Plato: Limited Mind of an Infinite Soul

Enchanted we are by the colorful swirls of mind, just as we are enchanted with the evening sunset; except in the case of mind, we fear what happens when night falls and the colors begin to fade. And that is how our monsters are born and continue to live in mind, inside our days.

The Limited Labyrinth of Mind

Plato’s dialogues are a labyrinth of the possibilities of mind, but mind is a limited energetic system. It can only comprehend so much and in so many ways. That means that the patterns it uses can be mapped, understood, detected – and manipulated by sources both outside and inside. The simplicity of the mind is concealed by its sheer imagination and its ability to reflect the truth as a mirror reflects the true face. Plato’s works are an attempt to give us that mirror, so that we can see our illusion more clearly, more wondrously, more precisely – for the purpose of letting it all go. Plato’s dialogues are of such depth and beauty that the philosopher, Alfred Whitehead, once said:

“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”


There is literally nothing that you can think that does not have its paradigm in Plato’s dialogues.  And there is nothing stopping you from mastering the nuances of your own mind, enough to free yourself from its powerful spell, a spell that makes you think the problem is “out there” or “in here”; the spell that thinks you “can’t survive” or “deal” with something. The spell that says you are “unworthy” or “not smart enough”. The universe is infinite and so are you. Your soul is an unstoppable, ever present force. But your mind? It is always limited and it will keep you limited if you live inside of it, at the expense of everything else. Unfortunately, most of modern mankind lives in the mind and lives in the limitation of mind. And it’s only fear? Is “trespassing” over its own self-imposed limitations. Yes, we are a strange bunch. We self-harm by means of the mind and it is the mind that we are afraid to violate by ceasing our self-harm.

That is because you trust the mind. And the tricky thing about your mind, is that it can convince you it has all the bases covered – that you have “everything handled”. The mind, after all, imagines it can talk about the “whole” or “unity” or “love” or “self” simply because it has a definition of it. But the mind also has definitions of “half” or “separation” or “fear”, simply because it has to. The mind cannot really see anything as whole because it always has “half” to accompany it. It cannot understand any black without white or any loud without soft. And when we live in the mind, we will have to ride those waves of up and down, in and out, without any rest. When we find love, we will find also fear. When we find dark, we will find light. We will feel unstable. And we will be unstable. That is why, Socrates says:

How strange it seems to be, men, this thing men call pleasure: how amazingly it grows into seeming to be its opposite, pain; yet, for the human being, both never occur together at the same time; if someone should pursue and seize one, they will always be required to take the other as well, as if both, though two, are bound to a single source. And it seems to me, he said, that if Aesop recognized this phenomenon, he would have put together a story like this: The god, in being unable to make the two enemies friendly with each other, attached both of their heads to the same head, and because of this whenever one would emerge, the other one follow later. At any rate, that is how it seems to be to me: For there appeared to be pain in my leg from the shackles, and now pleasure has arrived in its turn.

Plato, Phaedo, 59c

The See-Saw of Mind

All of our suffering in life is caused by our attachment to mind in some fashion or form. We are constantly taken on a thrilling ride by its see-saw, of one extreme to the other. And inside this polarity of opposites, we formulate our opinions and judgments of acceptance and avoidance. One minute we like someone, the next minute we don’t. We become confused, unstable, and unable to be constant in our relationships to others or ourselves. It all might feel chaotic and often times depressing or exhilarating, but it is not chaotic. The mind is at work here and the mind always follows rules and the rule in particular, is the rule of polarity. It is the rule of polarity that makes us afraid to reach out and commit, for we know that we will suffer the opposite feelings soon enough. We are ecstatic one day but soon we fall into disappointment. This is what causes most people to give up on their dreams, their hopes, the true destiny.

Identity as Prison

Plato refers to the mind as prison of noetic (noos, mind) or mental laws.  To learn about these laws you can refer to the Seven Hermetic Principles. For the purpose of this article, the best way to begin to understand what Plato means when he talks about mental prisons is to watch young children playing. They can pretend they are doctors, but they can do this in full awareness that they are just playing. They are enjoying the imagination that their mind fashions for them without attachment. When they stop the playtime, they go back to being empty of those playful/false identities. Meanwhile, as we age, we begin to formulate identities that stick. These identities are formulated in the mind. We start to “know who we are” and in this certainty we find a bit of strength and independence. We are told, after all, that “knowledge is power” and so we figure “self-knowledge” is absolute power. We begin to say “this is not me” and “that is me”.  However, that independence and strength is an illusion created inside yet another polarity, me vs. them or self vs others. We are not really knowing who we are. That self that is outside of “others” is an illusory self. It becomes a prison of our own making. We are only knowing what our mind says we are, and we are surrendering to it. Before we know it, we are approaching aged fifty, and we have become a paradigm of habit, hardened opinions, and unresolved dreams and anxieties. And if something happens in the world that forces us to release ourselves from habits, we feel as if we were a drug addict separated from his or her drug.

The mind is a mechanism for spell-casting and illusions. It can shape and mold our mental patterns, and so our emotions, and our entire lives. It is at its most powerful when we, as human beings or as friends or as countries or as clubs or religions, agree with each other. When we agree, the spell is nearly impenetrable except by those who have great mental power and conditioning to withstand the “herd”. The bird who strays from the flock will have to take on the challenge of cultivating his or her own will, to reach deep within to find their own true direction. Every one of us has that innate ability, that birthright to self expression and absolute freedom and bliss. The only reason we doubt that we have access to bliss is because we are trapped and addicted to the life that mind has cultivated for us.

Mind as Addiction

In the modern world, we are completely ruled by the mind. But this hegemony of mind in the modern world is simply an imbalance, a kind of indulgence similar to our indulgence in pleasures such as entertainment or food and drink. The mind, like food and drink and entertainment, is not a bad thing by itself. The mind is a tool for sorting, estimating, organizing, knowing. We cannot function without the mind and its ability to categorize and understand. But Plato, in the mouth of Socrates and throughout many of his dialogues, describes knowledge as being a like a boat that works for a while. But he cautions that we should always be on the lookout for a better boat. In other words, the search for knowledge should continue. We should not stay in one boat or identity forever. This is why philosophy means “the love of wisdom”. We are not the possessors of wisdom, but always the seeker; forever the seeker. The lover of science or the lover of art should always make sure to keep seeking the true, the good, and the beautiful. To stop doing this is to fall into the illusion of mind, back into the prison, back into the polarities.

And the modern world loves its illusions and feels “alive” in its illusions. We love excitement and business and stimulation. We have a very low tolerance for neutrality, peace, quiet, slowness. We instead prefer to be addicted to a world that loves to make impressions and loves to make itself popular, known, heard, and wanted. We find power in the busi-ness of mind. We need to find a way to market ourselves or make what we have popular in order to achieve money, fame, relevance. We live inside the mind, not only in our waking moments, but in our dream-time and in times when it would be best to not be in our mind, but to be perhaps in our hearts or our bellies.  We are very fearful of leaving our minds and we are very possessive over what we think we “have” in them. It doesn’t matter whether the mind is working in the subconscious or the conscious. It doesn’t matter if you experience feelings or ideas. It is all from the same place, the fluctuation of the mind. In the Yoga Sutras, it is said that:

Union or wholeness (yoga) is restraining the fluctuations natural to the mind.

Yoga Sutras, 1.1. Patanjali,

And it doesn’t help you that people around us are also in their minds and think that what their minds contain IS them. When we reach out to each other, we are mostly doing it in terms of the way the mind can understand and assess. Is this person “good for me”? Does this person have “what I want”? What should I say? In a digital world, this becomes even more apparent, as we are no longer interacting energetically with each other or through the heart-space. We are simply reading or hearing words/speech most of the time and as we are doing that, we are just processing, assessing, judging, ignoring, taking note. We become disheartened, or obsessive, we desire and we fear, we feel pain or pleasure. Rarely are we able to just be, to just enjoy another’s company or our own without experiencing the drama, the see-saw of polarity that the mind is addicted to and finds comfort in, the chasing and making things happen, the running and the fear of things happening at all. We do all this, and never really find powerful intimate connection. We just bump into each other, and fall away from each other and move on along, as if nothing significant happened. We don’t see the birds or hear the rain or hear each other. We are just pushed along with the tides, occasionally glancing at scattered memories and vague impressions.

Neutral in the Heart Space

So many people feel alive in these dramas of mind. A sense of peace and neutrality would actually scare them. This is a sad affliction because inside that neutrality is where we find the holy grail: unconditional love and acceptance. It is where we are closer to our hearts and our divine nature and the divine itself.

Some who read this might think that they are different, especially those who think of themselves as being spiritually awakened. But much of what is considered to be spiritual is just more of the mind. The mind is the seat of the imagination, of any kind of comprehension whatsoever, the “knowing” of the divine or the human things. The psychic or the seer “knows” things.  Now, there is nothing wrong or false about this kind of seeing, but the distinction must be made. Are we knowing what mind is telling us, or are we knowing what the heart is telling us? How many know the difference? Some seers will say that “they just know or they have a feeling”.  Actually, all of us speak this way. But feelings are undifferentiated and undistinguished mind-games. How do you know that you are not just expressing an impression of mind?

One way of knowing whether or not you are sourcing from mind or heart is to determine whether or not you are in a state of neutrality. When you are neutral, you see or hear or know things despite your opinions, tastes, desires, fears, and expectations. When you see from the heart, you see it with complete openness and acceptance. You cannot tell a lie. You don’t say things in order to please your make yourself look powerful. Even the feeling of being powerful, is a sign that you are in a delusion.  Ask yourself, if your powers of insight were gone tomorrow, would you feel bad about yourself? Would you be neutral? If the answer is “neutral”, you are seeing from the heart.

However, even when we see from the heart – and we always have those moments – it is easy to quickly slip back into the mind as soon as you start assessing and judging. That subtle slip back into mind is like a cloud that suddenly conceals the light of the sunny day. Socrates, the philosopher in Plato’s dialogue, represents this Zen state of consciousness. He doesn’t ever react to those who speak with them. He doesn’t become enraged or disheartened. He actually usually doesn’t want to be talking to anyone at all. The Republic, for example, begins with Socrates just wanting to go home. He is not interested in selling his philosophy or his powers of intuition. He is very, as Nietzsche said, “boring”. Socrates is the one balancing in the middle of the see-saw, always attempting to lead both sides to balance, no matter what they hurl at him. He is always neutral, almost in a state of bliss, that is beyond the comprehension of most people. Phaedo remarks about him, at his deathbed:


Truly I experienced wondrous things while I was there. For although I was present for the death of a man dear to me, pity never occurred to me: the man appeared quite happy to me, Execrates, both in his manner and his words; and he came to his end so fearlessly and nobly that he seemed to me to be going to Hades by divine fate, and when he would get there,  he would do quite well if indeed anyone ever could.

Plato, Phaedo, 58e.

The Way out of the Prison

The way out of the prison that is mind, is to allow what is in mind to come to an end. To put a ceasefire on the addictions, the desire to be loved, the desire to be seen, the attachment to one’s own powers, the need for excitement, drama, and feelings of empowerment. Zen Buddhists might talk about the thoughts of being like clouds in the sky. You can watch them, but you must learn how to let them pass. You must learn how to let the false-self pass. Do not attach yourself to it. Each time a cloud passes, you might look at it, and even engage in it, but you must also, if you want to remain free and happy, let them go. This “letting go” might even feel like a death if the attachment is strong. In Plato’s Phaedo, this death is called teleusis, an ending, perfection, completion. In our modern world, we would call it “ego-death”. But I don’t like the concept of ego-death, because there is no death or end of the ego. The ego itself is simply a mental construct, a way to understand ourselves inside a particular branch of knowledge called psychology. To understand yourself as an ego, is not going to help you to let go of ego, because you are still in the mind, fighting the so-called ego – which doesn’t even exist.  The only way out of the prison of the mind is to learn how it works, just like the only way out of a labyrinth is to pay attention, do not succumb to fear and desire, learn how it works, to remember the patterns and the wrong turns.  You can see these patterns if you spend time in occupations of the mind: logic, philosophy, computer programming, the sciences, music, the arts, rhetoric, story telling, dream analysis. All structure, all plot, all story relies on patterns, logic, simile, metaphor, and/or demonstration in order to be convincing. Practice catching the mind in the act. The more you do that, the more you start to feel and experience the self that is you. For you are the consciousness that is watching mind and its tricks and is actually separate from it. You are the one who can change,add, subtract from the presentation of mind. You are the conductor, the maker of your own world, the sound of your music.

So to become Zen or neutral does not mean you shouldn’t experience polarity or excitement or disappointment. It just means that you attempt to avoid becoming attached to the polarities. You can use the presence of a polarity or an extreme to alert you that you should come back into balance. Coming back into balance means being able to be the child at heart. To be still in bliss even as the world is falling apart; to see the sun when the rain clouds arrive; to love unconditionally when all seems to shun you. You realize that you are powerful with the tool that is your mind, instead of being a victim of it, and so you are able to create with more depth, power, and wisdom than you could have ever dreamed and with a peace and control of presence that is as powerful as the shining sun. For your soul is who you actually are; the unlimited infinite soul that is not the mind but uses the mind; you, the pure light of consciousness who love unconditional, and holds a presence that is as free and sure as the space that is all the universe.

When the attributes cease mutative association with awareness, they resolve into dormancy in Nature, and the indweller shines forth as pure consciousness. This is absolute freedom.

Yoga Sutras, Patanjali, 4.34

Phaedo: On Suffering

I will tell you, he said. Because those who love to learn know that philosophy , upon taking hold of their soul- their soul, which has hitherto been completely bound up all around by and stuck to the physical body, and so forced, as if it were in a prison, to perceive the beings, not by itself through itself, but through that prison in which it is spun round with every kind of ignorance; that philosophy, upon recognizing the terrible nature of that prison as being caused by desire – inasmuch as he who is imprisoned is ever an accomplice in his own imprisonment – the very things I have been just now saying – that those who love to learn know that philosophy, by gently taking hold of their soul, attempts to coax and persuade them to set their soul free, showing them that perception through the eyes is rife with deception, and of deception is also the perception through the ears and the other senses, and so it persuades the soul to begin to withdraw from the senses, except to the extent that it is necessary to use them, and instead to recover the soul back to itself and call it to retrieve its pieces back together, and to trust in nothing other than herself by herself, so that she might be able to intellect by herself through herself each of the beings as they are according to themselves: and that should it perceive something outside of itself in things outside of itself through means outside of it, it should regard that something as untrue, and that it is what is perceived through the senses and seen, while which is true is invisible and is that which she herself sees through intellect. And the soul of one who is truly a philosopher, in believing that one must do nothing to avoid this process of freedom, keeps away as much as she can from pleasures and desires and pains and fears, reckoning that, whenever someone experiences extreme pleasure or fear or pain or desire, they have not suffered as a great an evil as some have been wont to believe, like getting sick or wasting away due to desire, but that the greatest and extreme of all evils, is that they are not able to understand what they are suffering.

Phaedo, 82e -Translation by Anastasia Harris

Phaedo: Consciousness of the Soul, Consciousness of Now, Consciousness of You

Were you yourself, Phaedo, present with Socrates on the day where he drank the potion in the prison, or did you hear about it from another?

αὐτός, ὦ Φαίδων, παρεγένου Σωκράτει ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ᾗ τὸ φάρμακον ἔπιεν ἐν τῷ δεσμωτηρίῳ, ἢ ἄλλου του ἤκουσας;

Phaedo, 57a

Introduction

The Phaedo is a conversation about the soul. But not only that. It is also a conversation about the nature of the body. In Ancient Greek, soul (psyche) means spirit and life force, but it also means breath. In that sense it is both the physical and spiritual animator of the body. For Plato, the soul is the self, the true nature of the human being. The soul is also infinite. It is not defined by its physical connections or appearances. That is to say, it is not defined or limited by the body. Yes, your soul, yes YOU, is everywhere at all times. The essence of all mystery schools is this teaching, that we are all capable of experiencing eternity through our soul in this life and the life to come. The source of all mystery schools, both ancient and modern, is written in the peculiar Emerald Tablets of Thoth:

Yea, to the highest worlds may ye pass.
See your own possible heights of unfoldment,
know all earthly futures of Soul.

Bound are ye in your body,
but by the power ye may be free.
This is the Secret whereby bondage
shall be replaced by freedom for thee.

Emerald Tablets of Thoth, XV, Secret of Secrets



So let’s start seeking out this “Secret” by taking a look at the Phaedo.

My late professor at Boston University, Dr. Motzkin, always used to say that if you can deeply comprehend the first introductory part of any Platonic dialogue, you will comprehend the whole. That is the way the dialogue works. I will constantly remind the reader that Plato follows the Seven Hermetic Principles both in terms of the content of the dialogue and the dialogue itself. The principle I am reminded of here is the Principle of Correspondence, which states that all beings contain the entire universe, and that the entire universe contains all beings. Each part of the dialogue contains the essence of the whole.  If you deeply understand a part of nature, you will easily grasp the whole.  Why is this? Because the nature of the soul is the nature of the universe. It is not formed or limited by physical appearances. That is the illusion that all students must learn to overcome.

“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”

Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)

And Rumi,

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.

Rumi

Ego (Body)

Now, in Phaedo, the self or the soul shows up in different ways, and that is because our relationship to self, in this life, is mostly illusion.  We think that the soul is in a place, in a body, with a name, and in a certain time or not in a certain time. The soul is in a jail or the soul drank something on a certain day and died. Don’t you believe that that is what you are right now as you read this article? The reason for this is simple. When the soul incarnates inside a body it is surrounded by its influences and preoccupations, rather than its own. It looks outside of itself for confirmation. And low and behold, other souls are looking outside for confirmation as well. That is what is called collective appearances, which are always at face value. However, for Plato, the soul is by nature autonomous. It doesn’t need outside confirmation. It resists the illusion.

Yet when the soul becomes absorbed in the preoccupations of the body, it loses that autonomy.

Isn’t this what we were saying before, that the soul, whenever it makes use of the body to contemplate something either through vision or through hearing or through any other sense – for this is the way of the body, to contemplate a thing through sense perception – at that very moment the soul is dragged by the body into those things that are never the same, and so the soul herself wanders and is agitated, and becomes dizzy as if drunk in as much as she is overcome by these things?

Phaedo, Translation by Anastasia Harris

You can say that when someone does this, they are giving away their power. This is why many people seek out a shaman to “retrieve their souls”. Their soul becomes fragmented and lost as they give their power away piecemeal to illusions.  The ego does this gladly because it feels like it is actually gaining and seeking power by becoming absorbed in more things, people, circumstances. The Greek word for ego in Plato is simply “body”. The ego’s or body’s primary and only intention is to survive, to win, to gain the advantage, to get more, feel more. Why? It knows it will die and wants to avoid it. It is no wonder that the Greek word for body is sōmata, which is near cognate to the word sōs, meaning safe. The ego wants to protect itself. It is always in defensive or offensive mode. Meanwhile, soul is always just being. It doesn’t need to save itself, because, again, it is deathless and limitless. This is why Jesus says in John 8:23 that “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.”

I want to make it clear that Plato’s notion of “body” qua ego does not intend to lead us to the conclusion that we should not take care of it. The physical body, in the way Plato views it, is that it is like a wild horse that must be tamed. The soul, through its powers of consciousness with mind, is the only one fit to do this. If the soul is left undeveloped, it will be consumed by the body in away that leads to bad health, obsessive compulsiveness, anxiety, depression, and various others diseases and ailments.


Self: First Word of the Dialogue

It is no wonder that a dialogue about the soul begins with the Greek word autós. Autós, is from where derive our English “autonomous”, “automatic”, “automobile”. All of those words suggest independence, without outside force or influence. An autonomous country is one that runs under its own laws without outside control.   An automatic response is something you don’t have to think about. It just happens by itself with or without your consent. The last and most interesting one is automobile. An automobile doesn’t drive itself, does it?  Well, it does if you consider that previous to the automobile, you needed horses in order to move your carriage!  The automobile gives both the horses and us freedom.

Now autós in Ancient Greek is generally emphatic. Greek verbs contain the subject of the verb. For example, ἤκουσας, means “you heard”.  You don’t need a separate word for “you”. However, if that pronoun is present, it is only there for emphasis. In English we would use italics to express this.  ‘He is the singer’ vs. ‘He is the singer’. It is a difference of tone. autós can also mean same, when paired syntactically with a specific noun. It also can mean “itself”, like the dog itself or the table itself.  The emphatic nature of autós however does not overwrite the fact that autós means self-same. It represents a being that has an independent form. In Plato, it is the soul and the self as it is without the body or as master of the body. The implication is that the soul is infinite and self-same. It is not divisible and it is not limited by the limitations of the body.

A Quest/Question: First Sentence of the Dialogue

While the first word of the dialogue is autós, the first sentence of the dialogue is a question. This is also no surprise as questioning and answering are the primary motions of the Socratic dialogue. Contrast the questioning/answering nature of the dialogue, the constant back and forth and movement, to lecturing or declaring. Dialogic conversations are transformative. If you make a statement in your head about something, you question it, or remain open about its possible falsity. Eventually, as you find more information, that statement will transform into something else. Declarations or argumentation is the opposite. It is either one person making a statement about something and other people arguing. Argumentation is a like ping pong match that lasts for infinity. When we do this in our bodies, we create strife and lack of resolution, we store it in our bodies and our children’s bodies. This is called Epigenetics Inheritance. In dialogue, the winner is chosen after healthy interchange, and both go out for drinks after. They will even come back for a second round, to see if they can improve. They don’t hold on to things. The “battle” between them is dissolved. This is called detachment. However, when you are in a state of argumentation, you are not engaging the true nature of your soul. You are attached to your opinions like a miser attached to his gold. What you are doing is simply entertaining the ego or as Plato would say, the body. And remember, the ego is always the false soul. It is an impostor, as it is always making us think that we “are it”, instead of the soul.  It is always making you think that you are your body, its wants, needs, etc.

And most of what you talk about to yourself comes from ego. Ask yourself if your self-talk, the talk that generally goes on in your head about yourself, others, and the world at large, is in the form of questions or declarations and judgments? Do you question yourself when you make statements about something or someone? Or do you assume that what you are saying is true? Most of what goes on in our head is not dialogue, but something else. And it is that something else that causes us to become even more distant from our soul. For Plato, the essence of the soul is dialogic. The soul works with the logos in a way so that it can learn and grow. It will look at statements and assumptions and questions them until it can find the truth. And even then, it will continue to question, until it reaches that truth it is seeking. The soul by itself is not attached to the results. It only cares about truth. That is the nature of yoga. That is the nature of Platonic philosophy.

So that is the reason why Plato starts this dialogue with a question that starts with autós.

The War with Others

Now it is time to have a quick look at allos, other. The idea of the allos/autós polarity shows up all over this dialogue. I am not writing this commentary in order to cover every place it occurs. That would take years. I will however write a different piece on its polarity. So I am just going to stick with how it shows up in this first question of the Phaedo. Here is the question again for reference:

Were you yourself, Phaedo, present with Socrates on the day where he drank the potion in the prison, or did you hear about it from another?

Did you hear it from someone else (allos), or were you present there yourself (autós)? allos is essentially the opposite of autós. It means “other”. Pretty straightforward. Whatever is considered to be outside of the self is put into the camp of “other”. It implies that there is something outside the self at all, as if it were not an illusion. I will get back to this point in a minute. First, let’s just look at the question being asked.

It would seem that it is very easy for Phaedo to answer this question. He replies “autós”. Don’t you answer things in this way? If you were listening to a speech given by a politician, and at a later date someone asked you if you were present or if you heard about from someone else, wouldn’t you reply “autos”? Okay, you don’t speak Greek. So, you would probably “Yes, I was present myself”.  Obvious isn’t it? But is it so obvious what “being present” means?

Now, in the dialogue, we don’t know what Execrates would have said, had Phaedo replied that he heard about Socrates’ death from someone else. Would he have turned around and walked away, taking his friends with him? One thing we do know is that Execrates is content with himself hearing from someone else (allos). After all, what choice would he have? The death of Socrates occurred in a time that has already passed and Phaedo was actually present at the time of his death. But alas, the soul can be present to the past, because it can be present everywhere, and you have intuitive awareness that it can. That is the real reason why you trust the account of a person who was present at a past event versus a person who was not. They were present in the “now”. The only thing we get wrong, is that we assume that the person with the body was paying attention and was consciously present in his soul, rather than his body. The reason? The body only perceives through senses. The soul perceives in another way all together and most of us, except some very advanced yogis and psychics, are able to travel beyond the confines of time and space in a conscious way. The rest of us do it, but we are generally not aware of it. The practice of philosophy and yoga both aim to achieve this kind of consciousness, because it is simply pure soul consciousness, the ultimate truth of who you are.

We are, as long as we are in our body, limited in our experiences, not only in time and place and our understanding of time and space, but also in the scope and clarity of our consciousness. When it comes to the five senses, we can only perceive the things that are in proximity to our self (autós) as ego. And they are always experienced as being “outside” self. We think that world is outside of us, that people are outside, that everything we see, hear,feel, and touch is outside. Doesn’t matter if it is “mine” or not “mine. It is all there outside of me. And that is where all our suffering truly comes from.

Furthermore, our perceptions are very very limited and restricted to what is in front of us or immediately around us. And even then, we (autós), are not able to perceive everything around us. Do you perceive everyone’s fingernails? Can you hear their hearts beat? Can you see everyone’s eye color? In essence, whatever is outside the self (autós) is perceived as other (allos) and it is never a complete picture. It gets even more confusing when you start to remember that each other (allos) is also a self (autós), just like you. But we often avoid that kind of confusion by convincing ourselves that others are just others and don’t relate to our self at all, or only do so by accident or coincidence or by attribute (likes, dislikes, other similarities). How do we convince ourselves that they are separate from our self? They are not always with us and most of them eventually leave our side. Their bodies are separate from ours. Physical perception completely informs us. Later in the dialogue Socrates points out that all wars are caused by the body (ego) but because through the body we perceive ourselves as completely separate and so different from the “others”. “Others”, in fact, only appear so because of the body. The physical senses create “others”. The implication is that if we did not possess a body, we would see ourselves through the perception of the soul, which he calls phronesis or consciousness, as a single self, a single soul.

For what causes wars and factions and fights is nothing other than the body and its desires. It is due to the possession of things that all wars come into being, and we are forced to possess things due to the body, being slaves to its service.

Phaedo, 66c, translation by Anastasia Harris

And this bring us to another interesting point. Phaedo and Execrates are actually supposed to be enemies. Phaedo is an Athenian. Execrates is of a small polis that allied itself with Sparta against Athens in the Peloponnesian War. To make matters worse, it is due to this devastating loss by the hands of Sparta, that the Athenian dream of democracy fell into a corrupt and bloody tyranny. That tyranny, the Tyranny of the Twelve, is what brought Socrates the verdict of death by poison.  So here we have Execrates asking to hear the story of Socrates from an “other”, a “foreigner”, not because Socrates was Spartan or because Socrates was Athenian, but simply because Socrates was himself (autós).  Philosophy, the interest in reaching awareness of self is universal. It is through the soul that we find our humanity and our connection, not with others, but with others as soul. It is through dialogue, not judgement that we find peace.

After Phaedo agrees to tell Execrates what happened at Socrates’ death, he first gives Execrates a short summary of his emotional impressions. Phaedo remarks the following:

Truly I experienced thaumasia (wonder) while I was there. For although I was present for the death of a man dear to me, pity never occurred to me: the man appeared quite happy to me, Execrates, both in his manner and his words; and he came to his end so fearlessly and nobly, that he seemed to me to be going to Hades by divine fate, and when he would get there, he would do quite well if indeed anyone ever could. Because of this, in no way did pity sweep over me, as is usually the case in an experience like this, but neither did I take any of the usual pleasure in philosophy- for the speeches were of a philosophical nature –but instead there was an uncanny affliction that came over me, a strange mixture that contained equal portion of pain and pleasure, knowing full well in my heart that he was destined to end his life (teleusis). And so, all of us present were also constituted in the same way, at one time laughing, and another time crying, each one of us and most especially Apollodorus, for you know the man and his ways.

Phaedo, 58e, Translation by Anastasia Harris

Phaedo describes his emotional state and impressions during that day. The marvel and wonder that he felt was the state of bliss Socrates displayed, despite everyone else being on a see-saw of both despair and joy. It is very important to remember Socrates state of consciousness, for it is the state that all practitioners of the mysteries schools wish to achieve: not just fearlessness before death, but the absolute awareness that the end of the body is not the end of the soul at all. Socrates repeats this often in the beginning of the dialogue to explain why he is not upset about the verdict of his death. However, none of those present are quite convinced in the eternity of the soul. They do not yet have that kind of level of consciousness.

Now Execrates doesn’t really appear to be interested in Phaedo’s physical impressions. Execrates specifically asks for the logoi. “What were the logoi?, he asks. What he wishes to hear are the logoi that weave together into the dialogue, the dialogue that is the natural conversation of the soul, where all wars, all “others” dissolve into one beautiful and most just conversation, a conversation and a gathering where we experience ourselves, each other, as one. In this case, the conversations are a conversation about the nature of the soul as eternal and everlasting, a place that we would all like to be aware of, for in that state of eternity there are no fears and no desires, only bliss, only peace. And that is why the last line of the dialogue complements the first word of the dialogue. Socrates is the manifestation of the purified soul on earth, in the form of the philosopher, around whom all souls gathered to dialogue in order to seek within themselves truth, justice (balance), and, above all Being herself.

We all “relate” to Socrates in our soul. Because we are THAT. सो ऽहम्  ( “I am That”)

The final line of the dialogue refers to his “end” as teleutē. That word doesn’t mean death as much as initiation (as into the mysteries), as much as reaching perfection, as much as reaching the highest state of consciousness (nirvana). Unfortunately, there is no word in English that captures the idea of initiation/end/perfection/death all in one.



ἥδε ἡ τελευτή, ὦ Ἐχέκρατες, τοῦ ἑταίρου ἡμῖν ἐγένετο, ἀνδρός, ὡς ἡμεῖς φαῖμεν ἄν, τῶν τότε ὧν ἐπειράθημεν ἀρίστου καὶ ἄλλως φρονιμωτάτου καὶ δικαιοτάτου.

So here the end has come, Execrates, of a friend, of a man, whom we would say, of all those we had made proof of at the time, to be the most noble, and beyond all others, the most conscious and the most balanced.

Phaedo, 118a.

And so between the first question to the last answer of the dialogue, we have a journey that takes us from question to answer. The question is always: are you listening for yourself or through others? Are their others at all? Are you present in body or present in soul? Are you present to both? The answer will not come until the final perfection of higher consciousness on earth, until you reach that state of perfection where all dissolves in the one and one dissolves into all, beyond body, beyond what mind can comprehend, namely, what you truly are, always were and always will be. Perfection is now in the now, for eternity. Our only job is to become conscious of it – now.