Category Archives: Philosophy

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Print PDF  This quote, usually attributed to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, is a helpful reminder of our real nature.  It seems that the normal assumption of religious and “self-help” systems alike is that we are small, alienated beings looking for … Continue reading

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The Throwaway Comment 2

Print PDF  Some time ago I did a post on throwaway lines–short quotes in the middle of a work that carried a significance that far outweighed their number of words.  There are of course many more that could be added, … Continue reading

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Warrior or Governor?

Print PDF  Fighting a war and governing a state require two different skill sets.  Most people who had the opportunity to do both realized that they were good at one and not the other, and chose to opt out of … Continue reading

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Fracking Homer

Print PDF  In Book 8 of Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, has washed up on the shore of Scheria, a magical island, home to a race of mariners whose self-guided ships sail … Continue reading

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The Throwaway Comment

Print PDF  One of the marks of being in the presence of genius is coming upon what looks to be a throwaway comment, but which carries a greater significance than I could come up with on my best day.  As … Continue reading

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The Difference

Print PDF  It’s the difference between talking and speaking, thoughts and ideas, hearing and listening.

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Spring and Light

Print PDF  Ah Spring!  Time to bring out the gardening tools, time to bring out the new wardrobe, time to bring out the housecleaning metaphors for getting our mental house in order.  Time to take a good look at all … Continue reading

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The Way of the Odyssey

More evidence that the Odyssey is a spiritual allegory comes from the fact that the main characters can be seen as exemplars of traditional spiritual paths. Continue reading

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Writing

It seems as if everyone is articulate when they speak from the heart. It’s only when you’re being forced or insincere that you need writing lessons.
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Homer: Journalist or Poet?

I’ve had a couple of encounters in the last week with the “literalist” branch of Odyssey readers, including seeing a $45 book (whose title I forget) that purports to be a proof of the journey’s itinerary using modern geological methods. Whew! The fact that there can be these divisions after all this time renews my respect for Homer. I also just listened to the series of lectures by Elizabeth Vandiver listed in the previous post, who has the view that there probably is a kernel of historical fact behind the Trojan War and Odysseus’s subsequent return, but which was then extensively elaborated upon by Homer, whoever he or she was. Continue reading

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Odyssey Resources

I’m currently doing research on Homer’s Odyssey in preparation for doing another essay (see The Ideal of the Odyssey) and have come up with some online resources that might interest you as well. Continue reading

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What is

Objects are matter with a boundary. Thoughts are Consciousness with a boundary. Feelings are Love with a boundary. The Ideal is all these without a boundary (apeiron). Continue reading

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The Return of the Hero

Print PDF  The brave and wise man, who intends to overcome his foes, must first of all strive to subdue the internal enemies of his own heart and mind, and the members of his own body.  Yoga-Vasishtha, the Sixth Discourse, … Continue reading

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Hierarchy v. Status

Print PDF  The ego’s version of hierarchy is status or rank.  It is constantly reassessing itself on a scale of “better than/worse than.”  This manifests in obvious measures such as money, power, looks, fame, etc., culminating in the attitude “Do … Continue reading

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The Ideal of Winter

Print PDF  In order to help us understand what he calls the Ideal or the Good, Plato uses several different analogies in his book The Republic. The one I’d like to discuss here has come to be known as “The … Continue reading

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The Ideal of Introspection

Print PDFThe Ideal of Introspection Death said: ‘The Self-existent pierced the openings (of the senses) so that they turn forward: therefore man looks forward, not backward into himself. Some wise man, however, with his eyes closed and wishing for immortality, … Continue reading

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The Ideal of Hierarchy

Print PDFThe Ideal of Hierarchy I will grant this is rather a clunky title, but it comes closer than the alternatives– scale, continuum, ascent, ladder, gradation–to describing what I wish to talk about.  As an organizing system for human interactions, … Continue reading

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The Ideal of The Odyssey

Print PDF   The Iliad and Odyssey of Homer con­tinue to be touch­stones of the West­ern canon, with new trans­la­tions appear­ing it seems every few years, and an ongo­ing cot­tage indus­try of crit­i­cism and inter­pre­ta­tions, to which of course this essay … Continue reading

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What you are….

Print PDF  You are the lamb and you are the shepherd You are the great and you are the small You are the sought and you are the seeker You are the One and you are the All.   You … Continue reading

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The Ideal of the Quest

The use of storytelling, particularly that of the quest myth, is one of the fundamental human approaches to expressing the inexpressible. I’ve addressed this previously on my blog, exploring the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, and the allegory of the Cave in Plato’s Republic, but I wanted to take this opportunity to examine it in more detail, and also bring it out of the realm of the heroic to something that can be applied to our everyday lives. Continue reading

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The Ideal of Justice

The Ideal of Justice

Under all this running sea of circumstance, whose waters ebb and flow with perfect balance, lies the aboriginal abyss of real Being. Essence, or God, is not a relation, or a part, but the whole. Being is the vast affirmative, excluding negation, self-balanced, and swallowing up all relations, parts, and times within itself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Compensation

The prominence of the subject of justice in the Ideal tradition, or at least up through Plato, is one that I think frankly baffles most people in modern democracies. Well, of course, justice is important, and we have a system for that. When someone is wronged or harmed, things need to be set right. We even acknowledge our debt to the ancient Athenians: equal justice before the law, trial by jury, preponderance of evidence, presumption of innocence. And perhaps just because the Athenians were so passionate about implementing justice, and really so successful at it (with the glaring exception of Socrates), it can be hard for us to understand why it still played such a big part in their thinking and writing. It is, after all, the nominal subject of Plato’s Republic, which goes on about for 10 books.

The answer lies in the fact that for the Greeks, the word Justice, diké or dikaiosyné, had a much broader meaning than it does for us today, the key difference being that they saw it as an internal virtue of the soul, not just a means for rectifying disputes within the polis. For Socrates and Plato, justice is not just a way of putting out little fires within the state; they mean to show that the whole of the state and the individuals within it are being consumed by fire, and justice is the way to extinguish it.

In the traditional Greek pantheon, Justice was represented by not one but two Goddesses: Themis and Diké, mother and daughter, who when represented in sculptures were often shown with the scales we associate with our image of Justice, and the idea of balance as indicated in the Emerson quote above. But they filled subtly different roles. According to Hesiod, Themis was a first-born Titaness, who was a wife of Zeus and was charged with bringing together gods or men for assemblies, at which questions affecting them would be addressed and decided upon. By extension, and with a small “t”, the word has the connotation of what has become customary. Jaeger says,
Themis is the epitome of the judicial supremacy of the early kings and nobles. Etymologically, the word means “institution.” The feudal judge gives his decisions in accordance with the institutions set up by Zeus, and derives the rules from his knowledge of customary law and his own intuition. (p. 103) Continue reading

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Hell and Heaven

Print PDF  Hell is all desire with no possibility of fulfillment; heaven is all fulfillment with no possibility of desire.

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The Ideal of Immortality

Print PDF In an update of an article from The Onion, we can report that the world death rate is still holding steady at 100%.  So you might want to read the following….. Our birth is but a sleep and … Continue reading

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The Ideal of School

Print PDFSocrates:I suspect, as indeed you seem to think yourself, that you are in labor–great with some conception.  Come then to me, who am a midwife’s son and myself a midwife, and do your best to answer the questions which … Continue reading

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The Ideal of Love

Print PDF    That Love is all there is, Is all we know of Love; It is enough, the freight should be Proportioned to the groove. –Emily Dickinson The Ideal of Love is very closely tied to the Ideal of … Continue reading

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