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Socrates and Plato - Track 1003

I shall first summaries what I have told you last time about Plato. I told you three small little things

  1. Plato was student of Socrates and he had already a series of lectures on Socrates already, particularly his theory that ….., you will tell me what was his theory?

His theory was ‘Virtue is Knowledge’, we have spoken of it at length according to him in order to be virtuous you must have knowledge and knowledge of the highest.

Secondly that you may not be virtuous unless you have all the virtues united in you. You can’t be courageous unless you are benevolent at the same time, you can’t be benevolent unless you are truthful at the same time, you can’t be grateful unless you are sincere at the same time. It is only when all virtues are united that you can be called virtuous, till that time you maybe on the path of virtue but not yet virtuous. Similarly, you cannot have knowledge unless you have total knowledge. You can’t say I know the world but I don’t know what is  soul, I know the soul but I don’t know what is the world, you can’t say I know the world but I don’t know God, I know God but I don’t know the world. As long as you say I don’t know this it is not yet knowledge, it is only when you have the fullness of knowledge that you can say I have knowledge. So when you can equate all knowledge on one side and all virtues on the other side then there is a union and that is ‘virtue is knowledge’. This is in substance what I told you at length last time. So that is the first thing that I have spoken of while introducing to you Plato.

The second thing is that Plato is one of the most important things to be learnt in regard to the whole story of thought of the world not only of Greece to which he belonged, not only to Europe which has inherited Plato so largely but history of thought of the whole world. So if you don’t know Plato, you cannot know the history of thought and that is why I put before you a special study of Plato. I told you that there is a great philosopher of the present time, he wrote a very beautiful sentence about Plato and said that the entire history of Western philosophy is nothing but footnote to Plato. You know the meaning of foot note? Foot note is what is usually seen at the bottom of any page where it is some atrix mark and some note is given there that is called a foot note, a note at the foot, foot of the page that is called a foot note. So he said that the whole history of Western philosophy is nothing but foot note to Plato, Plato is the main substance and the whole other history of thought is simply a foot note. So this is to show the importance of Plato’s influence on the philosophy of the West. So that if you do not know Plato, in any case you don’t understand the whole history of Western philosophy, it is the second thing that I have told you about.

 The third thing that I have told you about was the place of Plato in the history of thought at least of Western thought. Now this I have shown you in some detail but I shall repeat it because it is very important. I have said that Plato is something like a sunset not sunrise that is to say Plato comes in the evening of civilisation not in the morning of civilisation. The morning of civilisation starts with the lives of sun that means much before Plato civilisation had started and the sun had risen to a great height and then they began the decline and at the time of Plato it was about sun was about to set, it was sunset. Now you see the sunset it is full of splendour, what had happened in the morning when there is the dawn this will be seen also in the evening. The sun as it were becomes golden and casts its rays, you can see the rays of the sun and beautiful colours are spread over the sky so almost looks like a beginning of the day. If you are not aware of all that happened in the past you may say here is the sunrise, it’s almost like that. So when you read Plato you see so much of splendour in it that you might say here is the beginning.

But if you study the whole history then you’ll find, Oh! It is the evening light but in the evening also sun casts its great splendour and that is the splendour you find in Plato. After Plato of course it was an evening and then gradually the light began to fade out and then in the history of thought you find night coming and then there was a midnight, this is called the medieval period of the West. It is called the Age of Darkness and then comes again after the midnight and then once again if you study the history of Western thought then there is another dawn, sunrise.

This is what is called the period of renaissance, in the fifteenth century the renaissance starts and then since then the mankind going to a morning and now what we are preparing for the noons for the future. You know Sri Aurobindo has said: “We do not belong to the dawns of the past but the noons of the future”, we are now heading for the noons. So we all who are the children of the present age are the children preparing for the noon. So it is in the historical perspective we must understand our own place just as we understand the place of Plato, similarly we should understand our own place in the history of development. We are all children; Sri Aurobindo has spoken of all of you as sun–eyed children. You have eyes of the sun and when your eyes are made of the sunlight that is a gift as if the whole civilisation has given a gift and you are   therefore the sun–eyed children. It is a big responsibility also; it’s a great gift because we have to be really sun–eyed, we have to be very brilliant in your eyes.

 So to come back to Plato, Plato happens as a splendid light of the sun when it was about to set, when evening sunset of light, so splendid, so marvellous that it can be dazzling, you know. So when we study Plato you will see this splendour of light in Plato but you have to remember that he was actually a child as compared to some forefathers who had great kinds of light. There is a mixed theory of the Western development. It is said that in the beginning there was the rule of Apollo. You know Apollo is a Greek god; he is called the Greek god of sunlight. So in beginning was the rule of Apollo then came a period when the kingdom was given to Pallas Athena. Athena is a goddess of Reason. Reason is supposed to be only a ray of light. Sun is a light of multitudes of rays whereas Reason is only one ray. So see the difference between the rule of Apollo and the rule of Athena. So after the rule of Apollo it set down and then came the rule of Athena, after the sunlight, after the luminous knowledge in the West as in the East there came a period of the rule of Athena. It is because of that reason we have got the word Athens. Athens is even today the capital of Greece and the word Athens has come from Athena because Athens was created to worship Athena. She was the goddess of Reason and ran, helped the rule of Reason with a pinnacle of the highest light, the highest splendour Athens rose to the height of this world. So we have therefore at the time of particularly Pericles, Pericles is a name to be remembered. Pericles was one of the leaders of Greece and when Pericles ruled Athens, Athens reached to the great heights of its climax. After the reaching of the height came a downward curve and then comes Plato in the downward curve. There is a very beautiful poem written by Sri Aurobindo perhaps if we have time we shall read together the whole poem, when we have long patience of sitting down for eight hours at a stretch then we shall read that poem because it is a poem which should be read at a stretch, it is called Illion; Illion means Troy. One of the greatest events of world history is the siege of Troy, when Troy was attacked; there was a siege so many enemies surrounded Troy. When you go to your Atlas try to find out where is Troy, you’ll find Greece on one side then you’ll find a sea because Greece was on the coast they defended and then there is a the sea and on the other side facing Greece on this side, on the eastern side is a series of mountains called Mount Ida, Mount Ida and it is portion of an area which was called Phrygia, Phrygia. So on the top of the hill of Ida was this golden town called Troy. Troy had reached a very great height of glory and splendour and wealth it was a town full of golden towers as it were, so much of wealth. It was a town given to the worship of Apollo, of light and it was a town of laughter and joy, so wealth, light and joy this was the glory of Troy.