Why Plato matters today

So here we are, we find ourselves, rubbing our eyes, bewildered, trapped in a shattered world. It is later than we thought it was. It`s all already here – the predicted increase in climate-change related events, such as storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and rising sea levels – all this is under way and no longer only the worst case future scenario any more. Ecosystems are destroyed and brought out of balance - a large number of Earth´s species is being wiped out.

Intensive „industrial“ farming involves cruelty to animals on an inconceivable scale and the poisoning of our grounds and food. How can we regain sanity and health in a toxic environment?

Poles melting, food, ground and air poisoned. How could this happen? Did WE actually do all this? Didn’t we just follow those who blazed the path? Didn’t we just act upon instruction? Whose instruction did we act upon and why? Who is the victim, who the perpetrator? Who mislead whom? These are important questions that have to be answered in the course of events. Reckless companies, agencies and institutions have to be taken into account. We will have to force those who have suppressed knowledge and withheld advanced clean technologies over the last 100 years to disclose. One thing is for certain: The ones who blazed the path into this will not lead us out. We have to do it ourselves.

All over the globe there are people standing up for new -or sometimes very old but forgotten truths and values, knowing that there is no going back to business as usual in this situation, but what we need instead is not only a paradigm shift, but rather a collective quantum leap in evolution NOW.

We are either at the cutting edge of a powerful transformation of consciousness or we are inevitably doomed to perish. We can do it, but we can only do it together.

Time to rethink the course we`re on. That’s why it`s about time for a new heyday of philosophy, the art of questioning everything for the bold seekers of truth, who are not willing to buy into what has been presented to them as truth too long. The best way to prevent being manipulated is still to research on your own, to not take anything for granted, to critically analyze everything you once thought you know. Let your intuition guide you.

So whom can we turn to for inspiration? Well, we have rich traditions of wisdom in the East AND in the West, and there are so many treasures to unleash and deep insights to rediscover.

Take Plato.

Long ago, as a student, I stumbled upon a particularly elusive writing of Plato, »Timaios «, a scripture which is considered the only source of Platos thoughts about the Universe as a whole. It is a beautiful text, presenting a cosmology in a nutshell. Back in the day when I went to University the predominant attitude towards the ancient Greek classics oscillated between great admiration for the logical standards of the discourse on the one hand, and - simultaneously - an attitude of arrogance based on the naive presumption of a straight scientific progress from then till now, which is why allegedly an ancient cosmology cannot keep up with modern scientific standards.

But back to »Timaios «. In this one passage Plato speaks of the Universe (kosmos) as a zô[i]on (30a–31a). In my student edition zô[i]on was translated as „(living) animal“. So I read: The Universe is an animal. I still remember reading this notion again and again. The words struck me because I absolutely did not understand what Plato meant. It seemed somehow archaic and - naive - and irrational, but my intuition told me that there was something about it that I just was not able to understand. Institutional philosophy seemed to assume that poor Plato just knew no better than to compare the universe with an animal. I never believed this to be true.

I was a very sincere philosophy student, who took his cause VERY seriously and Plato was a major authority for me and I thought that there might be a precious treasure to be raised. Yet - when I looked up into the sky, all I could see was a bunch of dead rocks hanging accidentally in the sky, bound together by an abstract passive force - no life anywhere.

But I did not believe that Plato meant this in any way figuratively, somehow in a metaphorical sense, because this is not the way Plato used language. He must have meant it literally.

I knew that zô[i]on can also be translated with "living organism", which in my opinion is more likely what he meant (I am not alone with this opinion, see e.g. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-timaeus/ ). This sounded a bit more rational. And when I read it this way and after contemplating about it for a while I thought how blessed one must be being able to see the Universe this way, as a living organism, everything connected in one mystical grid that makes sense in an unfathomable but beautiful way.

After I had finished University I left the path of academic institutional philosophy in favor of making a living with something that pays my bills. Throughout the years Platos strange notion crossed my mind every now and then, but looking up into the sky I still could not see what he saw, no matter how I tried.

We were taught to see the world as something like a loose accumulation of dead matter. The Western world view - in a way the analyzing mindset itself - has chopped reality apart into atomized isolated pieces, and this is exactly what we then perceive looking at the world.

But modern science is experiencing a radical shift in its understanding of our reality, originating in the deep mysteries of the interconnectedness of all there is and the pivotal role of the observer in a seemingly independent so-called reality, which quantum physics started to re-discover for the West in the last century.

The world we see today is the direct consequence of our theoretical approach to it: the Earth just as any other celestial body is seen not as a breathing living organism but a dead rock that can be exploited without endangering the whole „thing“. A tree is a tree is a tree, not something that enables and supports life on earth. Not something that provides for us, that breathes out so that we can breath in.

What happened to our intellectual superiority towards earlier ages, ancient sages, indigenous tribes? In the light of the catastrophe we finally understand the wisdom behind the indigenous ritual to thank Earth, mother Gaia, for granting our life on earth. In the light of the catastrophe this suddenly does not appear to be naive any more, but wise in a lost sense of the word, lost because our understanding of science and knowledge makes it impossible for us to understand the intricacies of the interconnectedness in a way indigenous tribes, many ancient wisdom traditions and mystics of all religions have understood it all along. Because now, in the moment of loosing it, THROUGH loosing it, we are experiencing in our own lives, in our own bodies, exactly this: how everything is connected, how one cannot live without the other, how everything is ONE living organism, how beautifully intertwined all life is.

The world of our atomistic world view IS the world we are about to create: a dead arbitrary rock with no life. In this specific sense it is not an esoteric view of insane tree huggers to state that our beliefs create our reality.

We are creating what we have thought to be true for centuries and this is what might kill us, if we do not change our mindset now. To acknowledge the beauty of this interconnected world and to honour life in all its expressions is the first step to save the planet. In the catastrophe we are about to unleash, nature teaches us that we were wrong about her true nature and even our own true nature. We have to believe in the great potential of Human consciousness in order to understand our power to turn this around and save life on earth. We do not need AI to do it because we already have all it takes. We need a science that supports this worldview and a philosophy that helps us to express it. Plato provides one of these philosophical approaches.

In these difficult times we should read more Plato.