Archive for the ‘Contemplation’ Category
IGHT THOUGHTS by Edward Young (1683—1765) might easily be the greatest English literary work of the last 300 years. A masterpiece judged by any standard, it rivals the works of Shakespeare and Milton and exceeds those of Young’s better-known contemporary, Pope. It is testimony to the infidelity of the modern age the neglect into which this great work has fallen.
Its topics? Ones of greatest moment and timeless concern: Life, Death, Eternity, heaven-sent Philosophy, and the true meaning of the Delphic maxim, Know Thyself.
Young published Night Thoughts in nine installments or Nights. The present new edition, with an introduction and notes for modern readers, supplies the first four Nights — originally conceived by Young as a complete work, and which supply the work’s main lines of thought. For a limited time an advance copy of the new edition is available for free here.
The topic, the motives, and the poetic skill of Young are magnificent. The work is inspired, and one of the great jewels of English literature, not to be missed.
There is confusion about the Platonic Triad of higher Forms. Let’s clear this up.
- Often the Triad is given as Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. Because these are all Forms, it might be more technically accurate to refer here to the Form (meaning eternal essence or Ideal) of Truth, the Form of Beauty, and so on. But for simplicity, we simply say here Truth and not the Form of Truth, Beauty, and not its Form, etc.
- Within this formulation, naming the first two Truth and Beauty is fine, but calling the third Goodness is incorrect.
- The problem is that these three occupy only the second-highest tier in the realm of Platonic Forms. Above all three (and this is of central importance) is the Form of the Good. The very point is that by contemplation any of these second-tier forms (or all together), our minds are drawn upwards to contemplate or intuit the Form of the Good, or God. To call the third Form of the Triad “Goodness” therefore confounds levels. It places Goodness, or the Form of the Good on the second tier along with Truth and Beauty, yet also above Truth and Beauty. This is not only ambiguous, but contradicts what Plato actually wrote.
- The third Form of the Triad would be more properly called Moral Goodness. That is, it refers to the Goodness of the moral realm. Here ‘moral’ means something much greater than its colloquial use associated with ethical actions and choices; rather it encompasses everything that concerns meaning, value, and virtue in our life.
- Yet the term Moral Goodness is arguably not a prefect choice here. It might be misunderstood as suggesting that what it denotes has a greater or more direct connection to Goodness than Truth and Beauty. But such is not true; for we could as easily call the other two Truth Goodness and Beauty Goodness.The issue then is simply a limitation in vocabulary; we seem to lack a single word that means Moral Goodness.
- Now in truth we have such a word: Justice. So a faithful expression of the Platonic Triad could be Truth, Beauty, and Justice. However the word ‘justice’ in English carries certain connotations because of its other uses. For example, people today may associate justice with courts, laws, and retributive justice — associations which obscure the meaning of Justice here. What is meant in the present case is a Justice that is is inseparable from peace, harmony, moderation and right measure. Perhaps we could call it ‘just rightness,’ as in the sense of that special satisfaction felt when we get something just rightness.
- Therefore, with the qualification that one understands this fuller and nobler meaning of Justice, we can give the Platonic Triad as (the Forms of ) Truth, Beauty, and Justice (or Measure, or Virtue, or Excellence).
- Plato describes three corresponding means of ascent to contemplation of the Form of the Good: i.e., via Truth (dialectical ascent in Book 7 of Republic), Beauty (Diotima’s Ladder of Love in the Symposium), and Moral Goodness (the Phaedrus Chariot Allegory).
- This Triad is not to be confused with the Neoplatonist “trinity” of the One, the Good, and Intellect or Mind (Nous). In the Neoplatonist model, as first described by Plotinus, the One is the ultimate level, from which proceed or emanate in a cascading sequence the Good, and then Intellect from the Good, then Soul from Intellect, then Body from Soul.
Update: Plato seems to come as close as anywhere in his writings to explicitly stating this triad in Philebus 61a–66b, especially 64d–65a: Beauty, Truth, and Measure (metriotes) or Proportion (symmetria). In view of this new information I would be less eager to call the third member of the triad Moral Goodness, as that seems to specific. Principles like Measure, Justice/Justness/’Just right’-ness, Excellence, Proportion and Moderation all seem to apply. There is perhaps no single English term that expresses the essence of all these, which is perhaps what Plato means here. The Egyptians elevated this cosmic principle to the status of a goddess, Ma’at (Measure), who also corresponds to the Greek goddess Themis.
Applying the Platonic Triad
Here’s how we put the Platonic Triad to practical use in our life. When, say, one is struck with the beauty of some beautiful thing, (or the virtue of some virtuous person or action, or truth of some truth), one lets ones mind rise to consider Beauty (or Moral Goodness, or Truth) itself: How all things deemed beautiful must share some common essence, Beauty; how this essence, Form, or Ideal of Beauty is something real; how it is changeless and eternal; how it is more perfectly beautiful than any actual object. For example, for any beautiful object, we see notice slight flaws or imperfections and can imagine how it could be still more beautiful. The perfect beauty towards which our mind inclines is the Form of Beauty, or Beauty.
And then consider how Beauty itself is merely one species of Goodness. Truth and Justice are also good. So there must be some essence, Form, or Ideal which all have in common. This is the Form of the Good.
Such considerations may enable the mind to rise, then, higher than Beauty itself, to glimpse with ones soul the Form of the Good.
Adepts in the art of contemplation may then dwell on this sight, or rise still higher, learning more of the Form of the Good. And, it is said, a person’s mind can ascend still higher, beyond the Good — to the One beyond all differentiation. That brings us to the subject of so-called apophatic mysticism. This highest form of contemplation is called dark knowing, because it is beyond all concepts.
But others of us who are not contemplative monks and deal with the practicalities of daily social life may, alternatively, draw from a glimpse of the Form of the Good the immediate intuition of what it implies for practical affairs. We may see a certain activity or task, for example, “in the light of” the Good; and this may help us to simplify problems, remove obstacles, pursue plans with much greater efficiency and effect, etc.
Thus while some forms of the vision of the Good (the famous visio beatifica) are immensely profound and exceedingly rare, others are within our reach on a daily basis and can be of great value in ordering our practical affairs and lives. This is the goal of a good Platonic or Christian (or other religious) life. A personality built on this principle is the real meaning of Plato’s Republic: a city of soul where all the citizens — our numerous subpersonalities, passions, and dispositions — are ruled by love of Wisdom and love of the Good. Then our personality is a harmonious, integrated whole, and not an unruly mob of conflicting subpersonalities, each ruled by its own narrow desires and schemes.
Patristic Commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer
The following is a list of Patristic commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer, with links to original-language versions and English translations.
The Lord’s Prayer is a pearl of great price, a treasure of Christianity, the value of which is often obscured by its very familiarity. Tertullian rightly called it “truly the summary of the whole Gospel.” (De oratione 1; Migne PL 1,1155). More than a simple prayer, the Our Father constitute a spiritual exercise, a form of meditation and contemplation, and a complete philosophy of life, all contained in a few lines.
It is vital that Christians learn to pray it reflectively, with understanding. For this we have numerous commentaries of Church Fathers to assist us.
Perhaps no better preface for the following can be found than the following remarks of St. John Cassian, taken from Conferences 9 (full citation supplied below).
 … and the soul kept free from all conversation and from roving thoughts that thus it may little by little begin to rise to the contemplation of God and to spiritual insight. …
 For the nature of the soul is not inaptly compared to a very fine feather or very light wing, which, if it has not been damaged or affected by being spoilt by any moisture falling on it from without, is borne aloft almost naturally to the heights of heaven by the lightness of its nature, and the aid of the slightest breath: but if it is weighted by any moisture falling upon it and penetrating into it, it will not only not be carried away by its natural lightness into any aerial flights but will actually be borne down to the depths of earth by the weight of the moisture it has received. So also our soul, if it is not weighted with faults that touch it, and the cares of this world, or damaged by the moisture of injurious lusts, will be raised as it were by the natural blessing of its own purity and borne aloft to the heights by the light breath of spiritual meditation; and leaving things low and earthly will be transported to those that are heavenly and invisible. …
 This prayer then though it seems to contain all the fullness of perfection, as being what was originated and appointed by the Lord’s own authority, yet lifts those to whom it belongs to that still higher condition of which we spoke above, and carries them on by a loftier stage to that ardent prayer which is known and tried by but very few, and which to speak more truly is ineffable; which transcends all human thoughts, and is distinguished, I will not say by any sound of the voice, but by no movement of the tongue, or utterance of words, but which the mind enlightened by the infusion of that heavenly light describes in no human and confined language, but pours forth richly as from copious fountain in an accumulation of thoughts, and ineffably utters to God, expressing in the shortest possible space of time such great things that the mind when it returns to its usual condition cannot easily utter or relate.
Compilation of the list was considerably facilitated by: Petiot, Henri (alias M. Daniel-Rops; editor); Hamman, Adalbert (translator). Le Pater expliqué par les Pères. (2nd ed.) Paris: Éditions Franciscaines, 1962.
Authors are listed chronologically, in order of year of birth.
Notation: Migne PL = J. P. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Latina; Migne PG = J. P. Migne (ed.), Patrologia Graeca.
Tertullian of Carthage (c. 160–c. 225)
On Prayer (De oratione) 1–10
- Latin: Migne PL 1, 1149–1166
- English: Thelwall, Sydney. (translator). In: Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (editors), Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. (ANF-03), Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887. (pp. 681–684). (Text)
Origen of Alexandria (c. 184–c. 253)
On Prayer (De Oratione) 18–30
- Greek, Latin: Migne PG 11, 474–550; Greek text
- English: O’Meara, John Joseph (editor, translator) Origen: On Prayer, Exhortation to Martyrdom. (Ancient Christian Writers, Vol. 19) Paulist Press, 1954. (pp. 65–129); also Curtis, William Alexander (translator). Origen: On Prayer 15. Date unknown.
St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 200–258)
On the Lord’s Prayer (De oratione dominica; Treatises 4)
- Latin: Migne PL 4, 519–544
- English: Wallis, Robert Ernest (translator). In: Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (editors), Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5 (ANF-05), Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886. (Cyprian: Treatises, 4, pp. 447–457). (Text)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313–386)
Catecheses mystagogicae 5.11–5.18
- Greek, Latin: Migne PG 33, 1117–1124
- English: On the Mysteries11–5.18; Gifford, Edwin Hamilton; Church, Richard William (translators). In: Philip Schaff, Henry Wace (editors); A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. 7 (NPNF2-07), New York, Christian Literature Co., 1894. (On the Sacred Liturgy and Communion, Lecture 23.11–23.18, pp. 155–156). Text
St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 395)
On the Lord’s Prayer (De oratione dominica; 5 Sermons)
- Greek and Latin: Migne PG 44, 1119–1194; Greek text
- English: Graef, Hilda C. (editor, translator). Gregory of Nyssa: The Lord’s Prayer, The Beatitudes. (Ancient Christian Writers, No. 18). New York: Paulist Press, 1954. (pp. 21–84).
St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 337–397)
On the Sacraments (De sacramentis) 5.4.18–5.4.30
- Latin: Migne PL 16, 450–454
- English: Deferrari, Roy J. (editor, translator). Ambrose: Theological and Dogmatic Works. (Fathers of the Church, Vol. 44). CUA Press, 1963. (pp. 314–318)
Evagrius Ponticus (345–399)
Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer (Expositio in orationem dominicam); Clavis patrum graecorum (CPG) no. 2461
- Coptic: de Lagarde, Paul. Catenae in Evangelia Aegyptiacae. Gottingen, 1886 (reprinted Osnabriick, 1971).
- English: Casiday, Augustine (editor, translator). Evagrius Ponticus. (The Early Church Fathers). Routledge, 2006. (pp. 150–152).
St. John Chrysostom (c. 347–407)
Homilies on Matthew (In Mattheum) 19
- Greek, Latin: In Mattheum 19.4–19.9; Migne PG 57, 278–286; Greek text
- English: Homilies on Matthew, 19.6–19.12; Prevost, George; Riddle, M.B. (translators). In: Philip Schaff (editor), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 10 (NPNF1-10), Christian Literature Co., 1888, pp. 134–140. (Text)
Explanation of the Lord’s Prayer (Oratio dominica ejusque explanatio)
- Greek, Latin: Oratio dominica ejusque explanatio; Migne PG 51, 44–48
- English: ?
Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350–428)
- Syriac: Tonneau, Raymond; Deveesse, Robert (editors). Les homélies catéchétiques de Théodore de Mopsueste (Studie e Testi, 145), Vatican City: 1949.
- English: ?
St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430)
On the Sermon on the Mount 2.4.15–2.11.39
- Latin: Migne PL 34, 1275–1278
- English: Findlay, William; Schaff, Philip (translators). In: Philip Schaff (editor), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6 (NPNF1-06), New York, Christian Literature Co., 1888, pp. 38–47. Text
Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament 6–9 (= Benedictine edition 56–59 )
- Latin: Migne PL 38, 377–402
- English: MacMullen, R. G. (translator). In: Philip Schaff (editor), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 6 (NPNF1-06), New York, Christian Literature Co., 1888, pp. 274–289. Text
St. John Cassian (c. 360–435)
Conferences 9.18–9.25 (On the Lord’s Prayer, De oratione Dominica)
- Latin: Migne PL 49, 788–802
- English: Gibson, Edgar C. S. (translator). In: Henry Wace, Philip Schaff (editors), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. 11 (NPNF2-11), New York, Christian Literature Co., 1894. (pp. 393–396). Text
St. Peter Chrysologus (c. 380–c. 450)
- Latin: Migne PL 52, 390–406
- English: Ganss, George E. (editor, translator). Saint Peter Chrysologus: Selected Sermons; and Saint Valerian: Homilies. (Fathers of the Church, Vol. 17). CUA Press, 1953. (Sermons 67, 70; pp. 115–123); Palardy, William B. (editor, translator). Peter Chrysologus: Selected Sermons, Volume 2 (Fathers of the Church) CUA Press, 2004. (Sermons 68, 69, 71, 72; pp. 274–296).
St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580–662)
A Brief Explanation of the Prayer Our Father to a Certain Friend of Christ (Orationis Dominicae expositio)
- Greek, Latin: Migne PG 90, 871–910; see also Greek text (pp. 323–352)
- English: Palmer, G.E.H.; Sherrard, Philip; Ware, Kallistos (editors, translators). The Philokalia, Volume 2, Macmillan, 1982. (pp. 285–305); Berthold, George Charles (editor, translator). Selected Writings of Maximus Confessor. New York: Paulist, 1985. (pp. 99–126).
Ayo, Nicholas. The Lord’s Prayer: A Survey Theological and Literary. Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 (Orig. 1992, Notre Dame University)
Hammerling, Roy. The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church: The Pearl of Great Price. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Here is a thought experiment, one with the potential to be a contemplative or devotional exercise.
We know that in Platonism, God can be thought of as the Form of the Good – that is, as the ultimate Form, Ideal, Essence, or Archetype of which all good things partake, and also the Form which is hierarchically higher than the other high-level Forms of Beauty, Truth, Virtue and Excellence. (This does not suppose that God is *only* the Form of the Good. God may be more, something beyond all categories, even beyond Being itself –an unknowable ‘One’, as in Neoplatonism, but this is a different issue.)
Recall also that for Plato (as in Diotima’s speech of Symposium 210a–212c), one may, by an ascending contemplation of Forms, arrive at a vision of the highest Form, the Form of the Good (beatific vision).
This suggests: (1) our concept of ‘Jesus Christ’ is also associated with a Form of an extremely high order; and (2) we may achieve a vision of this Form by a similar kind of ascending contemplation, from lower and higher Forms. (We place ‘Jesus Christ’ in quotes because, among other things, Jesus Christ may *be* this Form, and it would be redundant to speak of a Form of Itself.)
In keeping with the provisional nature of this exercise, I will here only suggest some of the Forms that may be relevant to consider. That is, our concept of ‘Jesus Christ’ is associated, for example, with all of the following Forms; that is, the epitome of all these:
- Savior, Deliverer
- Mediator, Advocate
- Christ, Anointed, Messiah
- Prince of Peace
- Son of God
- Son of Man
- Bread of Life
- High Priest
- Agriculturist, Vine-tender
- Pantacrator (Almighty Ruler)
- Gate, Way, Truth
- Author of Light
- Light of Day
- Our Hope
- Morning Star
- Source of Living Waters
- Word of God
- Power of God
- Wisdom of God
- Elder Brother
- Emmanuel (‘God is with us’)
- Conqueror, Victor
- King of Righteousness
- King of Glory
- Most High
Contemplating the meaning of each of these individually, one may potentially discover related groupings and higher-order Forms. And higher than all these individual and higher-order Forms, would be a highest Form. So potentially, by following Plato’s method one could glimpse this highest order Form of ‘Jesus Christ’.
Jesus Christ as the Principle of Self-Actualization
One initial observation might be that several of the attributes or titles above (Physician, Agriculturist, Savior, etc.) constellate around a higher-order Form or principle that involves guiding, developing, nurturing, and bringing to fruition the human soul and all of Creation. In this sense, Jesus Christ would be, among other things, the Archetype of self-actualization — the essential principle by which all things progress and achieve their intended end or telos. Thus, just as an acorn is brought by Nature to its telos of being an oak tree, so too the human soul achieves its telos through the wisdom, guidance, and power of Jesus Christ. Human self-actualization in this sense does not mean something a person does personally; the self does not actualize itself, as in the theories of certain humanistic psychologists, but, rather, the self is actualized through by agency of Jesus Christ.
Forms here may also help us to understand the relationship of Jesus Christ to the individual soul, that is, how Christ can be both something within the soul, part of it and part of ourselves, and yet different and distinct from ourselves. Jesus would be the universal Form/Archetype of self-actualization, and our souls would individually instantiate the Archetype (according to whatever the mechanism is by which Forms instantiate — say as an emanation, image, reflection, etc.) By such a view, salvation would in part consist of our ego conforming itself to the self-actualizing or Christ principle, which is perhaps already within the soul (i.e., part of the Image of God which each soul contains). In its salvation, the ego, instead of devoting itself to seeking transient pleasures or following its own schemes, would itself become an anti-type (i.e., an ‘image’, loosely speaking) of Jesus Christ in his role as the self-actualizing principle.
Note that this is positing three levels: (1) Jesus Christ as the Archetype of self-actualization; (2) a self-actualization principle within the soul, which is an image of the Archetype; and (3) the ego being gradually re-organized around the self-actualizing principle, itself then also becoming an image of the Archetype. The ego, that is, both is the recipient of self-actualization, and, eventually, also becomes itself an agent of it.
We might also observe that, of the traditional Platonic triad of Truth (Intellectual Goodness), Beauty (Aesthetic Goodness) and Justice (Moral Goodness), Truth and Justice are well represented amongst those roles traditionally associated with Jesus Christ. Beauty is less well represented. We have become accustomed to seeing Jesus Christ as Judge and Logos; yet are less prone to think of Him as Artist, Conductor, or Gardener. Perhaps this suggests an important direction of growth for modern Christianity.
MOST anyone who’s taken a course in the history of Western philosophy has run across the famous ontological argument proof for God’s existence associated with St. Anselm of Canterbury. Actually several versions of the ontological argument have appeared over the centuries, the simplest one being:
- By definition, God is a with every perfection.
- Existence is a perfection.
- Hence God exists.
One of the most interesting things about these arguments is that they have attracted so much attention despite the fact that they are basically unconvincing.
Please don’t mistake my intentions. Of course I believe in God; I only mean that these arguments, analyzed at the logical level, aren’t very good, and everyone knows that. The strange thing is that, despite this, the ontological argument has been ceremoniously taught to philosophy students for at least a millenium. It’s as if to say, “We don’t really have a good logical proof for God’s existence, but rather than abandon the project let’s practice with a second-rate one.”
Curiously, all this overlooks the fact that we do potentially have at our disposal a much better philosophical proof of God’s existence. To call it a proof in the sense of a logical proof might be technically incorrect — it’s really more of a demonstration. [Note 1] Nevertheless, regardless of how we classify it, its evidential value for supporting a belief in God is, I believe, substantially stronger than that of the ontological argument. This experiential argument comes from Plato’s dialogues, most notably, the central books of the Republic and Diotima’s speeches in the Symposium. It is illustrated as follows:
- Consider some beautiful thing — say an incredibly beautiful sunset, the kind that totally absorbs you in a profound sense of beauty, awe, and wonder..
- Now, instead of pausing in that experience alone — which is our usual tendency — elevate your thoughts still higher and consider that this is not the only beautiful thing. There are many other experiences equally or more beautiful as this one.
- Then consider that there must be something in common amongst all these experiences — in exactly the same way that there is something in common for all triangles, all horses, or all trees. That is, each of these things has some defining principle or principles, some essence.
- Consider further that a defining essence has, at least in theory, some existence outside of its instantiation in actual examples. Hence we may conceive of the abstract “Form” of a triangle, which would exist even if somehow we were able to remove all physical triangles from the world. If so, we may also suppose that there is some Form of Beauty, which is the principle that all beautiful things have in common; and that this may potentially exist independently of all beautiful things.
- Moreover, Beauty is not the only good. There are also such noble things as Truth, Virtue, Excellence, and Justice — which we also unhesitatingly consider good, which delight or assure us, and which can bring us very deep levels of satisfaction.
- And, just as with Beauty, we may suppose that there is some essence or Form for each of these other things: a Form of Truth, a Form of Virtue, of Excellence, of Justice, and so on.
- And finally, we may contemplate the possibility of some principle or essence which all these different Forms of good things have in common. This, too, would be a Form — the Form of Goodness.
- God is defined as that being than which nothing can be more Good. Therefore God is the Form of Goodness.
For me, this comes very close to being a fully logically persuasive argument for God’s existence. But — perhaps more importantly — it can also be approached as a contemplative or spiritual exercise. That is, as Plato himself presents this line of thought, one is not so much trying to logically convince oneself, as to elicit, by performing this exercise, an elevation of the mind to an awakening or remembrance (anamnesis) of an innate, intuitive understanding of God. We might call this an experiential proof, or an anagogical proof.
It is, of course, up to each one individually to investigate this method and to determine how well it works; but I will add another thing. Not only does this demonstration supply evidence of God’s existence, it may also promote the development of a sincere gratitude for and love of God. As one contemplates the nature of Goodness, that is, as one begins to become more conscious of the principle that, if there are good things, there must be a Form of Goodness, one also becomes amazed at the very idea that there is such a thing as Goodness. And also that we, as human beings, seem particularly attuned to crave, seek, and experience Goodness. It is quite remarkable that we have this word and this concept, ‘good’, such that we may apply it a huge variety of things and experiences.
The counter-argument of the reductionist will not do here: he or she might say, “What we consider good merely derives from sensory, practical, and survival considerations; it’s all explained by Darwinism: we desire and prefer certain things because they are advantageous.” But that does not explain, among other things, why some of the things we consider most good – say a heroic sacrifice of some noble person – is not materially advantageous.
If, then, we accept that there is something deep and fundamental in our nature such that we seek goodness (which is to say, in effect, that we are moral beings) and also that there is some Author and Source of Goodness, and, further, that it is our destiny as immortal souls to enjoy an eternity of ever greater Beauty and Goodness, then naturally our gratitude to this Supreme Being is spontaneously aroused.
Therefore Plato’s ‘proof’ of God’s existence as the Form of the Good is not only logically appealing, but effective at the level of emotion and devotion as well.
Finally, there are definite connections between Plato’s wish to prove the existence of God, and the many proofs he supplies throughout the dialogues for the immortality of the human soul. A new article (with some of the leading ideas raised here developed more clearly) considers that topic.[Note 2]
1. The word ‘proof’ means to try or verify something. Not all proofs are logical. Ones proves a gold coin by biting it. Making evident to ones senses, whether physical or intellectual, that something is real is a valid form of proof. The point of this article is to suggest that in theology one should not automatically equate proof with deductive syllogisms.
2. Since originally making this post I’ve discovered a few related references. Most relevant is: Daniel A. Dombrowski, A Platonic Philosophy of Religion: A Process Perspective, SUNY Press, 2005. Chapter 5 (‘Arguments for the Existence of God’) suggests that a precursor to St. Anselm’s ontological argument can be found in Books 6 and 7 of Plato’s Republic. There are some similarities between Dombrowski’s discussion and the present one, such as an emphasis on the Form of the Good, but also major differences. The main difference is that whereas Dombrowski uses the Form of the Good and the principle of directly intuited knowledge (noesis) to construct a deductive logical proof for God’s existence, I believe Plato employs these principles to present an experiential proof.
The Israelites at Elim – Exodus 15:26-27 (KJV)
 And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.
 And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters.
Philo, Life of Moses (De Vita Moses) 1.187-1.190.
XXXIV. (187) And so having appeased their thirst with double pleasure, since the blessing of enjoyment when it comes beyond one’s hopes delights one still more, and having also replenished their ewers, they departed as from a feast, as if they had been entertained at a luxurious banquet, and as if they were intoxicated not with the drunkenness which proceeds from wine, but with a sober joy which they had imbibed purely, while pledging and being pledged by the piety of the ruler who was leading them; (188) and so they arrive at a second halting place, well supplied with water, and well shaded with trees, called Aileem, irrigated with twelve fountains, near which were young and vigorous trunks of palm trees to the number of seventy, a visible indication and token of good to the whole nation, to all who were gifted with a clear-sighted intellect. (189) For the nation itself was divided into twelve tribes, each of which, if pious and religious, would be looked upon in the light of a fountain, since piety is continually pouring forth everlasting and unceasing springs of virtuous actions. And the elders and chiefs of the whole nation were seventy in number, being therefore very naturally likened to palm trees which are the most excellent of all trees, being both most beautiful to behold, and bearing the most exquisite fruit, which has also its vitality and power of existence, not buried in the roots like other trees, but situated high up like the heart of a man, and lodged in the centre of its highest branches, by which it is attended and guarded like a queen as it really is, they being spread all round it. (190) And the intellect too of those persons who have tasted of holiness has a similar nature; for it has learned to look upwards and to soar on high, and is continually keeping its eye fixed on sublime objects, and investigating divine things, and ridiculing, and scorning all earthly beauty, thinking the last only toys, and divine things the only real and proper objects worthy of its attention.
Source: Yonge, Charles Duke. The Works of Philo. Complete and Unabridged, New Updated Edition. David M. Scholer, editor. Hendrickson Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0943575931. (pp. 476-77)
 CONTEMPLATION TO GAIN LOVE
Note. First, it is well to remark two things: the first is that love ought to be shown more in deeds than in words.
 The second, love consists of an interchange between the two parties; that is to say in the lover’s giving and communicating to the beloved what he or she has or out of what one has or can have; and so also the beloved to the lover. Thus if the one has knowledge, one gives to the other who lacks it. The same of honors, of riches; and so the one to the other.
 Preparatory Prayer. To pray to God: Lord, grant me the grace that all my intentions, actions, and operations may be ordered purely to the service and praise of Thy Divine Majesty.
 First Prelude. The first Prelude is a composition, which is here to see how I am standing before God our Lord, and the Angels and the Saints who are interceding for me.
 Second Prelude. The second, to ask for what I want. Here that will be to ask for interior knowledge of such great good received, so that, being moved to profound gratitude, I may be able in all to love and serve His Divine Majesty.
 First Point. The First Point is to bring to memory the benefits received, of Creation, Redemption, and particular gifts, pondering with much feeling how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He has; and then the same Lord desires to give me Himself as much as He can, according to His Divine design.
And with this to reflect, within myself, considering with much reason and justice what I ought on my part to offer and give to His Divine Majesty, namely all things I possess and myself with them, saying as one who makes an offering with much feeling:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will — all that I have and possess. Thou gavest it to me: to Thee, Lord, I return it! All is Thine, dispose of it according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and grace, for that is enough for me.
 Second Point. The second, to look how God dwells in creatures, in the elements, giving them being, in the plants vegetating, in the animals feeling in them, in men giving them to understand: and so in me, giving me being, animating me, giving me sensation and making me to understand; likewise making a temple of me, being created in the image and likeness of His Divine Majesty; reflecting as much on myself in the way which is said in the first Point, or in another which I feel to be better. The same will be done for each of the following Points.
 Third Point. The third, to consider how God works and labors for me in all things created on the face of the earth — that is, behaves like one who labors — as in the heavens, elements, plants, fruits, cattle, etc., giving them being, preserving them, giving them vegetation and sensation, etc.
Then to reflect on myself.
 Fourth Point. The fourth, to look how all the good things and gifts descend from above, as my limited power from the supreme and infinite power from above; and so justice, goodness, piety, mercy, etc.; as from the sun descend the rays, from the fountain the waters, etc.
Then to finish reflecting on myself, as has been said.
I will end with a Colloquy and an Our Father.
 Colloquy. The Colloquy is made, properly speaking, as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant to his master; now asking some grace, now blaming oneself for some misdeed, now communicating one’s affairs, and asking advice in them.
from the Spiritual Exercies of St. Ignatius Loyola. Fr. Elder Mullan SJ, translator and editor. New York: 1914. [Note: I may have changed a word here and there, based on the original Spanish version.]
A newer and more beautiful translation of the Spiritual Exercises may be found here: