Christian Platonism

Rediscovering Ancient Wisdom

About Christian Platonism

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ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοός ὑμῶν (Rom 12.2)

WHAT is Christian Platonism? And what is its relevance today?  We seek to answer these questions here.

The effort is ongoing, but let’s begin with this much: Christian Platonism is a way of or approach to life, a personal quest for wisdom, holiness, and, ultimately, union with God. Our principal aim is to understand the experience of Christian Platonism — that is Christian Platonist spirituality. This is distinct from the subjects of how Platonic philosophical ideas have influenced Christian technical theology, or how Plato’s theories may supply a basis for objective morality.

We can gain some initial appreciation of what this means by examining the many notable Christians who were Platonists and by reflecting on what they have in common. The page linked to in the line above contains a historical listing Christian Platonists, along with some timelines and an extensive bibliography.

So there is no misunderstanding, I am a fully orthodox Roman Catholic and nothing I write should be understood as other than affirming sound, traditional Church teachings, Patristic writings and the Bible.  With that principle kept firmly in mind, I do feel free to on occasion selectively refer to other religious and philosophical traditions. As Pope Paul VI wrote in Nostra Aetate (1965), “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in [other] religions.”

As a psychologist I’m especially concerned with understanding the cognitive psychology of Platonist ethics and epistemology.  The traditional stages of Christian spiritual life are (1) purification, (2) illumination and (3) union.  Platonism, it seems to me, is especially concerned with the first and second.  Achieving the third stage is where Christianity comes in. However what distinguishes Christian Platonism from other forms of Christian spirituality is Plato’s emphasis on awakening certain higher cognitive powers of the mind.

My online article are in three places (I apologize for the inconvenience, but there’s a method to the madness):

This blog is exclusively concerned with Christian Platonism.

My other blog, Satyagraha, is dedicated to social issues.  However it includes many articles on Platonic psychology, as well as on American Transcendentalism.  Especially relevant to Christian Platonism are those articles taking the position that Plato’s Republic is a work on psychology, not political science (it uses the device of a fictional city-state to reveal the inner workings of the psyche).  Relevant articles there include:

The Republic: Plato’s Allegory for the Human Soul
Psychopolis: Plato’s Inner Republic and Personality Theory

My personal website includes many articles on Platonic psychology, on the psychological-allegorical interpretation of his myths, and on the interpretations of other Greek myths.  One of these I would recommend in particular is:

Plato’s Chariot Allegory: Text and Commentary

For more general information about me, please visit my homepage. My email address is: jsuebersax, followed by the ‘at’ sign, followed by gmail.com.

John S. Uebersax

Written by John Uebersax

April 19, 2006 at 12:14 pm

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