Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thoughts from Plato's Republic

I've finally finished reading Plato's Republic! Praise the Lord. It only took me 2+ months. Don't worry--I'm not going to get into the philosophical arguments (which I don't pretend to even begin to understand fully) but I do want to write a little bit about how I find God in secular literature. Parallels abound! And Plato doesn't even know it.

(For anyone who happens to read this and has studied the Republic extensively, or at all: my deepest apologies for what follows. I am not a philosopher. I simply read and try to understand to the best of my ability and to make connections to spiritual truths.)

In Book VII (he uses "books" instead of chapters), Plato talks about true philosophy, which in his view, put very simply, is when one turns toward the true light and looks at what is truly good, instead of merely looking at shadows.

In the knowable realm, the form of the good is the last thing to be seen, and it is reached only with difficulty. Once one has seen it, however, one must conclude that it is the cause of all that is correct and beautiful in anything, that it produces both light and its source in the visible realm, and that in the intelligible realm it controls and provides truth and understanding, so that anyone who is to act sensibly in private or in public must see it.

Now I know Plato is not meaning to talk about God, but a light came on in my head when I read that. He's so right! Little does he know how right he is! I immediately translated it to say this:

In the knowable realm, the form/Person of the Good is the last thing to be seen, and He is reached only with difficulty [i.e. surrender and humility]. Once one has seen it, however, one must conclude that He is the cause of all that is correct and beautiful in anything, that He produces both light [by which we see the world correctly] and IS it's Source in the visible realm, and that in the intelligible [spiritual/supernatural] realm He controls and provides truth and understanding, so that anyone who is to act sensibly in private or in public must see it [He and His Truth cannot be denied]. --my paraphrase

Do you see the spiritual parallels?!? Amazing. God's truth is always true. Even in ancient philosophy, written years before the birth of Jesus, around 380 B.C.!

Another example?

...shows that the power to learn is present in everyone's soul and that the instrument with which each learns is like an eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body. This instrument cannot turn around from that which is coming into being without turning the whole soul until it is able to study that which is and the brightest thing that is, namely, the one we call the good.

My spiritual connection: God is the brightest light that Is; He is the only Good. And we must turn our whole souls to Him in repentance in order to truly see the Light. Do you see it? Do you see the truth embedded here?

Plato makes the argument that the ones who have seen the light and become true philosophers must return to those still living in shadow: But when they've made [the ascent] and looked sufficiently, we musn't allow them to do what they're allowed to do today. . . . To stay there and refuse to go down again to the prisoners in the cave and share their labors and honors, whether they are of less worth or of greater. . . . The law produces such people in the city, not in order to allow them to turn in whatever direction they want, but to make use of them to bind the city together.

My spiritual connection: God's perfect law of grace and freedom does not produce saved souls in order to allow us to "turn in whatever direction we want" but we are to return to those still in darkness, bringing the light and truth that we have seen.

Two more examples.

This seems to me to be a lovely description of those who are saved:
. . . people who are awake rather than dreaming.
And a description of the salvation process:
. . . turning a soul from a day that is a kind of night to the true day.

Chew on those for awhile.
I love discovering parallels and "buried" truth, hidden treasure.
This kind of reading gets me excited!
Who knew Plato's Republic could be so spiritually challenging!?!

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