Tim Addey of the Prometheus Trust
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA are quotes from Tim Addey’s book, ‘‘The Unfolding Wings’, Prometheus Trust, 2009. From the foreword.
Philosophy as a yoga of enlightenment grew out of what one might call the mythological phase of human civilization – that phase in which the deepest truths were passed on in mythological symbol, in initiations and the general oral tradition. Philosophy did not reject its mythological roots, although it was careful to ensure its disciples understood the symbolic truth of myth and initiation rather than accepting a literal interpretation of them. And while philosophy matured with the new age of writing it always held the oral tradition as being the proper channel for its most important truths. As Pierre Hadot observes, ‘More than other literature, philosophical works are linked to oral tradition because ancient philosophy itself is above oral in character.
It was in the last two centuries or so that the reign of Philosophy that its disciples began to commit to writing in a clearer fashion the inner teachings which before Plotinus had been limited to the oral tradition and the hints of their truths in published works. Whether this was in answer to criticism levelled at the philosophic schools by the newly emerging Christianity, or whether it was from a realization that the oral tradition was vulnerable in a climate of antagonistic exclusivism we cannot be sure. What we do know, however, is that the later Platonists have preserved for us much which would otherwise have been lost to us in terms of the practice of philosophy as a living discipline.
Our gratitude is due to the genius of the later Platonists who stretched language to its utmost in order to pass on to those who would follow them a sense of profundity and life of the philosophic yoga. If these writers had not openly discussed the significance of different Gods and their symbols we would almost certainly not notice the way in which Plato frames virtually every one of his dialogues within either a religious festival or a sacred site; nor would we understand the way in which characters in various dialogues represent different divine powers. And had not Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichus, Proclus, Hermeas, Damascius and Olympiodorus amongst others discussed the processes of meditation, initiation, contemplation, theurgy and so on we might not notice the way in which Plato has Socrates go through analogical initiations, and enters contemplative states at significant times in his dramas.
For too long those who would claim philosophy as their own, and would dethrone this queen of all human disciplines, have clamoured like the suitors of the faithful Penelope with unseemly boasts, and displays of the merely superficial. Philosophy is not a clever exercise of the logical mind, nor it is the servant of commercial or political gain; it is not the preserve of super-intelligent, or the sophisticated. It is the art of the good and just life, and Philosophy embraces the simple aspirant who approaches her with the reverence of the true-hearted.
Philosophy, as understood by the sages of its ancient traditions, is a path to perfection, requiring from its disciples the greatest efforts, the most compassionate love, and the clearest thought: these offerings to the Goddess of Wisdom, are not, of course, demanded at the outset. But the student who follows the path of perfection is gradually fitted for each onward step, so that as the way rises towards its upper reaches, the devotee is enabled to make the rightful offerings of the soul to the Divinity who guides the way. As Parmenides so beautifully wrote:
-‘And the goddess receives me kindly,
And took my right hand with her hand,
And uttered speech and thus addressed me:
“Youth attended by immortal charioteers,
Who come to our House with mares that carry you,
Welcome; for it no ill-fortune that sent you forth to travel
This route (for it lies far indeed from the beaten track of men).”
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