Archive for the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ Category
Divinus Plato: Is Plato a Religious Figure?
SHOULD we view Plato only as a philosopher, or may we also approach him as a religious figure: a prophet, sage, priest, or shaman, who is in some sense divinely inspired, and whom a superintending Providence supplied for the benefit of humanity? Historically, the view of Plato as a religious figure has been common, but in recent centuries it has been dismissed by a prevailing narrow rationalism in academic and scholarly circles. Perhaps it is time to re-open the question. We review arguments supporting the proposition that Plato is a figure with religious significance. The aim is not to settle the question here, but to pave the way for continued discussion. (Abstract)
Read full paper here: http://goo.gl/iWP8Mm (if clicking link doesn’t work, try right-click, Save link as)
A Meditation on Psalms 1:1–2
 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
 But his delight is in the law of the LORD;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night. (Psalms 1:1–2)
HE Bible is a key to salvation. Psalms is a key to the Bible. Psalm 1, a proem, is a key to Psalms; and its key verses 1 and 2. Careful study and meditation on these verses therefore profits us greatly.
 Blessed is the man
In the Septuagint, the Greek word translated as Blessed is makarios, which means either blessed or happy; both are understood to apply here.
Also, consider that when one feels especially blessed, with this is much joy. We may therefore read here, “this man is blessed, happy, joyful, and lacks nothing.” Such, then, is our goal.
After the goal is stated, we are warned of three principal obstacles. These are three categories of mental error — which, as we will see, correspond to Plato’s three divisions of the human soul. (Republic 4.434d–4.445e, 9.588b–9.591e; Phaedrus 246a-e; 253c–256c)
that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Counsel of the ungodly aptly describes the principal sin to which the rational or logical division of our mind (Plato’s logistikon) is vulnerable. This, our faculty of discursive reasoning, is prone to entertain innumerable schemes, plans, anxieties, and similar vain thoughts. Some such thoughts involve positive projects we imagine; some concern needless fears and anxieties; some, of guilt and remorse. All such ruminations are almost always baseless and imaginary. Attention to ones thoughts will reveal the seriousness of this problem: one can seldom go a minute, or even a few seconds, without ungodly counsel.
The word walketh is appropriate here, because once one accepts the initial impulse to follow such thoughts, they lead the mind — for minutes or even hours — on a journey; yet they lead nowhere, or certainly nowhere good.
nor standeth in the way of sinners,
The way of sinners refers to mental errors of the concupiscent nature, or what Plato called epithymia (or the epithymetikon). These are temptations to inordinate or untimely sensory pleasures, such as over- or improper indulgence in food, drink, sex, etc.
It is called standing, because such temptations characteristically assault us when we are, so to speak, mentally stationary — that is, not actively applying our minds in ways connected with our spiritual development, helping others, or attending to productive tasks. “An idle mind,” it is said, “is the devil’s workshop.”
nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
No less problematic (and, for religious people, often more so) are mental errors of our irascible and honor-seeking nature — what Plato called thumos (or our thymoeides). A principal form of such temptations is ones tendency to judge, condemn, or criticize others. Hence this is like a seat upon which one sits and presumes to pass judgment.
Again, by observing the thoughts one may easily see this strong, chronic tendency to find fault with people and things, and, in short, to think negatively.
 But his delight is in the law of the LORD;
We are next told that the blessed man is one who delights in the law of the LORD.
Here the law of the Lord must not be mistakenly understood as meaning written rules, commandments, prohibitions, and so on. To orient ones life to codified rules is legalism. Legalism does not bring happiness.
Law (in Hebrew, Torah) here is properly understood as the promptings of the Holy Spirit which gently guide us to do God’s will.
A parallel may be drawn here with the Chinese concept of Dao, which may be understood as the Universal Law that governs all things benignly and providentially. To follow this Law is to live in accord with Nature — a principle that has only positive connotations, and is never considered onerous or ‘against ones grain.’
We are to gently follow God’s will instead of willfully pursuing our own schemes and plans. For this to become a habit is the journey of a lifetime and a main task of salvation.
Ones reconciliation to God’s will is the message of the entire Bible. In the Old Testament, it is expressed by Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac. In the New Testament, the entire life of Jesus, including his crucifixion and resurrection, epitomize the principle.
This condition is also called the Reign (or Reigning)  and Kingdom of God in ones heart and soul. Indeed, this reconciliation of wills is the main ethical concern of all religion.
The Greek word translated as delight is hedone, which may also mean pleasure (hence our English word, hedonism). In this state, God’s Law may be experienced as a delightful pleasure.
To achieve this state of reconciliation to God’s will is not only to feel blessedness and delight, but it also joins two basic elements of ones nature: the pleasure-seeking and the duty-seeking. The two become one in purpose.
A practice to recommend is to repeat these verses silently, as wit a mantra. And, so, these guides always near, one may ask in succession of each thought that occurs: Is this ungodly counsel? The way of sinners? The scoffer’s seat?
The bad thoughts being rejected, those remaining are more likely to accord with God’s will.
We end here, for it is better to discover for oneself the deeper meanings of Scripture. A basic interpretative approach has been outlined here; that, with what has been said elsewhere (Uebersax, 2012, 2014) is enough.
We may only mention one further promise of Psalm 1: the blessed man will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water (Psalm 1:3a). This can be understood as a restoration of the Tree of Life in Genesis 2:9.
The Tree of Life also appears Revelation 22:1–2, in the very last chapter of the Bible. The whole saga of Scripture, then, concerns a journey from self-will and the fall into sin — whence the Tree of Life is lost — to its restoration, which is a restoration of our soul as a godly Garden of virtue and delight.
Thus we do not err when we say that within these few verses the Bible’s entire message of salvation is epitomized. Wisdom is near for those who seek it, and for this we should be grateful.
Uebersax, John S. Psychological Allegorical Interpretation of the Bible. Paso Robles, CA, 2012.
Uebersax, John S. ‘Principles of Psychological Exegesis of the Bible‘.
Christian Platonism website. <catholicgnosis.wordpress.com>. September, 2014.
Uebersax, John S. ‘Noetic, Sapiential, and Spiritual Exegesis.’ Christian Platonism website. <catholicgnosis.wordpress.com>. November, 2013.
John Uebersax, 25 March 2015
 Uebersax, John S. ‘Thy Kingdom or Thy Kingship Come – What Does Basileia in the Lord’s Prayer Mean?‘ <catholicgnosis.wordpress.com>. July, 2014.
 The Tree of Life is watered by four rivers (Genesis 2:10–14).
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.
 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: