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Socrates and Plato - Track 1004

In twelve hundred BC, you can imagine 1200 BC is a very ancient time from our point of view because it was in 1200 BC in Phrygia, in the mountain called Ida, on the banks of a river called Xanthus, on the banks of a river called Xanthus was this small town or a big town you might say considering the present day it was a small town but in those times it was a very big town called Ilion or Troy or Trove or Troya, these are different names given to the same town sometimes you have the word Troad for Troya or Troy or Ilion – name of the story written by Homer. Homer is a great poet who was at the time of this Trojan war of the siege of Troy or little later or much later we do not know exactly. Homer was one of the greatest poets of the human history he wrote about this siege of Troy and that is a very big book called the Iliad it is the story of Ilion that is why it is called Iliad. So it is this story is a story in which Apollo was ruling yet but this rule of Apollo was already on the decline even at that time because of even of this great glory of Troy was towards the end, it was about to end, Apollo was already going to retire, he was told by the supreme God you have had enough of your rule now you have to retire now and that time he was preparing to retire. So this whole story of the siege of Troy is a beautiful story to be read. You know yesterday Deepti was asking me about is the significance of the bombardment of New York yesterday night. So immediately I remembered Sri Aurobindo’s poem Ilion when something reaches a certain height but not integrally then the savage forces destroy and remind them that your perfection is not perfection. You may feel proud that you are perfect but you are not perfect there is still something to be conquered you have not conquered therefore the savage barbarian rises and destroys a civilisation or attempts to destroy a civilisation so that humanity may awake and prepare for a greater development. So Troy had reached a very great glory and then the Greeks (at that time the Greeks were savages now we speak of Greece as very civilised people but at that time Greeks were savages, they were barbarians and they invaded Troy, Trojans were civilised people. the Trojans were invaded by the barbarians and ultimately Troy fell was ruined, destroyed and thereafter Apollo retired and the Athena began to rise and then Greek civilisation arose.) that is why Sri Aurobindo says: siege of Troy led to the creation of Hellas.(Hellas means Greece.) So fall of Troy led to the development of Greece that is the sequence of the development of the story. So in that reign of Hellas or of Greece after reaching the heights in the time of Pericles then came decline and then came Plato, this is the second point which I wanted to emphasise; I have not spoken of all last time and I am adding something more then what I had said last time of Plato but this a part of the understanding of Plato.

Now the third point which I had made about Plato was that he had declared the key to the permanence of civilisation. He was very much concerned about the rise of civilisation, decline of civilisation, fall of civilisation, destruction of civilisation and he was asking the question why does this happen? And his answer was that philosophers are not trained he said: if people become philosophers and if they become kings then there will be no decline, no fall, no destruction there will be a continuous noon, continuous light of the day. He was very famous for his declaration that philosophers must be the kings or kings must become philosophers, either of the two, either philosopher should be the king or kings must become philosophers this was his vision, vision which is not easy to materialise that is why it is called utopia. The utopia is to be remembered. What is a utopia? A vision so great not very easy to achieve, not easy to materialise, not easy to realise that is called utopia. The beautiful vision of the future in which everything is so beautiful and truthful and splendid makes a beautiful picture. Many of you are artists one day make a beautiful picture of an utopia where everything is bright and wonderful and beautiful, imagine such an existence where everything is so smooth and harmonious, it’s a rule of love and harmony, everybody trusts everybody else there is no jealousy there is all co–operation, all brotherly, all existing together in a great harmony then it’s like a symphony therefore symphony, how beautiful, how wonderful, everything synchronised, everything synchronises. All melodies and harmonies come together. So like that in every beautiful symphony Plato spoke of that great harmony, great utopia.

The three things I spoke to you about last time when I had read about Plato. Now we shall read again what we had read already and we shall go through it very rapidly, we shall read rather rapidly in the sense if you do not raise any question at the end of every paragraph I shall assume that you have understood and we shall go to the next paragraph. If you have question then raise your hand and put a question then I shall stop. Right, so let us read.

The history of thought may, in a sense, be regarded as an account of the cyclical movement of the modes of knowledge: sensation, perception, reason, intuition and still higher modes of cognition. At different periods one or another of these predominates and asserts its own truth and standards of truth. Thus we have the age of intuition such as that of the Veda and the Upanishad, the age of mixed intuition and reason such as that of the Darshanas in the East and that of Socrates and Plato in the West, the age of Pure Reason as that of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz and Kant, and the age of the senses as that of Locke and Hume and Logical Positivism.

We shall stop for few minutes. You have questions? Put questions. Here I have given the history of thought of the whole world in one paragraph and in a sense there was still a great period of intuition.

When we come to Pythagoras, this supremacy is lost, but still intuition predominates. In Socrates we find a child of the Mystics capable of intuitive knowledge and contacting and following an inner voice, the ‘Daemon’; but his methods of inquiry have already become rational and dialectical and in effect he initiates the rational movement in Western philosophy.

If you read Socrates you will find he was guided by conscience by intuition. We have read the trail of Socrates, you remember the trail of Socrates, he spent days and days in reading the defence of Socrates – Apology; in which he said I have a daemon within me whenever I am about to do something if it is wrong it comes forward and tells me ‘don’t do it, it is wrong’, not reason it is intuition directly, intuitive knowledge that was the power of Socrates. So he was a mystic. Mystic is the one who is ruled by intuition. A philosopher is the one who is ruled by reason that’s the difference between a mystic and a philosopher. SO Socrates was still a kind of a mystic but he was already becoming a rational philosopher, his method was already dialectical. A dialectical argument is one in which one set of facts is set against another set of facts and are compared. The implications of one set are compared with the implications of another set and out of the comparison a new set of implications arises. A new set of perceptions, a new set of facts emerges. Now this can go on, on and on this is called dialectical movement. Implications of one set compared with implications of another set and then the two are brought together and a third set emerges. There is first a thesis and then there is anti–thesis and then there is synthesis. This movement of moving from thesis to anti–thesis and anti–thesis to synthesis and again this synthesis becomes a thesis and out of that arises another anti–thesis and then comes another synthesis and on and on and on. This kind of movement is called dialectical movement, dialectical argument. Just open the second paragraph of The Life Divine and you’ll find this dialectical argument in which you’ll find one set of facts set against second set of facts and out of which a synthesis a third set of facts is taken out. Now this kind of movement is specially the movement of reason not of intuition. When reason begins to operate you’ll find dialectical movement, wherever there is dialectical there is reason, where there is reason there is a dialectical movement of thought. So this movement started with Socrates in the history of thought.

Yet in his most important doctrines such as that of ‘Virtue is Knowledge’ he identifies knowledge with the knowledge belonging to spiritual consciousness. And in his life we find him being moved and motivated by the high ethical and spiritual sense. But when we come to Plato, we find that the mystic tendency is on the wane, (you’ve seen the moon, moon waxes and wanes. First half of the bright part of the month the moon waxes becomes bigger and bigger until it reaches the size of full moon then comes the second fortnight in which the moon size begins to wane, moon becomes smaller and smaller and in the last there is no moon at all. Similarly mysticism began to wane because like the second part of the month for the moon of spiritual light it began to wane. “We find that the mystic tendency is on the wane, although the setting sun of mysticism casts its gold on the horizon and we find in Plato a most captivating combination of mysticism and reason.

I think I could have continued longer but since I needed rest, if you allow me I shall stop here today.