The Prometheus Trust is proposing to run an on-going exploration of Platonic philosophy via regular Zoom sessions. This exploration will be an attempt to approach philosophy as its founders clearly intended - in modern terms, as a spiritual path, or in more ancient terms, as an intellectual discipline for those whose aim is to rediscover the light of the Gods within the soul.
The exploration is offered to those who are looking to move deeper into the Platonic tradition, as a living teaching. What does this mean? It does not imply an exclusivity which rejects the insights of other traditions, nor does it demand that particular teachings usually denominated Platonic are accepted simply because of their apparent establishment within the tradition. At all times the endeavour is to respect the self-motive and self-sufficient nature of the enquiring soul. But the Trust works within the tradition because it holds that it is comprehensive and profound, offering the wisdom-fruits of men and women who have formed a golden chain over many centuries and millennia: while the ultimate movement is “a flight of the alone to the alone” the assistance that each of us can receive from those who have contributed to our tradition is beyond measure.
To enter whole-heartedly into the tradition is not to become passive to it - in truth, it will not yield its best treasures until the individual seeks to contribute to it him- or herself. Platonism is a timeless conversation across the generations: our explorations are our attempt to listen more closely and to respond more generously to that conversation.
The exploration here is aimed at those who feel themselves to be reasonably well established in the Platonic tradition, and who are committed to that tradition as their primary vehicle of philosophic endeavour. For those not in this position, the Prometheus Trust will continue to run more open public sessions on various texts and topics (see here), and will also be offering an introductory course of 10 sessions under the title of “The Essentials of the Philosophy of Plato and his Tradition” (see here). These activities, we hope, will enable the relative newcomer to Platonic philosophy to form a well-rounded perspective on the tradition without which it would be unreasonable to expect anyone to make the commitment our “Philosophy as the love of Wisdom” explorations require.
The Trust is not in the business of judging individuals and so we leave it to you to decide whether or not you are likely to benefit by joining this level of exploration: if you would like to talk over the kind of level we are likely to be pitching the studies at please contact the education co-ordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org who would be happy to email or set up a private zoom session to talk it through.
We do need to emphasize that if you are looking simply to place Platonism in the context of what one might call the universal tradition of humankind, this is not what the explorations are aimed at - as honourable and as useful as such endeavours are. Our view is that one should drink deeply of a single coherent tradition and that an appreciation of the universal will spontaneously arise if, as it should be, the spirit of tolerance and openness is cultivated as part of that tradition. This ongoing course is our best attempt at assisting those whose focus is upon the Platonic path.
Our study of the foundational dialogues of Plato will be aided by the profound insights of the Platonists of late antiquity, as we endeavour to gain sight of, as Thomas Taylor puts it, “those great truths in the philosophy and theology of Plato, which though they have been concealed for ages in oblivion, have a subsistence coeval with the universe, and will again be restored, and flourish, for very extended periods, through all the infinite revolutions of time.”
Because we hope that we can run a system that is relatively flexible and open to those who would like to join us in the future we are going to adopt a modular approach. We will take a theme or a text for about four months, and run a zoom session on aspects of it every two weeks so that a module will have eight sessions of about 1 hour 45 minutes running alongside suggested readings and “Slack forum” exchanges. We hope that the forum will become a place of lively exchanges - a way of keeping our attention on important issues in the periods between the Zoom sessions.
We should be able to run two modules per year in this way, so that those coming to us anew and who have a sufficient grounding in Platonism will not have to wait too long before they are able to make a start at the beginning of a new module.
The sessions will run on Sundays at two-weekly intervals, from 7.00 to 8.45pm (London time). We do ask that participants make their best efforts to attend every session because we expect much of the value of any module to arise from the experience of the exchanges between ourselves as we build up our understanding of the text or theme that we are focussing upon.
There are no fees involved - the Trust runs all its teaching activities at cost as we consider the cultivation of wisdom to be not only priceless, but also the rightful inheritance of every soul, and as Socrates himself says in the Gorgias (at 420d), not something which should be subject to payments.
Where Prometheus Trust books form the basis of any module, we will be offering an extra “students’ discount” on our prices via our own website (unless you are in the US or Canada, in which case our distibutors OMA will be offering their own discount via a discount code which we will pass on to you).
Links to the zoom sessions and to the Slack forum will be provided by the education co-ordinator in good time.
The first module: the Phaedo and its commentaries
Our first module will centre on Plato’s Phaedo with extensive reference to the Commentaries of Damascius and Olympiodorus.
The Phaedo is one of the finest works of philosophy and one of the great dramas of western literature: it covers the last day of Socrates' earthly life and centres on a discussion about the immortality of the human soul, and the consequences that flow from that immortality. It includes allusions to traditional and Orphic myths, discusses interior initiations, explores issues of rationality, allows Socrates to describe his vision of "the true Earth" and culminates in a noble and touching death which is truly life affirming.
In the cycle of dialogues established in the Platonic schools of late antiquity the Phaedo was considered to be the one which was especially concerned with the cathartic movement which turns the philosopher’s attention to the work of governing and beautifying her own soul. So an appropriate starting point for our proposed project. It is one of the few dialogues with two late Platonic commentaries extant (more or less), and this will allow us to approach it with a distillation of almost a thousand years of ancient meditations upon its inner content.
Planned Sunday dates: September 12th & 26th; October 10th & 24th; November 7th & 21st; December 5th & 19th.
For further details and registration please contact the Prometheus Trust’s education co-ordinator:
Next module (theme/text to be arranged)
Dates for winter/spring 2022: January 16th & 30th; February 13th & 27th; March 13th & 27th; April 10th; May 1st.