does the
                      liberating.


                      > It's perhaps not explicit in Platonism, but essentially in the world
                      > of becoming they do seem to play the same role. Think too of
                      > shamanic nearness to mortality of all kinds, from cliff-hanging and
                      > firewalking to being staked out in the desert -- or indeed of the
                      > Christian images of dying and rebirth, echoed in world myth (and
                      > still re-enacted in the form of actual Easter crucifixions in some
                      > places!) Think of holy books in Egypt and Tibet often termed 'Books
                      > of the Dead' (not with absolute scholarly justification necessarily,
                      > but still) -- they form a record of what death leads to, as a
                      > gateway. I think that worldwide, people who experience the actual
                      > sun of Republic 7 are seen as people who in some way have seen
                      > beyond the veil of death, and death therefore does act as a kind of
                      > birth into a bigger life in all these cases.
                      >
                      Precisely, seeing "beyond the veil of death" (that is, beyond the veil
                      of the finitude that death seems, in the ordinary view, to condemn us
                      to) gives us "birth into a bigger life" _now_! --regardless of what
                      comes "after" death. The "bigger life" is the timeless life of the
                      spirit, not an ongoing day-after-day plodding into an unending forever.


                      > In fact strongly related in my way of thinking to the 'birth in
                      > beauty'.
                      >
                      > So that's the reason I give greater weight to death than I think you
                      > do -- of course also because my experience confirms these ideas. On
                      > this view, the instruction of Socrates to be as much like someone
                      > dead as possible, is actually the way to a more vital physical
                      > existence, and we are struck by the paradoxical vitality of his
                      > behaviour.
                      >
                      Absolutely. Because his _attitude toward_ death is different from
                      ours, his life is different from ours.

                      > To me, the idea that the body is 'a hinderer' at any rate, makes
                      > plenty of practical sense on that level.
                      >
                      Whereas I would say, again, that the crucial thing is not the "body,"
                      but our attitude toward it. The body is a hinderer only insofar as the
                      soul has an attitude that clings to the body because it fears and
                      denies the reality of death.


                      >
                      >
                      > Birth and death seem, in a Platonist mode, to be the moving image of
                      > something that has a timeless correlate away from the movement of
                      > genesis, and to be flipsides of one another therefore. And in that
                      > way of thinking, Phaedo comes to me to be a flipside rather than a
                      > negation of Diotima. I agree with what you say about her 'stairs'
                      > etc., and about the manner of ascent via 'tendrils' (or Ariadne's
                      > threads!) of good, totally -- it's just that, for me, the negative
                      > and the 'diseased limbs' are as much the means of ascent as the
                      > positive Good -- and sometimes more, because it is the attempt to
                      > pretend they don't exist that actually does a lot of the
                      > imprisoning; that is, people *choose not* to see the diseased limbs.
                      > But when they do take them in, that itself becomes the spur to
                      > ascent, as you say -- a great example being the famous story of how
                      > Buddha chose to give up his princeling status and seek enlightenment
                      > upon encountering the brute fact of death. In other words for me,
                      > the death which being in a body leads to is itself part of the good
                      > of it, not merely in the earthly 'it must be' sense, but in the
                      > 'means of ascent' sense. It isn't just that the appetite is a
                      > perception of "something good" (which has a reflection of
                      > immortality), but that the disastrous effects of unbridled appetite
                      > are equally good, and sometimes superior, in the motivation for
                      > attaining the One! Etc.
                      >
                      > So that's perhaps why I don't regard 'Phaedo' as contradictory. And
                      > I must say that, just as feeling 'purified' seems to imply a
                      > previous impurity, so discovering a 'god of freedom' does seem to
                      > imply a prior imprisonment!
                      >
                      There's no doubt that discovering a God of freedom implies a prior
                      imprisonment. But rather than imprisonment in a body, it was
                      imprisonment in a mistaken _attitude toward_ the body: an attitude
                      that saw the body's finite life as the person's (soul's) entire life.


                      > (And imprisonment implies the possibility of freedom.) But in any
                      > case my reading seems equally Platonic or Platonist with yours,
                      > albeit different. For me there is absolutely a role that the dualist
                      > aspect can play in ascending the ladder, although maybe I've not
                      > brought it out... the "prison" idea doesn't imply 'inherent
                      > unworthiness' necessarily, just oppressive limitation preventing
                      > freedom, and I think Republic 7 could chime with either your view or
                      > mine there, to be honest.
                      >
                      Yeah, the contrast to "imprisonment" is not Republic vii by itself but
                      Republic vii as the culmination of the train of though that begins in
                      Rep. iv, with its tripartite soul of which one "part" is the
                      apparently very bodily _appetites_, so that the "soul" now apparently
                      _includes_ the "body," rather than excluding it.

                      I'd be interested to hear other people's views on these questions, if
                      anybody else is following along.

                      Best, Bob


                      > It is partly because to me, the *threat* of death is so much of what
                      > makes unjust action so possible, and part of what makes appetite so
                      > liable to control the soul, to its detriment. But looking into
                      > death's actual nature on an experiential level, the demiurge can be
                      > said to have given it to us, not merely as a bookend to life, but
                      > IMO positively as a key to life, and to me as kind of synonym for
                      > birth...
                      >
                      > Very interesting stuff, anyhow... this may well form fodder for some
                      > future posts over on my humble blog! Best j
                      >
                      > ___________________________________________________
                      > Lightning in an Oak Box
                      >
                      > -----Original Message-----
                      > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                      > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                      > Sent: Sun, 3 Jul 2011 1:08
                      > Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                      >
                      > Jason, thanks again:
                      >
                      > > Bob,
                      > >
                      > > <<Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?>>
                      > >
                      > >
                      > > It does... on the death/birth thing, perhaps in your terms the value
                      > > of death (in whatever sense) is realised by seeing it as birth?
                      > >
                      > I don't think I'd want to say that. Rather, as in my second Rilke
                      > quote, simply that death is a precondition of the life of finite
                      > creatures, and that the life of finite creatures is itself a Good
                      > Thing. I think Plato confirms this latter statement when he says that
                      > the demiurge "wanted everything to be as much like himself as
                      > possible," and created the world in that way. So that finite things
                      > aren't the opposite of the divine; they benefit from the attention of
                      > the divine, they're as much like the divine as they could have been.
                      > From which I infer that they have a significant amount of goodness.
                      > This is where Plato seems to me in effect to _contradict_ what he says
                      > in the "imprisonment" passages, which imply that a body is Bad Thing
                      > that you'd be better off without.
                      >
                      > > If I'm honest I don't see much contradiction between 'Phaedo' and
                      > > 'Symposium', or whatever -- they are really different emphases of
                      > > the same thing. One emphasises the positive, the growth of love, as
                      > > one would expect at a sparkling drinking do; the other emphasises
                      > > the necessary opposition involved in getting that growth to happen,
                      > > since it means a less bodily emphasis, as one might expect of the
                      > > mood of that particular occasion.
                      >
                      > I just explained what I see as a contradiction between the
                      > imprisonment passages and the Timaeus. I associate the Symposium with
                      > the Timaeus, on this issue, because Diotima describes the most exalted
                      > forms of love as developing out of the most vulgar, bodily forms.
                      > Rather than presenting the heavenly as the opposite of the demotic,
                      > she shows _how the demotic has the heavenly implicitly within it_. She
                      > does indeed identify a "negative" _element_ in this development: one
                      > has to see that what one loves is the Good in what one loves, and if
                      > one discovers that something entirely lacks the good, like the
                      > diseased arms and legs that she refers to (205e), then one can't love
                      > it any longer. This is the beginning of the "ascent" that she
                      > describes later, in her famous rising stairs (209-210). Where she ends
                      > up is hardly a "bodily" place, as such--but the process of ascent to
                      > it, begins very much within the body. That's how the Symposium seems
                      > to me to imply a sharp criticism of the "imprisonment" passages. It
                      > says that even in the seemingly thoroughly bodily experience of what
                      > we might call "lust," there is an essential ingredient of intellect
                      > and the Good. To lust after something you must view it as in some
                      > significant way Good; you can't lust after something that you view as
                      > completely diseased. But from the Imprisonment passages one would
                      > conclude the opposite--that the body simply goes its own way, lusting
                      > after whatever it lusts after, and has no interest whatever in
                      > intellect or the Good.
                      >
                      > That's why I see the Symposium (and Republic iv-vii, and Timaeus) as
                      > analyzing and advocating a vertical ascent, a hierarchy, which is not
                      > the _rejection_ of anything as being inherently unworthy and inimical
                      > to ascent, but rather seeks to find the "tendrils" of ascent _within_
                      > everything. This general process is what I refer to as "birth," and
                      > Plato refers to as "birth in beauty" (206b).
                      >
                      > >
                      > > What role would virtue play in this process, and the 'passing-it-on'
                      > > idea? jw
                      > >
                      > Virtue of course is a key step in Diotima's account of passing-it-
                      > on--"such a man makes him instantly teem with ideas and arguments
                      > about virtue ... and so he tries to educate him" (209c). In the "final
                      > and highest mystery" (210), education merges into "beholding" Beauty
                      > (211d), but even here the possibility of giving birth persists: "only
                      > then will it become possible for him to give birth not to images of
                      > virtue but to true virtue" (212a). Virtue is the implementation of the
                      > Goodness that one perceives in what one loves.
                      >
                      > Best, Bob
                      >
                      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      >
                      >
                      >

                      Robert Wallace
                      website: www.robertmwallace.com
                      email: bob@...
                      phone: 414-617-3914











                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Jason Wingate
                      Bob, Seems like good communication is happening. I guess I ve put across by now what I mean with the whole death thing... it s all a question of what to you
                      Message 10 of 26 , Jul 4 6:23 AM
                        Bob,

                        Seems like good communication is happening. I guess I've put across by now what I mean with the whole death thing... it's all a question of what to you would be my over-literal interpretation!

                        <<this is very interesting>>

                        I'm glad you think so! I agree... I feel stretched by your interpretation also.

                        <<I'd be interested to hear other people's views on these questions, if anybody else is following along.>>

                        That's what I'm hoping for too.

                        So... perhaps the main reaction I have to what you say here is that Plato can be taken metaphorically, and in taking him more literally than you do, I don't rest on absolutely textual grounds. This could be seen as turning to some extent on questions of what the early academic paidea was, what the unwritten doctrines were, etc. All these positions are all probably valid. All one can do then is find points of similarity and difference. I'd defend the possibility of quite a literal reading of Platonic 'myth' etc., esp. on a Neoplatonist list, because I don't think the late-Neoplatonist intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken as metaphors -- but Plato himself can be interpreted more metaphorically. Thus when you say:

                        <<The evidence that you mention all seems to be
                        consistent with this latter view>>

                        ... I agree, but I don't think it's *solely* consistent with that interpretation, and that also seems bound with how you interpret Plato. Without getting into it all, if one has reason to take NDE experience (say) literally, then actual experience of the death process itself is the important thing. At the moment of the heart stopping in meditation for example, leaving the subjective phenomonology out of it, one is *literally* experiencing a *physical* aspect of death, and with the other *literal* experiences of it that I mentioned, likewise. The very elaborate 'books of the dead', then -- are they simply an attitude change, or are they very detailed descriptions of an actual death process? If taking the literal line, which I do, the actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by a person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses. And this becomes key to the transformation of the soul in some way.

                        (It's interesting how this can cause old arguments to recrudesce. For example, the Bacchic gold tablets are not of the same level of detail as the Egyptian 'Book of the Dead', but do operate the same way. Are they to be equated with the door-to-door salesmen of afterlife blessing whom Plato scorns? Or OTOH does the Pythagorean influence on Plato suggest a possibly quite literal interpretation of the afterlife myths? Etc.)

                        Obviously myths of Orpheus and such shamanic figures worldwide do spring to mind. Probably we can leave that where it is... BTW there's also research going on into this precise question. I haven't read this yet: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conceptions-Afterlife-Early-Civilizations-Constructivism/dp/0826440738/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=IZL8QXFO79KNB&colid=QRVGTK3IBCDB (a souped-up thesis), but in correlating ancient afterlife descriptions with modern NDE experiences it may well be pointing up ways in which the literal line can be read back into things we still have also the option to take as metaphors.

                        That leads to other stuff you're raising:

                        <<The body is a hinderer only insofar as the
                        soul has an attitude that clings to the body because it fears and
                        denies the reality of death. [...] But rather than imprisonment in a body, it was
                        imprisonment in a mistaken _attitude toward_ the body: an attitude
                        that saw the body's finite life as the person's (soul's) entire life. [...] the contrast to "imprisonment" is not Republic vii by itself but
                        Republic vii as the culmination of the train of though that begins in
                        Rep. iv, with its tripartite soul of which one "part" is the
                        apparently very bodily _appetites_, so that the "soul" now apparently
                        _includes_ the "body," rather than excluding it.>>

                        This is now a set of quite fine distinctions I think. Like the stuff above, it links in to all sorts of later things in Platonism; Gregory Shaw on the objections of Iamblichus to the 'undescended soul' of Plotinus is very relevant. In this discussion you are arguing for a descended soul and I would not disagree. It might be we could agree here... we also perhaps ought to bring in the 'Phaedrus' too, to give another perspective -- we can talk about how the soul loses, and perhaps more important regains, its wings, for example, as another good metaphor of what's going on?

                        If we imagine for a second going to an entirely literalist viewpoint, in which one really does have a soul both before and after one has a body, then the 'imprisonment' seems more complex than a question of 'attitude'. A process actually happens which results in a change in the nature of the soul. If the soul has *in it* the appetitive nature, as in 'Republic', it would be better IMO to say that this nature is a voice/paradigm/interpretation-system, very much linked with the survival/reproduction priorities of bodily form (with their natural fear of death as you mention), and if that voice/paradigm/interpretation-system holds sway within the soul, this causes the soul to 'lose wings' and 'be imprisoned'. And furthermore, that is the usual process on the assumption of bodily form. The process also entails that the soul's usual goals are ignored or subsumed within goals dictated by that appetitive nature. (I'm hoping that seems at least metaphorically true to you also! But clearly if the myth of Er is entirely a metaphor, this makes things rather different, and I do understand that.)

                        From that pov, 'Phaedo' for me doesn't imply a soul exclusive of body exactly, or needn't -- the lesson of the *ethical* dualism it talks about is that we have to live *as if* without a body, when normally the soul will be distracted by the body's clamourings. And this is so that the wings can be regained, the prison or the cave exited, etc. So clearly the soul and body *are* in some way joined, otherwise exhorting us to separate them, as if at death, would be unnecessary! This is why so much turns on how literally one takes the possibility of an afterlife.

                        So the references to the pleasures which the philosopher has to ignore can be seen as clamourings 'within the soul', if the soul is to be affected by them, and in 'Republic' you are getting the instruction to overrule these clamourings just as you are in 'Phaedo'. *Some kind* of separation is therefore necessary if another voice/paradigm/interpretation-system is to get sway and the wings be regained by the more noble element, if you like. (How close that is to Empedocles as well!) If the soul *actually* "separates from the body" at death in some literal way, there will of course be no bodily clamourings after that! And hence the instruction to live more or less as if dead is much more of a literal instruction aimed at wing-regaining. In practice, still presuming you take things on the literal level I take them, the joining makes the clamour in the soul, and the separation at least begins the process of ending it. (I'm somehow not making it clear, though, that the good *physical* life results from this too...)

                        Personally I'd definitely hold (with you) that for the duration of the soul's attachment to the body, the body is actually part of the soul. But the soul takes on the body's goals and this prevents both the soul's goals and the body's Good. In order for that to be obviated the higher soul functions have to be able to see themselves outside of the bodily context, and this ascent of the ladder does seem to be equally a separation of the soul from the body in terms of what is actually seen or experienced. (And yes, as in Republic, there is also a re-joining -- it's a solve and coagula situation. ^_^) The appetitive nature in practice consists of a bunch of habits which have habitual physical-world targets -- remove the targets, and this nature does align to the soul's point of view; the difficult horse plays along. But to do that, the physical-world targets have to be in the appetitive sense continuously ignored, whereas the life of the body (with its sense inputs etc.) is all geared towards them, and this is why the body is in some sense inimical to our true soul objectives. And like I say this works fine with the ladder perspective, but I also think it works with the dualist flip-flop perspective, because it is actually as if the nature of bodily experience is 'turned upside down' in terms of its priorities. Suddenly what is 'basic' is not the 'obviously real' physical world after all, what is good likewise... etc.

                        So I actually think the 'Phaedo' dualism can be read as a dualism of kinds-of-life, and it remains the case that the nature of one of those kinds-of-life is imprisoned, and that the other must be continually chosen etc. This looks like choosing death, as Simmias says, to someone who has chosen the ordinary kind-of-life.

                        Well I hope some of that made sense! Proabably this is enough from me... But I would like to read chapter two if and when it becomes available... :)

                        Best wishes, j




                        ___________________________________________________
                        Lightning in an Oak Box





                        -----Original Message-----
                        From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                        To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                        Sent: Mon, 4 Jul 2011 2:17
                        Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1



                        Hi Jason,

                        Thanks again; this is very interesting.

                        As I suggest below, when you say that "death" plays a vital role in
                        our liberation, I think that what plays that role is a _change in our
                        attitude toward_ death. The evidence that you mention all seems to be
                        consistent with this latter view.

                        > Bob,
                        >
                        > No thank*you*! I do get your viewpoint much better now... Much of
                        > your ascent idea (its Augustinian inward-movingness, for example) is
                        > just as I see it. What I'm still giving as an alternative view is
                        > simply that -- I can't quite help doing it, since in reading Plato I
                        > get as much confirmation from Phaedo as from Republic 7 and
                        > Symposium, and don't see the dualism as necessarily simplistic and
                        > mistaken in the way you do.
                        >
                        > If I understand you right, you're saying that for you the value of
                        > death arises from its being an important part of life, which itself
                        > has significant goodness. But is there no afterlife in your thinking
                        > then Bob? (Nor any Phaedoesque beforelife?) I think that might
                        > account for some of the differences.
                        >
                        I take the "afterlife" and "beforelife" of Plato's myths and the
                        Phaedo as a metaphor for a reality that's beyond time, such as
                        Diotima's speech seems to point to.

                        >
                        >
                        > Stepping outside the Platonist milieu for a second, I'll give some
                        > practical examples. You're probably aware of the so-called 'death
                        > posture' in yoga, in which one lies as if dead. There are similar
                        > things in the Tao Canon, in which you 'abandon your body like
                        > abandoning a piece of clothing on a bed'. But the interesting thing
                        > is that these practices actually *rejuvenate* the body and increase
                        > longevity; that is, getting close to death brings more life. (As you
                        > probably know, there's now physiological evidence to support this,
                        > in the shape of changes in brain structure and nervous system etc.)
                        > You probably also know that as part of those practices breathing and
                        > even heartbeat can often stop. And this is not an isolated example.
                        > We also have research that indicates nearness to death tends to
                        > bring on spiritual experience, and more prospective study now going
                        > on in an attempt even to isolate the factor of post-death
                        > consciousness, based on the very transformative nature of nearness
                        > to death.
                        >
                        > This is why I gave the idea of death *as* a kind of birth.
                        >
                        Yes, nearness to death is a powerful promoter of spiritual experience.
                        _Attitudes toward_ death are among the most crucial features of life.
                        When Muhammed and the Sufis tell us to "die before we die," and
                        Socrates in the Phaedo tells us that philosophy is preparation for
                        death, I completely agree--because preparation for death transforms
                        life! Makes it the real thing. This is the attitude of loving death as
                        part of life, that Rilke advises. So it's not death itself that does
                        the liberating. It's our experience of nearness to it or our (for
                        other reasons) changing our attitude toward it, that does the
                        liberating.


                        > It's perhaps not explicit in Platonism, but essentially in the world
                        > of becoming they do seem to play the same role. Think too of
                        > shamanic nearness to mortality of all kinds, from cliff-hanging and
                        > firewalking to being staked out in the desert -- or indeed of the
                        > Christian images of dying and rebirth, echoed in world myth (and
                        > still re-enacted in the form of actual Easter crucifixions in some
                        > places!) Think of holy books in Egypt and Tibet often termed 'Books
                        > of the Dead' (not with absolute scholarly justification necessarily,
                        > but still) -- they form a record of what death leads to, as a
                        > gateway. I think that worldwide, people who experience the actual
                        > sun of Republic 7 are seen as people who in some way have seen
                        > beyond the veil of death, and death therefore does act as a kind of
                        > birth into a bigger life in all these cases.
                        >
                        Precisely, seeing "beyond the veil of death" (that is, beyond the veil
                        of the finitude that death seems, in the ordinary view, to condemn us
                        to) gives us "birth into a bigger life" _now_! --regardless of what
                        comes "after" death. The "bigger life" is the timeless life of the
                        spirit, not an ongoing day-after-day plodding into an unending forever.


                        > In fact strongly related in my way of thinking to the 'birth in
                        > beauty'.
                        >
                        > So that's the reason I give greater weight to death than I think you
                        > do -- of course also because my experience confirms these ideas. On
                        > this view, the instruction of Socrates to be as much like someone
                        > dead as possible, is actually the way to a more vital physical
                        > existence, and we are struck by the paradoxical vitality of his
                        > behaviour.
                        >
                        Absolutely. Because his _attitude toward_ death is different from
                        ours, his life is different from ours.

                        > To me, the idea that the body is 'a hinderer' at any rate, makes
                        > plenty of practical sense on that level.
                        >
                        Whereas I would say, again, that the crucial thing is not the "body,"
                        but our attitude toward it. The body is a hinderer only insofar as the
                        soul has an attitude that clings to the body because it fears and
                        denies the reality of death.


                        >
                        >
                        > Birth and death seem, in a Platonist mode, to be the moving image of
                        > something that has a timeless correlate away from the movement of
                        > genesis, and to be flipsides of one another therefore. And in that
                        > way of thinking, Phaedo comes to me to be a flipside rather than a
                        > negation of Diotima. I agree with what you say about her 'stairs'
                        > etc., and about the manner of ascent via 'tendrils' (or Ariadne's
                        > threads!) of good, totally -- it's just that, for me, the negative
                        > and the 'diseased limbs' are as much the means of ascent as the
                        > positive Good -- and sometimes more, because it is the attempt to
                        > pretend they don't exist that actually does a lot of the
                        > imprisoning; that is, people *choose not* to see the diseased limbs.
                        > But when they do take them in, that itself becomes the spur to
                        > ascent, as you say -- a great example being the famous story of how
                        > Buddha chose to give up his princeling status and seek enlightenment
                        > upon encountering the brute fact of death. In other words for me,
                        > the death which being in a body leads to is itself part of the good
                        > of it, not merely in the earthly 'it must be' sense, but in the
                        > 'means of ascent' sense. It isn't just that the appetite is a
                        > perception of "something good" (which has a reflection of
                        > immortality), but that the disastrous effects of unbridled appetite
                        > are equally good, and sometimes superior, in the motivation for
                        > attaining the One! Etc.
                        >
                        > So that's perhaps why I don't regard 'Phaedo' as contradictory. And
                        > I must say that, just as feeling 'purified' seems to imply a
                        > previous impurity, so discovering a 'god of freedom' does seem to
                        > imply a prior imprisonment!
                        >
                        There's no doubt that discovering a God of freedom implies a prior
                        imprisonment. But rather than imprisonment in a body, it was
                        imprisonment in a mistaken _attitude toward_ the body: an attitude
                        that saw the body's finite life as the person's (soul's) entire life.


                        > (And imprisonment implies the possibility of freedom.) But in any
                        > case my reading seems equally Platonic or Platonist with yours,
                        > albeit different. For me there is absolutely a role that the dualist
                        > aspect can play in ascending the ladder, although maybe I've not
                        > brought it out... the "prison" idea doesn't imply 'inherent
                        > unworthiness' necessarily, just oppressive limitation preventing
                        > freedom, and I think Republic 7 could chime with either your view or
                        > mine there, to be honest.
                        >
                        Yeah, the contrast to "imprisonment" is not Republic vii by itself but
                        Republic vii as the culmination of the train of though that begins in
                        Rep. iv, with its tripartite soul of which one "part" is the
                        apparently very bodily _appetites_, so that the "soul" now apparently
                        _includes_ the "body," rather than excluding it.

                        I'd be interested to hear other people's views on these questions, if
                        anybody else is following along.

                        Best, Bob


                        > It is partly because to me, the *threat* of death is so much of what
                        > makes unjust action so possible, and part of what makes appetite so
                        > liable to control the soul, to its detriment. But looking into
                        > death's actual nature on an experiential level, the demiurge can be
                        > said to have given it to us, not merely as a bookend to life, but
                        > IMO positively as a key to life, and to me as kind of synonym for
                        > birth...
                        >
                        > Very interesting stuff, anyhow... this may well form fodder for some
                        > future posts over on my humble blog! Best j
                        >
                        > ___________________________________________________
                        > Lightning in an Oak Box
                        >
                        > -----Original Message-----
                        > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                        > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                        > Sent: Sun, 3 Jul 2011 1:08
                        > Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                        >
                        > Jason, thanks again:
                        >
                        > > Bob,
                        > >
                        > > <<Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?>>
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > It does... on the death/birth thing, perhaps in your terms the value
                        > > of death (in whatever sense) is realised by seeing it as birth?
                        > >
                        > I don't think I'd want to say that. Rather, as in my second Rilke
                        > quote, simply that death is a precondition of the life of finite
                        > creatures, and that the life of finite creatures is itself a Good
                        > Thing. I think Plato confirms this latter statement when he says that
                        > the demiurge "wanted everything to be as much like himself as
                        > possible," and created the world in that way. So that finite things
                        > aren't the opposite of the divine; they benefit from the attention of
                        > the divine, they're as much like the divine as they could have been.
                        > From which I infer that they have a significant amount of goodness.
                        > This is where Plato seems to me in effect to _contradict_ what he says
                        > in the "imprisonment" passages, which imply that a body is Bad Thing
                        > that you'd be better off without.
                        >
                        > > If I'm honest I don't see much contradiction between 'Phaedo' and
                        > > 'Symposium', or whatever -- they are really different emphases of
                        > > the same thing. One emphasises the positive, the growth of love, as
                        > > one would expect at a sparkling drinking do; the other emphasises
                        > > the necessary opposition involved in getting that growth to happen,
                        > > since it means a less bodily emphasis, as one might expect of the
                        > > mood of that particular occasion.
                        >
                        > I just explained what I see as a contradiction between the
                        > imprisonment passages and the Timaeus. I associate the Symposium with
                        > the Timaeus, on this issue, because Diotima describes the most exalted
                        > forms of love as developing out of the most vulgar, bodily forms.
                        > Rather than presenting the heavenly as the opposite of the demotic,
                        > she shows _how the demotic has the heavenly implicitly within it_. She
                        > does indeed identify a "negative" _element_ in this development: one
                        > has to see that what one loves is the Good in what one loves, and if
                        > one discovers that something entirely lacks the good, like the
                        > diseased arms and legs that she refers to (205e), then one can't love
                        > it any longer. This is the beginning of the "ascent" that she
                        > describes later, in her famous rising stairs (209-210). Where she ends
                        > up is hardly a "bodily" place, as such--but the process of ascent to
                        > it, begins very much within the body. That's how the Symposium seems
                        > to me to imply a sharp criticism of the "imprisonment" passages. It
                        > says that even in the seemingly thoroughly bodily experience of what
                        > we might call "lust," there is an essential ingredient of intellect
                        > and the Good. To lust after something you must view it as in some
                        > significant way Good; you can't lust after something that you view as
                        > completely diseased. But from the Imprisonment passages one would
                        > conclude the opposite--that the body simply goes its own way, lusting
                        > after whatever it lusts after, and has no interest whatever in
                        > intellect or the Good.
                        >
                        > That's why I see the Symposium (and Republic iv-vii, and Timaeus) as
                        > analyzing and advocating a vertical ascent, a hierarchy, which is not
                        > the _rejection_ of anything as being inherently unworthy and inimical
                        > to ascent, but rather seeks to find the "tendrils" of ascent _within_
                        > everything. This general process is what I refer to as "birth," and
                        > Plato refers to as "birth in beauty" (206b).
                        >
                        > >
                        > > What role would virtue play in this process, and the 'passing-it-on'
                        > > idea? jw
                        > >
                        > Virtue of course is a key step in Diotima's account of passing-it-
                        > on--"such a man makes him instantly teem with ideas and arguments
                        > about virtue ... and so he tries to educate him" (209c). In the "final
                        > and highest mystery" (210), education merges into "beholding" Beauty
                        > (211d), but even here the possibility of giving birth persists: "only
                        > then will it become possible for him to give birth not to images of
                        > virtue but to true virtue" (212a). Virtue is the implementation of the
                        > Goodness that one perceives in what one loves.
                        >
                        > Best, Bob
                        >
                        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        >
                        >
                        >

                        Robert Wallace
                        website: www.robertmwallace.com
                        email: bob@...
                        phone: 414-617-3914











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                      • Robert Wallace
                        Dear Jason, ... It may indeed be the usual process. But Socrates says in Republic iv, 444d, that a _just_ person binds together those parts, ... and from
                        Message 11 of 26 , Jul 7 6:54 PM
                          Dear Jason,

                          Sorry for the delayed response. I select from what you wrote:

                          > If we imagine for a second going to an entirely literalist
                          > viewpoint, in which one really does have a soul both before and
                          > after one has a body, then the 'imprisonment' seems more complex
                          > than a question of 'attitude'. A process actually happens which
                          > results in a change in the nature of the soul. If the soul has *in
                          > it* the appetitive nature, as in 'Republic', it would be better IMO
                          > to say that this nature is a voice/paradigm/interpretation-system,
                          > very much linked with the survival/reproduction priorities of bodily
                          > form (with their natural fear of death as you mention), and if that
                          > voice/paradigm/interpretation-system holds sway within the soul,
                          > this causes the soul to 'lose wings' and 'be imprisoned'. And
                          > furthermore, that is the usual process on the assumption of bodily
                          > form. The process also entails that the soul's usual goals are
                          > ignored or subsumed within goals dictated by that appetitive nature.
                          >
                          It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic
                          iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and
                          from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then
                          does he act." I think this may be the most pivotal statement in the
                          Republic. It strongly suggests that the appetitive part agrees to work
                          with the rational part. Indeed he says at 442c that "the ruler and
                          ruled _believe in common_ that the rational part should rule." That
                          is, the appetitive part is a _willing participant_ in this "one"-ness.
                          This doesn't sound at all like the rational part's escaping from a
                          prison, or the body's acting like a prison. Together with Diotima's (I
                          think) quite non-dualistic speech, and the description of the demiurge
                          in the Timaeus as wanting to make everything as much like himself as
                          possible, this is what leads me to believe that Plato had a
                          significant change of mind, after endorsing the "imprisonment"
                          metaphor in the early writings that survive toward the beginning of
                          the Phaedo. He doesn't erase (what I take to be) the older stuff, but
                          he certainly gives us cause to wonder how these views could be
                          reconciled with each other.

                          > I'd defend the possibility of quite a literal reading of Platonic
                          > 'myth' etc., esp. on a Neoplatonist list, because I don't think the
                          > late-Neoplatonist intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken as
                          > metaphors
                          >
                          No, but they're intelligible and psychic! What that means to me is
                          that they're part of the process of emanation and return, in which the
                          higher stages are clearly more "really real" than the lower, more
                          diverse and material stages. So the disparate "souls" that you take to
                          be "literally" reincarnated and so forth, seem to me to be clearly
                          less real than Soul as such, not to mention Intellect and the One.
                          Thus whatever experience "you" or "I" have when we die, must
                          presumably (for Plotinus and all of his successors) be one of
                          learning, to some degree at least, how unreal our separateness as
                          "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I presume, the multiplicity of the
                          intelligible and psychic "gods" is less real than their unity in
                          Intellect and the One.

                          > Without getting into it all, if one has reason to take NDE
                          > experience (say) literally, then actual experience of the death
                          > process itself is the important thing. At the moment of the heart
                          > stopping in meditation for example, leaving the subjective
                          > phenomonology out of it, one is *literally* experiencing a
                          > *physical* aspect of death,

                          always bearing in mind that the "literal" and "physical" is (according
                          to Plato and Neoplatonism) something less fully real than the
                          intelligible and psychic! So "the death process itself" is not
                          necessarily primarily a "physical" process.

                          > and with the other *literal* experiences of it that I mentioned,
                          > likewise. The very elaborate 'books of the dead', then -- are they
                          > simply an attitude change, or are they very detailed descriptions of
                          > an actual death process? If taking the literal line, which I do, the
                          > actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by a
                          > person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses. And this becomes
                          > key to the transformation of the soul in some way.


                          So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits
                          animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are
                          very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I
                          would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of
                          having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in
                          the physical world, but not real in the same sense.

                          But I would not deny that

                          > the actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by
                          > a person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses.
                          >


                          I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of
                          physical death is the primary reality. To return to my earlier
                          language, the primary reality is true "birth," "birth in beauty," or
                          what the Neoplatonists refer to as "turning back" to what's really real.

                          Best, Bob

                          On Jul 4, 2011, at 6:23 AM, Jason Wingate wrote:

                          >
                          > Bob,
                          >
                          > Seems like good communication is happening. I guess I've put across
                          > by now what I mean with the whole death thing... it's all a question
                          > of what to you would be my over-literal interpretation!
                          >
                          > <<this is very interesting>>
                          >
                          > I'm glad you think so! I agree... I feel stretched by your
                          > interpretation also.
                          >
                          > <<I'd be interested to hear other people's views on these questions,
                          > if anybody else is following along.>>
                          >
                          > That's what I'm hoping for too.
                          >
                          > So... perhaps the main reaction I have to what you say here is that
                          > Plato can be taken metaphorically, and in taking him more literally
                          > than you do, I don't rest on absolutely textual grounds. This could
                          > be seen as turning to some extent on questions of what the early
                          > academic paidea was, what the unwritten doctrines were, etc. All
                          > these positions are all probably valid. All one can do then is find
                          > points of similarity and difference. I'd defend the possibility of
                          > quite a literal reading of Platonic 'myth' etc., esp. on a
                          > Neoplatonist list, because I don't think the late-Neoplatonist
                          > intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken as metaphors
                          >
                          > -- but Plato himself can be interpreted more metaphorically. Thus
                          > when you say:
                          >
                          > <<The evidence that you mention all seems to be
                          > consistent with this latter view>>
                          >
                          > ... I agree, but I don't think it's *solely* consistent with that
                          > interpretation,
                          >
                          I agree.

                          > and that also seems bound with how you interpret Plato. Without
                          > getting into it all, if one has reason to take NDE experience (say)
                          > literally, then actual experience of the death process itself is the
                          > important thing. At the moment of the heart stopping in meditation
                          > for example, leaving the subjective phenomonology out of it, one is
                          > *literally* experiencing a *physical* aspect of death, and with the
                          > other *literal* experiences of it that I mentioned, likewise. The
                          > very elaborate 'books of the dead', then -- are they simply an
                          > attitude change, or are they very detailed descriptions of an actual
                          > death process? If taking the literal line, which I do, the actual
                          > process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by a person
                          > who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses. And this becomes key to
                          > the transformation of the soul in some way.
                          >
                          > (It's interesting how this can cause old arguments to recrudesce.
                          > For example, the Bacchic gold tablets are not of the same level of
                          > detail as the Egyptian 'Book of the Dead', but do operate the same
                          > way. Are they to be equated with the door-to-door salesmen of
                          > afterlife blessing whom Plato scorns? Or OTOH does the Pythagorean
                          > influence on Plato suggest a possibly quite literal interpretation
                          > of the afterlife myths? Etc.)
                          >
                          > Obviously myths of Orpheus and such shamanic figures worldwide do
                          > spring to mind. Probably we can leave that where it is... BTW
                          > there's also research going on into this precise question. I haven't
                          > read this yet:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Conceptions-Afterlife-Early-Civilizations-Constructivism/dp/0826440738/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=IZL8QXFO79KNB&colid=QRVGTK3IBCDB
                          > (a souped-up thesis), but in correlating ancient afterlife
                          > descriptions with modern NDE experiences it may well be pointing up
                          > ways in which the literal line can be read back into things we still
                          > have also the option to take as metaphors.
                          >
                          > That leads to other stuff you're raising:
                          >
                          > <<The body is a hinderer only insofar as the
                          > soul has an attitude that clings to the body because it fears and
                          > denies the reality of death. [...] But rather than imprisonment in a
                          > body, it was
                          > imprisonment in a mistaken _attitude toward_ the body: an attitude
                          > that saw the body's finite life as the person's (soul's) entire
                          > life. [...] the contrast to "imprisonment" is not Republic vii by
                          > itself but
                          > Republic vii as the culmination of the train of though that begins in
                          > Rep. iv, with its tripartite soul of which one "part" is the
                          > apparently very bodily _appetites_, so that the "soul" now apparently
                          > _includes_ the "body," rather than excluding it.>>
                          >
                          > This is now a set of quite fine distinctions I think. Like the stuff
                          > above, it links in to all sorts of later things in Platonism;
                          > Gregory Shaw on the objections of Iamblichus to the 'undescended
                          > soul' of Plotinus is very relevant. In this discussion you are
                          > arguing for a descended soul and I would not disagree. It might be
                          > we could agree here... we also perhaps ought to bring in the
                          > 'Phaedrus' too, to give another perspective -- we can talk about how
                          > the soul loses, and perhaps more important regains, its wings, for
                          > example, as another good metaphor of what's going on?
                          >
                          > If we imagine for a second going to an entirely literalist
                          > viewpoint, in which one really does have a soul both before and
                          > after one has a body, then the 'imprisonment' seems more complex
                          > than a question of 'attitude'. A process actually happens which
                          > results in a change in the nature of the soul. If the soul has *in
                          > it* the appetitive nature, as in 'Republic', it would be better IMO
                          > to say that this nature is a voice/paradigm/interpretation-system,
                          > very much linked with the survival/reproduction priorities of bodily
                          > form (with their natural fear of death as you mention), and if that
                          > voice/paradigm/interpretation-system holds sway within the soul,
                          > this causes the soul to 'lose wings' and 'be imprisoned'. And
                          > furthermore, that is the usual process on the assumption of bodily
                          > form. The process also entails that the soul's usual goals are
                          > ignored or subsumed within goals dictated by that appetitive nature.
                          >
                          It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic
                          iv, 444d, that a just person "binds together those parts, ... and from
                          having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then does he
                          act." I think this may be the most pivotal statement in the Republic.
                          It strongly suggests that the appetitive part agrees to work with the
                          rational part. Indeed he says at 442c that "the ruler and ruled
                          _believe in common_ that the rational part should rule." That is, the
                          appetitive part is a _willing participant_ in this "one"-ness. This
                          doesn't sound at all like the rational part's escaping from a prison,
                          or the body's acting like a prison. Together with Diotima's (I think)
                          quite non-dualistic speech, and the description of the demiurge in the
                          Timaeus as wanting to make everything as much like himself as
                          possible, this is what leads me to believe that Plato had a
                          significant change of mind, after endorsing the "imprisonment"
                          metaphor in the early writings that survive toward the beginning of
                          the Phaedo. He doesn't erase (what I take to be) the older stuff, but
                          he certainly gives us cause to wonder how these views could be
                          reconciled with each other.

                          > (I'm hoping that seems at least metaphorically true to you also! But
                          > clearly if the myth of Er is entirely a metaphor, this makes things
                          > rather different, and I do understand that.)
                          >
                          > From that pov, 'Phaedo' for me doesn't imply a soul exclusive of
                          > body exactly, or needn't -- the lesson of the *ethical* dualism it
                          > talks about is that we have to live *as if* without a body, when
                          > normally the soul will be distracted by the body's clamourings. And
                          > this is so that the wings can be regained, the prison or the cave
                          > exited, etc. So clearly the soul and body *are* in some way joined,
                          > otherwise exhorting us to separate them, as if at death, would be
                          > unnecessary! This is why so much turns on how literally one takes
                          > the possibility of an afterlife.
                          >
                          > So the references to the pleasures which the philosopher has to
                          > ignore can be seen as clamourings 'within the soul', if the soul is
                          > to be affected by them, and in 'Republic' you are getting the
                          > instruction to overrule these clamourings just as you are in
                          > 'Phaedo'. *Some kind* of separation is therefore necessary if
                          > another voice/paradigm/interpretation-system is to get sway and the
                          > wings be regained by the more noble element, if you like. (How close
                          > that is to Empedocles as well!) If the soul *actually* "separates
                          > from the body" at death in some literal way, there will of course be
                          > no bodily clamourings after that! And hence the instruction to live
                          > more or less as if dead is much more of a literal instruction aimed
                          > at wing-regaining. In practice, still presuming you take things on
                          > the literal level I take them, the joining makes the clamour in the
                          > soul, and the separation at least begins the process of ending it.
                          > (I'm somehow not making it clear, though, that the good *physical*
                          > life results from this too...)
                          >
                          > Personally I'd definitely hold (with you) that for the duration of
                          > the soul's attachment to the body, the body is actually part of the
                          > soul. But the soul takes on the body's goals and this prevents both
                          > the soul's goals and the body's Good. In order for that to be
                          > obviated the higher soul functions have to be able to see themselves
                          > outside of the bodily context, and this ascent of the ladder does
                          > seem to be equally a separation of the soul from the body in terms
                          > of what is actually seen or experienced. (And yes, as in Republic,
                          > there is also a re-joining -- it's a solve and coagula situation.
                          > ^_^) The appetitive nature in practice consists of a bunch of habits
                          > which have habitual physical-world targets -- remove the targets,
                          > and this nature does align to the soul's point of view; the
                          > difficult horse plays along. But to do that, the physical-world
                          > targets have to be in the appetitive sense continuously ignored,
                          > whereas the life of the body (with its sense inputs etc.) is all
                          > geared towards them, and this is why the body is in some sense
                          > inimical to our true soul objectives. And like I say this works fine
                          > with the ladder perspective, but I also think it works with the
                          > dualist flip-flop perspective, because it is actually as if the
                          > nature of bodily experience is 'turned upside down' in terms of its
                          > priorities. Suddenly what is 'basic' is not the 'obviously real'
                          > physical world after all, what is good likewise... etc.
                          >
                          > So I actually think the 'Phaedo' dualism can be read as a dualism of
                          > kinds-of-life, and it remains the case that the nature of one of
                          > those kinds-of-life is imprisoned, and that the other must be
                          > continually chosen etc. This looks like choosing death, as Simmias
                          > says, to someone who has chosen the ordinary kind-of-life.
                          >
                          > Well I hope some of that made sense! Proabably this is enough from
                          > me... But I would like to read chapter two if and when it becomes
                          > available... :)
                          >
                          > Best wishes, j
                          >
                          > ___________________________________________________
                          > Lightning in an Oak Box
                          >
                          > -----Original Message-----
                          > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                          > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                          > Sent: Mon, 4 Jul 2011 2:17
                          > Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                          >
                          > Hi Jason,
                          >
                          > Thanks again; this is very interesting.
                          >
                          > As I suggest below, when you say that "death" plays a vital role in
                          > our liberation, I think that what plays that role is a _change in our
                          > attitude toward_ death. The evidence that you mention all seems to be
                          > consistent with this latter view.
                          >
                          > > Bob,
                          > >
                          > > No thank*you*! I do get your viewpoint much better now... Much of
                          > > your ascent idea (its Augustinian inward-movingness, for example) is
                          > > just as I see it. What I'm still giving as an alternative view is
                          > > simply that -- I can't quite help doing it, since in reading Plato I
                          > > get as much confirmation from Phaedo as from Republic 7 and
                          > > Symposium, and don't see the dualism as necessarily simplistic and
                          > > mistaken in the way you do.
                          > >
                          > > If I understand you right, you're saying that for you the value of
                          > > death arises from its being an important part of life, which itself
                          > > has significant goodness. But is there no afterlife in your thinking
                          > > then Bob? (Nor any Phaedoesque beforelife?) I think that might
                          > > account for some of the differences.
                          > >
                          > I take the "afterlife" and "beforelife" of Plato's myths and the
                          > Phaedo as a metaphor for a reality that's beyond time, such as
                          > Diotima's speech seems to point to.
                          >
                          > >
                          > >
                          > > Stepping outside the Platonist milieu for a second, I'll give some
                          > > practical examples. You're probably aware of the so-called 'death
                          > > posture' in yoga, in which one lies as if dead. There are similar
                          > > things in the Tao Canon, in which you 'abandon your body like
                          > > abandoning a piece of clothing on a bed'. But the interesting thing
                          > > is that these practices actually *rejuvenate* the body and increase
                          > > longevity; that is, getting close to death brings more life. (As you
                          > > probably know, there's now physiological evidence to support this,
                          > > in the shape of changes in brain structure and nervous system etc.)
                          > > You probably also know that as part of those practices breathing and
                          > > even heartbeat can often stop. And this is not an isolated example.
                          > > We also have research that indicates nearness to death tends to
                          > > bring on spiritual experience, and more prospective study now going
                          > > on in an attempt even to isolate the factor of post-death
                          > > consciousness, based on the very transformative nature of nearness
                          > > to death.
                          > >
                          > > This is why I gave the idea of death *as* a kind of birth.
                          > >
                          > Yes, nearness to death is a powerful promoter of spiritual experience.
                          > _Attitudes toward_ death are among the most crucial features of life.
                          > When Muhammed and the Sufis tell us to "die before we die," and
                          > Socrates in the Phaedo tells us that philosophy is preparation for
                          > death, I completely agree--because preparation for death transforms
                          > life! Makes it the real thing. This is the attitude of loving death as
                          > part of life, that Rilke advises. So it's not death itself that does
                          > the liberating. It's our experience of nearness to it or our (for
                          > other reasons) changing our attitude toward it, that does the
                          > liberating.
                          >
                          > > It's perhaps not explicit in Platonism, but essentially in the world
                          > > of becoming they do seem to play the same role. Think too of
                          > > shamanic nearness to mortality of all kinds, from cliff-hanging and
                          > > firewalking to being staked out in the desert -- or indeed of the
                          > > Christian images of dying and rebirth, echoed in world myth (and
                          > > still re-enacted in the form of actual Easter crucifixions in some
                          > > places!) Think of holy books in Egypt and Tibet often termed 'Books
                          > > of the Dead' (not with absolute scholarly justification necessarily,
                          > > but still) -- they form a record of what death leads to, as a
                          > > gateway. I think that worldwide, people who experience the actual
                          > > sun of Republic 7 are seen as people who in some way have seen
                          > > beyond the veil of death, and death therefore does act as a kind of
                          > > birth into a bigger life in all these cases.
                          > >
                          > Precisely, seeing "beyond the veil of death" (that is, beyond the veil
                          > of the finitude that death seems, in the ordinary view, to condemn us
                          > to) gives us "birth into a bigger life" _now_! --regardless of what
                          > comes "after" death. The "bigger life" is the timeless life of the
                          > spirit, not an ongoing day-after-day plodding into an unending
                          > forever.
                          >
                          > > In fact strongly related in my way of thinking to the 'birth in
                          > > beauty'.
                          > >
                          > > So that's the reason I give greater weight to death than I think you
                          > > do -- of course also because my experience confirms these ideas. On
                          > > this view, the instruction of Socrates to be as much like someone
                          > > dead as possible, is actually the way to a more vital physical
                          > > existence, and we are struck by the paradoxical vitality of his
                          > > behaviour.
                          > >
                          > Absolutely. Because his _attitude toward_ death is different from
                          > ours, his life is different from ours.
                          >
                          > > To me, the idea that the body is 'a hinderer' at any rate, makes
                          > > plenty of practical sense on that level.
                          > >
                          > Whereas I would say, again, that the crucial thing is not the "body,"
                          > but our attitude toward it. The body is a hinderer only insofar as the
                          > soul has an attitude that clings to the body because it fears and
                          > denies the reality of death.
                          >
                          > >
                          > >
                          > > Birth and death seem, in a Platonist mode, to be the moving image of
                          > > something that has a timeless correlate away from the movement of
                          > > genesis, and to be flipsides of one another therefore. And in that
                          > > way of thinking, Phaedo comes to me to be a flipside rather than a
                          > > negation of Diotima. I agree with what you say about her 'stairs'
                          > > etc., and about the manner of ascent via 'tendrils' (or Ariadne's
                          > > threads!) of good, totally -- it's just that, for me, the negative
                          > > and the 'diseased limbs' are as much the means of ascent as the
                          > > positive Good -- and sometimes more, because it is the attempt to
                          > > pretend they don't exist that actually does a lot of the
                          > > imprisoning; that is, people *choose not* to see the diseased limbs.
                          > > But when they do take them in, that itself becomes the spur to
                          > > ascent, as you say -- a great example being the famous story of how
                          > > Buddha chose to give up his princeling status and seek enlightenment
                          > > upon encountering the brute fact of death. In other words for me,
                          > > the death which being in a body leads to is itself part of the good
                          > > of it, not merely in the earthly 'it must be' sense, but in the
                          > > 'means of ascent' sense. It isn't just that the appetite is a
                          > > perception of "something good" (which has a reflection of
                          > > immortality), but that the disastrous effects of unbridled appetite
                          > > are equally good, and sometimes superior, in the motivation for
                          > > attaining the One! Etc.
                          > >
                          > > So that's perhaps why I don't regard 'Phaedo' as contradictory. And
                          > > I must say that, just as feeling 'purified' seems to imply a
                          > > previous impurity, so discovering a 'god of freedom' does seem to
                          > > imply a prior imprisonment!
                          > >
                          > There's no doubt that discovering a God of freedom implies a prior
                          > imprisonment. But rather than imprisonment in a body, it was
                          > imprisonment in a mistaken _attitude toward_ the body: an attitude
                          > that saw the body's finite life as the person's (soul's) entire life.
                          >
                          > > (And imprisonment implies the possibility of freedom.) But in any
                          > > case my reading seems equally Platonic or Platonist with yours,
                          > > albeit different. For me there is absolutely a role that the dualist
                          > > aspect can play in ascending the ladder, although maybe I've not
                          > > brought it out... the "prison" idea doesn't imply 'inherent
                          > > unworthiness' necessarily, just oppressive limitation preventing
                          > > freedom, and I think Republic 7 could chime with either your view or
                          > > mine there, to be honest.
                          > >
                          > Yeah, the contrast to "imprisonment" is not Republic vii by itself but
                          > Republic vii as the culmination of the train of though that begins in
                          > Rep. iv, with its tripartite soul of which one "part" is the
                          > apparently very bodily _appetites_, so that the "soul" now apparently
                          > _includes_ the "body," rather than excluding it.
                          >
                          > I'd be interested to hear other people's views on these questions, if
                          > anybody else is following along.
                          >
                          > Best, Bob
                          >
                          > > It is partly because to me, the *threat* of death is so much of what
                          > > makes unjust action so possible, and part of what makes appetite so
                          > > liable to control the soul, to its detriment. But looking into
                          > > death's actual nature on an experiential level, the demiurge can be
                          > > said to have given it to us, not merely as a bookend to life, but
                          > > IMO positively as a key to life, and to me as kind of synonym for
                          > > birth...
                          > >
                          > > Very interesting stuff, anyhow... this may well form fodder for some
                          > > future posts over on my humble blog! Best j
                          > >
                          > > ___________________________________________________
                          > > Lightning in an Oak Box
                          > >
                          > > -----Original Message-----
                          > > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                          > > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                          > > Sent: Sun, 3 Jul 2011 1:08
                          > > Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                          > >
                          > > Jason, thanks again:
                          > >
                          > > > Bob,
                          > > >
                          > > > <<Does that make it clearer, what I'm driving at?>>
                          > > >
                          > > >
                          > > > It does... on the death/birth thing, perhaps in your terms the
                          > value
                          > > > of death (in whatever sense) is realised by seeing it as birth?
                          > > >
                          > > I don't think I'd want to say that. Rather, as in my second Rilke
                          > > quote, simply that death is a precondition of the life of finite
                          > > creatures, and that the life of finite creatures is itself a Good
                          > > Thing. I think Plato confirms this latter statement when he says
                          > that
                          > > the demiurge "wanted everything to be as much like himself as
                          > > possible," and created the world in that way. So that finite things
                          > > aren't the opposite of the divine; they benefit from the attention
                          > of
                          > > the divine, they're as much like the divine as they could have been.
                          > > From which I infer that they have a significant amount of goodness.
                          > > This is where Plato seems to me in effect to _contradict_ what he
                          > says
                          > > in the "imprisonment" passages, which imply that a body is Bad Thing
                          > > that you'd be better off without.
                          > >
                          > > > If I'm honest I don't see much contradiction between 'Phaedo' and
                          > > > 'Symposium', or whatever -- they are really different emphases of
                          > > > the same thing. One emphasises the positive, the growth of love,
                          > as
                          > > > one would expect at a sparkling drinking do; the other emphasises
                          > > > the necessary opposition involved in getting that growth to
                          > happen,
                          > > > since it means a less bodily emphasis, as one might expect of the
                          > > > mood of that particular occasion.
                          > >
                          > > I just explained what I see as a contradiction between the
                          > > imprisonment passages and the Timaeus. I associate the Symposium
                          > with
                          > > the Timaeus, on this issue, because Diotima describes the most
                          > exalted
                          > > forms of love as developing out of the most vulgar, bodily forms.
                          > > Rather than presenting the heavenly as the opposite of the demotic,
                          > > she shows _how the demotic has the heavenly implicitly within it_.
                          > She
                          > > does indeed identify a "negative" _element_ in this development: one
                          > > has to see that what one loves is the Good in what one loves, and if
                          > > one discovers that something entirely lacks the good, like the
                          > > diseased arms and legs that she refers to (205e), then one can't
                          > love
                          > > it any longer. This is the beginning of the "ascent" that she
                          > > describes later, in her famous rising stairs (209-210). Where she
                          > ends
                          > > up is hardly a "bodily" place, as such--but the process of ascent to
                          > > it, begins very much within the body. That's how the Symposium seems
                          > > to me to imply a sharp criticism of the "imprisonment" passages. It
                          > > says that even in the seemingly thoroughly bodily experience of what
                          > > we might call "lust," there is an essential ingredient of intellect
                          > > and the Good. To lust after something you must view it as in some
                          > > significant way Good; you can't lust after something that you view
                          > as
                          > > completely diseased. But from the Imprisonment passages one would
                          > > conclude the opposite--that the body simply goes its own way,
                          > lusting
                          > > after whatever it lusts after, and has no interest whatever in
                          > > intellect or the Good.
                          > >
                          > > That's why I see the Symposium (and Republic iv-vii, and Timaeus) as
                          > > analyzing and advocating a vertical ascent, a hierarchy, which is
                          > not
                          > > the _rejection_ of anything as being inherently unworthy and
                          > inimical
                          > > to ascent, but rather seeks to find the "tendrils" of ascent
                          > _within_
                          > > everything. This general process is what I refer to as "birth," and
                          > > Plato refers to as "birth in beauty" (206b).
                          > >
                          > > >
                          > > > What role would virtue play in this process, and the 'passing-it-
                          > on'
                          > > > idea? jw
                          > > >
                          > > Virtue of course is a key step in Diotima's account of passing-it-
                          > > on--"such a man makes him instantly teem with ideas and arguments
                          > > about virtue ... and so he tries to educate him" (209c). In the
                          > "final
                          > > and highest mystery" (210), education merges into "beholding" Beauty
                          > > (211d), but even here the possibility of giving birth persists:
                          > "only
                          > > then will it become possible for him to give birth not to images of
                          > > virtue but to true virtue" (212a). Virtue is the implementation of
                          > the
                          > > Goodness that one perceives in what one loves.
                          > >
                          > > Best, Bob
                          > >
                          > > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          > >
                          > >
                          > >
                          >
                          > Robert Wallace
                          > website: www.robertmwallace.com
                          > email: bob@...
                          > phone: 414-617-3914
                          >
                          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          >
                          > ------------------------------------
                          >
                          > Yahoo! Groups Links
                          >
                          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          >
                          >
                          >

                          Robert Wallace
                          website: www.robertmwallace.com
                          email: bob@...
                          phone: 414-617-3914











                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • Jason Wingate
                          Hey Bob, No worries on delay! In these days of rush I think conversations like this are slowe r= better. I think from your answer that we know where we stand
                          Message 12 of 26 , Jul 8 3:32 AM
                            Hey Bob,

                            No worries on delay! In these days of rush I think conversations like this are slowe r= better.

                            I think from your answer that we know where we stand now. It feels like real philosophy has been done!

                            I'll add a quick couple of notes:

                            <<It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then does he act.">>


                            Indeed I find that a significant statement, although not necessarily the *most* significant. And it certainly does suggest what is true in my experience, that the appetitive part not only "agrees to work with" but actually joins and is one with the rational part, to the extent that the soul's aims remain uppermost in the intentions. However this only happens after the decision of the person to stick to the goals of the soul over those of the body. I don't think the appetitive part is *initially and necessarily* a 'willing participant' but certainly offers resistance, and if the soul isn't consistently chosen it will feel the results of that resistance as 'prison' indeed; that resistance often appears to appetite to be a resistance death or equivalent to it. So I wouldn't agree Plato *necessarily* had a big change of mind. He can be read that way but needn't be. But that actually is a big part of his usefulness.

                            <<So "the death process itself" is not necessarily primarily a "physical" process.>>

                            Agreed, but I'd still say that this process has to reach to the physical to be effective on the physical level -- saying that only because (as my own experience proves and modern experiment is beginning to confirm) the effects of such processes can change the nature of the physical body, paradoxically rejuvenating it.

                            <<So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in the physical world, but not real in the same sense.>>

                            Clearly they are not real in the same sense. The only point I was making was that these experiences don't represent only a change of attitude towards death but an actual experience of what lies beyond it. As to how 'real' these things are and in what sense, from the Platonist or any other view, this is a much bigger question...

                            <<I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of physical death is the primary reality.>>

                            I'm not sure I'm saying the process of death, or a philosophical death process which of course has to be deliberate, 'is the primary reality' -- but I think it is a major component of the means to such a reality, and part or even in a sense the same as the birth process you make the main image of your approach. Hence the whole 'death and rebirth' thing, however one wants to look at that.

                            Anyway, there it is! j


                            ___________________________________________________
                            Lightning in an Oak Box





                            -----Original Message-----
                            From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                            To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                            Sent: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 2:54
                            Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1


                            Dear Jason,

                            Sorry for the delayed response. I select from what you wrote:

                            > If we imagine for a second going to an entirely literalist
                            > viewpoint, in which one really does have a soul both before and
                            > after one has a body, then the 'imprisonment' seems more complex
                            > than a question of 'attitude'. A process actually happens which
                            > results in a change in the nature of the soul. If the soul has *in
                            > it* the appetitive nature, as in 'Republic', it would be better IMO
                            > to say that this nature is a voice/paradigm/interpretation-system,
                            > very much linked with the survival/reproduction priorities of bodily
                            > form (with their natural fear of death as you mention), and if that
                            > voice/paradigm/interpretation-system holds sway within the soul,
                            > this causes the soul to 'lose wings' and 'be imprisoned'. And
                            > furthermore, that is the usual process on the assumption of bodily
                            > form. The process also entails that the soul's usual goals are
                            > ignored or subsumed within goals dictated by that appetitive nature.
                            >
                            It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic
                            iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and
                            from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then
                            does he act." I think this may be the most pivotal statement in the
                            Republic. It strongly suggests that the appetitive part agrees to work
                            with the rational part. Indeed he says at 442c that "the ruler and
                            ruled _believe in common_ that the rational part should rule." That
                            is, the appetitive part is a _willing participant_ in this "one"-ness.
                            This doesn't sound at all like the rational part's escaping from a
                            prison, or the body's acting like a prison. Together with Diotima's (I
                            think) quite non-dualistic speech, and the description of the demiurge
                            in the Timaeus as wanting to make everything as much like himself as
                            possible, this is what leads me to believe that Plato had a
                            significant change of mind, after endorsing the "imprisonment"
                            metaphor in the early writings that survive toward the beginning of
                            the Phaedo. He doesn't erase (what I take to be) the older stuff, but
                            he certainly gives us cause to wonder how these views could be
                            reconciled with each other.

                            > I'd defend the possibility of quite a literal reading of Platonic
                            > 'myth' etc., esp. on a Neoplatonist list, because I don't think the
                            > late-Neoplatonist intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken as
                            > metaphors
                            >
                            No, but they're intelligible and psychic! What that means to me is
                            that they're part of the process of emanation and return, in which the
                            higher stages are clearly more "really real" than the lower, more
                            diverse and material stages. So the disparate "souls" that you take to
                            be "literally" reincarnated and so forth, seem to me to be clearly
                            less real than Soul as such, not to mention Intellect and the One.
                            Thus whatever experience "you" or "I" have when we die, must
                            presumably (for Plotinus and all of his successors) be one of
                            learning, to some degree at least, how unreal our separateness as
                            "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I presume, the multiplicity of the
                            intelligible and psychic "gods" is less real than their unity in
                            Intellect and the One.

                            > Without getting into it all, if one has reason to take NDE
                            > experience (say) literally, then actual experience of the death
                            > process itself is the important thing. At the moment of the heart
                            > stopping in meditation for example, leaving the subjective
                            > phenomonology out of it, one is *literally* experiencing a
                            > *physical* aspect of death,

                            always bearing in mind that the "literal" and "physical" is (according
                            to Plato and Neoplatonism) something less fully real than the
                            intelligible and psychic! So "the death process itself" is not
                            necessarily primarily a "physical" process.

                            > and with the other *literal* experiences of it that I mentioned,
                            > likewise. The very elaborate 'books of the dead', then -- are they
                            > simply an attitude change, or are they very detailed descriptions of
                            > an actual death process? If taking the literal line, which I do, the
                            > actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by a
                            > person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses. And this becomes
                            > key to the transformation of the soul in some way.


                            So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits
                            animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are
                            very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I
                            would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of
                            having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in
                            the physical world, but not real in the same sense.

                            But I would not deny that

                            > the actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by
                            > a person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses.
                            >


                            I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of
                            physical death is the primary reality. To return to my earlier
                            language, the primary reality is true "birth," "birth in beauty," or
                            what the Neoplatonists refer to as "turning back" to what's really real.

                            Best, Bob






                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                          • jensav55
                            ... No, they aren t. According to Proclus, Gods active on whatever plane of Being are still supra-essential henads. Psychical Gods, e.g., are not called this
                            Message 13 of 26 , Jul 8 9:21 AM
                              --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                              >
                              >
                              > > I'd defend the possibility of quite a literal reading of Platonic
                              > > 'myth' etc., esp. on a Neoplatonist list, because I don't think the
                              > > late-Neoplatonist intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken as
                              > > metaphors
                              > >
                              > No, but they're intelligible and psychic!

                              No, they aren't. According to Proclus, Gods active on whatever plane of Being are still supra-essential henads. "Psychical" Gods, e.g., are not called this because they are themselves psychical, because they are not even strictly speaking *beings*. Rather, these classes of Gods have these designations because those planes of Being are the *products* of their divine activity.

                              Thus, for example, Proclus emphasizes in the sixth book of the Platonic Theology that even the assimilative Gods, who are responsible for the assimilation of beings to the forms in which they participate, surely a "lowly" enough function for those who would see it in those terms, that "with respect to their existences [huparxeis] they [the Gods in question] are beyond essence/substance [ousias] and multiplicity, whereas it is according to the participations of them that receive an illumination of this kind that they are so called," (PT VI 16. 79.7-10).

                              Accordingly, even the "lowest" God is "higher" than Being Itself, if one is going to speak in these terms. This is reflected in the Elements of Theology props. 161-165, in which we read that the ontic hypostases of Being, Intellect, Soul and Body *participate* the corresponding classes of Gods, and hence, e.g., "All those henads are intellectual whereof the unparticipated Intelligence enjoys participation," (prop. 163) and "All those henads are supra-mundane whereof all the unparticipated Soul enjoys participation," (prop. 164).


                              Edward Butler
                              http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                            • Robert Wallace
                              Thanks, Edward. I was hoping you might be around here somewhere, to set my bumbling Neoplatonic theology straight. Would you agree, though, with the remainder
                              Message 14 of 26 , Jul 8 11:45 AM
                                Thanks, Edward. I was hoping you might be around here somewhere, to
                                set my bumbling Neoplatonic theology straight. Would you agree,
                                though, with the remainder of my paragraph?

                                > What that means to me is that they're part of the process of
                                > emanation and return, in which the higher stages are clearly more
                                > "really real" than the lower, more diverse and material stages. So
                                > the disparate "souls" that you take to be "literally" reincarnated
                                > and so forth, seem to me to be clearly less real than Soul as such,
                                > not to mention Intellect and the One. Thus whatever experience "you"
                                > or "I" have when we die, must presumably (for Plotinus and all of
                                > his successors) be one of learning, to some degree at least, how
                                > unreal our separateness as "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I presume,
                                > the multiplicity of the intelligible and psychic "gods" is less real
                                > than their unity in Intellect and the One.

                                Best, Bob

                                On Jul 8, 2011, at 9:21 AM, jensav55 wrote:

                                > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                > >
                                > >
                                > > > I'd defend the possibility of quite a literal reading of Platonic
                                > > > 'myth' etc., esp. on a Neoplatonist list, because I don't think
                                > the
                                > > > late-Neoplatonist intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken
                                > as
                                > > > metaphors
                                > > >
                                > > No, but they're intelligible and psychic!
                                >
                                > No, they aren't. According to Proclus, Gods active on whatever plane
                                > of Being are still supra-essential henads. "Psychical" Gods, e.g.,
                                > are not called this because they are themselves psychical, because
                                > they are not even strictly speaking *beings*. Rather, these classes
                                > of Gods have these designations because those planes of Being are
                                > the *products* of their divine activity.
                                >
                                > Thus, for example, Proclus emphasizes in the sixth book of the
                                > Platonic Theology that even the assimilative Gods, who are
                                > responsible for the assimilation of beings to the forms in which
                                > they participate, surely a "lowly" enough function for those who
                                > would see it in those terms, that "with respect to their existences
                                > [huparxeis] they [the Gods in question] are beyond essence/substance
                                > [ousias] and multiplicity, whereas it is according to the
                                > participations of them that receive an illumination of this kind
                                > that they are so called," (PT VI 16. 79.7-10).
                                >
                                > Accordingly, even the "lowest" God is "higher" than Being Itself, if
                                > one is going to speak in these terms. This is reflected in the
                                > Elements of Theology props. 161-165, in which we read that the ontic
                                > hypostases of Being, Intellect, Soul and Body *participate* the
                                > corresponding classes of Gods, and hence, e.g., "All those henads
                                > are intellectual whereof the unparticipated Intelligence enjoys
                                > participation," (prop. 163) and "All those henads are supra-mundane
                                > whereof all the unparticipated Soul enjoys participation," (prop.
                                > 164).
                                >
                                > Edward Butler
                                > http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                >
                                >
                                >

                                Robert Wallace
                                website: www.robertmwallace.com
                                email: bob@...
                                phone: 414-617-3914











                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                              • jensav55
                                ... I m afraid not, Bob. My argument has always been that while ontic multiplicities are reducible in this fashion, henadic (all-in-each) multiplicity is not;
                                Message 15 of 26 , Jul 8 12:04 PM
                                  --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > Would you agree,
                                  > though, with the remainder of my paragraph?
                                  >
                                  > > What that means to me is that they're part of the process of
                                  > > emanation and return, in which the higher stages are clearly more
                                  > > "really real" than the lower, more diverse and material stages. So
                                  > > the disparate "souls" that you take to be "literally" reincarnated
                                  > > and so forth, seem to me to be clearly less real than Soul as such,
                                  > > not to mention Intellect and the One. Thus whatever experience "you"
                                  > > or "I" have when we die, must presumably (for Plotinus and all of
                                  > > his successors) be one of learning, to some degree at least, how
                                  > > unreal our separateness as "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I presume,
                                  > > the multiplicity of the intelligible and psychic "gods" is less real
                                  > > than their unity in Intellect and the One.
                                  >

                                  I'm afraid not, Bob. My argument has always been that while ontic multiplicities are reducible in this fashion, henadic (all-in-each) multiplicity is not; and moreover, that there is a sense in which henadic individuality, that is, existential uniqueness, is a state shared even by beings such as ourselves. As the principle of individuation, the One is not a unity into which lesser realities vanish; this is to construe it after the fashion of ontic principles, to which things are reducible, but always, of course, in some particular respect: souls qua soul, intellects qua intellect, and so forth. The One, however, as the absolute principle, cannot be the object of an absolute reduction, at least not as I read it; for one thing, I fail to see how the One would then be meaningfully distinct from Being.


                                  Edward Butler
                                  http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                • Thomas Mether
                                  Thank you Ed,   I was about to put my two cents worth in after a long flight but you said it better than I could have anyway.   After the ISNS conference in
                                  Message 16 of 26 , Jul 8 2:19 PM
                                    Thank you Ed,
                                     
                                    I was about to put my two cents worth in after a long flight but you said it better than I could have anyway.
                                     
                                    After the ISNS conference in Atlanta where I met (or renewed relations to) old friends and acquaintances, and made new ones, I had to leave early to catch a flight to Israel. I've just returned.
                                     
                                    I was kind of hoping to see you in Atlanta Ed. Anyway, if a Neoplatonic Barber Shop Quartet is ever formed (I guess it must be since all possibilities of the fullness of the One require it - hence the following requires it), the voice of Michael Chase is part of that. While there was a theurgic evocation as an official part of the program, neither the tentatively planned Dionysian Dithyramb or Chaldean Oracle theurgic officially happened -- unless after I had to leave and a few rumors are true. 

                                    In the future, I think it might be a grand idea to develop Kevin Corrigan's son's (Yuri) presentation into a full-blown Neoplatonism in Russia section. He captivated us, partly due to a wonderful accent and making his father kind of "duck and cover", by the rather Dionysian element within Russian culture. The topic was Solovieff and Sophiology but that opens up wide Russian vistas onto, well, a remarkable woman, HPB. Whatever you think of Theosophy, she managed to get into "men's only" places. Other topics: Russian Orthodoxy vis a vis Russian Sufism, Russian Tantric Buddhism, Russian shamanism.
                                     
                                    Well, I'm tired; with a bit to eat (airlines and airports don't have food) and some wine, I am off to rest.
                                     
                                    Thomas

                                    --- On Fri, 7/8/11, jensav55 <epb223@...> wrote:


                                    From: jensav55 <epb223@...>
                                    Subject: [neoplatonism] Re: The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                                    To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                    Date: Friday, July 8, 2011, 2:04 PM


                                     



                                    --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                    >
                                    > Would you agree,
                                    > though, with the remainder of my paragraph?
                                    >
                                    > > What that means to me is that they're part of the process of
                                    > > emanation and return, in which the higher stages are clearly more
                                    > > "really real" than the lower, more diverse and material stages. So
                                    > > the disparate "souls" that you take to be "literally" reincarnated
                                    > > and so forth, seem to me to be clearly less real than Soul as such,
                                    > > not to mention Intellect and the One. Thus whatever experience "you"
                                    > > or "I" have when we die, must presumably (for Plotinus and all of
                                    > > his successors) be one of learning, to some degree at least, how
                                    > > unreal our separateness as "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I presume,
                                    > > the multiplicity of the intelligible and psychic "gods" is less real
                                    > > than their unity in Intellect and the One.
                                    >

                                    I'm afraid not, Bob. My argument has always been that while ontic multiplicities are reducible in this fashion, henadic (all-in-each) multiplicity is not; and moreover, that there is a sense in which henadic individuality, that is, existential uniqueness, is a state shared even by beings such as ourselves. As the principle of individuation, the One is not a unity into which lesser realities vanish; this is to construe it after the fashion of ontic principles, to which things are reducible, but always, of course, in some particular respect: souls qua soul, intellects qua intellect, and so forth. The One, however, as the absolute principle, cannot be the object of an absolute reduction, at least not as I read it; for one thing, I fail to see how the One would then be meaningfully distinct from Being.

                                    Edward Butler
                                    http://henadology.wordpress.com/








                                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                  • Robert Wallace
                                    ... Once again I m fascinated by your account, and want to read a more extended statement of it. Forgive me that I still haven t fully grasped what you re
                                    Message 17 of 26 , Jul 8 2:35 PM
                                      On Jul 8, 2011, at 12:04 PM, jensav55 wrote:

                                      > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                      > >
                                      > > Would you agree,
                                      > > though, with the remainder of my paragraph?
                                      > >
                                      > > > What that means to me is that they're part of the process of
                                      > > > emanation and return, in which the higher stages are clearly more
                                      > > > "really real" than the lower, more diverse and material stages. So
                                      > > > the disparate "souls" that you take to be "literally" reincarnated
                                      > > > and so forth, seem to me to be clearly less real than Soul as
                                      > such,
                                      > > > not to mention Intellect and the One. Thus whatever experience
                                      > "you"
                                      > > > or "I" have when we die, must presumably (for Plotinus and all of
                                      > > > his successors) be one of learning, to some degree at least, how
                                      > > > unreal our separateness as "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I
                                      > presume,
                                      > > > the multiplicity of the intelligible and psychic "gods" is less
                                      > real
                                      > > > than their unity in Intellect and the One.
                                      > >
                                      >
                                      > I'm afraid not, Bob. My argument has always been that while ontic
                                      > multiplicities are reducible in this fashion, henadic (all-in-each)
                                      > multiplicity is not; and moreover, that there is a sense in which
                                      > henadic individuality, that is, existential uniqueness, is a state
                                      > shared even by beings such as ourselves. As the principle of
                                      > individuation, the One is not a unity into which lesser realities
                                      > vanish; this is to construe it after the fashion of ontic
                                      > principles, to which things are reducible, but always, of course, in
                                      > some particular respect: souls qua soul, intellects qua intellect,
                                      > and so forth. The One, however, as the absolute principle, cannot be
                                      > the object of an absolute reduction, at least not as I read it; for
                                      > one thing, I fail to see how the One would then be meaningfully
                                      > distinct from Being.
                                      >
                                      Once again I'm fascinated by your account, and want to read a more
                                      extended statement of it. Forgive me that I still haven't fully
                                      grasped what you're saying. I certainly wouldn't want to say, and
                                      wouldn't expect Plotinus/Proclus to say, that lesser realities
                                      "vanish" into the One. I would expect them to say that lesser
                                      realities have less reality than the One has; that their reality
                                      depends upon that of the One; just as images have less "real reality"
                                      than Forms. As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you
                                      and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation and
                                      the "real reality" that goes with it. And when we fully appreciate
                                      this lack, we will appreciate that we aren't separate from each other
                                      in the way that common sense assumes we are, that is, absolutely.

                                      I copied your article "Plato's Gods and the Way of Ideas" from your
                                      blog. It looks fascinating.

                                      Best, Bob


                                      >
                                      >
                                      > Edward Butler
                                      > http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                      >
                                      >
                                      >

                                      Robert Wallace
                                      website: www.robertmwallace.com
                                      email: bob@...
                                      phone: 414-617-3914











                                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                    • Jason Wingate
                                      Hey Bob and others, Glad to see the conversation take off in another direction. This Bob:
                                      Message 18 of 26 , Jul 8 2:52 PM
                                        Hey Bob and others,

                                        Glad to see the conversation take off in another direction.

                                        This Bob:

                                        <<I would expect them to say that lesser realities have less reality than the One has; that their reality depends upon that of the One>>


                                        ... may be my fault. I wanted gods (because we were talking myth) and hastily specified *late* Neoplatonism. The henadic stuff is not going to apply with Plotinus, it doesn't come until... well is it Iamblichus or Syrianus? I don't know. What that does to the whole line of thinking here I will be interested to see.

                                        I also look forward to reading that 'Way of Ideas' essay also.

                                        Lots more I could say on what was written here but I will wait for wiser heads! j



                                        ___________________________________________________
                                        Lightning in an Oak Box





                                        -----Original Message-----
                                        From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                                        To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                        Sent: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 22:35
                                        Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Re: The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1



                                        On Jul 8, 2011, at 12:04 PM, jensav55 wrote:

                                        > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                        > >
                                        > > Would you agree,
                                        > > though, with the remainder of my paragraph?
                                        > >
                                        > > > What that means to me is that they're part of the process of
                                        > > > emanation and return, in which the higher stages are clearly more
                                        > > > "really real" than the lower, more diverse and material stages. So
                                        > > > the disparate "souls" that you take to be "literally" reincarnated
                                        > > > and so forth, seem to me to be clearly less real than Soul as
                                        > such,
                                        > > > not to mention Intellect and the One. Thus whatever experience
                                        > "you"
                                        > > > or "I" have when we die, must presumably (for Plotinus and all of
                                        > > > his successors) be one of learning, to some degree at least, how
                                        > > > unreal our separateness as "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I
                                        > presume,
                                        > > > the multiplicity of the intelligible and psychic "gods" is less
                                        > real
                                        > > > than their unity in Intellect and the One.
                                        > >
                                        >
                                        > I'm afraid not, Bob. My argument has always been that while ontic
                                        > multiplicities are reducible in this fashion, henadic (all-in-each)
                                        > multiplicity is not; and moreover, that there is a sense in which
                                        > henadic individuality, that is, existential uniqueness, is a state
                                        > shared even by beings such as ourselves. As the principle of
                                        > individuation, the One is not a unity into which lesser realities
                                        > vanish; this is to construe it after the fashion of ontic
                                        > principles, to which things are reducible, but always, of course, in
                                        > some particular respect: souls qua soul, intellects qua intellect,
                                        > and so forth. The One, however, as the absolute principle, cannot be
                                        > the object of an absolute reduction, at least not as I read it; for
                                        > one thing, I fail to see how the One would then be meaningfully
                                        > distinct from Being.
                                        >
                                        Once again I'm fascinated by your account, and want to read a more
                                        extended statement of it. Forgive me that I still haven't fully
                                        grasped what you're saying. I certainly wouldn't want to say, and
                                        wouldn't expect Plotinus/Proclus to say, that lesser realities
                                        "vanish" into the One. I would expect them to say that lesser
                                        realities have less reality than the One has; that their reality
                                        depends upon that of the One; just as images have less "real reality"
                                        than Forms. As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you
                                        and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation and
                                        the "real reality" that goes with it. And when we fully appreciate
                                        this lack, we will appreciate that we aren't separate from each other
                                        in the way that common sense assumes we are, that is, absolutely.

                                        I copied your article "Plato's Gods and the Way of Ideas" from your
                                        blog. It looks fascinating.

                                        Best, Bob


                                        >
                                        >
                                        > Edward Butler
                                        > http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                        >
                                        >
                                        >

                                        Robert Wallace
                                        website: www.robertmwallace.com
                                        email: bob@...
                                        phone: 414-617-3914











                                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



                                        ------------------------------------

                                        Yahoo! Groups Links







                                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                      • Thomas Mether
                                        Bob,   While my veggies marinate, you say   As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you  and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full
                                        Message 19 of 26 , Jul 8 2:53 PM
                                          Bob,
                                           
                                          While my veggies marinate, you say
                                           

                                          "As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you 
                                          and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation and 
                                          the "real reality" that goes with it."
                                           
                                          This seems a confused way of posing it. On this quotidian level, our individuality is a form dimly reflected in matter and scattered. Our true distinctive individuality is at the level of the first hypostasis. At our level, minimally, it is a deceptive reflection if we take it as model or archetype of ourselves. At our level, maximally, it is that noetic archetype of the fullness of ourselves as reflected by the second hypostasis creatively making it a drama, a story, a sequence, a time, a temporal unfolding (arche, hodos, telos-arche) as something metabolic (at minimum or maximum life -- physical or not -- is metabolic).
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                           
                                          --- On Fri, 7/8/11, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:


                                          From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                                          Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Re: The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                                          To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                          Date: Friday, July 8, 2011, 4:35 PM



                                          On Jul 8, 2011, at 12:04 PM, jensav55 wrote:

                                          > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                          > >
                                          > > Would you agree,
                                          > > though, with the remainder of my paragraph?
                                          > >
                                          > > > What that means to me is that they're part of the process of
                                          > > > emanation and return, in which the higher stages are clearly more
                                          > > > "really real" than the lower, more diverse and material stages. So
                                          > > > the disparate "souls" that you take to be "literally" reincarnated
                                          > > > and so forth, seem to me to be clearly less real than Soul as 
                                          > such,
                                          > > > not to mention Intellect and the One. Thus whatever experience 
                                          > "you"
                                          > > > or "I" have when we die, must presumably (for Plotinus and all of
                                          > > > his successors) be one of learning, to some degree at least, how
                                          > > > unreal our separateness as "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I 
                                          > presume,
                                          > > > the multiplicity of the intelligible and psychic "gods" is less 
                                          > real
                                          > > > than their unity in Intellect and the One.
                                          > >
                                          >
                                          > I'm afraid not, Bob. My argument has always been that while ontic 
                                          > multiplicities are reducible in this fashion, henadic (all-in-each) 
                                          > multiplicity is not; and moreover, that there is a sense in which 
                                          > henadic individuality, that is, existential uniqueness, is a state 
                                          > shared even by beings such as ourselves. As the principle of 
                                          > individuation, the One is not a unity into which lesser realities 
                                          > vanish; this is to construe it after the fashion of ontic 
                                          > principles, to which things are reducible, but always, of course, in 
                                          > some particular respect: souls qua soul, intellects qua intellect, 
                                          > and so forth. The One, however, as the absolute principle, cannot be 
                                          > the object of an absolute reduction, at least not as I read it; for 
                                          > one thing, I fail to see how the One would then be meaningfully 
                                          > distinct from Being.
                                          >
                                          Once again I'm fascinated by your account, and want to read a more 
                                          extended statement of it. Forgive me that I still haven't fully 
                                          grasped what you're saying. I certainly wouldn't want to say, and 
                                          wouldn't expect Plotinus/Proclus to say, that lesser realities 
                                          "vanish" into the One. I would expect them to say that lesser 
                                          realities have less reality than the One has; that their reality 
                                          depends upon that of the One; just as images have less "real reality" 
                                          than Forms. As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you 
                                          and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation and 
                                          the "real reality" that goes with it. And when we fully appreciate 
                                          this lack, we will appreciate that we aren't separate from each other 
                                          in the way that common sense assumes we are, that is, absolutely.

                                          I copied your article "Plato's Gods and the Way of Ideas" from your 
                                          blog. It looks fascinating.

                                          Best, Bob


                                          >
                                          >
                                          > Edward Butler
                                          > http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                          >
                                          >
                                          >

                                          Robert Wallace
                                          website: www.robertmwallace.com
                                          email: bob@...
                                          phone: 414-617-3914











                                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



                                          ------------------------------------

                                          Yahoo! Groups Links





                                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                        • Thomas Mether
                                          Jason, I m well-worn out from travel. I suggest that what Bob does not get is birth and death are the same experience. A while back on this list, you can
                                          Message 20 of 26 , Jul 8 5:24 PM
                                            Jason,
                                            I'm well-worn out from travel. I suggest that what Bob does not get is birth and death are the same experience. A while back on this list, you can search the archives, a world-class neuro-scientist - that Bob wanted to take issue with -- suggested that the physical brain
                                            is a filter for the full spectrum of the soul. He speculated -- John, the neuro-scientist -- that the brain was sort of a "karmic filter" since the brain and body are one. But in that exchange, the research of Stan Grof came up. Look up Stan Grof, then we can talk some more. Birth is death; death is birth. A life unwasted is a series of events, potential lessons, that birth and death are 2 faces of any living process not wasted.
                                             
                                            Now I really go to bed.
                                            Thomas

                                            --- On Fri, 7/8/11, Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...> wrote:


                                            From: Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...>
                                            Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                                            To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                            Date: Friday, July 8, 2011, 5:32 AM


                                             



                                            Hey Bob,

                                            No worries on delay! In these days of rush I think conversations like this are slowe r= better.

                                            I think from your answer that we know where we stand now. It feels like real philosophy has been done!

                                            I'll add a quick couple of notes:

                                            <<It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then does he act.">>


                                            Indeed I find that a significant statement, although not necessarily the *most* significant. And it certainly does suggest what is true in my experience, that the appetitive part not only "agrees to work with" but actually joins and is one with the rational part, to the extent that the soul's aims remain uppermost in the intentions. However this only happens after the decision of the person to stick to the goals of the soul over those of the body. I don't think the appetitive part is *initially and necessarily* a 'willing participant' but certainly offers resistance, and if the soul isn't consistently chosen it will feel the results of that resistance as 'prison' indeed; that resistance often appears to appetite to be a resistance death or equivalent to it. So I wouldn't agree Plato *necessarily* had a big change of mind. He can be read that way but needn't be. But that actually is a big part of his usefulness.

                                            <<So "the death process itself" is not necessarily primarily a "physical" process.>>

                                            Agreed, but I'd still say that this process has to reach to the physical to be effective on the physical level -- saying that only because (as my own experience proves and modern experiment is beginning to confirm) the effects of such processes can change the nature of the physical body, paradoxically rejuvenating it.

                                            <<So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in the physical world, but not real in the same sense.>>

                                            Clearly they are not real in the same sense. The only point I was making was that these experiences don't represent only a change of attitude towards death but an actual experience of what lies beyond it. As to how 'real' these things are and in what sense, from the Platonist or any other view, this is a much bigger question...

                                            <<I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of physical death is the primary reality.>>

                                            I'm not sure I'm saying the process of death, or a philosophical death process which of course has to be deliberate, 'is the primary reality' -- but I think it is a major component of the means to such a reality, and part or even in a sense the same as the birth process you make the main image of your approach. Hence the whole 'death and rebirth' thing, however one wants to look at that.

                                            Anyway, there it is! j

                                            ___________________________________________________
                                            Lightning in an Oak Box

                                            -----Original Message-----
                                            From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                                            To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                            Sent: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 2:54
                                            Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1

                                            Dear Jason,

                                            Sorry for the delayed response. I select from what you wrote:

                                            > If we imagine for a second going to an entirely literalist
                                            > viewpoint, in which one really does have a soul both before and
                                            > after one has a body, then the 'imprisonment' seems more complex
                                            > than a question of 'attitude'. A process actually happens which
                                            > results in a change in the nature of the soul. If the soul has *in
                                            > it* the appetitive nature, as in 'Republic', it would be better IMO
                                            > to say that this nature is a voice/paradigm/interpretation-system,
                                            > very much linked with the survival/reproduction priorities of bodily
                                            > form (with their natural fear of death as you mention), and if that
                                            > voice/paradigm/interpretation-system holds sway within the soul,
                                            > this causes the soul to 'lose wings' and 'be imprisoned'. And
                                            > furthermore, that is the usual process on the assumption of bodily
                                            > form. The process also entails that the soul's usual goals are
                                            > ignored or subsumed within goals dictated by that appetitive nature.
                                            >
                                            It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic
                                            iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and
                                            from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then
                                            does he act." I think this may be the most pivotal statement in the
                                            Republic. It strongly suggests that the appetitive part agrees to work
                                            with the rational part. Indeed he says at 442c that "the ruler and
                                            ruled _believe in common_ that the rational part should rule." That
                                            is, the appetitive part is a _willing participant_ in this "one"-ness.
                                            This doesn't sound at all like the rational part's escaping from a
                                            prison, or the body's acting like a prison. Together with Diotima's (I
                                            think) quite non-dualistic speech, and the description of the demiurge
                                            in the Timaeus as wanting to make everything as much like himself as
                                            possible, this is what leads me to believe that Plato had a
                                            significant change of mind, after endorsing the "imprisonment"
                                            metaphor in the early writings that survive toward the beginning of
                                            the Phaedo. He doesn't erase (what I take to be) the older stuff, but
                                            he certainly gives us cause to wonder how these views could be
                                            reconciled with each other.

                                            > I'd defend the possibility of quite a literal reading of Platonic
                                            > 'myth' etc., esp. on a Neoplatonist list, because I don't think the
                                            > late-Neoplatonist intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken as
                                            > metaphors
                                            >
                                            No, but they're intelligible and psychic! What that means to me is
                                            that they're part of the process of emanation and return, in which the
                                            higher stages are clearly more "really real" than the lower, more
                                            diverse and material stages. So the disparate "souls" that you take to
                                            be "literally" reincarnated and so forth, seem to me to be clearly
                                            less real than Soul as such, not to mention Intellect and the One.
                                            Thus whatever experience "you" or "I" have when we die, must
                                            presumably (for Plotinus and all of his successors) be one of
                                            learning, to some degree at least, how unreal our separateness as
                                            "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I presume, the multiplicity of the
                                            intelligible and psychic "gods" is less real than their unity in
                                            Intellect and the One.

                                            > Without getting into it all, if one has reason to take NDE
                                            > experience (say) literally, then actual experience of the death
                                            > process itself is the important thing. At the moment of the heart
                                            > stopping in meditation for example, leaving the subjective
                                            > phenomonology out of it, one is *literally* experiencing a
                                            > *physical* aspect of death,

                                            always bearing in mind that the "literal" and "physical" is (according
                                            to Plato and Neoplatonism) something less fully real than the
                                            intelligible and psychic! So "the death process itself" is not
                                            necessarily primarily a "physical" process.

                                            > and with the other *literal* experiences of it that I mentioned,
                                            > likewise. The very elaborate 'books of the dead', then -- are they
                                            > simply an attitude change, or are they very detailed descriptions of
                                            > an actual death process? If taking the literal line, which I do, the
                                            > actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by a
                                            > person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses. And this becomes
                                            > key to the transformation of the soul in some way.

                                            So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits
                                            animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are
                                            very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I
                                            would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of
                                            having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in
                                            the physical world, but not real in the same sense.

                                            But I would not deny that

                                            > the actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by
                                            > a person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses.
                                            >

                                            I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of
                                            physical death is the primary reality. To return to my earlier
                                            language, the primary reality is true "birth," "birth in beauty," or
                                            what the Neoplatonists refer to as "turning back" to what's really real.

                                            Best, Bob

                                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]








                                            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                          • Robert Wallace
                                            Hi Thomas, ... (where veggies marinate, etc.?) ... OK. This is what I had in mind. ... I m not sure what you mean by this. ... I m not sure how the second
                                            Message 21 of 26 , Jul 8 10:01 PM
                                              Hi Thomas,

                                              On Jul 8, 2011, at 2:53 PM, Thomas Mether wrote:

                                              > Bob,
                                              >
                                              > While my veggies marinate, you say
                                              >
                                              >
                                              > "As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you
                                              > and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation and
                                              > the "real reality" that goes with it."
                                              >
                                              > This seems a confused way of posing it. On this quotidian level,
                                              >
                                              (where veggies marinate, etc.?)

                                              > our individuality is a form dimly reflected in matter and scattered.
                                              > Our true distinctive individuality is at the level of the first
                                              > hypostasis.
                                              >
                                              OK. This is what I had in mind.

                                              > At our level, minimally, it is a deceptive reflection if we take it
                                              > as model or archetype of ourselves.
                                              >
                                              I'm not sure what you mean by this.

                                              > At our level, maximally, it is that noetic archetype of the fullness
                                              > of ourselves as reflected by the second hypostasis creatively making
                                              > it a drama, a story, a sequence, a time, a temporal unfolding
                                              > (arche, hodos, telos-arche) as something metabolic (at minimum or
                                              > maximum life -- physical or not -- is metabolic).
                                              >
                                              I'm not sure how the second hypostasis (Nous) can create a story or
                                              time; I thought the third hypostasis did that.

                                              As I imagine you know, I borrowed the term, "real reality," from
                                              Plato's "ontos on" (Rep. 490b), by contacting which we "beget
                                              intellect and truth." I take it that this real reality is what
                                              Plotinus calls the "One." You divide our relation to this hypostasis,
                                              the One, into minimal and maximal versions. The maximal version I
                                              suppose would correspond to the "full individuation" to which I
                                              referred. I don't know why you stress drama, time, etc. Are you
                                              suggesting that "the fullness of ourselves" is our "individuality"? If
                                              so, why? What is "individual" about it?

                                              This is all quite interesting, but not to me a lot clearer than what I
                                              offered.

                                              Best, Bob


                                              >
                                              >
                                              >
                                              >
                                              >
                                              > --- On Fri, 7/8/11, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                              >
                                              > From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                                              > Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Re: The (Platonic) God Within Us;
                                              > chapter 1
                                              > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                              > Date: Friday, July 8, 2011, 4:35 PM
                                              >
                                              > On Jul 8, 2011, at 12:04 PM, jensav55 wrote:
                                              >
                                              > > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                              > > >
                                              > > > Would you agree,
                                              > > > though, with the remainder of my paragraph?
                                              > > >
                                              > > > > What that means to me is that they're part of the process of
                                              > > > > emanation and return, in which the higher stages are clearly
                                              > more
                                              > > > > "really real" than the lower, more diverse and material
                                              > stages. So
                                              > > > > the disparate "souls" that you take to be "literally"
                                              > reincarnated
                                              > > > > and so forth, seem to me to be clearly less real than Soul as
                                              > > such,
                                              > > > > not to mention Intellect and the One. Thus whatever experience
                                              > > "you"
                                              > > > > or "I" have when we die, must presumably (for Plotinus and all
                                              > of
                                              > > > > his successors) be one of learning, to some degree at least, how
                                              > > > > unreal our separateness as "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I
                                              > > presume,
                                              > > > > the multiplicity of the intelligible and psychic "gods" is less
                                              > > real
                                              > > > > than their unity in Intellect and the One.
                                              > > >
                                              > >
                                              > > I'm afraid not, Bob. My argument has always been that while ontic
                                              > > multiplicities are reducible in this fashion, henadic (all-in-each)
                                              > > multiplicity is not; and moreover, that there is a sense in which
                                              > > henadic individuality, that is, existential uniqueness, is a state
                                              > > shared even by beings such as ourselves. As the principle of
                                              > > individuation, the One is not a unity into which lesser realities
                                              > > vanish; this is to construe it after the fashion of ontic
                                              > > principles, to which things are reducible, but always, of course, in
                                              > > some particular respect: souls qua soul, intellects qua intellect,
                                              > > and so forth. The One, however, as the absolute principle, cannot be
                                              > > the object of an absolute reduction, at least not as I read it; for
                                              > > one thing, I fail to see how the One would then be meaningfully
                                              > > distinct from Being.
                                              > >
                                              > Once again I'm fascinated by your account, and want to read a more
                                              > extended statement of it. Forgive me that I still haven't fully
                                              > grasped what you're saying. I certainly wouldn't want to say, and
                                              > wouldn't expect Plotinus/Proclus to say, that lesser realities
                                              > "vanish" into the One. I would expect them to say that lesser
                                              > realities have less reality than the One has; that their reality
                                              > depends upon that of the One; just as images have less "real reality"
                                              > than Forms. As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you
                                              > and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation and
                                              > the "real reality" that goes with it. And when we fully appreciate
                                              > this lack, we will appreciate that we aren't separate from each other
                                              > in the way that common sense assumes we are, that is, absolutely.
                                              >
                                              > I copied your article "Plato's Gods and the Way of Ideas" from your
                                              > blog. It looks fascinating.
                                              >
                                              > Best, Bob
                                              >
                                              > >
                                              > >
                                              > > Edward Butler
                                              > > http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                              > >
                                              > >
                                              > >
                                              >
                                              > Robert Wallace
                                              > website: www.robertmwallace.com
                                              > email: bob@...
                                              > phone: 414-617-3914
                                              >
                                              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                              >
                                              > ------------------------------------
                                              >
                                              > Yahoo! Groups Links
                                              >
                                              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                              >
                                              >
                                              >

                                              Robert Wallace
                                              website: www.robertmwallace.com
                                              email: bob@...
                                              phone: 414-617-3914











                                              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                            • Jason Wingate
                                              Hi Thomas, I d be happy enough with that broadly -- the reason I wanted to
                                              Message 22 of 26 , Jul 9 3:46 AM
                                                Hi Thomas,

                                                <<I suggest that what Bob does not get is birth and death are the same experience.>>

                                                I'd be happy enough with that broadly -- the reason I wanted to emphasize death is because Bob's original chapter de-emphasized it in a value-judgment, seeming to me to be subtly degrading it in the guise of "accepting" it. However one arranges the birth/death process in one's mind, clearly it is the difference between your 'minimal' and 'maximal' (from your other post).

                                                I'm v. familiar with Grof and with all the transpersonal people. I'm also familiar with those kinds of neurophenomenological angles that you say 'John' espoused. I like the fact that such conversations can happen here! j


                                                ___________________________________________________
                                                Lightning in an Oak Box





                                                -----Original Message-----
                                                From: Thomas Mether <t_mether@...>
                                                To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                                Sent: Sat, 9 Jul 2011 1:24
                                                Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1





                                                Jason,
                                                I'm well-worn out from travel. I suggest that what Bob does not get is birth and death are the same experience. A while back on this list, you can search the archives, a world-class neuro-scientist - that Bob wanted to take issue with -- suggested that the physical brain
                                                is a filter for the full spectrum of the soul. He speculated -- John, the neuro-scientist -- that the brain was sort of a "karmic filter" since the brain and body are one. But in that exchange, the research of Stan Grof came up. Look up Stan Grof, then we can talk some more. Birth is death; death is birth. A life unwasted is a series of events, potential lessons, that birth and death are 2 faces of any living process not wasted.

                                                Now I really go to bed.
                                                Thomas

                                                --- On Fri, 7/8/11, Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...> wrote:

                                                From: Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...>
                                                Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                                                To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                                Date: Friday, July 8, 2011, 5:32 AM



                                                Hey Bob,

                                                No worries on delay! In these days of rush I think conversations like this are slowe r= better.

                                                I think from your answer that we know where we stand now. It feels like real philosophy has been done!

                                                I'll add a quick couple of notes:

                                                <<It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then does he act.">>

                                                Indeed I find that a significant statement, although not necessarily the *most* significant. And it certainly does suggest what is true in my experience, that the appetitive part not only "agrees to work with" but actually joins and is one with the rational part, to the extent that the soul's aims remain uppermost in the intentions. However this only happens after the decision of the person to stick to the goals of the soul over those of the body. I don't think the appetitive part is *initially and necessarily* a 'willing participant' but certainly offers resistance, and if the soul isn't consistently chosen it will feel the results of that resistance as 'prison' indeed; that resistance often appears to appetite to be a resistance death or equivalent to it. So I wouldn't agree Plato *necessarily* had a big change of mind. He can be read that way but needn't be. But that actually is a big part of his usefulness.

                                                <<So "the death process itself" is not necessarily primarily a "physical" process.>>

                                                Agreed, but I'd still say that this process has to reach to the physical to be effective on the physical level -- saying that only because (as my own experience proves and modern experiment is beginning to confirm) the effects of such processes can change the nature of the physical body, paradoxically rejuvenating it.

                                                <<So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in the physical world, but not real in the same sense.>>

                                                Clearly they are not real in the same sense. The only point I was making was that these experiences don't represent only a change of attitude towards death but an actual experience of what lies beyond it. As to how 'real' these things are and in what sense, from the Platonist or any other view, this is a much bigger question...

                                                <<I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of physical death is the primary reality.>>

                                                I'm not sure I'm saying the process of death, or a philosophical death process which of course has to be deliberate, 'is the primary reality' -- but I think it is a major component of the means to such a reality, and part or even in a sense the same as the birth process you make the main image of your approach. Hence the whole 'death and rebirth' thing, however one wants to look at that.

                                                Anyway, there it is! j

                                                ___________________________________________________
                                                Lightning in an Oak Box

                                                -----Original Message-----
                                                From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                                                To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                                Sent: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 2:54
                                                Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1

                                                Dear Jason,

                                                Sorry for the delayed response. I select from what you wrote:

                                                > If we imagine for a second going to an entirely literalist
                                                > viewpoint, in which one really does have a soul both before and
                                                > after one has a body, then the 'imprisonment' seems more complex
                                                > than a question of 'attitude'. A process actually happens which
                                                > results in a change in the nature of the soul. If the soul has *in
                                                > it* the appetitive nature, as in 'Republic', it would be better IMO
                                                > to say that this nature is a voice/paradigm/interpretation-system,
                                                > very much linked with the survival/reproduction priorities of bodily
                                                > form (with their natural fear of death as you mention), and if that
                                                > voice/paradigm/interpretation-system holds sway within the soul,
                                                > this causes the soul to 'lose wings' and 'be imprisoned'. And
                                                > furthermore, that is the usual process on the assumption of bodily
                                                > form. The process also entails that the soul's usual goals are
                                                > ignored or subsumed within goals dictated by that appetitive nature.
                                                >
                                                It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic
                                                iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and
                                                from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then
                                                does he act." I think this may be the most pivotal statement in the
                                                Republic. It strongly suggests that the appetitive part agrees to work
                                                with the rational part. Indeed he says at 442c that "the ruler and
                                                ruled _believe in common_ that the rational part should rule." That
                                                is, the appetitive part is a _willing participant_ in this "one"-ness.
                                                This doesn't sound at all like the rational part's escaping from a
                                                prison, or the body's acting like a prison. Together with Diotima's (I
                                                think) quite non-dualistic speech, and the description of the demiurge
                                                in the Timaeus as wanting to make everything as much like himself as
                                                possible, this is what leads me to believe that Plato had a
                                                significant change of mind, after endorsing the "imprisonment"
                                                metaphor in the early writings that survive toward the beginning of
                                                the Phaedo. He doesn't erase (what I take to be) the older stuff, but
                                                he certainly gives us cause to wonder how these views could be
                                                reconciled with each other.

                                                > I'd defend the possibility of quite a literal reading of Platonic
                                                > 'myth' etc., esp. on a Neoplatonist list, because I don't think the
                                                > late-Neoplatonist intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken as
                                                > metaphors
                                                >
                                                No, but they're intelligible and psychic! What that means to me is
                                                that they're part of the process of emanation and return, in which the
                                                higher stages are clearly more "really real" than the lower, more
                                                diverse and material stages. So the disparate "souls" that you take to
                                                be "literally" reincarnated and so forth, seem to me to be clearly
                                                less real than Soul as such, not to mention Intellect and the One.
                                                Thus whatever experience "you" or "I" have when we die, must
                                                presumably (for Plotinus and all of his successors) be one of
                                                learning, to some degree at least, how unreal our separateness as
                                                "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I presume, the multiplicity of the
                                                intelligible and psychic "gods" is less real than their unity in
                                                Intellect and the One.

                                                > Without getting into it all, if one has reason to take NDE
                                                > experience (say) literally, then actual experience of the death
                                                > process itself is the important thing. At the moment of the heart
                                                > stopping in meditation for example, leaving the subjective
                                                > phenomonology out of it, one is *literally* experiencing a
                                                > *physical* aspect of death,

                                                always bearing in mind that the "literal" and "physical" is (according
                                                to Plato and Neoplatonism) something less fully real than the
                                                intelligible and psychic! So "the death process itself" is not
                                                necessarily primarily a "physical" process.

                                                > and with the other *literal* experiences of it that I mentioned,
                                                > likewise. The very elaborate 'books of the dead', then -- are they
                                                > simply an attitude change, or are they very detailed descriptions of
                                                > an actual death process? If taking the literal line, which I do, the
                                                > actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by a
                                                > person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses. And this becomes
                                                > key to the transformation of the soul in some way.

                                                So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits
                                                animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are
                                                very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I
                                                would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of
                                                having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in
                                                the physical world, but not real in the same sense.

                                                But I would not deny that

                                                > the actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by
                                                > a person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses.
                                                >

                                                I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of
                                                physical death is the primary reality. To return to my earlier
                                                language, the primary reality is true "birth," "birth in beauty," or
                                                what the Neoplatonists refer to as "turning back" to what's really real.

                                                Best, Bob

                                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

                                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]









                                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                              • Jason Wingate
                                                Thomas, I hope you are recovering well from your travel-wornness! I looked up the earlier thread you talked about, mentioning Grof. Interesting stuff. How did
                                                Message 23 of 26 , Jul 9 5:35 AM
                                                  Thomas,

                                                  I hope you are recovering well from your travel-wornness!

                                                  I looked up the earlier thread you talked about, mentioning Grof. Interesting stuff.

                                                  How did people manage to get through a conversation about Platonism as a cure for depression, without mentioniong poor old Porphyry? ^_^ The question of how to change the bodily metabolism so as to 'cure depression' without drugs is an interesting one, because it can certainly be done with meditation of the kind I do -- I speak from experience. On the question of arguing metaphyics with the physicalists, parapsychology shouldn't be forgotten. Its achievements are far greater than most realize. There are lots of angles there, I can cite and give resources if you or anyone else are interested. Also important is someone like David Hufford, see his essay "Visionary Spiritual Experiences and Cognitive Aspects of Spiritual Transformation" for example: http://www.metanexus.net/magazine/tabid/68/id/10610/Default.aspx . It puts the argument in a very productive and sophisticated form IMO, to do with the question of rationality. He really demolishes the two physicalist arguments (hallucination or misinterpretation.)

                                                  The reason I don't quite go along with the birth = death thing 100% has to do with that *rejuvenation* aspect of philosophical death processes on the actual physical system. Birth is anything but rejuvenation, as a moment's thought tells us! I am influenced here by China and Taoism, where I got many of my methods. All the realms a Platonist would call Intelligible, etc., are called by them 'prenatal'. That practically turns Bob's position upside down. The mild forms of rejuventation are nothing compared with, for example, the loss of secondary sexual characteristics recorded in times past of Taoist alchemists -- their bodies are literally returning to an earlier state. This says all sorts of things about the 'Phaedo', but I won't bang on. I'm just happy to see death get at least equal billing.

                                                  Best Jason






                                                  ___________________________________________________
                                                  Lightning in an Oak Box





                                                  -----Original Message-----
                                                  From: Thomas Mether <t_mether@...>
                                                  To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                                  Sent: Sat, 9 Jul 2011 1:24
                                                  Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1





                                                  Jason,
                                                  I'm well-worn out from travel. I suggest that what Bob does not get is birth and death are the same experience. A while back on this list, you can search the archives, a world-class neuro-scientist - that Bob wanted to take issue with -- suggested that the physical brain
                                                  is a filter for the full spectrum of the soul. He speculated -- John, the neuro-scientist -- that the brain was sort of a "karmic filter" since the brain and body are one. But in that exchange, the research of Stan Grof came up. Look up Stan Grof, then we can talk some more. Birth is death; death is birth. A life unwasted is a series of events, potential lessons, that birth and death are 2 faces of any living process not wasted.

                                                  Now I really go to bed.
                                                  Thomas

                                                  --- On Fri, 7/8/11, Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...> wrote:

                                                  From: Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...>
                                                  Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1
                                                  To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                                  Date: Friday, July 8, 2011, 5:32 AM



                                                  Hey Bob,

                                                  No worries on delay! In these days of rush I think conversations like this are slowe r= better.

                                                  I think from your answer that we know where we stand now. It feels like real philosophy has been done!

                                                  I'll add a quick couple of notes:

                                                  <<It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then does he act.">>

                                                  Indeed I find that a significant statement, although not necessarily the *most* significant. And it certainly does suggest what is true in my experience, that the appetitive part not only "agrees to work with" but actually joins and is one with the rational part, to the extent that the soul's aims remain uppermost in the intentions. However this only happens after the decision of the person to stick to the goals of the soul over those of the body. I don't think the appetitive part is *initially and necessarily* a 'willing participant' but certainly offers resistance, and if the soul isn't consistently chosen it will feel the results of that resistance as 'prison' indeed; that resistance often appears to appetite to be a resistance death or equivalent to it. So I wouldn't agree Plato *necessarily* had a big change of mind. He can be read that way but needn't be. But that actually is a big part of his usefulness.

                                                  <<So "the death process itself" is not necessarily primarily a "physical" process.>>

                                                  Agreed, but I'd still say that this process has to reach to the physical to be effective on the physical level -- saying that only because (as my own experience proves and modern experiment is beginning to confirm) the effects of such processes can change the nature of the physical body, paradoxically rejuvenating it.

                                                  <<So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in the physical world, but not real in the same sense.>>

                                                  Clearly they are not real in the same sense. The only point I was making was that these experiences don't represent only a change of attitude towards death but an actual experience of what lies beyond it. As to how 'real' these things are and in what sense, from the Platonist or any other view, this is a much bigger question...

                                                  <<I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of physical death is the primary reality.>>

                                                  I'm not sure I'm saying the process of death, or a philosophical death process which of course has to be deliberate, 'is the primary reality' -- but I think it is a major component of the means to such a reality, and part or even in a sense the same as the birth process you make the main image of your approach. Hence the whole 'death and rebirth' thing, however one wants to look at that.

                                                  Anyway, there it is! j

                                                  ___________________________________________________
                                                  Lightning in an Oak Box

                                                  -----Original Message-----
                                                  From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                                                  To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                                  Sent: Fri, 8 Jul 2011 2:54
                                                  Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1

                                                  Dear Jason,

                                                  Sorry for the delayed response. I select from what you wrote:

                                                  > If we imagine for a second going to an entirely literalist
                                                  > viewpoint, in which one really does have a soul both before and
                                                  > after one has a body, then the 'imprisonment' seems more complex
                                                  > than a question of 'attitude'. A process actually happens which
                                                  > results in a change in the nature of the soul. If the soul has *in
                                                  > it* the appetitive nature, as in 'Republic', it would be better IMO
                                                  > to say that this nature is a voice/paradigm/interpretation-system,
                                                  > very much linked with the survival/reproduction priorities of bodily
                                                  > form (with their natural fear of death as you mention), and if that
                                                  > voice/paradigm/interpretation-system holds sway within the soul,
                                                  > this causes the soul to 'lose wings' and 'be imprisoned'. And
                                                  > furthermore, that is the usual process on the assumption of bodily
                                                  > form. The process also entails that the soul's usual goals are
                                                  > ignored or subsumed within goals dictated by that appetitive nature.
                                                  >
                                                  It may indeed be the "usual process." But Socrates says in Republic
                                                  iv, 444d, that a _just_ person "binds together those parts, ... and
                                                  from having been many things he becomes entirely one.... Only then
                                                  does he act." I think this may be the most pivotal statement in the
                                                  Republic. It strongly suggests that the appetitive part agrees to work
                                                  with the rational part. Indeed he says at 442c that "the ruler and
                                                  ruled _believe in common_ that the rational part should rule." That
                                                  is, the appetitive part is a _willing participant_ in this "one"-ness.
                                                  This doesn't sound at all like the rational part's escaping from a
                                                  prison, or the body's acting like a prison. Together with Diotima's (I
                                                  think) quite non-dualistic speech, and the description of the demiurge
                                                  in the Timaeus as wanting to make everything as much like himself as
                                                  possible, this is what leads me to believe that Plato had a
                                                  significant change of mind, after endorsing the "imprisonment"
                                                  metaphor in the early writings that survive toward the beginning of
                                                  the Phaedo. He doesn't erase (what I take to be) the older stuff, but
                                                  he certainly gives us cause to wonder how these views could be
                                                  reconciled with each other.

                                                  > I'd defend the possibility of quite a literal reading of Platonic
                                                  > 'myth' etc., esp. on a Neoplatonist list, because I don't think the
                                                  > late-Neoplatonist intelligible and psychic gods were to be taken as
                                                  > metaphors
                                                  >
                                                  No, but they're intelligible and psychic! What that means to me is
                                                  that they're part of the process of emanation and return, in which the
                                                  higher stages are clearly more "really real" than the lower, more
                                                  diverse and material stages. So the disparate "souls" that you take to
                                                  be "literally" reincarnated and so forth, seem to me to be clearly
                                                  less real than Soul as such, not to mention Intellect and the One.
                                                  Thus whatever experience "you" or "I" have when we die, must
                                                  presumably (for Plotinus and all of his successors) be one of
                                                  learning, to some degree at least, how unreal our separateness as
                                                  "you" and "I" was. Similarly, I presume, the multiplicity of the
                                                  intelligible and psychic "gods" is less real than their unity in
                                                  Intellect and the One.

                                                  > Without getting into it all, if one has reason to take NDE
                                                  > experience (say) literally, then actual experience of the death
                                                  > process itself is the important thing. At the moment of the heart
                                                  > stopping in meditation for example, leaving the subjective
                                                  > phenomonology out of it, one is *literally* experiencing a
                                                  > *physical* aspect of death,

                                                  always bearing in mind that the "literal" and "physical" is (according
                                                  to Plato and Neoplatonism) something less fully real than the
                                                  intelligible and psychic! So "the death process itself" is not
                                                  necessarily primarily a "physical" process.

                                                  > and with the other *literal* experiences of it that I mentioned,
                                                  > likewise. The very elaborate 'books of the dead', then -- are they
                                                  > simply an attitude change, or are they very detailed descriptions of
                                                  > an actual death process? If taking the literal line, which I do, the
                                                  > actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by a
                                                  > person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses. And this becomes
                                                  > key to the transformation of the soul in some way.

                                                  So would you be inclined to say that the shaman "literally" visits
                                                  animals in an underworld, etc.? To me, the shaman's spirit-friends are
                                                  very real, but not in the same sense of "real" as physical bodies. I
                                                  would say the same of my own limited but significant experience of
                                                  having "visions." What I "saw" was IMO more real than what I see in
                                                  the physical world, but not real in the same sense.

                                                  But I would not deny that

                                                  > the actual process of death can be experienced on multiple levels by
                                                  > a person who is 'alive' too, in a variety of senses.
                                                  >

                                                  I would only deny that "the actual process of death" in the sense of
                                                  physical death is the primary reality. To return to my earlier
                                                  language, the primary reality is true "birth," "birth in beauty," or
                                                  what the Neoplatonists refer to as "turning back" to what's really real.

                                                  Best, Bob

                                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

                                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]









                                                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                                • jensav55
                                                  ... I think that you are not taking proper account of Platonic optimism with respect to the procession of Being. Each procession is Good and on account of
                                                  Message 24 of 26 , Jul 9 10:15 AM
                                                    --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                                    >
                                                    >
                                                    > I certainly wouldn't want to say, and
                                                    > wouldn't expect Plotinus/Proclus to say, that lesser realities
                                                    > "vanish" into the One. I would expect them to say that lesser
                                                    > realities have less reality than the One has; that their reality
                                                    > depends upon that of the One; just as images have less "real reality"
                                                    > than Forms.

                                                    I think that you are not taking proper account of Platonic "optimism" with respect to the procession of Being. Each procession is Good and on account of the Good. A body is not "less real" than the One qua body, it simply has the kind of unity and the manner of being that is appropriate for this plane of being, which, insofar as it is supposed to be the site for transitory expressions of form, is doing exactly what it ought to.

                                                    But there is a bigger problem, it seems to me, in how you are approaching this, namely what it means to say that something's reality "depends upon that of the One". I would agree with this, but I mean something completely different by it, I suspect, than you do. I mean by it that every iterable (repeatable, instantiated) quality of an entity depends upon the non-iterable existence (hyparxis) of that entity. You, on the other hand, seem to use it to privilege over the existence of each entity an hypostatized or reified abstract entity to which it "owes" all it has on account of a sort of sheer eminence of "reality".

                                                    The relation to the principle of individuation cannot be assimilated to that between Forms and images, however. The image of a form has its being, qua instance of that form, in that form, not in itself; the unit, by contrast, cannot be said to have its unity in the One, because this would be to undo exactly what the One does: it makes this one thing the individual that it is. This is a measure of how the superior principle imparts more perfectly to the participant that which it has to give. Hence the eminence of the One is manifested precisely in its NOT being a one-over-many OR a one of which the many are parts, aspects, faces, et al.

                                                    > As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you
                                                    > and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation and
                                                    > the "real reality" that goes with it. And when we fully appreciate
                                                    > this lack, we will appreciate that we aren't separate from each other
                                                    > in the way that common sense assumes we are, that is, absolutely.
                                                    >

                                                    First, I must note that you treat existential uniqueness as a very lowly quality, as the sum of contingent and material factors. And this is true in a sense, but it is a very important Platonic principle that the lowest phenomena are the manifestations of the highest principles. Therefore, the difference that we call merely "numerical", just insofar as it falls below the threshold of formal difference, expresses the action of principles *superior* to form.

                                                    This alterity is present at its purest among the Gods, but the Gods possess an individuality far superior to our own in that they are autarchic (on this divine attribute, see especially chap. 19 of book I of the Platonic Theology, and on the universal divine attributes in general chaps. 13-29 of book I).

                                                    As beings, however, we are indeed much less individual than the Gods, because all of our iterable qualities--e.g., "human"--are by that very fact parts of other wholes, whereas the Gods are generative of all such wholes. Qua body, I am part of the whole of matter; qua soul, part of the whole substance of Soul. However, the latter already exhibits a superior form of individuation than the former. So I am more individuated as a soul than I am as a body. The common view may see a soul as *less* individuated, because it is invisible. But they nevertheless recognize that bodies all behave alike to a much greater degree than souls do.

                                                    At the level of Intellect, we can account for the individual even better, in the sense that we can see them as the sum of all their essential and accidental qualities, and arrive at *virtual* uniqueness--that is, indiscernibility--in this fashion. The Aristotelian, indeed, goes no further.

                                                    What lies beyond? We get the first taste of it in Plato quite early on, if we think of the Phaedo as an "early" dialogue: behind the form lies the cause, the form-bringer of the final argument in the Phaedo; this "cause" shows up again much later as the fourth genus in the Philebus, alongside limit, the unlimited, and the mixture. In the Phaedo, the question of this principle is already posed, due to the dialogue's context, in such a manner as to rule out any mere essence or whatness: the question is not Socrates qua human, but Socrates qua Socrates.

                                                    The doctrine of metempsychosis here serves a function much like that of eidetic variation in Husserl; if "Socrates", that is, the causal agency responsible for the *taxis* (Rep. 618b), or class of essential and accidental characteristics, that we know as Socrates, is thinkable as once having been the son, not of Sophroniscus, but of someone else altogether, or even a swan, or a lion, and being something else again in the future, then we are capable in some respect of thinking of this individual in his unique unity beyond any iterable quality whatsoever, as a pure agency, a pure power of choice definable only negatively insofar as we attempt to determine it as some bundle of form-instances rather than in its positivity as a form-bringer.

                                                    This line of thought, I submit, is the substantive correlate in Plato to the formal inquiry into unity in the Parmenides; it is, as it were, the thought-experiment that substantiates as a positivity the pure concept of unity adumbrated in the Parmenidean dialectic in its negativity, and which in turn depends upon that concept for its articulation. The negativity of the first principle is a matter, therefore, not of eminence, but of conceptual necessity.


                                                    Edward Butler
                                                    http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                                  • Robert Wallace
                                                    Edward, I am very grateful for this rich exposition, which I will study carefully. Do you plan at some point to publish an Intro to Platonism along these
                                                    Message 25 of 26 , Jul 9 9:12 PM
                                                      Edward, I am very grateful for this rich exposition, which I will
                                                      study carefully. Do you plan at some point to publish an Intro to
                                                      Platonism along these lines? I will be one of your first customers.
                                                      Best, Bob

                                                      On Jul 9, 2011, at 10:15 AM, jensav55 wrote:

                                                      > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                                      > >
                                                      > >
                                                      > > I certainly wouldn't want to say, and
                                                      > > wouldn't expect Plotinus/Proclus to say, that lesser realities
                                                      > > "vanish" into the One. I would expect them to say that lesser
                                                      > > realities have less reality than the One has; that their reality
                                                      > > depends upon that of the One; just as images have less "real
                                                      > reality"
                                                      > > than Forms.
                                                      >
                                                      > I think that you are not taking proper account of Platonic
                                                      > "optimism" with respect to the procession of Being. Each procession
                                                      > is Good and on account of the Good. A body is not "less real" than
                                                      > the One qua body, it simply has the kind of unity and the manner of
                                                      > being that is appropriate for this plane of being, which, insofar as
                                                      > it is supposed to be the site for transitory expressions of form, is
                                                      > doing exactly what it ought to.
                                                      >
                                                      > But there is a bigger problem, it seems to me, in how you are
                                                      > approaching this, namely what it means to say that something's
                                                      > reality "depends upon that of the One". I would agree with this, but
                                                      > I mean something completely different by it, I suspect, than you do.
                                                      > I mean by it that every iterable (repeatable, instantiated) quality
                                                      > of an entity depends upon the non-iterable existence (hyparxis) of
                                                      > that entity. You, on the other hand, seem to use it to privilege
                                                      > over the existence of each entity an hypostatized or reified
                                                      > abstract entity to which it "owes" all it has on account of a sort
                                                      > of sheer eminence of "reality".
                                                      >
                                                      > The relation to the principle of individuation cannot be assimilated
                                                      > to that between Forms and images, however. The image of a form has
                                                      > its being, qua instance of that form, in that form, not in itself;
                                                      > the unit, by contrast, cannot be said to have its unity in the One,
                                                      > because this would be to undo exactly what the One does: it makes
                                                      > this one thing the individual that it is. This is a measure of how
                                                      > the superior principle imparts more perfectly to the participant
                                                      > that which it has to give. Hence the eminence of the One is
                                                      > manifested precisely in its NOT being a one-over-many OR a one of
                                                      > which the many are parts, aspects, faces, et al.
                                                      >
                                                      > > As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you
                                                      > > and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation
                                                      > and
                                                      > > the "real reality" that goes with it. And when we fully appreciate
                                                      > > this lack, we will appreciate that we aren't separate from each
                                                      > other
                                                      > > in the way that common sense assumes we are, that is, absolutely.
                                                      > >
                                                      >
                                                      > First, I must note that you treat existential uniqueness as a very
                                                      > lowly quality, as the sum of contingent and material factors. And
                                                      > this is true in a sense, but it is a very important Platonic
                                                      > principle that the lowest phenomena are the manifestations of the
                                                      > highest principles. Therefore, the difference that we call merely
                                                      > "numerical", just insofar as it falls below the threshold of formal
                                                      > difference, expresses the action of principles *superior* to form.
                                                      >
                                                      > This alterity is present at its purest among the Gods, but the Gods
                                                      > possess an individuality far superior to our own in that they are
                                                      > autarchic (on this divine attribute, see especially chap. 19 of book
                                                      > I of the Platonic Theology, and on the universal divine attributes
                                                      > in general chaps. 13-29 of book I).
                                                      >
                                                      > As beings, however, we are indeed much less individual than the
                                                      > Gods, because all of our iterable qualities--e.g., "human"--are by
                                                      > that very fact parts of other wholes, whereas the Gods are
                                                      > generative of all such wholes. Qua body, I am part of the whole of
                                                      > matter; qua soul, part of the whole substance of Soul. However, the
                                                      > latter already exhibits a superior form of individuation than the
                                                      > former. So I am more individuated as a soul than I am as a body. The
                                                      > common view may see a soul as *less* individuated, because it is
                                                      > invisible. But they nevertheless recognize that bodies all behave
                                                      > alike to a much greater degree than souls do.
                                                      >
                                                      > At the level of Intellect, we can account for the individual even
                                                      > better, in the sense that we can see them as the sum of all their
                                                      > essential and accidental qualities, and arrive at *virtual*
                                                      > uniqueness--that is, indiscernibility--in this fashion. The
                                                      > Aristotelian, indeed, goes no further.
                                                      >
                                                      > What lies beyond? We get the first taste of it in Plato quite early
                                                      > on, if we think of the Phaedo as an "early" dialogue: behind the
                                                      > form lies the cause, the form-bringer of the final argument in the
                                                      > Phaedo; this "cause" shows up again much later as the fourth genus
                                                      > in the Philebus, alongside limit, the unlimited, and the mixture. In
                                                      > the Phaedo, the question of this principle is already posed, due to
                                                      > the dialogue's context, in such a manner as to rule out any mere
                                                      > essence or whatness: the question is not Socrates qua human, but
                                                      > Socrates qua Socrates.
                                                      >
                                                      > The doctrine of metempsychosis here serves a function much like that
                                                      > of eidetic variation in Husserl; if "Socrates", that is, the causal
                                                      > agency responsible for the *taxis* (Rep. 618b), or class of
                                                      > essential and accidental characteristics, that we know as Socrates,
                                                      > is thinkable as once having been the son, not of Sophroniscus, but
                                                      > of someone else altogether, or even a swan, or a lion, and being
                                                      > something else again in the future, then we are capable in some
                                                      > respect of thinking of this individual in his unique unity beyond
                                                      > any iterable quality whatsoever, as a pure agency, a pure power of
                                                      > choice definable only negatively insofar as we attempt to determine
                                                      > it as some bundle of form-instances rather than in its positivity as
                                                      > a form-bringer.
                                                      >
                                                      > This line of thought, I submit, is the substantive correlate in
                                                      > Plato to the formal inquiry into unity in the Parmenides; it is, as
                                                      > it were, the thought-experiment that substantiates as a positivity
                                                      > the pure concept of unity adumbrated in the Parmenidean dialectic in
                                                      > its negativity, and which in turn depends upon that concept for its
                                                      > articulation. The negativity of the first principle is a matter,
                                                      > therefore, not of eminence, but of conceptual necessity.
                                                      >
                                                      > Edward Butler
                                                      > http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                                      >
                                                      >
                                                      >

                                                      Robert Wallace
                                                      website: www.robertmwallace.com
                                                      email: bob@...
                                                      phone: 414-617-3914











                                                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                                                    • Jason Wingate
                                                      Edward, I also loved what you wrote here. I d echo Bob:
                                                      Message 26 of 26 , Jul 10 7:17 AM
                                                        Edward,

                                                        I also loved what you wrote here.

                                                        I'd echo Bob:

                                                        <<Do you plan at some point to publish an Intro to Platonism along these lines? I will be one of your first customers.>>


                                                        It would certainly be a more interesting 'polytheistic theology' than the kinds of things already on Amazon.

                                                        Having said that, your 'Henadology' blog is already plenty to be getting on with! I liked the essay on the 'Henadic Manifold' which posits amongst much else of interest that "desiring the One/Good, entities desire their individual integrity". This is relevant as against Bob's "progression as dissolution of otherness". There is also a neat tieback to Thomas's 'metabolism' where you say, "Desire of the One is desire as self-production."

                                                        I came to learn and wasn't disappointed... jw

                                                        ___________________________________________________
                                                        Lightning in an Oak Box





                                                        -----Original Message-----
                                                        From: Robert Wallace <bob@...>
                                                        To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
                                                        Sent: Sun, 10 Jul 2011 5:12
                                                        Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Re: The (Platonic) God Within Us; chapter 1


                                                        Edward, I am very grateful for this rich exposition, which I will
                                                        study carefully. Do you plan at some point to publish an Intro to
                                                        Platonism along these lines? I will be one of your first customers.
                                                        Best, Bob

                                                        On Jul 9, 2011, at 10:15 AM, jensav55 wrote:

                                                        > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Robert Wallace <bob@...> wrote:
                                                        > >
                                                        > >
                                                        > > I certainly wouldn't want to say, and
                                                        > > wouldn't expect Plotinus/Proclus to say, that lesser realities
                                                        > > "vanish" into the One. I would expect them to say that lesser
                                                        > > realities have less reality than the One has; that their reality
                                                        > > depends upon that of the One; just as images have less "real
                                                        > reality"
                                                        > > than Forms.
                                                        >
                                                        > I think that you are not taking proper account of Platonic
                                                        > "optimism" with respect to the procession of Being. Each procession
                                                        > is Good and on account of the Good. A body is not "less real" than
                                                        > the One qua body, it simply has the kind of unity and the manner of
                                                        > being that is appropriate for this plane of being, which, insofar as
                                                        > it is supposed to be the site for transitory expressions of form, is
                                                        > doing exactly what it ought to.
                                                        >
                                                        > But there is a bigger problem, it seems to me, in how you are
                                                        > approaching this, namely what it means to say that something's
                                                        > reality "depends upon that of the One". I would agree with this, but
                                                        > I mean something completely different by it, I suspect, than you do.
                                                        > I mean by it that every iterable (repeatable, instantiated) quality
                                                        > of an entity depends upon the non-iterable existence (hyparxis) of
                                                        > that entity. You, on the other hand, seem to use it to privilege
                                                        > over the existence of each entity an hypostatized or reified
                                                        > abstract entity to which it "owes" all it has on account of a sort
                                                        > of sheer eminence of "reality".
                                                        >
                                                        > The relation to the principle of individuation cannot be assimilated
                                                        > to that between Forms and images, however. The image of a form has
                                                        > its being, qua instance of that form, in that form, not in itself;
                                                        > the unit, by contrast, cannot be said to have its unity in the One,
                                                        > because this would be to undo exactly what the One does: it makes
                                                        > this one thing the individual that it is. This is a measure of how
                                                        > the superior principle imparts more perfectly to the participant
                                                        > that which it has to give. Hence the eminence of the One is
                                                        > manifested precisely in its NOT being a one-over-many OR a one of
                                                        > which the many are parts, aspects, faces, et al.
                                                        >
                                                        > > As for existential uniqueness, I have no doubt that you
                                                        > > and I possess that. What we lack, I take it, is full individuation
                                                        > and
                                                        > > the "real reality" that goes with it. And when we fully appreciate
                                                        > > this lack, we will appreciate that we aren't separate from each
                                                        > other
                                                        > > in the way that common sense assumes we are, that is, absolutely.
                                                        > >
                                                        >
                                                        > First, I must note that you treat existential uniqueness as a very
                                                        > lowly quality, as the sum of contingent and material factors. And
                                                        > this is true in a sense, but it is a very important Platonic
                                                        > principle that the lowest phenomena are the manifestations of the
                                                        > highest principles. Therefore, the difference that we call merely
                                                        > "numerical", just insofar as it falls below the threshold of formal
                                                        > difference, expresses the action of principles *superior* to form.
                                                        >
                                                        > This alterity is present at its purest among the Gods, but the Gods
                                                        > possess an individuality far superior to our own in that they are
                                                        > autarchic (on this divine attribute, see especially chap. 19 of book
                                                        > I of the Platonic Theology, and on the universal divine attributes
                                                        > in general chaps. 13-29 of book I).
                                                        >
                                                        > As beings, however, we are indeed much less individual than the
                                                        > Gods, because all of our iterable qualities--e.g., "human"--are by
                                                        > that very fact parts of other wholes, whereas the Gods are
                                                        > generative of all such wholes. Qua body, I am part of the whole of
                                                        > matter; qua soul, part of the whole substance of Soul. However, the
                                                        > latter already exhibits a superior form of individuation than the
                                                        > former. So I am more individuated as a soul than I am as a body. The
                                                        > common view may see a soul as *less* individuated, because it is
                                                        > invisible. But they nevertheless recognize that bodies all behave
                                                        > alike to a much greater degree than souls do.
                                                        >
                                                        > At the level of Intellect, we can account for the individual even
                                                        > better, in the sense that we can see them as the sum of all their
                                                        > essential and accidental qualities, and arrive at *virtual*
                                                        > uniqueness--that is, indiscernibility--in this fashion. The
                                                        > Aristotelian, indeed, goes no further.
                                                        >
                                                        > What lies beyond? We get the first taste of it in Plato quite early
                                                        > on, if we think of the Phaedo as an "early" dialogue: behind the
                                                        > form lies the cause, the form-bringer of the final argument in the
                                                        > Phaedo; this "cause" shows up again much later as the fourth genus
                                                        > in the Philebus, alongside limit, the unlimited, and the mixture. In
                                                        > the Phaedo, the question of this principle is already posed, due to
                                                        > the dialogue's context, in such a manner as to rule out any mere
                                                        > essence or whatness: the question is not Socrates qua human, but
                                                        > Socrates qua Socrates.
                                                        >
                                                        > The doctrine of metempsychosis here serves a function much like that
                                                        > of eidetic variation in Husserl; if "Socrates", that is, the causal
                                                        > agency responsible for the *taxis* (Rep. 618b), or class of
                                                        > essential and accidental characteristics, that we know as Socrates,
                                                        > is thinkable as once having been the son, not of Sophroniscus, but
                                                        > of someone else altogether, or even a swan, or a lion, and being
                                                        > something else again in the future, then we are capable in some
                                                        > respect of thinking of this individual in his unique unity beyond
                                                        > any iterable quality whatsoever, as a pure agency, a pure power of
                                                        > choice definable only negatively insofar as we attempt to determine
                                                        > it as some bundle of form-instances rather than in its positivity as
                                                        > a form-bringer.
                                                        >
                                                        > This line of thought, I submit, is the substantive correlate in
                                                        > Plato to the formal inquiry into unity in the Parmenides; it is, as
                                                        > it were, the thought-experiment that substantiates as a positivity
                                                        > the pure concept of unity adumbrated in the Parmenidean dialectic in
                                                        > its negativity, and which in turn depends upon that concept for its
                                                        > articulation. The negativity of the first principle is a matter,
                                                        > therefore, not of eminence, but of conceptual necessity.
                                                        >
                                                        > Edward Butler
                                                        > http://henadology.wordpress.com/
                                                        >
                                                        >
                                                        >

                                                        Robert Wallace
                                                        website: www.robertmwallace.com
                                                        email: bob@...
                                                        phone: 414-617-3914











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