Socrates and Plato on Soul and Spirit

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Here Socrates took his clew and followed it, and Plato after him, with the whole world of interior knowledge. Where the old Ionico-Italian world culminated in Anaxagoras, the new world began with Socrates and Plato. Pythagoras made the Soul a self-moving unit, with three elements, the nous, the phren and the thumos; the latter two, shared with the brutes;

the former only, being his essential self. So the charge that he taught transmigration is refuted; he taught no more than Gautama-Buddha ever did, whatever the popular superstition of the Hindu rabble made of it after his death. Whether Pythagoras borrowed from Buddha, or Buddha from somebody else, matters not; the esoteric doctrine is the same.

The Platonic School is even more distinct in enunciating all this.

The real selfhood was at the basis of all. Socrates therefore taught that he had a Sai^oviov (daimonion), a spiritual something which put him in the road to wisdom. He himself knew nothing, but this put him in the way to learn all.

Plato followed him with a full investigation of the principles of being. There was an Agathon, Supreme God, who produced in his own mind a paradeigma of all things.

He taught that in man was "the immortal principle of the soul," a mortal body, and a "separate mortal kind of soul," which was placed in a separate receptacle of the body from the other; the immortal part was in the head (Timxus xix., xx.) the other in the trunk (xliv.).

Nothing is plainer than that Plato regarded the interior man as constituted of two parts — one always the same, formed of the same entity as Deity, and one mortal and corruptible.

"Plato and Pythagoras," says Plutarch, "distribute the soul into two parts, the rational (noetic) and irrational (agnoia);

that that part of the soul of man which is rational, is eternal; for though it be not God, yet it is the product of an eternal deity, but that part of the soul which is divested of reason (agnoia) dies."

"Man," says Plutarch, "is compound; and they are mistaken who think him to be compounded of two parts only. For they imagine that the understanding is a part of the soul, but they err in this no less than those who make the soul to be a part of the body, for the understanding (nous) as far exceeds the soul, as the soul is better and diviner than the body. Now this composition of the soul with the understanding (voug) makes reason; and with the body, passion; of which the one is the beginning or principle of pleasure and pain, and the other of virtue and vice. Of these three parts conjoined and compacted together, the earth has given the body, the moon the soul, and the sun the understanding to the generation of man.

"Now of the deaths we die, the one makes man two of three, and the other, one of (out of) two. The former is in the region and jurisdiction of Demeter, whence the name given to the Mysteries telein resembled that given to death, teleutan . The Athenians also heretofore called the deceased sacred to Demeter. As for the other death it is in the moon or region of Persephone. And as with the one the terrestrial, so with the other the celestial Hermes doth dwell. This suddenly and with violence plucks the soul from the body; but Proserpina mildly and in a long time disjoins the understanding from the soul. For this reason she is called Monogenes, only-begotten, or rather begetting one alone; for the better part of man becomes alone when it is separated by her. Now both the one and the other happens thus according to nature. It is ordained by Faith that every soul, whether with or without understanding (voug), when gone out of the body, should wander for a time, though not all for the same, in the region lying between the earth and moon. For those that have been unjust and dissolute suffer there the punishment due to their offences; but the good and virtuous are there detained till they are purified, and have, by expiation, purged out of them all the infections they might have contracted from the contagion of the body, as if from foul health, living in the mildest part of the air, called the Meadows of Hades, where they must remain for a certain prefixed and appointed time. And then, as if they were returning from a wandering pilgrimage or long exile into their country, they have a taste of joy, such as they principally receive who are initiated into Sacred Mysteries, mixed with trouble, admiration, and each one's proper and peculiar hope."

The dxmonium of Socrates was this voug" , mind, spirit, or understanding of the divine in it. "The voug" of Socrates," says Plutarch, "was pure and mixed itself with the body no more than necessity required. . . . Every soul hath some portion of voug" , reason, a man cannot be a man without it; but as much of each soul as is mixed with flesh and appetite is changed and through pain or pleasure becomes irrational. Every soul doth not mix herself after one sort; some plunge themselves into the body, and so, in this life their whole frame is corrupted by appetite and passion; others are mixed as to some part, but the purer part [nous] still remains without the body. It is not drawn down into the body, but it swims above and touches (overshadows) the extremest part of the man's head; it is like a cord to hold up and direct the subsiding part of the soul, as long as it proves obedient and is not overcome by the appetites of the flesh. The part that is plunged into the body is called soul. But the incorruptible part is called the nous and the vulgar think it is within them, as they likewise imagine the image reflected from a glass to be in that glass. But the more intelligent, who know it to be without, call it a Daemon" (a god, a spirit).

"The soul, like to a dream, flies quick away, which it does not immediately, as soon as it is separated from the body, but afterward, when it is alone and divided from the understanding (nous). . . . The soul being moulded and formed by the understanding (nous), and itself moulding and forming the body, by embracing it on every side, receives from it an impression and form; so that although it be separated both from the understanding and the body, it nevertheless so retains still its figure and resemblance for a long time, that it may, with good right, be called its image.

"And of these souls the moon is the element, because souls resolve into her, as the bodies of the deceased do into earth. Those, indeed, who have been virtuous and honest, living a quiet and philosophical life, without embroiling themselves in troublesome affairs, are quickly resolved; because, being left by the nous, understanding, and no longer using the corporeal passions, they incontinently vanish away."

We find even Iren^us, that untiring and mortal enemy of every Grecian and "heathen" heresy, explain his belief in the trinity of man. The perfect man, according to his views, consists of flesh, soul, and spirit. ". . . carne, anima, spiritu, altero quidem figurante, spiritu, altero quod formatur, carne. Id vero quod inter haec est duo, est anima, quae aliquando subsequens spiritum elevatur ab eo, aliquando autem consentiens carni in terrenas concupiscentias" (Irenxus v., 1).

And Origen, in his Sixth Epistle to the Romans, says: "There is a threefold partition of man, the body or flesh, the lowest part of our nature, on which the old serpent by original sin inscribed the law of sin, and by which we are tempted to vile things, and as oft as we are overcome by temptations are joined fast to the Devil; the spirit, in or by which we express the likeness of the divine nature in which the very Best Creator, from the archetype of his own mind, engraved with his finger (that is, his spirit), the eternal law of honesty; by this we are joined (conglutinated) to God and made one with God. In the third, the soul mediates between these, which, as in a factious republic, cannot but join with one party or the other, is solicited this way and that and is at liberty to choose the side to which it will adhere. If, renouncing the flesh, it betakes itself to the party of the spirit it will itself become spiritual, but if it cast itself down to the cupidities of the flesh it will degenerate itself into body."

Plato (in Laws x.) defines soul as "the motion that is able to move itself." "Soul is the most ancient of all things, and the commencement of motion." "Soul was generated prior to body, and body is posterior and secondary, as being, according to nature, ruled over by the ruling soul." "The soul which administers all things that are moved in every way, administers likewise the heavens."

"Soul then leads everything in heaven, and on earth, and in the sea, by its movements — the names of which are, to will, to consider, to take care of, to consult, to form opinions true and false, to be in a state of joy, sorrow, confidence, fear, hate, love, together with all such primary movements as are allied to these . . . being a goddess herself, she ever takes as an ally NOUS, a god, and disciplines all things correctly and happily; but when with Annoia — not nous — it works out everything the contrary."

In this language, as in the Buddhist texts, the negative is treated as essential existence. Annihilation comes under a similar exegesis. The positive state, is essential being but no manifestation as such. When the spirit, in Buddhistic parlance, entered nirvana, it lost objective existence but retained subjective. To objective minds this is becoming absolute nothing; to subjective, No-thing, nothing to be displayed to sense.

These rather lengthy quotations are necessary for our purpose. Better than anything else, they show the agreement between the oldest "Pagan" philosophies — not "assisted by the light of divine revelation," to use the curious expression of Laboulaye in relation to Buddha — and the early Christianity of some Fathers. Both Pagan philosophy and Christianity, however, owe their elevated ideas on the soul and spirit of man and the unknown Deity to Buddhism and the Hindu Manu. No wonder that the Manicheans maintained that Jesus was a permutation of Gautama; that Buddha, Christ, and Mani were one and the same person,* for the teachings of the former two were identical. It was the doctrine of old India that Jesus held to when preaching the complete renunciation of the world and its vanities in order to reach the kingdom of Heaven, Nirvana, where "men neither marry nor are given in marriage, but live like the angels."

It is the philosophy of Siddhartha-Buddha again that Pythagoras expounded, when asserting that the ego (voug) was eternal with God, and that the soul only passed through various stages (Hindu Rupa-locas) to arrive at the divine excellence; meanwhile the thumos returned to the earth, and even the phren was eliminated. Thus the metempsychosis was only a succession of disciplines through refuge-heavens (called by the Buddhists Zion),+ to work off the exterior mind, to rid the nous of the phren, or soul, the Buddhist "Winyanaskandaya," that principle that lives from Karma and the Skandhas (groups). It is the latter, the metaphysical personations of the "deeds" of man, whether good or bad, which, after the death of his body, incarnate themselves, so to say, and form their many invisible but never-dying

* Neander, "History of the Church," vol. i., p. 817.

f It is from the highest Zion that Maitree-Buddha, the Saviour to come, will descend on earth; and it is also from Zion that comes the Christian Deliverer (see Romans xi. 26).

compounds into a new body, or rather into an ethereal being, the double of what man was morally. It is the astral body of the kabalist and the "incarnated deeds" which form the new sentient self as his Ahancara (the ego, self-consciousness), given to him by the sovereign Master (the breath of God) can never perish, for it is immortal per se as a spirit; hence the sufferings of the newly-born self till he rids himself of every earthly thought, desire, and passion.

We now see that the "four mysteries" of the Buddhist doctrine have been as little understood and appreciated as the "wisdom" hinted at by Paul, and spoken "among them that are perfect" (initiated), the "mystery-wisdom" which "none of the Archons of this world knew."} The fourth degree of the Buddhist Dhyana, the fruit of Samadhi, which leads to the utmost perfection, to Viconddham, a term correctly rendered by Burnouf in the verb "perfected, "§ is wholly misunderstood by others, as well as in himself. Defining the condition of Dhyana, St. Hilaire argues thus:

"Finally, having attained the fourth degree, the ascetic possesses no more this feeling of beatitude, however obscure it may be . . . he has also lost all memory . . . he has reached impassibility, as near a neighbor of Nirvana as can be. . . . However, this absolute impassibility does not hinder the ascetic from acquiring, at this very moment, omniscience and the magical power; a flagrant contradiction, about which the

Buddhists no more disturb themselves than about so many others."*

And why should they, when these contradictions are, in fact, no contradictions at all? It ill behooves us to speak of contradictions in other peoples' religions, when those of our own have bred, besides the three great conflicting bodies of Romanism, Protestantism, and the Eastern Church, a thousand and one most curious smaller sects. However it may be, we have here a term applied to one and the same thing by the Buddhist holy "mendicants" and Paul, the Apostle. When the latter says: "If so be that I might attain the resurrection from among the dead [the Nirvana], not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect " (initiated),+ he uses an expression common among the initiated Buddhists. When a Buddhist ascetic has reached the "fourth degree," he is considered a rahat. He produces every kind of phenomena by the sole power of his freed spirit. A rahat, say the Buddhists, is one who has acquired the power of flying in the air, becoming invisible, commanding the elements, and working all manner of wonders, commonly, and as erroneously, called meipo (miracles). He is a perfect man, a demi-god. A god he will become when he reaches Nirvana; for, like the initiates of both Testaments, the worshippers of Buddha know that they "are gods."

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  • Yemane
    What is the spirit part of the soul socrates?
    2 months ago
  • melissa
    Does socrates believe in ghosts?
    2 months ago

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