Socrates (c. 469 BC – 399 BC) is classified these days as a classical Greek Athenian philosopher, credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy. He is known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes.
But if we delve down into the philosophy of Socrates we find a mystic not a philosopher. In the Dialogues of Plato in particular Socrates shows this mystical rather than philosophical side, discussing reincarnation and the mystery religions.
And it is no surprise that he did so, because he was another Adept to emerge from the Mysteries. He said "those who are acquainted with the Mysteries insure to themselves very pleasing hopes against death".
Let us look at his beliefs and methods.
Many of the beliefs traditionally attributed to Socrates have been characterized as "paradoxical". They are said to be paradoxical because Socrates stated that there is no absolute of good or evil, what is 'good' and 'evil' were defined by men and could change according to the societies that created them. He said that, in general there is no inherent desire to 'do evil' in men, only once rules are defined do a persons actions and ideas get classified this way. Incidentally he was not criticising the need for some kind of rules, only the belief that these rules were immutable or worse 'god given'. Rules needed to be debated properly and philosophically and questioned as to their validity. He was also a great advocate of understanding cause and effect in rule making. [An idea we have used on the site].
Socrates refers to his Higher spirit as his 'daemon', an inner voice that he 'heard' when he was about to make a mistake and one which provided him with inspiration and wisdom. In the Phaedrus, we are told Socrates considered this to be a form of "divine madness", the sort of insanity that is a gift from the gods and gives us poetry, mysticism, love, and even philosophy itself. Socrates said its origin was divine, mysterious, and independent of his own thoughts.
Socrates believed in reincarnation.
The daemon or Higher spirit, before it becomes the soul and is incarnated in the body, is in the realm of 'Ideas' – meaning systems, functions – the Creator and Created. There, it saw things the way they truly are, - the truth.
Once incarnated we are in the shadow world and see only pale shadows or copies on earth.
By a process of 'questioning' [of which more in a moment], the soul can be brought to remember the ideas in their 'pure form', thus bringing wisdom. To put this another way, via spiritual experience one gains wisdom.
Socrates was on the spiritual path, his progress being achieved via the Mystery religions. Socrates claimed to have been deeply influenced by Diotima, a priestess from Mantinea. In the Meno, he refers to the Eleusinian Mysteries and mentions the initiations.
In the Symposium, Socrates credits his speech on the philosophic path to Diotima, who is “not sure if Socrates is capable of reaching the highest mysteries”.
The path he followed was that of love and it is Diotoma who is his teacher – she “taught him all he knows about eros, or love” where eros here is symbolically the Higher spirit – so love of the Higher spirit. The one thing Socrates consistently claimed to have knowledge of was "the art of love", which he connected with the concept of "the love of wisdom". In effect through love either of another [Sex magick] or the Higher spirit [love with visualisation] one attains spiritual experience and wisdom.
In the culmination of the spiritual path as discussed in Plato's Symposium, one comes to “the Sea of Beauty or to the sight of the beautiful itself" (211C)
Socrates frequently says his ideas are not his own, but his teachers' [note that his teachers included spirit helpers] and adopts a role of humility [genuine humility] with respect to the wisdom he gains.
"I know that I know nothing noble and good".
As part of this overall approach, he also emphasised the need to mind one's own business – another idea I have used. Socrates often stated he could not look into other's matters or tell people how to live their lives when he did not yet understand how to live his own.
One of the best known sayings of Socrates is
"I only know that I know nothing".
Socrates constantly emphasised the degree of human ignorance that often expresses itself as 'knowledge'.
Clever men but not wise men.
The Socratic method, or elenchus is entirely based on the principle that beliefs must be constantly challenged and questioned. Nietzsche borrowed the approach from Socrates. One takes a belief and questions that belief, continuously challenging the assumptions on which it has been made, why it is a belief, exploring all avenues that could lead to it being disproved. You look for examples in real life that undermine the assumptions – so observations in other words. I have added this technique to the website under the heading of Questioning beliefs [suppressing memory] because it is indeed a hugely powerful method of freeing the mind from rubbish and thus opening it to spiritual experience – principally inspiration and wisdom.
But, in one of the oddest ironies, the scientific method is now based on a misapplication of this approach – the scientific method says you form a hypothesis and then try to disprove it. But Socrates never intended it to work this way. Scientifically it is better to collect observations and look for patterns, not form hypotheses first. If you first hypothesise you are liable to collect only observations that match the hypothesis. Socrates intended his method to be used on old established beliefs that were getting in the way of understanding and wisdom achieved spiritually.
In the Socratic method; a series of questions are posed to help a person or group to determine their underlying beliefs. It is described as a “negative method” in that the objective is to eliminate all beliefs that lead to contradictions. Socrates even defined it as a method for 'direct perception of the Form of the Good'. [the Spirit world]. Philosopher Karl Popper describes the dialectic as
"the art of intellectual intuition, of visualising the divine originals, the Forms or Ideas, of unveiling the Great Mystery behind the common man's everyday world of appearances."
French philosopher Pierre Hadot recognised that the dialogues were a type of spiritual exercise.
"in Plato's view, every dialectical exercise, precisely because it is an exercise of pure thought ...... turns the soul away from the sensible world, and allows it to convert itself towards the Good."
Socrates' used this policy of constantly questioning at all levels of his life. He questioned himself, his friends and the population as a whole. His purpose – which was actually to try to pave the way for more wisdom and insight – was poorly understood. He was characterised as the "gadfly" of the state (as the gadfly stings the horse into action, so Socrates stung various Athenians), insofar as he clearly irritated some people with what appeared to be constant criticism.
Socrates defended his role as a gadfly until the end: at his trial, when he was asked to propose his own punishment, he suggested a wage paid by the government and free dinners for the rest of his life instead, to finance the time he spent as Athens' benefactor. He was, nevertheless, found guilty of both “corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of impiety - not believing in the gods of the state", and subsequently sentenced to death by drinking a mixture containing poison hemlock.
No fear of death
Socrates by the time of his trial had achieved a state where he had no fear of death. So clear was his vision of what awaited him that - according to Xenophon's story, “Socrates purposefully gave a defiant defense to the jury because he believed he would be better off dead". If you turn to the section on Annihilation, you will see that those who have attained this ultimate state are often killed by others, and they know that they will be. I think Socrates had spiritually achieved this stage as he "believed the right time had come for him to die." Thus like Jesus and a handful of others, they accepted their death as part of the overall plan – the Great Work.
Jacques-Louis David - Death of Socrates
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.
- Socrates - Apology of Socrates - Divine voices
- Socrates - Axiochus 366 - The soul and Higher spirit
- Socrates - Death and its Mystery - On death
- Socrates - Epictitus The Enchiridion - Humility
- Socrates - Epictitus The Enchiridion - Learning from experience
- Socrates - Epictitus The Enchiridion - Seeking spirit help
- Socrates - Misc. Quote - Prosperity and Adversity
- Socrates - Misc. Quote - Turn the other cheek
- Socrates - Paul Brunton - Meditation and trance states
- Socrates - Plato Alcibiades - Know yourself
- Socrates - Plato Alcibiades - What is love?
- Socrates - Plato Cratylus - The daemon
- Socrates - Plato Crito - Hears music and voices
- Socrates - Plato Euthydemus - Vault among swords, and turn upon a wheel
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Abyss and energy recycling
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Death of Socrates
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Nails
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Reality
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Reincarnation
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Reincarnation and Materialists
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Swans
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - Systems of the Universe
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - The cage
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - The crystals of the after-life
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - The Dying Philosopher
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - The Egg
- Socrates - Plato Phaedo - The Immortal soul
- Socrates - Plato Phaedrus - On divine madness
- Socrates - Plato Symposium - Heat of the mystic
- Socrates - Plato Symposium - Out of body and trance states
- Socrates - Thomas Traherne - They are most happy and nearest the gods, that need nothing
- Socrates - Xenophon Apology - His divine sign interposes