Christian Platonism

Rediscovering Ancient Wisdom

Platonism is not Complicated

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PlatoBust.gifPlatonism as an ethical system is not complicated.  It is so simple a child can understand it.  In fact, the more complicated an explanation of Platonism is, the less likely it’s true.

Platonism means this: the happiness and joy that comes from ‘being good.’ What does that mean? Just ask a child what ‘being good’ means – there is your answer.

It isn’t complicated. It’s a return to how we are naturally, to what makes us happy, to the pure and innocent state of mind we had before ambition, fear, or sex became issues for us. When we had no anxiety for the future, and each moment was an opportunity to live and to learn.

Truly the Kingdom of Heaven is such as only little children can enter. Platonism is about the return to that state. The driving force of Plato’s philosophy is, in fact, what he calls ‘the Good’. He teaches that we must reconnect our mind to the Good.

Some misunderstand this to mean a lifelong ascetical quest in search of the ultimate mystical experience, the Beatific Vision. But that denies the fact that children in their innocent simplicity have this vision of soul instinctively and continuously. “In heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10; KJV)

Platonism is a form of yoga – to learn to live in this world with our minds yoked to the Good (or to God if you prefer, choose whichever term you like).

Our ‘opinions’ play a  major role in producing the distorted lens through which we habitually perceive the world.   In Plato’s dialogues, Socrates, the principal figure, continually expresses concern about what he calls “false opinion” (pseudodoxia).   The sophists with whom he contends symbolize the parts of our own minds that produce false opinions and insist on their reality.

Socrates’ two most familiar sayings are “Know thyself” (which of course is not his uniquely; before him it was inscribed on the temple at Delphi) and “If I am wiser than others, it is because I recognize my ignorance.”  Both are prime strategies for overcoming false opinion.  By knowing ourselves we gradually learn that what we really want is not material things, but those things associated with the Good (knowledge, virtue, truth, beauty, etc.)

Recognizing our own ignorance is also important. This is the basis of ‘Socratic skepticism.’  We have to admit that most of our opinions are that: merely opinions.

Once we remove the chains of opinion that bind us as prisoners in Plato’s cave, our mind is free to receive a truer form of knowledge (noesis), which is more immediate and intuitive.  Conscience, in the original and true sense of the term (as opposed to say, the Freudian concept of a super-ego), is a form of noesis.


Written by John Uebersax

November 17, 2013 at 12:43 am

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