Greece: Land of The Oracle at Delphi, Pythagoras, Pericles and Plato
Age of Illumination From the West
Circa 500 BC
While Buddha, Lao Tzu and Confucius were elevating other parts of the world, Pythagoras, Pericles and Plato were a few of the many great souls were bringing Greece to the pinnacle of her being and influencing the advancement of civilization, science and math around the Mediterranean Sea. We include ony a few worthy souls. We ask that all the luminaries wherever you are now who embodied back then, please forgive the omissions. Pythagoras was more than a mathematician. He founded a mystery school of the Great White Brotherhood delving into the mathematics and music. Another was Pericles who was aided by many amazing individuals including his friend "The Great Pilgrim." And last but not least, Plato, "The Great Thinker."
Oracle at Delphi
© Manly P. Hall
The Oracle at Delphi
Excerpted from The Greek Oracles and the Mystery Schools By Jeanne M. House
According to the book, MAN – His Origin, History and Destiny by Schroeder, the first Vestal Virgins, inspired by the Flame of Truth, were completely dedicated to magnetizing pure Truth. They were the mouthpieces of gods and goddesses such as Pallas Athena, Leto, Vesta, and Apollo.
He also recounted a time after the sinking of Atlantis, (an ancient civilization located in the Atlantic Ocean, that once experienced a Golden Age), that sacred priests and priestesses were alerted before the flood, to sail off to several respective places, and preserve their "sacred flame" of the various rays of God. While in Atlantis, these holy people tended a specific sacred flame in a specific sacred temple, because flames were only kept in sacred temples and maintained by a high priest or priestess. One boat under the direction of a priest named Hilarian, overshadowed by a goddess named Pallas Athena, headed for Crete with their Flame of Truth. Others went to France, Peru, Asia, Egypt, etc, with other flames such as, the 'flame of love' and the 'violet transmuting flame', which was probably overshadowed by the Archangel Zadkiel and the Priest Saint Germain. There were ten boats in all.
On page 103, he quotes one of the priests: ‘with our own bodies we cradled that Flame. Each one of us cradled the flame of our hearts within It and breathing the breath from our lips upon It, and the prayer of our souls and spirits kept It alive, for that hour when we landed.'
According to the Rosicrucian Society, Plato was a member of their Mystery school. Here people knew about Ancient civilizations. Plato also wrote about Atlantis. Toward the end of this civilization, it was rumored that only 500 out of 60 million gave credence to the word of Truth.
The excavations of Sir Arthur Evans in Crete proved that the early settlers belonged to a highly cultured race. Their building skills and architectural skills surpassed the Egyptian pyramid builders.
The common mode of communication between the gods, (or Cosmic Beings), was through the priesthood or the oracles. I believe that, that was precisely what the Oracles provided –The Spirit of Truth. However, not everyone can behold Truth, so it was given in code. It was up to the participants to take part in the unraveling of the Truth. This seems to be the way the way the Unknown is revealed. So only those who prove themselves worthy to know the Truth were initiated into the Sacred Mysteries. Thus secret societies throughout time provide the on-going link to the hidden world. Not everyone could be an Oracle. Only those who were pure of heart could receive the Sacred Flame of Truth.
At the Oracle of Delphi, the priestesses were called the Vestal Virgins of Delphi. The name Delphoi is connected with delphus or "womb" and may have been connected to the Earth Goddess at the site previous to it. The first oracle of Delphi was known, as Sibyl and that became the title of whichever priestess manned the oracle at the time. The priestesses were intoxicated by vapors in the earth before they gave their answers. This was a favorite site for political leaders and what we might think of as corporate leaders.
Schroeder writes about the Golden Age of Greece on page 115. He describes a Spiritual Order of Delphi in Pallas Athena's court. Any Divine Being could use an oracle at any time in order to give instruction to a group who gathered there. These priestesses were called Vestal Virgins of Delphi. They did draw forth and record the Truth of goddesses, Pallas Athena and Vesta. Pallas Athena supervised the priestesses herself. In order for them to develop a "receptive consciousness," they had to go through extreme disciplines and careful preparations and training. The Vestal Virgins take a "vow" to be in pure mind and body at any time of the day or night. They were attuned to listen to the God-Voice within.
According to Schroeder, for 700 years this fountain of wisdom maintained a state of perfection. But, the Temple of Truth was destroyed by those who rebelled against Truth and against the discipline of purity and harmony. Eventually, even the Vestal Virgins became corrupt and thus the downfall.
Bust of Pythagoras of Samos
The Capitoline Museums, Rome
Pythagoras - Mathematician and Musician
Pythagoras of Samos, born around 575 BC lived until about 495 BC, was an Ionian Greek mathematician, musician and founder of secret school that passed many of there mathematical discoveries orally. Though many of the written teachings were destroyed by enemies of the school, his Pythagorean theorem survives to give us an idea of how he and his fellow initiates moved mathematical thought forward. Herodotus referred to him as "the most able philosopher among the Greeks". His name led him to be associated with Pythian Apollo; Aristippus explained his name by saying, "He spoke (agor-) the truth no less than did the Pythian (Pyth-)," and Iamblichus tells the story that the Pythia prophesied that his pregnant mother would give birth to a man supremely beautiful, wise, and beneficial to humankind.
From: Pythagoras and the Delphic Mysteries, by Edouard Schuré. 1906
Chapter IV, The Order and the Doctrine
The town of Croton was situated at the extremity of the Gulf of Tarentum, near the Lacinian promontory, in front of the open sea. Like Sybaris, it was one of the most flourishing cities in Southern Italy. It was famed for its Doric constitution, its victorious athletes at the Olympian games, and its doctors, rivals of the Asclepiads. The Sybarites owe their immortality to their luxury and effeminacy. The inhabitants of Croton would perhaps be forgotten, spite of their virtues, had theirs not been the glory of offering a home to the great school of esoteric philosophy, known under the name of the Pythagorean sect, which may be looked upon as the mother of the school of Plato and the ancestor of all idealist schools. However noble the descendants, their ancestors greatly surpassed them. The school of Plato issues from an incomplete tradition, whereas the Stoic school has already lost the true tradition. Other systems of ancient and modern philosophy are more or less fortunate speculations, whilst the teaching of Pythagoras was based on experimental science and accompanied by a complete organization of life.
The secrets of the master's order and thought are now, like the ruins of the ancient town, buried deep underground. All the same we will try to resurrect them, for thus we shall have an opportunity of penetrating to the very heart of the theosophic doctrine, the Arcanum of religions and philosophies, and raising a corner of the veil of Isis to the light of Greek genius.
Several reasons influenced Pythagoras in choosing this Dorian colony as a center of action. His aim was not merely to teach the esoteric doctrine to a circle of chosen disciples, but also to apply its principles to the education of youth and to the life of the state. This plan comprised the foundation of an institution for laic initiation, with the object of finally transforming the political organization of the cities by degrees into the image of that philosophic and religious ideal. Certainly none of the republics of Hellas or of Peloponnesus would have tolerated this innovation. The philosopher would have been accused of conspiring against the State. The Greek towns of the Gulf of Tarentum, which were less preyed upon by demagogues, were more liberal-minded. Pythagoras made no mistake in expecting to find a favorable reception for his reforms at the hands of the Croton senate. His designs went also beyond Greece. Foreseeing the evolution of ideas, he was prepared for the fall of Hellenism, and was thinking of sowing in the human mind the principles of a scientific religion.. By founding his school in the Gulf of Tarentum, he was spreading esoteric ideas throughout Italy, and keeping in the precious vase of his doctrine the purified essence of Oriental wisdom for the peoples of the West.
On coming to Croton, which was at the time inclined to adopt the voluptuous life of its neighbour Sybaris, Pythagoras produced a veritable revolution. Porphyry and Iamblichus have depicted the commencement of his life there as being rather that of a magician than of a philosopher. Assembling the youth in the Temple of Apollo, he succeeded by his eloquence in tearing them away from a life of debauchery. Summoning the women to the Temple of Juno, he persuaded them to bring their golden robes and ornaments as trophies to celebrate the defeat of vanity and luxury. He threw a veil of grace over the austerity of his teachings, a communicating flame flashed forth from his words of wisdom. His beautiful face and noble bearing, the charm of his countenance and of his voice completely captivated them. The women compared him to Jupiter, the young men to Hyperborean Apollo. He captivated and seduced the crowds, which, whilst listening to him, were greatly astonished to find themselves enamoured of truth and virtue. The senate of Croton, or the Council of the Thousand, grew uneasy at the influence he was obtaining. They summoned Pythagoras to explain his conduct, and to state the means he was making use of to master the minds of the citizens. This gave him an opportunity to develop his ideas on education, and demonstrate that, far from threatening with ruin the Doric constitution of Croton, they only strengthened it the more. When he had won over to his side the wealthiest of the citizens and the majority of the senate, he proposed that they should found an institute for himself and his disciples. This brotherhood of laic initiates should live in common in a building constructed for the purpose, though without separating themselves from civil life. Those of them who already deserved the name of master, might teach physical, psychic, and religious sciences. Young men should be admitted to the lessons of the masters and to the different grades of initiation according to their intelligence or earnestness in study, under the control of the head of the order. At the beginning, they must submit to the rules of the common life and spend the whole day in the institute, under the supervision of the masters. Those who should wish to enter the order formally were to give up their fortune to a trustee, with permission to enter again into possession of it whenever they pleased. In the institute there would be a section for women, along with a parallel initiation, though different and more adapted to the duties of their sex.
The senate of Croton enthusiastically adopted this plan, and, after a few years, near the entrance to the town there rose a building surrounded by vast porticoes and beautiful gardens. The inhabitants of Croton called it the Temple of the Muses, and, to tell the truth, in the center of the buildings, near the humble dwelling of the master, stood a temple dedicated to these divinities.
Thus sprang into being the Pythagorean institute, which became at one and the same time a college of education, a science academy, and a small model city under the control of a great initiate. It is by theory and practice, by science and art combined that slow progress was made to that science of sciences, that magical harmony of soul and intellect with the universe, which Pythagoreans looked upon as the Arcanum of philosophy and religion. The Pythagorean School is of supreme interest for us, inasmuch as it was a most remarkable attempt at laic initiation. Being an anticipated synthesis of Hellenism and Christianity, it grafted the fruit of science on the tree of life, it acquired the knowledge of that inner, that living realization, of truth, which a profound faith alone can give. It was an ephemeral realization, though one of the greatest importance, instinct with the fruitfulness of example.
To form some idea of it, let us enter the Pythagorean institute along with the novice and follow his initiation step by step.
The white dwelling of the brother initiates was situated on a hill, surrounded by olive and cypress trees. On mounting from below, the porticoes, gardens, and gymnasium could distinctly be seen. The Temple of the Muses, with its circular colonnade of airy elegance, towered above the two wings of the building. The terrace of the outer gardens overlooked the town with its Prytaneum, its harbour and meeting-place. Away in the distance stretched the gulf, between sharp rugged parts of the coast as though in a cup of agate, whilst the Ionian Sea shut in the horizon with its line of azure blue. At times one might see women clad in divers-colored costumes issue on the left and make their way in long files down to the sea, along the alley of cypresses. They were going to worship at the Temple of Ceres. And on the right also, men might often be seen mounting in white robes to the Temple of Apollo. It was not the least attraction to the inquiring imagination of youth to think that the school of the initiates was placed under the protection of these two divinities, one of whom, the Mighty Goddess, held the profound mysteries of Woman and of Earth, whilst the other, the Solar God, revealed those of Man and of Heaven.
So we find this little city of the elect smiling down upon the populous town beneath. The noble instincts of youth were attracted by its peaceful serenity, though nothing was seen of what was taking place within, and it was generally known that admittance was not easily obtained. The gardens connected with the institute of Pythagoras were separated from the outside by nothing but a simple green hedge, and the entrance gate remained open all day long. A statue of Hermes, however, might be seen there, and on its pedestal were the words: Eskato Bebeloi; No entrance for the profane! This commandment of the mysteries was universally respected.
Pythagoras was very stern in admitting novices, saying, "that not every kind of wood was fit for making a Mercury." The young men who wished to enter the association were obliged to undergo a period of test and trial. On being introduced by their parents or by one of the masters, they were first of all permitted to enter the Pythagorean gymnasium in which the novices played the games appropriate to their age. The young man at once noticed that this gymnasium was unlike that in the town. There were no violent cries or noisy groups, no ridiculous boasting or vain display of strength by athletes in embryo, challenging one another and exhibiting their muscles; but rather groups of courteous and distinguished-looking young men, walking in couples beneath the porticoes or playing in the arena. They invited him with graceful simplicity to join in their conversation as though he were one of them, without greeting him with a suspicious glance or jeering smile. In the arena they were racing, throwing quoits and javelins, and engaging in mock fights under the form of Doric dances. Pythagoras had, however, strictly abolished wrestling, saying that it was superfluous and even dangerous to develop pride and hatred by strength and agility; that men intended to practice the virtues of friendship ought not to begin by flinging one another on the ground and rolling in the sand like wild beasts; that a real hero could fight with great courage though without fury; that hatred makes us inferior to any opponent whoever he be.
The new-comer heard these maxims from the lips of the masters repeated by the novices, who were quite proud to impart their precocious wisdom. At the same time they encouraged him to state his own opinions and freely contradict them. Emboldened by such advances, the ingenuous aspirant quickly showed forth his real nature. Pleased at being listened to and admired, he would speak and dilate at his ease. Meanwhile the masters closely watched him without ever uttering the slightest word of reprimand. Pythagoras would come up unexpectedly and study his gestures and words. He paid special attention to the gait and the laugh of young men. Laughter, he said, is an infallible index to character; no amount of dissimulation can render agreeable the laugh of an evil-disposed man. He had also made such a profound study of the human face that he could read therein the very depths of the soul.
Such minute observation enabled the master to form a precise idea regarding his future disciples. A few months afterwards came decisive tests in imitation of Egyptian initiation, though greatly modified and adapted to the Greek nature, whose sensitiveness had not submitted to the mortal terrors of the crypts of Memphis and Thebes. The Pythagorean aspirant was made to spend the night in a cavern, in the outskirts of the town, alleged to be haunted by various apparitions and monsters. Those who had not sufficient strength to endure the terrible impressions of solitude and night, who refused to enter or made their escape before the morning, were deemed too weak for initiation and rejected.
The moral test was a more serious one. Suddenly, without the least preparation, the would-be disciple would one fine morning find himself imprisoned in an empty, dismal-looking cell. A slate was given him and he was coldly ordered to discover the meaning of one of the Pythagorean symbols, as, for instance: What is the signification of the triangle inscribed in a circle? or: Why is the dodecahedron, confined within the sphere, the symbol of the universe? He spent a dozen hours in his cell with his slate and the problem, and no other companion than a vase of water and a piece of dry bread. Then he was taken into a room to face the assembled novices. Under these circumstances the order had been passed round that they should ridicule without pity the wretched youth, who, hungry and sullen, stood before them like a culprit. "So this is the new philosopher," they would say. "How inspired he looks! He will now tell us of his meditations. Do not conceal from us what you have discovered. You will in the same way go through all the symbols in turn. A month of this régime and you will have become a great sage!"
At this point the master would attentively observe the young man's attitude and expression. Irritated by his fast, overwhelmed with these sarcastic words, and humiliated at not being able to solve an incomprehensible problem, no small effort was needed to control himself. Some would weep with rage, others gave sarcastic replies, whilst others again, unable to control themselves, dashed their slate madly to the ground and burst out in imprecations against school, master, and disciples alike. Then Pythagoras came forward and calmly said that, as they had failed in the test of self-respect, they were begged not to return to a school of which they had so bad an opinion, in which friendship and respect for the masters should be the most elementary of virtues. The rejected candidate would shamefacedly retire and sometimes become a redoubtable enemy of the order, like the well-known Cylon who, later on, excited the people against the Pythagoreans and brought about their downfall. On the other hand, those who bore everything with firmness, and gave just and witty replies to the provoking words they listened to, declaring they were ready to repeat the test a hundred times if only they could attain to the least degree of wisdom, were solemnly welcomed into the novitiate and received the enthusiastic congratulations of their new companions.
FIRST DEGREE — PREPARATION
The Novitiate and the Pythagorean Life
Then only began the novitiate called the preparation (paraskeia), which lasted at least two years, and might be prolonged to five. The novices, or listeners (akousikoi), during the lessons they received, were subjected to the rule of absolute silence. They had no right either to offer any objection to their masters or to discuss the teaching they were absorbing. This latter they were to receive with respect and to meditate upon at length. To impress this rule in the mind of the new listener, he was shown the statue of a woman, enveloped in a long veil, her finger raised to her mouth, The Muse of Silence.
Pythagoras did not regard youth as being capable of understanding the origin and the end of things. He thought that exercising them in logic and reasoning, before inculcating in them the meaning of truth, made them ignorant and assuming sophists. His idea was to develop in his pupils, before everything else, intuition, that primordial and superior faculty of mankind. To do this, he did not teach anything mysterious or difficult. Starting from natural sentiments, the first duties of man on entering life, he showed their relations with the laws of the universe. Whilst first of all inculcating in youth parental love, he magnified this sentiment by assimilating the idea of father to that of God, the mighty creator of the universe. "Nothing is more venerable," he said, "than the quality of fatherhood. Homer named Jupiter king of the gods, but in order to show forth all his greatness, he called him the Father of gods and men." He compared the mother to generous and beneficent Nature; as heavenly Cybele produces the stars and Demeter gives birth to the fruits and flowers of the earth, so does the mother feed the child with every joy. Accordingly the son ought to honour in his father and mother the representatives, the earthly images, of these mighty divinities. He also showed that the love of fatherland comes from the affection one feels in childhood for one's mother. Parents are given to us, not by chance, as is commonly believed, but in accordance with a previous, a superior order, called Fortune or Necessity. To honour them is an obligation; but a friend must be chosen. The novices were invited to form themselves into couples, according to their several affinities. The younger should seek in the elder the virtues he is himself aiming after, and the two companions should encourage each other towards a better life. "A friend is another self; he must be honoured as a god," said the master. Though the Pythagorean rules imposed on the "listener" novice absolute submission to his masters, it gave him full liberty in enjoying the charms of friendship, it even made of this latter the stimulus of every virtue, the poetry of life, the path leading to the ideal.
Individual energy was thus roused, morality became poetical and instinct with life, a rule lovingly accepted ceased to be a constraint, it became the very affirmation of an individuality. It was the wish of Pythagoras that obedience should be an assent and an approval. Besides this, the moral prepared the way for the philosophical teaching. The relations set up between social duties and the harmonies of the cosmos gave one a glimpse into the law of universal agreement and analogy. In this law dwells the principle of the Mysteries, of occult teaching and of the whole of philosophy. The mind of the pupil thus grew accustomed to find the impress of an invisible order on visible realities.
General maxims and concise prescriptions opened out perspectives of this superior world. Morning and evening the Golden Verses rang in the pupil's ear:
First worship the immortal Gods, as they are established and ordained by the Law.
Reverence the Oath, and next the Heroes, full of goodness and light.
Pythagoras and students at dawn
In commenting on this maxim, it was shown that the gods, though apparently different, were really the same among all people, since they corresponded with the same intellectual and soul forces active throughout the universe. The sage could consequently honour the gods of his own country, whilst forming of their very essence a different idea from that generally held.
And now, Morya with the rest of the story:
Great Service has called forth everywhere much misunderstanding. To people it usually has the aspect of something unattainable. They hope that responsibility for such Service will pass them by. But let us reflect upon certain great Servitors. Let us see if They were unapproachable supermen. Pythagoras and Plato and Boehme and Paracelsus and Thomas Vaughan were men who bore their lamps amidst their fellowmen in life under a hail of non understanding and abuse. Anyone could approach them, but only a few were able to discern the superearthly radiance behind the earthly face. It is possible to name great Servitors of East and West, North and South. It is possible to peruse their biographies; yet everywhere we feel that the superearthly radiance appears rarely in the course of centuries. One should learn from reality. Let us not link ourselves with the vilifiers of Plato and the persecutors of Confucius. They were oppressed by citizens who were considered the pride of the country. Thus has the world raised its hand against the great Servitors. Be assured that the Brotherhood formed by Pythagoras appeared dangerous in the eyes of the city guard. Paracelsus was a target for mockery and malignance. Thomas Vaughan seemed to be an outcast, and few wished to meet with him. Thus was the reign of darkness manifested. Of course darkness, too, has its own laws. The dark ones watch intently a "dangerous" Great Service. Let us apply examples of the past to all days of life. El Morya: Brotherhood, 175. 1937 Agni Yoga Society
Pythagoras forbade all raillery among his disciples, because it, above everything, disturbs solemnity. He who greets the sun with a hymn does not notice the small spots. In this command is contained the affirmation of the Beautiful Let the dark ones retain for themselves the fate of mockery. Those who need jesters will leave no memory of themselves among the wise. His insistence on the solemnity of hymns reveals Pythagoras as a Fire-bearer. Let us take an example from such Fire-bearers, who have traversed their assigned earthly path in beauty. El Morya: Fiery World I, 358. 1933 Agni Yoga Society
Urusvati knows the many warnings and instructions that have been sent to humanity. Compare the teachings of Pythagoras, the letters of Prester John, the activities of St. Germain, and the letters of the Mahatmas. You will find in all of them a concern for the purifying of humanity. El Morya: Supermundane III, 539. 1938 Agni Yoga Society
...Almost all of the sciences originated in India. Egypt, Greece, and ancient Chaldea borrowed their knowledge from India. Similarly, Osiris, Hermes, and Orpheus came from the East; also, Pythagoras received his initiation in India... Letters Of Helena Roerich II, 8 October 1935. 4. Agni Yoga Society
Marble portrait bust of Pericles
Roman copy of an original portrait by Kresilas (British Museum, London)
Pericles And The Golden Age of Greece
Pericles was a prominent and influential statesman, orator, and general of Athens during the city's Golden Age — specifically, the time between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars. He was descended, through his mother, from the powerful and historically influential Alcmaeonid family. Pericles had such a profound influence on Athenian society that Thucydides, his contemporary historian, acclaimed him as "the first citizen of Athens".
Pericles turned the Delian League into an Athenian empire and led his countrymen during the first two years of the Peloponnesian War. The period during which he led Athens, roughly from 461 to 429 BC, is sometimes known as the "Age of Pericles". Pericles promoted the arts and literature leading to Athens having a reputation as the educational and cultural center of Greece, if not of the entire surrounding Mediterranean area. He started an ambitious building project that created most of the surviving structures on the Acropolis, most notabley the Parthenon. This project beautified the city, exhibited its glory, and gave work to the people. Furthermore, Pericles fostered Athenian democracy to such an extent that critics call him a populist. Many view Pericles as a father of democracy and freedom.
For the inner mysteries we turn to Morya from Agni Yoga. ("The Great Pilgrim" refered to is Jesus):
Urusvati knows the many different qualities that are required for self-perfectment. At times it is difficult to recognize their various combinations through intellectual reasoning alone. Let us take the example of Joshua, who was the leader of an unruly nation. Since his mission involved constant dangers, not only for him but also for the entire nation, he had to concentrate his will upon leadership, and could not allow himself to be distracted by basic theoretical tasks. Imagine a shepherd trying to lead his flock through a thicket — how many branches he must break and rocks he must push aside to clear the way! The shepherd's task is to bring his flock home before dark, and he is well armed for protection against the wild beasts that will threaten him on the way. Such is the role of the leader who must possess courage, decisiveness, aspiration, and self-denial. Now let us examine another path, that of the intellectual leader, the leader in creativeness, after whom a whole century of the highest achievements is named. We refer to the Age of Pericles, an era that is associated with the most refined manifestations. Science and creative power characterize this era. Pericles knew recognition and also the blows of Fate. He was surrounded by the finest intellects of his time, philosophers who left to humanity the legacy of an entire age of thought.
The Great Pilgrim was a friend to Pericles, and highly approved of this unforgettable and brilliant era of knowledge and beauty. It is interesting to note how the finest spirits are brought together, so that later they may meet on the field of labor. One should watch attentively the accumulation of diverse qualities that will lead to creative work on a world scale. Supermundane I, 165. Agni Yoga Society
...Every hero whose heart is pure is a dispeller of evil, and the biographies of such heroes should be studied in schools. Students should also learn what was done to Pericles and how people have treated their heroes. Thus should human history be written. How long will it take for the common people to conquer their fear of great men? Perhaps some patient toilers will appear who will gradually remove the dust from their eyes. Supermundane I, 202. Agni Yoga Society
Excerpt of Pericles' Funeral Oration praising fallen soldiers, Athens and democracy (after 490 BC) from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War:
Most of those who have spoken here before me have commended the lawgiver who added this oration to our other funeral customs. It seemed to them a worthy thing that such an honor should be given at their burial to the dead who have fallen on the field of battle. But I should have preferred that, when men's deeds have been brave, they should be honored in deed only, and with such an honor as this public funeral, which you are now witnessing. Then the reputation of many would not have been imperiled on the eloquence or want of eloquence of one, and their virtues believed or not as he spoke well or ill. For it is difficult to say neither too little nor too much; and even moderation is apt not to give the impression of truthfulness. The friend of the dead who knows the facts is likely to think that the words of the speaker fall short of his knowledge and of his wishes; another who is not so well informed, when he hears of anything which surpasses his own powers, will be envious and will suspect exaggeration. Mankind are tolerant of the praises of others so long as each hearer thinks that he can do as well or nearly as well himself, but, when the speaker rises above him, jealousy is aroused and he begins to be incredulous. However, since our ancestors have set the seal of their approval upon the practice, I must obey, and to the utmost of my power shall endeavor to satisfy the wishes and beliefs of all who hear me.
I will speak first of our ancestors, for it is right and seemly that now, when we are lamenting the dead, a tribute should be paid to their memory. There has never been a time when they did not inhabit this land, which by their valor they will have handed down from generation to generation, and we have received from them a free state. But if they were worthy of praise, still more were our fathers, who added to their inheritance, and after many a struggle transmitted to us their sons this great empire. And we ourselves assembled here today, who are still most of us in the vigor of life, have carried the work of improvement further, and have richly endowed our city with all things, so that she is sufficient for herself both in peace and war. Of the military exploits by which our various possessions were acquired, or of the energy with which we or our fathers drove back the tide of war, Hellenic or Barbarian, I will not speak; for the tale would be long and is familiar to you. But before I praise the dead, I should like to point out by what principles of action we rose to power, and under what institutions and through what manner of life our empire became great. For I conceive that such thoughts are not unsuited to the occasion, and that this numerous assembly of citizens and strangers may profitably listen to them.
Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. Our government does not copy our neighbors', but is an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while there exists equal justice to all and alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty an obstacle, but a man may benefit his country whatever the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private business we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do not put on sour looks at him which, though harmless, are not pleasant. While we are thus unconstrained in our private business, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws, having a particular regard to those which are ordained for the protection of the injured as well as those unwritten laws which bring upon the transgressor of them the reprobation of the general sentiment.
And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; our homes are beautiful and elegant; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish sorrow. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as our own.
Then, again, our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, though and we never expel a foreigner and prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face. And here is the proof: The Lacedaemonians [Spartans] come into Athenian territory not by themselves, but with their whole confederacy following; we go alone into a neighbor's country; and although our opponents are fighting for their homes and we on a foreign soil, we have seldom any difficulty in overcoming them. Our enemies have never yet felt our united strength, the care of a navy divides our attention, and on land we are obliged to send our own citizens everywhere. But they, if they meet and defeat a part of our army, are as proud as if they had routed us all, and when defeated they pretend to have been vanquished by us all.
If then we prefer to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training, and with a courage which is gained by habit and not enforced by law, are we not greatly the better for it? Since we do not anticipate the pain, although, when the hour comes, we can be as Brave as those who never allow themselves to rest; thus our city is equally admirable in peace and in war. For we are lovers of the beautiful in our tastes and our strength lies, in our opinion, not in deliberation and discussion, but that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act, and of acting, too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection. And they are surely to be esteemed the Bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger. In doing good, again, we are unlike others; we make our friends by conferring, not by receiving favors. Now he who confers a favor is the firmer friend, because he would rather by kindness keep alive the memory of an obligation; but the recipient is colder in his feelings, because he knows that in requiting another's generosity he will not be winning gratitude but only paying a debt. We alone do good to our neighbors not upon a calculation of interest, but in the confidence of freedom and in a frank and fearless spirit.
To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace. This is no passing and idle word, but truth and fact; and the assertion is verified by the position to which these qualities have raised the state. For in the hour of trial Athens alone among her contemporaries is superior to the report of her. No enemy who comes against her is indignant at the reverses which he sustains at the hands of such a city; no subject complains that his masters are unworthy of him. And we shall assuredly not be without witnesses; there are mighty monuments of our power which will make us the wonder of this and of succeeding ages; we shall not need the praises of Homer or of any other panegyrist whose poetry may please for the moment, although his representation of the facts will not bear the light of day. For we have compelled every land and every sea to open a path for our valor, and have everywhere planted eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity. Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might be taken from them; and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf.
I have dwelt upon the greatness of Athens because I want to show you that we are contending for a higher prize than those who enjoy none of these privileges, and to establish by manifest proof the merit of these men whom I am now commemorating. Their loftiest praise has been already spoken. For in magnifying the city I have magnified them, and men like them whose virtues made her glorious. And of how few Hellenes can it be said as of them, that their deeds when weighed in the balance have been found equal to their fame! Methinks that a death such as theirs has been the true measure of a man's worth; it may be the first revelation of his virtues, but is at any rate their final seal. For even those who come short in other ways may justly plead the valor with which they have fought for their country; they have blotted out the evil with the good, and have benefited the state more by their public services than they have injured her by their private actions. None of these men were enervated by wealth or hesitated to resign the pleasures of life; none of them put off the evil day in the hope, natural to poverty, that a man, though poor, may one day become rich. But, deeming that the punishment of their enemies was sweeter than any of these things, and that they could fall in no nobler cause, they determined at the hazard of their lives to be honorably avenged, and to leave the rest. They resigned to hope their unknown chance of happiness; but in the face of death they resolved to rely upon themselves alone. And when the moment came they were minded to resist and suffer, rather than to fly and save their lives; they ran away from the word of dishonor, but on the battlefield their feet stood fast, and in an instant, at the height of their fortune, they passed away from the scene, not of their fear, but of their glory.
Such was the end of these men; they were worthy of Athens, and the living need not desire to have a more heroic spirit, although they may pray for a less fatal issue. The value of such a spirit is not to be expressed in words. Any one can discourse to you for ever about the advantages of a Brave defense, which you know already. But instead of listening to him I would have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness of Athens, until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that this empire has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it, who in the hour of conflict had the fear of dishonor always present to them, and who, if ever they failed in an enterprise, would not allow their virtues to be lost to their country, but freely gave their lives to her as the fairest offering which they could present at her feast.
The sacrifice which they collectively made was individually repaid to them; for they received again each one for himself a praise which grows not old, and the noblest of all tombs - I speak not of that in which their remains are laid, but of that in which their glory survives, and is proclaimed always and on every fitting occasion both in word and deed. For the whole earth is the tomb of famous men; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men. Make them your examples, and, esteeming courage to be freedom and freedom to be happiness, do not weigh too nicely the perils of war. The unfortunate who has no hope of a change for the better has less reason to throw away his life than the prosperous who, if he survive, is always liable to a change for the worse, and to whom any accidental fall makes the most serious difference. To a man of spirit, cowardice and disaster coming together are far more bitter than death striking him unperceived at a time when he is full of courage and animated by the general hope.
Plato, disciple of Socrates
Plato - Foundations of Natural Philosophy
Plato, one of the most well-known disciples of Socrates, was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. The trio of Socrates, Plato and Plato's student, Aristotle, helped lay the foundations of natural philosophy, science, and Western philosophy.
Plato was as much influenced by Socrates' thinking as by the unjust way the authorities tried and condemned Socrates to death. Most of what we know of Socrates came through Plato's Socratic dialogues; thirty-five dialogues and thirteen letters traditionally ascribed to Plato's authorship.
Unfortunately, many texts have been lost to the world due to interveneing centuries of Christian intolerance. A Greek tragedy to be sure. It took rembodied lightberarers in the Islamic world to save Greek philosophy and science. But that’s a story best left for Part II of our narrative.
"Platonism" is a term coined by scholars to refer to the intellectual consequences of denying, as Socrates often does, the reality of the material world. In several dialogues, most notably the Republic, Socrates inverts the common man's intuition about what is knowable and what is real. While most people take the objects of their senses to be real if anything is, Socrates is contemptuous of people who think that something has to be graspable in the hands to be real.
In the Theaetetus, he says such people are "eu a-mousoi", an expression that means literally, "happily without the muses" (Theaetetus 156a). In other words, such people live without the divine inspiration that gives him, and people like him, access to higher insights about reality. Socrates' idea that reality is unavailable to those who use their senses is what puts him at odds with the common man, and with common sense.
Socrates says that he who sees with his eyes is blind, and this idea is most famously captured in his allegory of the cave, and more explicitly in his description of the divided line. The allegory of the cave (begins Republic 7.514a) is a paradoxical analogy wherein Socrates argues that the invisible world is the most intelligible ("noeton") and that the visible world ("(h)oraton") is the least knowable, and the most obscure. Socrates says in the Republic that people who take the sun-lit world of the senses to be good and real are living pitifully in a den of evil and ignorance. Socrates admits that few climb out of the den, or cave of ignorance, and those who do, not only have a terrible struggle to attain the heights, but when they go back down for a visit or to help other people up, they find themselves objects of scorn and ridicule.
According to Socrates, physical objects and physical events are "shadows" of their ideal or perfect forms, and exist only to the extent that they instantiate the perfect versions of themselves. Just as shadows are temporary, inconsequential epiphenomena produced by physical objects, physical objects are themselves fleeting phenomena caused by more substantial causes, the ideals of which they are mere instances. For example, Socrates thinks that perfect justice exists (although it is not clear where) and his own trial would be a cheap copy of it.
The allegory of the cave (often said by scholars to represent Plato's own epistemology and metaphysics) is intimately connected to his political ideology (often said to also be Plato's own), that only people who have climbed out of the cave and cast their eyes on a vision of goodness are fit to rule. Socrates claims that the enlightened men of society must be forced from their divine contemplations and compelled to run the city according to their lofty insights. Thus is born the idea of the "philosopher-king", the wise person who accepts the power thrust upon him by the people who are wise enough to choose a good master.
This is the main thesis of Socrates in the Republic, that the most wisdom the masses can muster is the wise choice of a ruler. The word metaphysics derives from the fact that Aristotle's musings about divine reality came after ("meta") his lecture notes on his treatise on nature ("physics"). The term is in fact applied to Aristotle's own teacher, and Plato's "metaphysics" is understood as Socrates' division of reality into the warring and irreconcilable domains of the material and the spiritual. The theory has been of incalculable influence in the history of Western philosophy and religion.
El Morya on "The Great Thinker," Plato:
The Thinker pointed out many times that the mind should be combined with the heart. The student cannot be heartless. The cruel scientist is far from Truth, the obstinate one not worthy of knowledge, and the depressed one blind to the treasures of nature. If the scientist cannot overcome yesterday's limitations, it would be better for him to give up science. I dedicate many discourses to the Thinker because we must remember His tireless work. He devoted centuries of labor to the deepening of thought, for without such self-sacrifice it would be impossible to achieve the transmission of thought to such vast distances. Therefore, it is ridiculous to think that one can learn and achieve within a few years! Finally, it is not time that matters, but the degree of aspiration. Supermundane I, 235. Agni Yoga Society
Urusvati has developed her musical talent beautifully. This proficiency is achieved as the result of much labor in other lives. According to the Teachings of Plato, music should not be understood in the narrow sense of music alone, but as participation in all the harmonious arts. In singing, in poetry, in painting, in sculpture, in architecture, in speech, and, finally, in all manifestations of sound, musicality is expressed. In Hellas a ceremony to all the Muses was performed. Tragedy, dance, and all rhythmic movement served the harmony of Cosmos. Much is spoken about beauty, but the importance of harmony is little understood. Beauty is an uplifting concept, and each offering to beauty is an offering to the equilibrium of Cosmos. Everyone who expresses music in himself sacrifices, not for himself, but for others, for humanity, for Cosmos. Perfection of thought is an expression of beautiful musicality. The highest rhythm is the best prophylaxis, a pure bridge to the highest worlds. Supermundane I, 42. 1938 Agni Yoga Society
Urusvati agrees with Us that the present century is the century of thought. Only in the present century have people begun to accept that thought is energy. None of the thinkers of past centuries could reveal that thought is the motive force of the world, because in order to understand the process of thought a knowledge of physical sciences and of many other discoveries was first needed. It is true that Plato knew the power of thought, but he revealed only a clue to its power, because it was dangerous to give this knowledge prematurely to the masses. Only now are some researchers beginning to realize how accessible are the many hidden qualities of thought. Supermundane I, 99. Agni Yoga Society
Urusvati knows that people try to belittle and limit the highest manifestations. The Thinker said, "A salutary shield is spread from Heaven to Earth, but instead of raising themselves to it, people use every device to bring it down to their level. They do not realize that even the most beneficial remedies can lose their power in the earthly mire."
Once a man came to the Thinker and told Him of a strange dream in which he saw a friend who lived far away rearranging everything in the man's home. The Thinker said, "Perhaps he intruded into your house mentally. Indeed, the power of thought can move objects."
And again the Thinker was asked why clouds form so quickly over mountains. He answered, "Besides the forces of nature, the thoughts of man can produce various phenomena." Thus, He used every opportunity to teach about the power of thought. Most people could not understand this power, which is the birthright of everyone, but still their knowledge was enriched.
When the Thinker was asked why He did not mention the power of thought in His writings, He answered, "The time will come when mankind will be ready to cognize this truth, but each premature transmission will only create obstacles. People must climb every rung of the ladder." Supermundane I, 180. Agni Yoga Society
Urusvati knows that most people refuse to recognize the advantages of collaboration. The Thinker directed people in many different ways to this salutary concept. He said,Many more quotes on "The Great Thinker" at ReverseSpins.com.
"Not by beastly ways will man perfect himself. He is a social being and each thought, each word, is social property. Man cannot live without associating with other people, and he must learn to understand this most noble existence.
"Obscene words and evil talk pollute the atmosphere and are in defiance of the Divine Principle. One can sell his body into slavery, but not his soul. Love for humanity is the result of the development of the heart, which is achieved through thinking.
"Wisdom cannot survive in thoughtlessness." The consequences of discord, like the consequences of a terrible disease, come gradually. Fools think that, as long as they awake in the morning, they have avoided any consequences. The violators of collaboration must be judged as detrimental to the public welfare and expulsion will become their lot."
He also taught, "If a traveler knocked at your door at night, you would ask what he wanted, and probably let him in and give him shelter. Why then do you so persistently drive away the thoughts that knock at your door? A guest from a distant land is welcome, but a wise thought from a far-off world is driven away. You look for news in the market-place, but ignore the Messengers of Light.
"Fellow citizens, you are not wise. You pay gold for rotten food, but are too stingy to pay even a copper coin for the nourishment of your soul. Every injustice destroys space.
"Fellow citizens, if you feel no shame for each other, then turn away from the starry sky, which is watching you with disapproval."
Thus, the far-off worlds, thought, and collaboration were favorite topics of His Teaching. Supermundane I, 181. Agni Yoga Society
So ends this part of the story of the Ancient Teachings and the Initiates up until the dawn of the time of Christ and the Piscean Age. Each teacher revealed a certain facet of the Truth and seen together these begin to reveal the jewel of the great teaching itself.
Only fragments of enlightened thinking survived the several ages of Christian orthodoxy. That part which has best served the mystics in the past millennia is known as neo-platonism. Strangely enough, in this age when the conflict between fundamentalist Islam and the West has escalated, we owe the Islamic world a tremendous debt of gratitude for saving Greek philosophy and science for posterity; but that story is best left for Part II of our narrative.
Urusvati knows what initiation is. There is much confusion about this concept. Some think that the path to initiation lies in the acquisition of knowledge. Others think that the act of devotion in itself is initiation, but that, too, is only a path to it. Still others state that to be initiated is to absorb a Mystery: even that is but a way.
Initiation is daring to approach the Image of Light and not fearing to look at It. Uniting with Light requires courage and a high degree of self-denial; this fearlessness is in itself a beautiful initiation.
The Teacher imparts many wise truths, but finally He will say, "Now walk alone, without fear." A particular tension of consciousness is required toward the end of the path. Intellectual knowledge breaks up and vanishes, and the pilgrim remains alone on the cliffs of ascent. Only the flame of the heart can warm when the accumulated coverings have been rent by the storm. Voices are heard, but they do not resemble the Call of the Beloved. Be prepared beforehand to face the Light and to accept It without fear.
It is impermissible to speak in the marketplace about the awareness of Light. An initiate will not disclose his precious experience. No one can compel him to utter the unutterable. This is the difference between an initiate, and a deceiver, who knows how to roll his eyes and sing sweetly about visions that only he can perceive. True messengers are not talkative.
The Thinker expected His disciples to carry carefully what had been entrusted, up to the end. He understood as Socrates did the significance of Truth. He said, "Truth requires a strong repository. Make of yourself a treasure chest!" Supermundane I, 232. Agni Yoga Society
End of Part I. We welcome your comments and feedback in this ongoing work. Check back for updates! PKK &WCH