I shall revise Socrates a little later because it is good to allow a certain impression to remain, a little buried again to come back, it’s a process of learning. How do we learn? You have read a good deal of Socrates now and some impressions have been created in the mind. One of the principles of learning is first to allow a certain impression to be created in the outer mind.
This can be done by reading, by talking, like hearing, shruti particularly, by hearing then these impressions go deep down in the deeper layer and then there is a response from the inner consciousness. This response takes a form of understanding, impression merely does not create understanding, it’s an impression but it triggers off that process when it goes down and meets the inner consciousness then understanding is generated. Now there is this word understanding: to stand under, understanding means to stand under, I am under this roof. When I look up then something comes in my view, it is a difficult process because I have to strain my head upward and then I begin to watch from here; all our understanding is this kind of a strain. We are as it were below and we rise upward and we look upward and then we have a gaze and now you will see in this gaze it is very difficult to get the totality. Whenever you gaze upward, it’s very difficult to get the totality as a result of that you don’t fully understand.
Every understanding is an imperfect understanding as long as it is understanding. The word understanding implies placing an object within a context, what is the east of it, what is the west of it, what is north of it, what is the south of it? When you place an object in a context, some kind of a surrounding as it were and then the object is placed in the context of the totality then you see that you now grasp it, you understood and whenever you rise upward this difficult process gives you only a partial vision of the whole, you can’t put everything in the context. You will realise certain things even now when I read Sri Aurobindo I feel certain sentences—Oh! For the first time I understood, although I have been reading Sri Aurobindo for the last fifty years and quite seriously but even then many things when I read again I feel—Oh! Now I understand that is because the totality that one needs is not present and every time when you rise a little a greater understanding arises. So when you don’t understand something one should not be dissatisfied. Let the impression go on inside the consciousness, you strain yourself upward and the more you put in the context the globality begins to rise, you understand better that is why yoga recommends that you should rise from understanding to over standing; don’t limit yourself only to understanding there should be a process of over standing that means instead of seeing the roof from here I climb up and see the roof from above. When you go up and then you look down then things are seized better. So when you for example Socrates I spoke a good deal for the last two months isn’t it—a good deal, it will create few impressions in the mind. For example if I want to read out your minds as to how much you have grasped? I would say that the following sentences can be made.
Socrates was one of the greatest philosophers of the past. He is called the father of philosophy, a very great man. Secondly he had some kind of spiritual experiences. He used to hear a voice, a voice which would prevent him from doing something if it was wrong but never a voice was heard when he was doing what was right, it never interfered, a very peculiar kind of experience he had got. So he called this a kind of a demon, a kind of sensor, somebody who criticises right, wrong, and right–wrong something of this kind particularly when it was wrong it was very powerful and it would prevent him from doing something.
Then he had a great sense of fearlessness born out of a process of thinking, reasoning and knowing and he gave a great value to this process of reasoning, thinking and knowing.
Then as he says he had the habit of examining life. He says the most important activity in life is to examine life, what is life, what is the meaning of life, what is the significance of life, why should I be living, what is the purpose of life. This question, according to him, is the most important question.
He was also a good soldier because he was being sent from time to time to battles. He was a good warrior, in the battle field he did not care whether he was going to die or not. Every soldier when he goes to the battle carries his death in his hand as it were. He goes into the battle with death in his hands; he knows that he might die in the battle whether it is worth it.
Actually speaking every one of us is walking with death in our hands, everyone, whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not anytime anything can happen in our life. Therefore his conviction was not to think about death, to think as to what you should do, what is your work. So that was his most important occupation in life. Even though he was a good warrior, even though he was a good thinker, his main question was to do the right thing and therefore the search for the right thing was the most important thing. What is right? Right is what he called virtue and he discovered that virtue is knowledge and we had discussed this question at length where virtue was identified with knowledge, question was knowledge of what? So he said that when you have unity of knowledge, totality of knowledge then only it is knowledge. So he comes to the conclusion that the yogis of India had come—knowledge is over standing, when you stand above and you see the totality only that over standing is according to them knowledge. So long as you are only climbing it is only an attempt at knowing, it’s only partial knowledge, glimpses of knowledge. When you rise up and see from above then you have the true knowledge.
The totality of knowledge according to him is the totality of virtue. To know the whole gives you the capacity to do the right thing in everything. According to him if you are virtuous in this regard and not virtuous in that regard then you are not truly virtuous. A virtuous man is one who in every activity is virtuous, you cannot have true knowledge unless you are courageous, and you are not courageous if you don’t know how to fight. Capacity to fight which is also a virtue and the daring to fight both go together. As long as you only have a daring to fight and you don’t know how to fight, it means that you are not truly virtuous. If you are truly virtuous you will try to be both—the courage to fight and the method of fighting and merely the method of fighting is not enough. You fight for what, you fight for establishing the truth therefore if you don’t know the truth what will you fight for? So the knowledge of truth also is a part of virtue. I may be able to fight, I may know how to wilt the sword but for what? So I must know the truth and if I want to know the truth about many other qualities—I should be patient, my mind should be very quiet. How can I know the truth if my mind is not quiet, it is jumping like a monkey’s mind. The truth requires a very patient, steady, arduous, difficult process of grasping, realisation in fact. So these qualities you must develop otherwise you won’t know the truth and even if you know the truth, even if you know how to fight; if you don’t have the compassion.
Ultimately you may fight for truth but truth for what purpose for the welfare of the people; you should be inspired by love, what’s the point of fighting if you are not full of love, isn’t it? You may fight like a warrior, like many people fight just because they have a great push and they also know how to fight and they know how to use their arms but if they are not inspired by love they will do many, many wrong things. It is love which will take you to the right place, where you should fight, for what you should fight and with what heart you will fight, you will know where not to fight because that also is a quality. Where you should stop fighting, it is love that generates goodwill. If you want to know what goodwill is, unless you have true love, you can’t have goodwill. So your heart must be bursting with love, your eyes must be the eyes of a friend. Even when you see there is ill will, so what? Your eyes must be full of the goodwill of a friend. As Sri Aurobindo says: ‘Who is my enemy? The one who takes you to the embrace of the Divine that is the definition of the enemy. The one who takes you to the embrace of the Divine that is your enemy. So look upon the enemy with these eyes. So you can see that all these qualities make one sun. All the rays of light are as they were combined together in the totality of the sun. So virtue is a totality of all the good qualities unless you have all the qualities very well interconnected and unified you can’t be fully virtuous you may be only partiality of virtuousness. You may be kind and you may be generous therefore you are very charitable but you may give charity to the wrong person. You are kind, charitable, and generous and you have so much money with you, you give to somebody and that somebody afterwards may use it for arms and you may kill somebody else. So ultimately you have given alms, you have actually given somebody some kind of a gift for the killing of somebody else therefore merely to be kind is not enough. You must know kind to whom, you must have a perception whether it is the right object to whom you should give generosity or not, mere kindness is not virtue. Kindness coupled with discrimination it’s another quality, you must distinguish between this and that. In Sanskrit we have got the wordsupatra*,su means good,*patrameans object; the object to whom you are kind must be worthy of kindness. You must know that this is the right person to whom you should be kind. The child may make a mistake and you pardon it but an adult may make a mistake and he may not be worthy of pardoning. You must know the distinction whether somebody is intentionally mischievous or somebody has unintentionally done something, it will pass your discrimination. You must know who is who? You may give time to somebody because you are very kind and you may spend five hours, ten hours but there may be another person even five minutes if you can give will produce a tremendous effect.
The sun may give light to a piece of clay, a piece of clay which does not reflect back but the same sun may give, may throw its light upon a diamond and immediately from a diamond the light is reflected back, isn’t it? So you may have lot of time for your kindness but the question is on whom you will pour your kindness, unless you have discrimination, unless you really know who is in for knowledge then you can give and pour your knowledge but those who are not pursuing knowledge and you go on pouring your knowledge, you are wasting your time. So you must know who is desirous of knowledge and the deeper eyes can see much better, one look and you can see here is the object on whom you can pour your knowledge. So you must know where exactly your time has to be spent.
The Mother has said: Miserliness and generosity—generosity is regarded as a virtue and miserliness is regarded to be a vice not a virtue, to be miserly if somebody is miser you say you should be kind, you should be generous and generosity is very much praised but Mother says both are imperfect; generosity is also imperfect and miserliness is also imperfect. You must know where you should be miserly; you should know where to be generous. When you can combine in you both the capacities to be extremely miserly and extremely generous at the same time then you know that now you are virtuous. The true virtue is one which combines two contrary qualities in a perfect manner. Even spending a little more than necessary would not be tolerated by a virtuous man at the same time he may pour bounty on somebody else because the object there is the right object, the moment is the right object. You will see how nature is bountiful. Nature usually grows and grows. If you see the bananas for example: how many bananas come out from one branch, how many mangoes burst out, even a small little space and a little mango is coming out, nature is bountiful, so generous. Your nature should be like that to be able to give more and more, more and more, plenty without any end that should be your capacity at the same time to be extremely economical right up to the smallest space like a goldsmith. You know a goldsmith is extremely economical in his labour because in a small little piece of gold he has to make a design. So you should be like a goldsmith. So when you combine both the qualities at the same time then you are virtuous. Why we used to say when Mother for example, we saw in the Mother the manifestation of perfection because she had both these qualities combined together extremely generous, extremely forgiving, extremely severe like a sword. If you go to the Mother with all kinds of pretension she would cut asunder absolutely, nobody can deceive her by outer saintliness or outer virtuousness and yet if you go in the right attitude she’ll be so generous, you may have committed a hundred sins in one second she would wash away, it’s nothing and you are purified in one second that is the capacity of the Mother. I don’t say that was because she is still here with us in every respect so perfectly that’s why Sri Aurobindo writes four aspects of the Mother,—Maheshwari, Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati, all the four together. Mahakali is with a sword, impetuous. Mahalakshmi is bountiful, generous, smiling and Mahasaraswati is perfection in detail, every little thing like a goldsmith, every detail she perfects, nothing is forgotten, nothing is omitted; and Maheshwari is vast in which you can swim without end, there is a luminosity which is endless, all knowledge. So when you combine all the four together then you are really……… virtuous and that was the view of socrates virtue is unity according to him knowledge is unity. So virtue is knowledge, knowledge is virtue, both are unity and therefore he said: if you really know, if you really know totally, you are bound to act totally and act rightly. So if anybody makes a mistake it means he doesn’t really know that is why Christ said when he was being crucified: "Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing". If they knew they would not do this. So if anybody is doing wrong it means he does not know therefore Socrates said it’s my duty to make people know that was his mission because if people are wrong it is because they don’t know or they believe they know even when they don’t know. So he used to expose everybody; it was not for amusement. People sometimes thought that he was amusing; not at all, he was very serious. He thought if people believe they know when they don’t know they are very far from true knowledge.
First they should become conscious that they don’t know, then they will try to go to the path of knowledge. That is why he took it as a mission of his life, he was very kind to the people therefore even when the people gave a verdict of death to him he said: I am not offended. To read his dialogue at the end he says: I have no grudge at all with those who have condemned me to death. So it is because he knows that they have done it out of ignorance. If they knew everything he says towards the end of his dialogue that if I had enough time then I would have been able to convince you. He says in some countries they give many, many days for discussion before a verdict is passed. He says here you give me only one day, how can I argue everything in fullness but that's the law of your country here so what can I do? So he accepts, he knows that these people do not understand therefore they have given a wrong verdict which could have been prevented if they had sufficient time. So he has no grudge against anybody. He is exactly like Christ. He also says I have no grudge against my accusers and against my people they have not been able to understand, they are ignorant. So he is greatest doctrine is ‘virtue is knowledge’ and his greatest work in the world is to make people aware that they do not know, that they should not pretend that they know and therefore they should try to know and what is the process of knowing,—to examine the life, to examine life why are you here, what are you doing here in life, what should you do in life? If you inquire into this question then you will arrive at knowledge.
Now this is the sum and substance of Socrates but it is incomplete as I said he answered the question of what is knowledge by saying you examine life but so far we have not yet completed his doctrine which will come in Plato. When we study Plato, actually Socrates and Plato should be studied together, side by side because Socrates is one of the main characters in the dialogues of Plato and in one of his greatest dialogues called ‘Republic’; Socrates answers the question: what is knowledge? There is a very beautiful description in one of the statements of the ‘Republic’, I have spoken of it earlier but very briefly he says: that we all are human beings like slaves.
We are all living in a dark cave and there are many pillars in the cave and each one of us is tied to the pillar, we are chained to the pillar and we can only look in one direction because we are chained. So you are not free to look this way that way or around or at the back, you can only see a wall before you as if it were in the cave and behind you is a big fire. Now if there is a fire behind you it will pass light upon the wall but since you are standing in the middle it will pass only shadows of yours on the wall, isn’t it? So what you will see will be only shadows and since you are not able to go behind you don’t even know that because of the light behind you are seeing the shadows, you’ve only been seeing shadows all the time, so you’ll think the world consists of shadows. Similarly he says there is light behind you actually, behind each one of us but each one of us is bound to his body, it’s like a pillar to which we are bound and with this bondage whatever you think you are seeing are only shadows, all your knowledge is nothing but a shadow. What you think you know is nothing but a shadow which has been cast because there is a light behind you and you are in the middle and a shadow is cast and this is what you call knowledge actually it’s not knowledge. So, so long as you are what you are now he said it is impossible for you to know but if I put the question then sometime you will wonder whether what I am seeing is really right or wrong then one day you’ll make an effort to unchain yourself and if you succeed then you will turn around and you will find, my Lord! There is a big fire here, such a huge source of light then you will understand better but now that you are free you will also be able to go out of the cave, previously you thought this is the only existence, nothing but this. The cave was the only geographical knowledge you had earlier for even only a small part of the cave.
Now when you turn out unchained you see behind you. Then you find that there is a passage out of the cave. Then you can walk out and imagine your surprise when you go out and you see the beautiful, splendid sun. Not only fire, a small fire burning behind, you see a huge ball of light, inextinguishable light. When you see that sun then that is called knowledge. Similarly, he says when you really see the totality of Reality, the luminous Reality, and the Reality which is itself light; when you arrive at that that is called knowledge. Now this is the allegory he has given, kind of simile, it’s called The Simile of the Den. Den means a cave, the simile of the cave. So through this simile he wants to teach everybody that we are at present in the state of ignorance, we are only seeing shadows, we are chained, we are bound, we are ignorant therefore you come out of it, turn upside down as it were for that you have to remove your chains that is why he said: ‘So long as you lead a life of senses you are bound’. But imagine there is something more than senses. There is a reason for example which is higher than senses and then there is higher than that which he called spiritual experience like his sensor in his heart which knew what was right and wrong, it’s a higher faculty. So there is a sense which is the cause of your bondage then there is reason which tries to liberate you and then you arrive at the real perception, the real knowledge which is intuition. So when intuitively you see the whole, the totality then you have the real knowledge that is the Socratic view of knowledge. When we come to Plato we shall see this much more in detail because Plato describes this experience in his book called The Republic.
Alright this is what I wanted to revise with you as far as Socrates is concerned if you still have questions in your mind when I come next time you write down your questions about Socrates all right you read once again his ‘Apology’ as I told you it is one of the best passages of literature in the world history so you study this passage very well there are many words which are in English which are very difficult words I have not been able to explain each and every English word which is difficult a few have taken that iniquity and criminal proceedings feminine meddling and so on but there are many words which are quite difficult so you should note down all the words that are difficult then you can have when I come back you can ask me or you can in the meantime discuss with Deepti all these words so that your mind becomes clear as to what Socrates he says all right so next time when I come you put all series of questions if you like all right so for the moment however we shall turn to Plato
In the first paragraph,
Now I have one question about the name of………. Because he gave the name Constitution now, why did he change then?
Now, one question about the name of …………. because he gives the name of pulstificiant
Because constitutions formed only one part of his book but actually it was in the context of building up a republic the state. What is the state? So the whole book deals with the larger questions: the constitution of the state is only one part, but his main question in the whole book is what is the nature of his state?
That’s why he called it ………
Now in the first paragraph which I have given here I have as it were from above seeing the whole history of thought. If you are above, if you have studied, very well the Indian thought, the Western thought and so on and then if you want to describe, how will you describe, very briefly. So this I have written in one paragraph so that you look from above the entire history of thought from the beginning to the present day. So I am making a few remarks.
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 the present Logical Positivism.
Now this is a difficult paragraph for the beginners but it covers the history of thought right from the beginning to the present. So let me take some time to explain this. There are sources of knowledge, what I have called cognition. Cognition is a process to know. You have seen the word in English recognise, recognise means you cognise again. When I have seen you before and now I see you again then I say that now I am now recognising you. So cognition is the process of ‘to know’. Now this cognition takes place at many levels. First of all is senses, the five senses of knowledge are the senses by which we come to know the physical things of the world, then there is reason, then there is process of intuition and then there are higher processes of knowledge such as that of the Supermind.
If you study the history of thought, history of philosophy in particular, you will find that there is a cyclical movement, a kind of a cyclical movement. Sometimes the thinkers give a great value to senses, sometimes they give a great value to reason, and sometimes they give a great value to intuition. Now if we make enough improvement we shall engage when we shall give great value to Supermind.
Now in the beginning however we find a very peculiar movement. The earliest age we find in the history of the world was the age of intuition both in the East and in the West. It may seem surprising; actually logically we should first have the age of senses, then of reason, then of intuition, then of Supermind but history does not follow the logical path. Psychologically we make a big zigzag movement. Actually speaking, all the elements are present at every time. Even in our consciousness at present we have got senses, reason, intuition, supermind all are present in our consciousness but developed differently. Some people have very developed senses, some have intuition very well developed, they may even have rays of supermind coming into them they may not recognise the supermind but supermind may also be present behind and may emerge suddenly. Even a child may sometimes give you some knowledge which is supramental. The child may not know, you may not know but there are rays of light as it were passing. That's why good teachers always look forward to seeing where the intuition is in the child, where is the supermind in the child. The good teachers always look forward to that kind of consciousness; the child may be babbling and yet his pointing may be something very tremendous. The child has come from very well developed planes of consciousness. A very great thinker might be reborn as a small child therefore he might have perception which you do not have so a good teacher thinks always of this as not to neglect children that’s why it is said good teacher always look forward to small children so that they may be in the company of wisdom because they might be in the past birth very great wise sages. So in us at any time if you examine you’ll find that at any time we have many senses at work, intuition at work, reason at work, supermind at work, everything is at work simultaneously.
Now it so happened that in the world there was a very early period, maybe there was another period also earlier than that or maybe there were many earlier periods also before that but the earliest record that we have is Veda. This is the one record of which we are sure it is the earliest composition available to us that’s why we had started with the Veda because that is the first record of mankind about which we are sure what they thought, how they felt, what they aspired for, what they achieved all that is written in the Veda and this was the age of intuition. They arrived at knowledge not by reason, not by senses but they arrived at knowledge by intuition. So in the history of thought the earliest period was the period of intuition. Now similarly in the West the earliest period was the period of Orphism. Orpheus was supposed to be the originator, one of the first seers you might say, one of the first thinkers of the West. He spoke of immortality of the soul, just as the Veda spoke of immortality of the soul Orpheus also in the West spoke of the same thing,—immortality of the soul. Orpheus spoke as to how to develop the knowledge of the immortality of the soul, just as the Veda and the Upanishad also spoke of the same thing. Then as you go down you come to Pythagoras in the West then you come to Heraclitus and then you come to Socrates and then to Plato, I am only giving a few names—Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Socrates and Plato.
Now when you go to the East, in India we have first Veda and then Upanishad and then we have Darshana. (Darshana means visions) In India philosophy was called Darshana because it was a perception, a vision and as a result they developed Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, and Vedanta; again I am giving a few names. So if you examine from the point of view of the faculties you will say that the history began in the early time with the age of intuition both in the East and the West. Then there came a mixed period of intuition combined with reason. Socrates and Plato belonged to that age, a mixture of intuition and reason. In India a mixture of intuition and reason was Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vedanta and so on, mixture of intuition and reason. Then in the West there came a period of pure reason, intuition was put behind as it were.
And if you want to study the history of the West, then you come to the philosophy of Descartes—cogito ergo sum. We have seen earlier, we have seen the proof of the existence of the soul and of God. 'I think therefore I am'. ‘I think’ this is reason, so it is a period of reason, with emphasis upon reason. So if you read the philosophies of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz and Kant, again I am giving you a few names, they represent the pure reason, they are also called rationalists. Rationalist is one who believes that reason is the most important faculty of knowledge. That is rationalist. So Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant these are the four great names in the realm of rational philosophy—rationalists. Then there was another group of philosophers led by Locke and Hume. They specialise only in sense knowledge and they believed that the sense knowledge is the most important. Even today we are passing in the West through a period of senses. If you go to the West and speak of reason or intuition they will most probably dismiss you. They will say: you talk of what you can know through the senses that is the speciality of the West today. You tell us what you can see by your eyes don’t talk of intuition, mystic knowledge, it’s all dreamy according to them; no such thing as God being seen in your visions, no voice as Socrates claimed that he used to hear the voices they won’t accept you, if you talk about this. You have to talk only of what you can know through the senses that was the speciality of Locke and Hume. Hume even said: how do you know that when you close the door of your house and go away from it, how you know the house is still continuing to exist. You can see only with your eyes, who can give you the proof that nobody is seeing the house and you are away from your house and the house still continues to exist, you have no proof that is Hume’s philosophy, entirely you see with your senses then only you believe, otherwise don’t believe. And today we have got a big school of thought in the West called ‘Logical Positivism’.
Positivism maintains that we should see only what is positive, that is what you can see. The word Positivism refers to experience by your senses. I can be positive about this microphone because it is just here, I can use it, I can speak to it, I can handle it—positive. And according to Logical Positivism only what you experience, only what you can verify in experience only that can be said to be logical, everything else is extra logical, super logical therefore abnominee. So now you have seen the whole history of thought all in one glance right from the beginning to the present day. The present day Logical Positivism is a very powerful dominant thought and India is today very much influenced by Logical Positivism and by many trends of thought which are all based upon sense knowledge. If you go to universities of India today more often than not you’ll find philosophers talking of Logical Positivism and of Locke and Hume. But summing up all this now we have Sri Aurobindo, who recognises all these movements, takes the whole sky in his hand as it were and ushers in a new age. The knowledge coming from Supermind, the origin of Auroville is Supermind. It is the knowledge given from the supermind that is at the root of the building up of this city that is why it is so easy for us to embrace the whole world thought in a short time, as I am doing very rapidly. That is because of the supermind at the back of our inspiration. So now you read the first paragraph again. I’ve given the entire history of thought very briefly in the first paragraph of this article. I read again. Now if you have any questions you ask me after reading it. 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 (the present) Logical Positivism. Right, clear, very easy now, correct, now you can go to the second paragraph. In this cyclical movement, the age to which Plato belongs was the period when intuitive knowledge was receding into the background and making way for the free play of reason and its allied instruments. The early age of Greece was the age of the Mysteries where there was the supreme reign of occult and intuitive knowledge. 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. Yet in his most important doctrines such as that of ‘Virtue is Knowledge’ he identifies knowledge with the knowledge belonging to spiritual or intuitive 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, 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. Clear, any question on this paragraph, very easy now to follow, yes? Then we go to the third paragraph.
Any questions on this second paragraph? Afterwards if you have any questions we come back again. Now we go forward. Plato inherits the mysticism of the past but moulds it in his rational receptacle.
It is like having in a vessel in which the milk is to be poured, the milk does not come out of the vessel, milk comes out from the higher sources but the receptacle is of metal, the intuitive knowledge of the past is not in the mould of a metal. He puts milk as it were in a metallic vessel that is Plato. You will find in the receptacle a lot of mystic knowledge but the vessel itself is metallic. It is no more intuitive, it is rational. So Plato inherits the mysticism of the past but moulds it in his rational receptacle.
He himself was deeply influenced by Socrates and in his highest heights he understands, touches, and communicates with the supreme and most mysterious spiritual reality. In fact Sri Aurobindo has said that Plato was in contact with the supermind. So you can see the highest level of his thought he brings the supramental rays of light in his philosophy but the mould is rational throughout. Just as I have said, the most captivating, most charming combination of mysticism and reason you find in Plato. Just as in the morning you have got a beautiful gold on the sky, similarly in the evening also you have the most beautiful gold on the sky. So when you see Plato you find there is gold only it's gold of the setting sun not of the rising sun. If you read the Veda you find the same kind of morning, same kind of dawn, and gold in the horizon but it is the gold of the rising sun. In the case of Plato you see the gold but of the setting sun. He was when the sunlight was about to go down and a new period was about to start—Pure Reason. But still as far as Plato himself is concerned you find both mysticism and rationality combined together that’s why he also is sometimes called ‘Prince charming of philosophy’, he is the most captivating, the most enchanting philosopher in the history of the world.
But it is through mind that he reaches the summit to capture that reality. Indeed, Plato is essentially the Mind or Thought reflecting and drawing upon the treasures of Intuition. In consequence, he stands out as a thinker presiding over the new dawn of Reason but having at his back the splendour and glory of the waning age of Intuition. You will verify these propositions when at a certain stage you will read Plato’s own book. You'll find where is the glory and splendour of intuition and also the tremendous capacity of reason to manifest that intuitive knowledge both are combined so well. That's why even today most of the philosophers in the world cannot escape the charm and spell of Plato. There’s a very beautiful sentence written by Whitehead. Whitehead belonged to our own age. He is a most recent thinker of the world, a very great thinker and he has written a sentence ‘The entire history of Western philosophy is nothing but footnotes to Plato’. I shall write down the whole sentence.
You know the meaning of the footnote. Nothing there. You take any book. Have you got any books with you? Let us see. There are enough footnotes here. Have you seen it? This is the main text here. You have seen this below: they are called footnotes. Notes at the foot. You have the main text and then here some notes are given. To explain some of these things.
So what Whitehead says is the whole history of Western philosophy is nothing but Plato, Plato, Plato everywhere but there are a few footnotes. So if you take Plato plus footnotes that is the whole of Western philosophy. It is a tremendous tribute to Plato and it is a true tribute. It's not something wrong, it’s not an exaggeration, it’s a fact. Plato is the one philosopher who is the most influential philosopher in the history of the world. There are only two greatest philosophers, one is Plato and the other is Aristotle. But between the two Plato is greater because Aristotle himself was a student of Plato. So the influence of Aristotle can be derived from Plato. It is sometimes said that you need to read Plato to admire him but you do not need to understand him, he writes so beautifully, so charmingly. In fact you already read the whole of Socrates when you read ’Apology’, it is written by Plato.
So, In consequence, he stands out as a thinker presiding over the new dawn of Reason but having at his back the splendour and glory of the waning age of Intuition.