Some of our readers may wonder why we should have considered these ancient Greek philosophers at all, seeing that, (as evangelicals have been taught) Paul condemned them in his letters, particularly that to the Colossians. But the trouble arises from ignorance, rather than truth. Those who have studied Plato will at once recognise a philosophy that is clean, logical, satisfying, and for the most part TRUE. We might add that Socrates was finally condemned before a Court, and required to drink Hemlock, from which he died. Shall we not honour him, who died in the pursuit of TRUTH? Was he not, in his own way, reaching out towards the One whose name is TRUTH? Just because he had no contact with Israel, and died 430 years before the Crucifixion, doesn’t make him devoid of the ability to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness. Our own personal opinion, after reading the volumes of Plato’s works, is that it would be a salutary exercise for many a believer today. A too-narrow view of life always leads to exclusivism, and an arrogant patronising of others. God is the “God of the spirits of all flesh”, and in the days of judgment, will see all of us as we really are, and many of us will be in for a shock at the outcome, simply because of the narrowness of our vision of who God is. And with that prelude, let us investigate what Plato had to say on the subject of pre-existence. Our second quote is from MENO, and is a discussion betweenSocrates and Meno, also with Meno’s slave boy. We take up the dialogue just after Socrates has questioned the slave boy about his understanding of geometry, whereby the truth of Pythagoras’s theorem is elicited.
Soc. What do you say of him, Meno? Were not all these answers given out of his own head?
Men. Yes, they were all his own.
Soc. And yet, as we were just now saying, he did not know?
Soc. And yet he had those notions in him?
Soc. Then he who does not know still has true notions of that which he does not know?
Men. He has.
Soc. And at present these notions are just wakening up in him, as in a dream; but if he were frequently asked the same questions, in different forms, he would know as well as anyone at last?
Men. I dare say.
Soc. Without anyone teaching him, he will recover his knowledge for himself, if he is only asked questions?
Soc. And this spontaneous recovery in him is recollection?
Soc. And this knowledge which he now has, must he not either have acquired or always possessed?
Soc. But if he always possessed this knowledge he would always have known; or if he has acquired the knowledge, he could not have acquired it in this life, unless he has been taught geometry; for he may be made to do the same with all geometry and every other branch of knowledge. Now, has any one ever taught him? You must know that, if as you say, he was born and bred in your house.
Men. And I am certain that no one ever did teach him.
Soc. And yet has he not the knowledge?
Men. That, Socrates, is most certain.
Soc. But if he did not acquire this knowledge in this life, then clearly he must have had and learned it at some other time?
Men. That is evident.
Soc. And that must have been the time when he was not a man?
Soc. And if there have always been true thoughts in him, both at the time when he was and was not a man, which only need to be awakened into knowledge by putting questions to him, his soul must always have possessed this knowledge, for he always either was or was not a man?
Men. That is clear.
Soc. And if the truth of all things existed in the soul, then the soul is immortal. Wherefore be of good cheer, and try to recollect what you do not know, or rather do not remember.
Men. I feel somehow, that I like what you are saying.
Soc. And I, Meno, like what I am saying. Some things I have said of which I am not altogether confident. But that we shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in searching after what we know not; that is a theme on which I am ready to fight, in word and deed, to the utmost of my power.