This is Post 23 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found by clicking here.
Self-inquiry, meditation practice, and the practice that the English-speaking Buddhist traditions call ‘Mindfulness’, all involve what can be described metaphorically as an inner drawing back, out of the egoic identification in which we find ourselves, into an identification with the field of Consciousness itself – and discovering the blessings that flow from that. We usually associate these practices with Indian and far eastern spirituality (and perhaps with a few Christian mystical traditions like the Quakers). It is important to understand however, that the same subtle spiritual knowledge was present at the beginning of Western Philosophy in the Platonic and Neoplatonic traditions that flourished before the Christian period, and then re-emerged in the Renaissance.
An Ancient Greek Vision of Spiritual Freedom
Socrates, the Classical Greek philosopher, who lived in Athens in the 5th Century BCE, was teaching on ethics and the ultimate nature of mind in the same century that the Buddha was addressing these themes in ancient India. If he did ever do any writing himself, none of Socrates’ writings have survived, so we only know of his ideas though the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and via the playwright Aristophanes.
There is much in Plato’s literary record of Socrates’ life and teachings, that is relevant to this series of posts on the brahmavihāras, but I would like to return to one of his teachings that I have touched on briefly before in this series (here) – the ‘Allegory of the Cave’ from Plato’s Republic. Set in the context of a wider discussion about the value of education and of spiritual knowledge, it appears to present a philosophical theory of human perception that is very similar to both the Buddha’s view, and that of Quantum Physics. Continue reading