A SUMMARY OF THE TEACHINGS OF SOCRATES AND PLATO
1. Man is an incarnate soul. Before his incarnation he existed united to the primordial models, to the ideas of truth, goodness and beauty; then separating from them, he incarnates, and on remembering his past is more or less tormented by the desire to return.
The independence and distinction between the basic principle of intelligence and those of matter could not be more clearly expressed. Apart from this, it is also the doctrine of pre-existence, of man's vague intuition of another world to which be aspires; of leaving the spirit world in order to incarnate and of his return to the spirit world after death. Finally, it also expressed the doctrine of the fallen angels.
2. The soul becomes perturbed and confused when it uses the body in order to consider any object; it becomes dizzy, as if intoxicated, because it holds on to things which, by their very nature, are subject to change; whereas, when Man contemplates his very essence, he directs himself to that which is pure, eternal and immortal and seeing that his soul is of this nature, he remains joined to this state as long as he can. His perturbations then cease because he is joined to that which is immutable, and this is the state of the soul called wisdom.
Thus, the man who considers things in a down-to-earth fashion is only deceiving himself. To see things in their true perspective he must look upon them from high up, that is to say from the spiritual point of view. Those who are in possession of true wisdom then, must isolate the soul from the body in order to be able to see with the eyes of the Spirit. This is what Spiritism also teaches (see chapter 2, item 5).
3. As long as our physical body and our souls are immersed in this corruption, we can never possess the object of our desire, which is Truth. In fact, the body stirs op thousands of obstacles due to the necessity we have of caring for it. Moreover, it fills us with desires, appetites, doubts, a thousand fancies and foolish things, in such a way that we find it impossible to be sensible, even for an instant. But, if it is not possible to know anything in its entirety while the soul remains joined to the body, either we shall never know the truth, or we shall only know it after death. Freed from the misleading ideas of the body, we hope it will be permissible to talk with men and women who have also been liberated, and so understand for ourselves the essence of things. This is the reason why true philosophers prepare themselves for dying, as death represents nothing to them, and in no way is it to be feared.
Here we have the principles of the faculties of the souls being obscured by the corporeal organs and the expansion of purified souls. This does not happen to impure souls (see HEAVEN & HELL 1st part, chapter 2; & 2nd part, chapter 1).
4. The soul in its impure state finds itself oppressed, and is once again attracted to the visible world by the fear of that which is invisible and immaterial. It is a mistake then, to say that the gloomy ghosts seen round tombs and monuments most be the soul of those who have left their bodies without being absolutely pure, and so still conserve part of their material form, which makes them visible to the human eye. In fact they are not good but bad souls, dragging with them the penalties of their first life, who find themselves forced to wander in such places, where they will continue to wander till their appetites, inherent to the material form with which they are clad, recalls them to another body. Then, beyond doubt, they will return to the some habits which were the object of their preferences during their first life.
Not only the principle of reincarnation is clearly shown here, but also the stale of those souls who maintain themselves under the yoke of matter, as described to us in spiritual communications. Furthermore, it is said that reincarnation in a material body is the consequence of the impresses of the soul, whereas the purified soul finds itself exempt from further reincarnation. This is exactly what Spiritism teaches, only adding that the soul which, having made good resolutions while in the spiritual world and possessing some acquired knowledge, brings less defects, more virtues and intuitive ideas on being reborn than it had in the preceding incarnation. In this way each existence shows both intellectual and moray progress (see HEAVEN & HELL, 2nd part, Examples).
5. After our death the genie (Daimon, devil), who had been assigned to us during our life, will take us to a place where all who most go to Hades, in order to be judged, are gathered. The souls, after having been in Hades the necessary length of time are then returned to this life, for long periods and multiple times.
This is the doctrine of the Guardian Angels or Protecting Spirits, and of successive reincarnations after intervals of varying lengths in the spirit world.
6. Devils occupy the space which separates Heaven from Earth; this constitutes the link which unites the Universe with itself. The Divinity never enters into direct contact with Man, which is done through the mediation of the devils with whom the gods have dealings, and who occupy themselves with him both during waking and sleeping.
In ancient times the word daimon, from which the term evil was derived, was not used in the bad sense as it is today. Nor was it used exclusively for evil beings, but for Spirits in general within which were included Superior Beings called gods, as well as the less elevated, the actual devils, who communicated directly with Man. Spiritism also says that Spirits inhabit space, that God only communicates with Man through the intermediary of pure Spirits who are entrusted to transmit His wishes. Spirits also communicate with Man during sleep as well as while he is awake. If we put the word Spirit in place of the word devil we have the Spiritist doctrine, and by putting the word Angel we have the Christian doctrine.
7. The constant preoccupation of the philosophers (as understood by Socrates and Plato) is to take great care of the soul, less with respect to the present life, which lasts but an instant, but more with respect to eternity. As the soul is immortal, would it not be more prudent to live our lives bearing this fact in mind?
Both Spiritism and the Christian faith teach the same thing.
8. If the soul is immaterial, then after this life it will have to go to a world which is equally invisible and immaterial, the some way as the body decomposes and returns to matter. It is very important, however, to clearly distinguish the pure soul which is truly immaterial and which nourishes itself, as God does, from thoughts and the sciences, from that of the soul which is more or less stained by impurities of a material nature, which impedes elevation to all that is divine and which, in fact, causes it to be retained in its earthly surroundings.
As we can see, both Socrates and Plato understood perfectly the different levels of the dematerialized soul. They insisted on the varieties of situations resulting from its more or less purified states. What they said though intuition, Spiritism proves by the numerous examples which it places before us (see HEAVEN & HELL, 2nd part).
9. If death meant the complete dissolution of man the bad Spirits would have much to gain from death as they would find themselves at one and the same time free from body, soul and vices. Only those who adorn their soul not with strange ornaments, but with those which are appropriate, may await the hour of their return to the other world with tranquillity.
This is equal to saying that materialism, when it proclaims there is nothing alter death, annuls all previous moral responsibility, this being consequently an inductive to badness and that badness bas everything to gain from nothingness. Only the man who has divested himself of all vice and enriched himself with virtue can await the arousing in the other life with tranquillity. By means of examples, which are offered to us daily, Spiritism shows how painful it is for those who are bad to pass over into this other life (see HEAVEN & HELL, 2nd part, chapter 1).
10. The body retains the well-impressed vestiges of the care it received, as well as the marks of all accidents suffered. The same applies to the soul. When it disposes of the body it maintains in evidence the features of its character, its affections, as well as the marks that hove been left on it by all the various occurrences during its life. Thus, the worst thing that can happen to a man or woman is to return to the other world with his or her soul laden with crimes. You see Calicles, that neither you nor Polux, nor Gorgias, can prove that we should lead a different life that coo be useful when we find ourselves on the other side. From so many different opinions the only one which is Unshakable is that it is better to receive than to commit an injustice, and that, above all else we must be careful not just to seem like, but to actually be men and women of goodness. (Taken from a dialogue between Socrates and is followers when be was in prison.)
Here we are faced with yet another point of capital importance which experience has proved to us: that the soul which is not yet purified retains the ideas, tendencies, character and passions which it bad while on Earth. Is not the maxim - It is better to receive than to commit an injustice - entirely Christian? Jesus expressed the same thought when He said: "If someone strikes you on the cheek, then offer him the other one too" (see chapter 12, items 7 & 8).
11. One of two things - either death is the absolute destruction or it is the passing of the soul into another place. If everything is extinguished, then death would be like one of those infrequent nights when we do not dream nor have any consciousness of ourselves. However, if death is but a change of habitation, the passageway to the place where the dead must meet, what happiness to find there all those we have known! My greatest pleasure would be to closely examine the inhabitants of this other home and to distinguish there, as we do here, which of those who deem themselves worthy are actually so considered. But it is time to part, me to my death and you to life (Socrates to his judges).
According to Socrates, those who live upon the Earth meet again after death and recognise each other. Spiritism shows that relationships continue to the extent that death is not an interruption nor the cessation of life, but rather an inevitable transformation without any discontinuity.
If Socrates and Plato had known what Christ was to teach five hundred years later, and which Spiritism now spreads, they would have said exactly the same things. There is nothing surprising in this fact, however, if we consider that all great truths are eternal and all advanced Spirits had to know them before they came to Earth in order to be able to deliver them. We may consider even further that Socrates and Plato, together with all the other great philosophers of those great times, could have later been among those chosen to uphold Christ in His Divine Mission, being chosen precisely because they were more apt to understand His sublime teachings. It also appears highly probable that today they participate in the Host of Spirits charged with teaching mankind these same truths.
12. Never return one injustice with another, nor harm anyone, whatever harm they may hove caused to others. Few, however, will admit this principle and those who disagree will, beyond doubt, do nothing but despise one another.
Is this not the principle of charity, which prescribes that we do not return evil for evil and that we forgive our enemies?
13. We know the tree according to its fruit. Every action should be qualified by what it produces: qualified as evil when it causes evil and as goodness when it produces goodness.
The maxim: "It is by the fruits that we know the tree," is repeated many times throughout the Gospel.
14. Riches ore a great danger. Every man who loves riches does not love himself, nor those who belong to him (see chapter 16).
15. The most beautiful prayers and the most beautiful sacrifices mean less to God than a virtuous soul who has struggled to be like Him. It has been a grave error to think that the gods dispense more attention to their offerings than to our souls. If that were the case then the greatest culprits would become favoured. But no, the truly just and upright are those who, by their words and deeds, fulfill their duties to the gods and humanity (see chapter 10, items 7 & 8).
16. We call he who loves his body more than his soul, depraved. Love is everywhere in nature and it calls us to use our intelligence; we even find it in the movements of the planets. It is love which covers nature with its richest carpet; it is o decoration and makes its home where there are flowers and perfumes. It is also love which gives peace to mankind, calms the seas, silences the storm and gives sleep to sufferers.
Love, which will unite Man through a fraternal link, is a consequence of Plato's theory on universal love as a Law of Nature. Socrates said: "Love is neither a god nor a mortal, but a great devil," that is, a great Spirit which presides over universal love. This proposition was held against him like a crime.
l7. Virtue cannot be taught but comes as a gift from God to those who possess it.
This is almost be Christian doctrine of grace; but if virtue is a gift from God, then it is a favour and we may ask why it is not conceded to all. On the other hand, if it is a gift then there is no merit on the part of those who possess it. Spiritism is more explicit in saying that those who possess a virtue have acquired it through their own efforts during successive lives, by ridding themselves, little by little, of their imperfections. Grace is a force which God gives to a well meaning man or woman so that he or she may expunge their badness and so be able to practise good.
18. The natural disposition shown by all, is to perceive our defects far less than we see those of others.
The Gospel says: "You see the mote that is in the eye of your neighbour, but you do not see the beam that is in your own eye" (see chapter 10, items 9 & 10).
19. If doctors are unsuccessful in treating the majority of ailments it is because they treat the body without treating the soul If the whole is not good condition then it is impossible that part of it should be well.
Spiritism offers the key to the relationship which exists between the soul and the body, so proving that one of them is constantly reacting on the other. This idea opens up a new field for science. With the possibility of showing the real cause of certain ailments, the way of curing them becomes easier. When science takes into account the spiritual element in the organism, then failures will be much less frequent.
20. All men, right from infancy, commit far more badness than goodness.
In this sentence, Socrates touches on the grave question of the predominance of badness on Earth, a question which is insoluble without knowledge of the plurality of worlds and the destiny of our planet Earth, inhabited as it is by only a fraction of humanity. Only Spiritism can resolve this question which is more fully explained further an in chapters 3, 4 & 5.
21. It is more judicious not to suppose you know that of which you are in ignorance.
This is directed at those who offer criticism about matters unknown to them, even in basic terms. Plato completes this thought of Socrates by saying: "In first place, if it is possible, we must make them more honest in their words; if they are not, we shall not bother with them, and we shall seek nothing but the truth. We shall do our best to instruct them, but shall not insult them."
This is how Spiritism should proceed in relation to those who contradict, whether in good or bad faith. If Plato were to come alive today he would find things almost as they were in his time and he would be able to use the same words. Socrates would also meet creatures who would jeer at his belief in Spirits and would believe him to be mad, together with his disciple Plato. It was for having professed these principles that Socrates saw himself ridiculed, accused of impiety and condemned to drink hemlock. So, assuredly, by reason of its controversy stirring up many prejudices and striking against many prejudices, these great new truths will not be accepted without a fight, nor without making martyrs.