The following is a blog on the section of Plato’s Phaedrus, addressed in an old Midsummer Night’s Dream paper, where Socrates seems to get at the cause of both love and lyric poetry.
There is more in “one line” of the introductory dialogues of Plato than in a whole textbook of modern psychology. Following the path of Carl Jung, the shadow is addressed first, and then what he calls anima and animus. The best piece I have on the shadow is the teaching of Jesus on the log and the beam, in a blog above as well as in the psych category. The shadow at first corresponds to the level of the three part Platonic soul called appetite, but the shadow effects the soul and mind, and is the apprenticeship or beginning of the quest of self knowledge. What we do not see in ourselves appears in another, in our faction with our fellows. Our faction with the outer world is of course based upon our faction within. The same is apparent in the psychological truth that what we do to others is in truth done to us, that if we do not forgive, we are not forgiven, etc. That is how the things of the “personal” shadow work. In some sense, too the principle must hold especially for what Jung would have to call the “collective” shadow.
Bruce Lee has demonstrated how the principle applies in the martial arts, when his “Cain” (In the television show “Kung Fu”) was trying to fight an imaginary demon in a cave. His old blind teacher appeared, and said, “Why have you left the Tao?” Cain returned from his flashback in memory, and the imaginary demon had disappeared. All things of the shadow and faction are like that. But the next level, after the recognition of he personal shadow, is love, belonging to the second or middle of the three parts of the soul.
Love attempts to clear the way for itself, by penance, a recovery of innocence, and so is only available to the soul to the extent to which one “integrates” the “shadow.” What this faculty does in the majority of souls, in whom the lover is sleeping, is rather messy. The effect is similar to the effect of the faculty called “self'” by Jung, meaning our true self, the “eye of the soul.” But because this faculty is unconscious, all mankind needs what Jung calls a “living myth,” and what we call religion and even ritual.
In his palinode (Plato, Phaedrus, 243-257), Socrates explains the occurrence of love on the basis of the same faculty or capacity of man on which philosophy is based, the capacity for the recollection of the knowledge of truth seen prior to our present incarnation (Plato, Meno 81). According to the speech, the soul, once perfect and winged, travelling in the train of one of the twelve gods, ascended to the summit of heaven, and there saw a vision of true being, which dwells beyond the Olympian heavens (Hyper-Ouranian being, as an old U of D teacher called it). In this, we were all “initiated into that mystery which is rightly accounted blessed beyond all others” (Phaedrus, 250b). The soul then lost its wings and descended into incarnation, but only the souls that have beheld truth can enter into human form, as is evident in the capacity of man for language. Because of this mystery, “If a man makes the right use of recollection and approaches the perfect mysteries,” he and he alone becomes truly perfect. Only the soul of the philosopher recovers her wings, because she is “ever near in memory to those things to which a god’s nearness makes him truly a god” (249d-e). The lover and the philosopher, like the lover and the saint in the Palm dance of Romeo and Juliet, are distinct. The one is an image of the other, and at the same time both, philosophy and love, may literally be the activity of the same faculty. Hence, Jung calls anima the “gateway to the collective unconscious,” and love is a kind, and one of four kinds, of divine madness (244).
Beauty alone, of all the objects of vision seen, is manifest at all to our senses, through sight, the keenest of the bodily senses (250d). From this, we derive the teaching that in love, the lover is having their first concrete encounter with the divine or intelligible. (This demonstrates, too, what a Joke is the first way that the “theory of the forms” appears. The “forms” do not appear at all to most humans, except through the beauty of the beloved.) But to continue, when one who saw much and is fresh from the mysteries beholds a godlike face or bodily form that images or reflects beauty itself, the stream of beauty entering through the eyes gives rise to a warmth which causes the roots of the wings of the soul, once hardened, to melt and begin to grow. As in Plato’s Symposium, where love (a spirit and not a god) is the beginning of an ascent on the ladder of love, so here, love is presented as the beginning of the recovery of the wings of the soul, completed only in the philosopher.
Each lover loves in the manner of the god in whose company he once traveled, selecting a beloved according to his disposition. Then, as if the beloved were a god, the lover fashions for himself an image, and adorns it to be the object of his worship. When the followers of Zeus find a Zeus-like disposition, aimed toward the love of wisdom and the leading of men, they do all that is possible to foster this disposition. The lover sets out on a path of following up “the trace of the nature of their own god within themselves” (252e). Fixing the gaze of their eyes onto the beloved, they reach out after the god in memory and are possessed by him, taking their ways and manners from the god as much as is possible for humans (253). But the lover attributes this not to the god, but to the beloved. In this “unconscious” activity of character formation, in which the lover does not know himself, Socrates describes the possessed activity of the lover as the drawing of droughts from Zeus, which they pour like Bacchants, onto the soul of the beloved, thus making in him the closest possible likeness to the god they worship” (253a). This following up of the trace of the god within and the drawing and pouring of drink from Zeus may be the source and function of the lyric poetry to which the lovers are inspired by the sight of the beloved. The reaching back in memory of the lover imitates the right use of recollection by which the philosopher alone recovers the wings of the soul. Hence, we say that the noble (Ta Kalon) is based upon and is an image of intellectual virtue. The “song of dialectic itself” (Republic VII, 532d), unknown to the lover, may yet be the being on which lyric love poetry is based. The capacity of the soul for this sort of love is due not to the body and its principle, but to the mind, and is due to the higher capacity of man for knowledge. In Plato’s Republic, too, legislation and character formation are based either upon the image of God (500e-501b; 484c); or on the good itself (540 a-b). The soul is of course an image of God Most High, though a kind of madness that is not divine, and does not sacrifice, repent continually, and have anything it believes in that is higher than itself, may make the error of identifying the image with the source. The same has occurred in the culmination of “modern” so called “philosophy.”
It remains for us to convert the Platonic account of love into the terms of fertile love, and we will have the equivalent of the unified field theory sought in physics. One should already see the basis for the translation of the Biblical mysteries into the terms of philosophy, and then back again, from whence all of the knowledge of the Biblical mysteries, right up to the Bride, becomes visible. The soul is indeed the image of God- or did you think he was just kidding? Or perhaps willfully asserting the “dignity of the person?” Just as modern psychology cannot begin to approach Platonic psychology, so modern theology is a waste of time compared to philosophic theology, where reason and love do have “company.” But at least it reminds barbarians to treat the soul as a thing of dignity, perhaps even each soul endowed equally with inalienable rights, since the image of God in man is a higher thing than anything else in the creation.
Marriage is the foundation of the family, the natural human society.* The soul by nature has the faculty of love, “romantic” love, because human societies are by nature formed this way. Man is by nature political by this root, which happens also to be our participation in the entrance of new souls into the creation. The lovers are alike in a way and complementary in a way, the masculine and feminine things, like vegetable and flower gardening, fitting together to make the whole. Their love is the crown of the rule of the household throughout life, and the happiness of the vast majority depends upon this home life, which is notoriously difficult. The way that they are alike is the basis of friendship, and so people seek a spouse that shares with them the first principles, etc. While there are several identifiable kinds, we think that homosexual love is usually the result of appetite trapped in the matter or the body, like Ariel in the pine tree, freed by Prospero. Hence those males seeking the male also seek the effeminate male, but cannot tell and become angry if one asks them why. This holds out the possibility of a higher sort of homosexual love-friendship, but also gets at why Plato and Socrates sought to purify Greek homosexual love of all ignoble and fruitless entanglement in the body, in what is hence called “Platonic” love.
Until Shakespeare, there was no account of heterosexual or natural, fertile love to compare or compete with the Greek account, based on homosexual love in Greek custom, a thing we do not yet understand. Perhaps they had no liberally educated women. The account, though, is hidden in the Bible, where readers are surprised to find the reason for the inclusion of the Song of Solomon in holy scripture, and surprised to find that the two thousand year old prudish or puritanical understanding of all eros as sin is based on an error made by sinful souls, the Christian things treated like mere laws to lay upon the un-transformed appetites, never leading through true penance and sacrifice. But suffice it to say that the songs engendered in fertile love, as that of Orpheus for Persephone, may well excel the songs engendered by infertile love, (such as those of Sappho) which does seem to be an accidental or mistaken transposition of fertile love onto the same rather than the complementary opposite.
*Allan Bloom, in Love and Friendship, studies eros as the cause of human connectedness, and hence studies love as what connects otherwise isolated individuals to society. Modern man is of course uniquely isolated or “alienated,” and in modern political theory, man is not by nature, but by convention, social. This makes some sense of homosexual love- why it is similar regarding the family, for example containing jealousy and other things similar to the fertile love at the basis of the family. Love of this sort, called romantic as distinct from the other kinds of love, is then the root of our political nature in one sense- connecting families into villages. Exogamy distinguishes man from animals. The laws regarding these things are so ancient they are simply assumed, until they are not, and then we have no theoretical basis to restore them. We have only begun to recognize the fact of the disorder to the soul caused by the sexual abuses, and appeal to the health of the soul in fact. We- that is, our psychology- have not begun to address the reason that this exogamy and the political nature- seems so, even universally, for man. The reason is a deep mystery, but is related to our difference from the animal and our faculty to domesticate, governing the animal, as no other species does. We protect the prepubescent from the things of love which do not concern them yet, and so cannot be understood and “integrated.” The soul is as if containing an imago- the same as that first formed by the images of the parents that first tell us what a man and woman ought be- by which our political nature functions upon entering the polity at the founding of the family. The disturbance of this function in love is in one sense decisive for the individual.
All modern political theory tries to deny that the family is natural. But there is not much evidence that man spent much time as a solitary beast. The family is older than man, beginning even with the nest. For man, the conjugal act founds the fundamental political connection of the individual to the polities, and this is why it is so mysterious, and never a mere animal act for us. As Paul writes, even one who joins with a prostitute becomes “one flesh” with the prostitute (1 Cor. 6:16). The animal appetite is for many, but the political appetite is for one, and hence follow all the truths of the heart.
The story is well known, and these numbers allow it to be strung in order for reading on Christmas Eve.
The prophesies of the Messiah are obvious to the Jews who are questioned by Herod and know from scripture, somehow, that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Like the line of Isaiah (7:14), the a “virgin will conceive,” it is not clear how they know that this is a prophecy of the Messiah. But Isaiah prophesies Galilee, and also the things he will be called, which include “Mighty God (Oxford, or “lord”) and “Everlasting Father.” (This is also where Cheech and Chong’s sources got “Prince of Peace,” when Jesus is stopped at the southern border!) But it is also prophesied that he will be “called a Nazarene.” and called “out of Egypt.” There are relatives of the Jews in Ethiopia, from the marriage of Solomon to the Queen of Sheba, as there may have been in Egypt, and we suspect the Christ was hidden among Ethiopian Jews. These claim that the ark is there, while 2 Maccabees 2:4-8 says it is within eyesight of the tomb of Moses, hidden by Jeremiah in the Mountains of Jordan at the edge of the Holy Land. The ground movements around Galilee and Nazareth can also be deciphered, as Elizabeth is an aunt of Mary, perhaps a sister of St. Ann the mother of Mary, who was married to Joachim. Though they did not travel much, Jesus knew John the Baptist as a grand-cousin, the son of the aunt of his mother. If the mother of John the Apostle, Salome, was a sister of Mary, John the Apostle may have been a cousin of Jesus, perhaps fishing near Peter on the sea of Galilee there to the east. And were these, Elizabeth, Mary, Zecharia and Joachim, also of the lineage of David? Otherwise, the way we understand the annunciation and the immaculate conception, Jesus would be the descendant of David by law but not by nature. Most in that region are from other of the twelve tribes. But Elizabeth and Joachim lived just South of Nazareth but in a different province (Samaria). It is not unusual, and would not be especially mentioned, that a “young woman” conceive, though this is how the line might read, and how it is read following Maimonides.
It is under Augustus that Herod commits the slaughter of the innocents, Rachel weeping for the children of Ramah. The interaction between human choice and divine Providence is most amusing here, as Herod is able to make the birth of the Messiah the cause of the slaughter, yet the angel is able to prevent the infant Jesus from being caught up in this. If anyone wondered whether the character of Augustus is honestly portrait in the Rex Augusti, the autobiography, well there it is. And how did a fellow like Herod come to be called King of the Jews? Josephus lets it slip that Herod paid off Caesar and Antony, and also that Cleopatra added Herod to her trophy case. Despite writing under Roman emperors, Josephus, like Tacitus, gives the historian a second line, so that the Roman history can be seen by triangulation.
It is further amazing that the Astrologers of Babylon could figure the birth of the Messiah in place and time. Both Jews and Christians reject astrology (though there is that one line in Maimonides’ Letter on Astrology…). Maimonides and others reject the Christ as this guy because he was killed, while prophecy says that the Messiah will reign, and reign “forever,” as Lincoln tries to say of our government “of'” “by” and “for” the people, that it shall not perish from this earth.” Some think his star was a conjunction of Venus or Saturn and Jupiter about 4-7 B. C., but the star seen by the shepherds hovers, and brings them without astrology right to the very manger-cave in Bethlehem, which is why we have shepherds wandering around in our manger scenes. Herod dies about 4 B.C., but is alive at the slaughter of the innocents. When the three wise men find him (After accidentally going to the address of Monty Python’s Brian- who keeps getting mistaken for the Messiah), they give him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, said to indicate that the one born is a king, a priest and a prophet, myrrh being an herb of sorrow.
What was spoke by the prophetess Anna at the temple is not recorded. But a sign that is spoken against, and the piercing of the soul of Mary are said to be “that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” Our poet Simon says “my words trickle down from a wound that I have no intention to heal.”
On consent, the master slave talk of Nietzsche and others is wrong, due to an error from not understanding liberty. Jesus tells the Apostles, there in John about 15:13-15, “Greater love has no man…no longer do I call you servants,” as “the slave does not know what the master is doing,” but I call you “friends.”
Marriages in the Bible are based on consent, as is the marriage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or at least two of the three. [So it is wrong to assume that in the Bible women are treated only as property- in fact the Bible introduces the idea of consent, just as Jefferson introduces the idea of equality, then is rejected for being in a world where equality has not yet been introduced. The abolition of slavery was first though of in the modern world by the Quakers just one generation prior to Jefferson, and the equality of women first mentioned by the same, and perhaps by Mary Shelley, in the generation just previous. Slavery was also abolished in medieval Europe, by the papacy after the Fall of the Roman Empire in 476, but I do not know the history here.] As are the marriages that occur from meetings by the well, like Sarah and Rachael (?) is the incarnation based on consent, although Mary is not told what Simon later tells her, that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 34-35). The pain of a mother at the death of her offspring is the greatest normal human sorrow, followed quickly by the death of a new husband or wife, as the sorrow of Juliet. At the foot of the cross are only Mary, Mary Magdalene, and John.