The last story in Plato’s Republic, which the author relates to his friend Glaucon, concerns a certain hero from the wars, one Er, son of Armenius, aPamphylian by birth. He was slain in battle, and ten days afterwards, when the bodies of the dead were taken up already in a state of corruption, his body was found unaffected by decay, and carried away home to be buried. On the twelfth day as he was lying on the funeral pile, he returned to life and told them what he had seen in the other world. His account was lengthy, and cannot all be retold here, but what concerns us most is what he saw happening to the spirits (or souls) of men BEFORE THEY CAME TO EARTH.
A certain angelic figure by the name of Lachesis, daughter of Necessity, said to them,
“Your genius will not be allotted to you, but you will choose your genius, and let him who draws the first lot have the first choice, and the life which he chooses shall be his destiny. Virtue is free, and as a man honours or dishonours her he will have more or less of her; the responsibility is with the chooser.”
The souls were encouraged to take great care how they chose their destinies, and were shown a goodly number of lives as examples of what might happen. All qualities were shown, whether wealth or poverty, disease or health, and so on, but the goal of virtue was always emphasised. Finally they were brought to the River of Forgetfulness, where they were obliged to drink, and as each one drank, so they became unmindful of their past and were “driven upwards in all manner of ways to their birth, like shooting stars.”
It was after this that Er awoke and found himself on the funeral pyre. Plato concludes,
“Wherefore my counsel is, that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil. Thus shall we live dear to one another and to the gods, both while remaining here and when we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been describing.”
PLATO. 427 – 347 B.C. His original name was ARISTOCLES. He was surnamed PLATO because of his broad shoulders. Greek philosopher, and disciple of SOCRATES, and teacher of ARISTOTLE. He studied under Socrates until his master’s trial, conviction, and death in 399 B.C. After much travelling, he returned to Athens and settled there permanently, founding a school of philosophy known as The Academy. In time The Academy was endowed, and became the first University in history. It flourished until closed by Justinian in 529 A.D. His voluminous writings are in the form of dialogues, with his master Socrates taking the leading role.
SOCRATES. 470 – 399 B.C. Greek philosopher, born in Athens, the son of a sculptor, SOPHRONISCUS. In early life Socrates became a sculptor, but later he devoted himself wholly to philosophy. He developed a style, now known as the Socratic style, whereby his students would learn by the constant use of questioning. Each subject under discussion would be intrusively attacked, leaving no stone unturned, until rational conclusions were reached. In this manner he taught his disciples to use their own ratiocinitive powers.