DIALOGUES IN HADES - V
DIALOGUES IN HADES
D. R. Khashaba
Hermes told me of a special occasion when Sappho of Lesbos visited the grove of Socrates. He said that when Sappho had paid homage to Socrates and Plato and had greeted the others, Aspasia said, “I have a whim. As a special treat for our valued visitor, let us have an all-female conference.” Among the audience there were amused smiles and jovial laughter but no one objected to the proposal. Aspasia led Sappho to a bed of roses flanking a rippling brook where they were joined by Hypatia of Alexandria, Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Phlius who both studied under Plato at the Academy, and Mariam and Isis who studied under Hypatia at the School of Alexandria.
Aspasia: Let us converse of the Good.
Sappho: Or of Beauty.
Hypatia: Or of Reality.
Mariam: Or of Wisdom.
Axiothea: Or of Love.
Isis: Or of Intelligence.
Lastheneia: Or of the Good.
Hypatia: You see that we have given seven names to what is One. As the Indian sage said, ‘To what is one the wise give many a name’.
Aspasia: As if we have seven ways for ascending to the One.
Sappho: The ways to the One are countless.
Axiothea: Even on the lowest level of the notion of the good, we find that the simple ‘goods’ that human beings on earth think of as constituents of a good life are by themselves and in themselves neither good nor bad and are only truly good when united with wisdom as Father Socrates never tired of showing.
Isis: Of these mundane goods the wise value the simplest. Confucius thinking of having a good time, what does he look forward to? “I should like,” he says, “together with five or six adults and six or seven boys, to go bathing in the River Yi and enjoy the breeze on the Rain Altar, and then to go home chanting poetry.” What he looks forward to is the joy of experiencing the verve of life and the pleasure of companionship.
Mariam: I find his mentioning of “six or seven boys” significant. His joy is perfected by seeing and sharing in the joy of the boys. True happiness is outgoing; it is found in giving happiness to others.
Hypatia: All reality is an outflow, a creative act.
Sappho: An act of Love is the fount of Reality.
Lastheneia: Father Plato made Father Socrates make Diotima say that all human beings are heavy with child in body and in soul.
Isis: But only the intelligent soul enjoying the self-awareness of inner insight experiences the pangs of birth, the urge and the need to create.
Axiothea: Goethe knew that the fulfilment of joy is creativity. I find that intimated in his saying “He to whom Nature begins to unveil her open secret feels an irresistible longing for her worthiest interpreter, art.”
Hypatia: Not only the human soul is creative and procreative but all things that be are pregnant with what is to be; indeed to be is nothing but a promise of new being. Else all existence, all determinate being, is hemmed with non-being: the being of what is, is determined by what it is not; it carries in its being the edict of its extinction; the price of existence is evanescence. Thus all being negates its being to give being to new being.
Axiothea: Having begun with the mundane conception of the good we have been led to find all value and all reality in the intelligent, creative soul.
Mariam: Nishida Kitarō of Japan finds that “pure experience is the only real reality” and Immanuel Kant finds that the only absolutely good thing to be a good will.
Lastheneia: Nishida Kitarō speaks of the only real reality and Immanuel Kant speaks of the only absolutely good thing.
Axiothea: Like all determinate formulations of thought both these wise thoughts demand correction and completion by each other. In the intelligent soul the reality of pure experience and the goodness of the good will are united.
Hypatia: The intelligent soul only has reality and goodness in the act of intelligent creativity.
Sappho: An act of intelligent creativity is an act of Love outflowing from a soul endowed with Beauty.
Hypatia: My fellow-countryman Plotinus has wisely said: ou gar an pôpote eiden ophthalmos hêllion hêlioeidês mê gegenêmenos, oude to kalon an idoi psuchê mê kalê genomenê. (The eye could never see the sun if it had no kinship with the sun, nor could a soul that had not become beautiful behold Beauty.)
Sappho: Thus all things in the cosmos are bound together and could not share in reality if they were not one in the One.
Aspasia: The One is all things and no thing, hence Meister Eckhart saw God as nothingness.
Hypatia: With reason. Father Plato said the Form of the Good is beyond being and beyond knowledge yet is the fount of all being and all knowledge.
They perceived that the group around Socrates were about to start dancing to music and they moved to join them.
Cairo, December 3, 2015.