Socrates and Sophia

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Reply Wed 16 Dec, 2009 11:18 pm
Can Socrates be described as an ironic mystic or mystical ironist? Did he know that he didn't know only in order to know better? Is Socrates to Sophia as Jesus is to the Virgin Mother?

What does this feminine element symbolize? Here's Wiki for some background.

The Pythian Oracle (Oracle of Delphi) reportedly answered the question of "who is the wisest man of Greece?" with "Socrates!" Socrates defends this verdict in his Apology to the effect that he, at least, knows that he knows nothing. As is evident in Plato's portrayals of Socrates, this does not mean Socrates' wisdom was the same as knowing nothing; but rather that his skepticism towards his own self-made constructions of knowledge left him free to receive true Wisdom as a spontaneous insight or inspiration. This contrasted with the attitude of contemporaneous Greek Sophists, who claimed to be wise and offered to teach wisdom for pay.
 
Theaetetus
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 02:13 am
@Reconstructo,
He was a mystical ironist due to his sense of humor and his ability to be the devil's advocate. Of course he didn't know to know better since he obviously knew he was wise--otherwise he wouldn't have been a jackass to the higher ups in Athenian culture. Socrates is to Sophia as Jesus is to Compassion.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 03:21 am
@Reconstructo,
Sophia as Goddess of Wisdom was certainly an icon in the ancient world, but I ws unaware of her presence in the Dialogs (although references would be welcome. I understood that Sophia as godess was more associated with the gnostic sects; there is a Nag Hammadi scroll called the Pistis Sophia). But Socrates was indeed an ascetic who walked snow-capped mountains barefoot, fell into trances for days at a time, and eschewed the pleasures of alchohol and female company; although I wonder if the term 'mystic' saddles him with the kind of baggage he would not be inclined to carry.

McEvilly, in The Shape of Ancient Thought, compares Socrates (and indeed Plato) with the sages of the Upanisads who similarly practised an ascetic and world-renouncing disipline in their quest for knowledge.

But knowledge of what? I take his 'I know nothing' to be a comment on the limits of knowledge in the sense of anything that can be codified, recorded, and read. His wisdom was of a very practical kind, so much so that he refused to write (although of course it was very much a pre-literate age). Nevertheless the character of the Socratic approach is very indicative of the elusive nature of his wisdom. It is much more a 'come, here, sit, and let us question and discuss' rather than the systematic architecture that came later to be associated with so much of philosophy. Very much 'philosophy as a performance art'.

Maybe one character who reminds me very much of this approach in recent history was actually Krishnamurti. He too was a tireless critic of knowledge and thought and systems of all kinds.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 03:50 am
@Reconstructo,
As I understand it he wrote no books. Don't we get him primarily from two sources? Perhaps it was Plato who sold us the more mystical version of Socrates. The more I look into Plato, the more I see Jung, Blake Campbell. Here's a little off Wiki, for what it's worth:

Plato describes "The Form of the Good" (του̂ ἀγαθου̂ ἰδέαν) in his dialogue, the Republic, speaking through the character of Socrates. The Sun is described in a simile as the child or offspring (ekgonos) of the Form of the Good (508c-509a), in that, like the sun which makes physical objects visible and generates life on earth, the Good makes all other universals intelligible, and in some sense provides being to all other Forms, though the Good itself exceeds being.[1] It is an absolute measure of justice. Plato also explains his theory of justice in the Republic, in relation to his conception of a city in speech, both of which necessitate rule of the rational mind; in other words, philosopher-kings, who can grasp the Form of the Good.
Plato writes that the Form (or Idea) of the Good is the ultimate object of knowledge, although it is not knowledge itself, and from the Good things that are just gain their usefulness and value. Humans are compelled to pursue the good, but no one can hope to do this successfully without philosophical reasoning. According to Plato, true knowledge is conversant, not about those material objects and imperfect intelligences which we meet within our daily interactions with all mankind, but rather it investigates the nature of those purer and more perfect patterns which are the models after which all created beings are formed. Plato supposes these perfect types to exist from all eternity and calls them the Forms or Ideas[2] . As these Forms can not be perceived by human senses, whatever knowledge we attain of the Forms must be seen though the mind's eye (cf. Parmenides 132a), while ideas derive from the concrete world of flux ultimately is unsatisfactory and uncertain (see the Theaetetus). He maintains that degree of skepticism which denies all permanent authority to the evidence of sense. In essence, Plato suggests that justice, truth, equality, beauty, and many others ultimately derive from the Form of the Good.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 04:15 am
@Reconstructo,
OK then it is true. Plato and Socrates both are profoundly 'mystical' but it is a word I am very careful about using. In many circles it is a derogatory term, something you take refuge in when you can't think straight.

I have actually become a very convinced, albeit not very well-educated, Platonist, in the last decade or so. I am convinced that the idea of forms, and the realm of ideas, has a basis in reality, but it is on another plane of reality. Nobody nowadays in respectable circles has any time for such notions. They don't make sense, and indeed it is true, they don't. From where we sit, deeply ensconsed in our notion of normality and our confidence of who we think we are, there is absolutely no way to intuit the forms or to penetrate the realm of which Plato spoke. it takes a deep askesis, metanoia, and many other spooky Greek technical terms I don't even know about. One thing is for sure, you will never see them through the Hubble. A saying I have coined about it is that the forms don't exist. They don't have to exist - THINGS do the hard work of existing. All anything can do is reach towards or try and express its ideal form. This reaching is called entelechy, which is the principle by which anything knows which whole it is part of, and the form it should take.

Anyway, I am sure it is all true. Sometime back in late medieval times, maybe in the battle between realism (proponents of universals) and nominalists (deniers of same), the whole idea of the laws of form and the ideals was abandoned. Had I but world enough, and time, I would go back and find out the details.

---------- Post added 12-17-2009 at 09:23 PM ----------

Check out this reviewers reading liston Amazon. I learned a lot about neo-Platonism just reading his reviews. (neo-platonism being the Platonist doctrine developed by the great sage Plotinus and then carried forward by other geniuses like Proclus)
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 04:40 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;112040 wrote:
OK then it is true. Plato and Socrates both are profoundly 'mystical' but it is a word I am very careful about using. In many circles it is a derogatory term, something you take refuge in when you can't think straight.

I have actually become a very convinced, albeit not very well-educated, Platonist, in the last decade or so. I am convinced that the idea of forms, and the realm of ideas, has a basis in reality, but it is on another plane of reality. Nobody nowadays in respectable circles has any time for such notions. They don't make sense, and indeed it is true, they don't. From where we sit, deeply ensconsed in our notion of normality and our confidence of who we think we are, there is absolutely no way to intuit the forms or to penetrate the realm of which Plato spoke. it takes a deep askesis, metanoia, and many other spooky Greek technical terms I don't even know about. One thing is for sure, you will never see them through the Hubble. A saying I have coined about it is that the forms don't exist. They don't have to exist - THINGS do the hard work of existing. All anything can do is reach towards or try and express its ideal form. This reaching is called entelechy, which is the principle by which anything knows which whole it is part of, and the form it should take.

Anyway, I am sure it is all true. Sometime back in late medieval times, maybe in the battle between realism (proponents of universals) and nominalists (deniers of same), the whole idea of the laws of form and the ideals was abandoned. Had I but world enough, and time, I would go back and find out the details.


I know noise-rock musicians rather than readers or professionals. This does give me the luxury to share my wilder more "counter-cultural" ideas. For the kind of musicians I know, both music and certain associated extras are pursued as a means to achieve extra-ordinary mental-states. This is as taboo in its own way as mysticism. Thru my life-lens, the two are intimately related. Should chemical "transcendence" be accepted to the degree that it works? I'm not encouraging any incriminating statements. I will say that with and without both music and chemicals I have had certain experiences that I could interpret/describe as "mystical," realizing of course that "mystical" is just a word, and that this goes back to childhood. How does one know if one's "mystical" experience is like another's reported experience? Hermeneutics, I suppose. We compare their descriptions to our memories. A friend of mine had an intense vision (with a little help from his friends) that corresponded to the book of Ezekiel which he had never read, as he was the opposite of the reading type to being with. This experience powered his life with a new intensity and purpose for weeks, but it eventually faded

I will note this: those that I know who are most subject to such experience are also the loosest in regards to dogma. You might say they have faith in themselves as persons rather than any particular idea. I can a person with "mystical" experience can best afford what Rorty calls ironism and what Keat's called negative capability.

I wonder how many experiences are kept secret in age like this where they are taboo in "intellectual" circles. But then secret means sacred, if Norman O. Brown tells the truth in Closing Time. Note that for Plato it was philosopher-kings. A scientific age is a democratic and sensual age. In the land of the 2 eyed, the 3 eyed man is king. But this must be seasoned with a little Socratic irony.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 05:11 am
@Reconstructo,
The chemical transcendence theme has beenthrashed out a few times on the forum. I am usually in the For party. But you can't tell anybody really. Some secrets keep themselves, and besides, those days are gone - over a long time ago, oh yeah. I realised long since that whatever one sees there - and you really do see it - you have to develop a praxis and a way of relating to it in real life. Othewise it is just another trip. Have a look at (or toke of)The Paisley Gate, by Erik Davis
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 05:36 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;112052 wrote:
I realised long since that whatever one sees there - and you really do see it - you have to develop a praxis and a way of relating to it in real life.


Agreed. It's one thing to touch it with chemistry, another to return there without. Even better to have been there first without chemicals. Robert Graves talks about substance use in relation to Greek religious practice. Perhaps the steering wheel of mystical pathos is logos. How much it helps us humans to see our more potent emotions in relation to history, to find the universal in what might otherwise be terribly idiosyncratic. "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom." The same book, I believe, assure us that "wisdom maketh a man's face to shine." "I am the truth" says Christ. (Nietzsche inspired me to add the italics..) Nietzsche interpreted Plato/Socrates as saying the same thing. Compare Platonic Recollection with "the kingdom of God is within you." Didn't Leary dress in priestly robes? But we are well aware of the danger of vanity. How quickly a philosopher-king can be replaced by a Caligula. Suetonius shows us the "dark side of the Force." Rorty wrote an essay called "The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy." Surely he realized, ironist that he was, the danger of dropping ideologically-objective standards, and so do I --on a social level at least. So I don't go in for politics. I've got humility in that regard. I just want some time with my virgin mother Sophia....
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 05:52 am
@Reconstructo,
But you have to get out of your normal space. Ex-stasis. Outside normality. Even if you don't stay there, and you can't, there is something you see from there, that you have to see. (And it is hazardous to do so, there is a risk.)

Leary might well have dressed in priestly robes, but he was a trickster and first rate bullshit artist, nothing would surprise me.

I wrote a song called For Sophia, after my first meditation retreat, long time ago. It is here.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 06:05 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;112056 wrote:
But you have to get out of your normal space. Ex-stasis. Outside normality. Even if you don't stay there, and you can't, there is something you see from there, that you have to see. (And it is hazardous to do so, there is a risk.)

Agreed. My wife sleeps, so I'll check out that song tomorrow. Here's something that's not pretty in the least, and yet it was an ecstasy. I wonder how far this sort of practice goes back. Still, electricity adds something. The guy singing with a guitar is gone now, taken by the forces he played with. The drummer is a young friend of his, along for the ride. I'm hidden but part of the vocal stench.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb_UysG16yw
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 06:49 am
@Reconstructo,
In fact, Socrates was devoted to logic, and he used to teach it with this example"

By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll be happy. If you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Thu 17 Dec, 2009 05:50 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;112056 wrote:
But you have to get out of your normal space. Ex-stasis. Outside normality. Even if you don't stay there, and you can't, there is something you see from there, that you have to see. (And it is hazardous to do so, there is a risk.)

Leary might well have dressed in priestly robes, but he was a trickster and first rate bullshit artist, nothing would surprise me.

I wrote a song called For Sophia, after my first meditation retreat, long time ago. It is here.



Excellent song, and the vocalist is also great. My wife agrees.

I don't think much of Leary. He's an example of why objectivity became an ideal in the first place. It was easier to just write off the poetry and believe one's senses, I suppose. Twixt a rock and a hard place. But what can I say? I'd rather err on the side of hope than fear. I start to suspect someone soon as their movement includes the obviously superficial. "Tune in. Turn on. Drop out." It's fast food, isn't it? How quickly we are, as humans, to look to others for truth. One could describe spiritual progress as the putting away of idols. Blake names the Poetic Genius as the source of all gods. I think imagination is another way to say Poetic Genius. Man is God, which is another way to say that God is Man. This is why Blake plays with Christian mythology. God in man is just imagination in man. But Blake had the revolutionary in his youth, loved Milton's Satan. Blake used both Satan and Christ as symbols, alternately, as well as a gallery of his own creations. I know this is supposed to be about Socrates, but I say a strong relationship between Jesus and Socrates. Both concerned themselves with ethics, came from the unprivileged class, had an undeniable aura to them. Both were executed for for asking questions, for corrupting the youth.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 03:28 am
@Reconstructo,
Leary was a trickster and had no lasting value. But he seemed amazing at the time.

Didn't Thoreau compare Socrates and Jesus? I see the resemblances, but in my 'spiritual anthropology', Jesus is the Perfectly Realised Being, and Socrates a Very Wise Man. Jesus was on a completely different plane.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 18 Dec, 2009 04:16 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;112318 wrote:
Leary was a trickster and had no lasting value. But he seemed amazing at the time.

Didn't Thoreau compare Socrates and Jesus? I see the resemblances, but in my 'spiritual anthropology', Jesus is the Perfectly Realised Being, and Socrates a Very Wise Man. Jesus was on a completely different plane.


Thoreau might have, and he might have put it in my mind. Jesus is also for me the potent myth/person. I've examined Buddhism and Taoism some as well, but the Christian tradition is at the moment my favorite. Some of this is the King James and some it is Christ in Western Culture. Of course Leary was history for me. As a teenager the sixties were marketed to me as a golden age. Of course any young man is going to find sex drugs rocknroll revolution and exotic religion fascinating. Then one sees a few head shops. I never dove into it, rejected the nostalgia. Also I was just a contrary fellow, didn't want to join any club that would have me. Schopenhauer said something about irritability being the motive of philosophers.

I was just reading about Socrates. The real man is an educated guess I suppose. And how important is the real man anyway? I was just writing about the two heads of philosophy, one practical and one transcendent. If we include critical philosophy with the practical, and I think we can, then linguistic neo-pragmatism like Rorty's is about as sophisticated as it gets in my experience of course.. But then Rorty doesn't tackle the transcendent directly. He seemed to perfect the ironism and questioning of Socrates. He dissolves objectivity into consensus. He roots out the priest from philosophy, and yet is this not itself a manifestation of the attempt to purify? It's all about inverting Plato, embracing contingency. Rorty loves Kuhn and Feyerabend. He's a sort of anti-priest, a priest of the dogma of anti-dogma.

So this is the practical ironic cynical useful head. The other head is Sophia. I've heard deconstruction described as a negative theology. Perhaps its an anti-thesis that makes straight the way of synthesis. Sophia is more important but ironism does so much to purify the confusions attendant upon the communication of sublime experiences. It strikes me as an ideal combination, anti-dogmatic irony and the wife of God.
 
 

 
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