Translation in English: Nasos Kavathas
In Plato’s «Symposium», one of the most mysterious faces of Philosophy appears, Diotima (ie: the one who honors Zeus) a priestess from the ancient Mantineia of Arcadia, which announces to Socrates the one time she met an admitted by himself philosopher, as Plato mentions us, that she will reveal and teach him the Uplifts of Love (“Eros”). The way a person can understand that in addition to the carnal love found in the first erotic uplift, he could gradually penetrate the true concept of love to uplift his soul.
According to Xenophon, she was aware of the pythagorian numerosophy and not inexperienced in the most difficult geometrical theorems («ουκ άπειρος δυσσυνέτων διαγραμμάτων έστι»). But Protokle also considers Diotima «Pythagoric». Diotima was the priestess who made the purification of the Athenians after the plague of 429 BC.
So far, by reading the public history, (as we all do), we did not know that there were actual writings of Diotima, (and not only hers of course). Personally, since my school years I did not believe that all this knowledge of our ancient ancestors had been lost after the destruction of the ancient libraries and that only those that have been told by public history had survived. I always wanted to find something more. These ‘something more’ bits I found thanks to three people.
1) My professor Pietro Mancini, chairman of the History faculty of the University of Perugia, who told me when I graduated that with my graduation code-number I was able to enter all university libraries as well as the Vatican Library.
2) The second person was Nuncio Raffaello Pelegrin, a Vatican librarian who gave me the password to the forbidden-to-the-world library, provided so that I can read the texts that interested me, not copy them.
3) My classmate, Archbishop Blessed Christodoulos, who has been granted permission to visit the digitized libraries of Mount Athos and Saint Catherine of Sinai Monastery .
Of course, as you can see, I did not keep the ban, so the good Lord punished me with the destruction of my computer, but I still was saving something. It is obvious that the real (ie public) history must be written by the winners.
But to return to our subject by visiting the library of Saint Catherine of Sinai electronically and looking for the alphabetical order of the many titles of the archives of that library, I was stunned entering the letter “D” by staring at the very writings of Diotima, several surviving passages of her works in fact, one of which is the title of the article. Of course my punishment continued with the loss of another computer.
So let us look at the saved passage of the ancient text and let everyone draw his conclusions.
I quote it just as discovered in the library of Catherine of Sinai. The interpretation in the common language is to better understand the writings of this great Priestess and Socrates’ Teacher:
«Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν τὰ ἐρωτικὰ ἴσως, ὦ Σώκρατες, κἂν σὺ μυηθείης.»
(Dear Socrates, I will show you the steps/Uplifts of love that I wish that you have already begun inducting yourself.)
«τὰ δὲ τέλεα καὶ ἐποπτικά,»
(These uplifts of love lead to perfection and correspond to the highest degree of initiation of the Eleusinian Mystery supervisor.)
«ὧν ἕνεκα καὶ ταῦτα ἔστιν,»
(In order to explain to you how this mysterious process works, I reveal the following information:)
«ἐάν τις ὀρθῶς μετίῃ,»
(If you manage to participate properly in this process,)
«οὐκ οἶδ᾽ εἰ οἷός τ᾽ ἂν εἴης.»
(I do not think there will be anyone else who can now compare with you.)
«ἐρῶ μὲν οὖν, ἔφη, ἐγὼ καὶ προθυμίας οὐδὲν ἀπολείψω»
(So I will speak on these issues, said Diotima, and I have the willingness not to miss any details.)
«πειρῶ δὲ ἕπεσθαι,»
(I’ll even try to help you follow this upgrading process,)
«ἂν οἷός τε ᾖς.»
(if of course you would like to do so.)
«δεῖ γάρ, ἔφη, τὸν ὀρθῶς ἰόντα ἐπὶ τοῦτο τὸ πρᾶγμα ἄρχεσθαι μὲν νέον ὄντα ἰέναι ἐπὶ τὰ καλὰ σώματα,»
(First of all, said Diotima, someone who wants to follow this process properly, should start his efforts from his youthful age on the occasion of the erotic mood he will feel for a beautiful body.)
«καὶ πρῶτον μέν,»
(And of course, at first and foremost)
«ἐὰν ὀρθῶς ἡγῆται ὁ ἡγούμενος,»
(a prerequisite for this is that there is a good guide.)
«ἑνὸς αὐτὸν σώματος ἐρᾷν καὶ ἐνταῦθα γεννᾷν λόγους καλούς,»
(This instructor will direct the young person who feels the erotic mood for a beautiful body, restrict himself to this particular body, and based on this object to try to bring to mind all the best thoughts that could minded by seeing this body.)
«ἔπειτα δὲ αὐτὸν κατανοῆσαι ὅτι τὸ κάλλος τὸ ἐπὶ ὁτῳοῦν σώματι τῷ ἐπὶ ἑτέρῳ σώματι ἀδελφόν ἐστι,»
(Then, to rise to the second erotic uplift, this young man must understand that the beauty of the body for which he has felt erotic mood is not unique, but he could meet this beauty in another body, as if these two bodies belonged to siblings.)
«καὶ εἰ δεῖ διώκειν τὸ ἐπ᾽ εἴδει καλόν,»
(And if the pursuit of the young person will focus on the outer appearance of the beauty,)
«πολλὴ ἄνοια μὴ οὐχ ἕν τε καὶ ταὐτὸν ἡγεῖσθαι τὸ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς σώμασι κάλλος»
(he must understand that it is absurd that only one person’s body could have such a beauty, because similar external beauty could be found in the bodies of many other people.)
«τοῦτο δ᾽ ἐννοήσαντα καταστῆναι πάντων τῶν καλῶν σωμάτων ἐραστήν,»
(Having understood this widespread proliferation of physical beauty, one must feel equally strong erotic mood and admiration for all bodies that satisfy these criteria of external beauty.)
«ἑνὸς δὲ τὸ σφόδρα τοῦτο χαλάσαι καταφρονήσαντα καὶ σμικρὸν ἡγησάμενον»
(But if he is confined to admiring only one beautiful body, he must understand that this will cause damage to his soul and he must consider himself (if he can not see the general beauty) being disadvantaged.)
«μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα τὸ ἐν ταῖς ψυχαῖς κάλλος τιμιώτερον ἡγήσασθαι τοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματι,»
(After this process, he can proceed to the third erotic step and realize that the beauty in the souls of people is much more valuable than the physical beauty.)
«ὥστε καὶ ἐὰν ἐπιεικὴς ὢν τὴν ψυχήν τις κἂν σμικρὸν ἄνθος ἔχῃ,»
(Because he must understand that the flower of a soul, even when it is a small bud, has a greater beauty than even the most perfect physical beauty.)
«ἐξαρκεῖν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐρᾷν καὶ κήδεσθαι καὶ τίκτειν λόγους τοιούτους»
(In this way, he has to be content with finding a person with such a psychic beauty, and must dedicate his love to such a person, as well as taking care of all the needs of this person and glorifying his/her mental gifts .)
«καὶ ζητεῖν, οἵτινες ποιήσουσι βελτίους τοὺς νέους,»
(He should also be looking to find out what are the attributes of this person, that have the capacity to improve the mental culture of a young one.)
«ἵνα ἀναγκασθῇ αὖ θεάσασθαι τὸ ἐν τοῖς ἐπιτηδεύμασι καὶ τοῖς νόμοις καλὸν καὶ τοῦτ᾽ ἰδεῖν ὅτι πᾶν αὐτὸ αὑτῷ ξυγγενές ἐστιν,»
(We are entering the fourth, erotic upgrading: So, the young person will eventually feel the need to understand the particular beauty that can be expressed through human activities and, above all, the beauty that is contained in the inspired legislation and to examine everything that is closely related to these activities.)
«ἵνα τὸ περὶ τὸ σῶμα καλὸν σμικρόν τι ἡγήσηται εἶναι.»
(And then understand that the beauty of a human body is insignificant compared to these dimensions of spiritual beauty.)
«μετὰ δὲ τὰ ἐπιτηδεύματα ἐπὶ τὰς ἐπιστήμας ἀγαγεῖν,»
(We are entering the fifth erotic stage: And after examining the whole range of activities and also include the examination of artistic activities)
«ἵνα ἴδῃ αὖ ἐπιστημῶν κάλλος,»
(We are entering the sixth erotic elevation: He can now proceed to the research of the beauty that lies within the sciences.)
«καὶ βλέπων πρὸς πολὺ ἤδη τὸ καλὸν μηκέτι τῷ παρ᾽ ἑνί, ὥσπερ οἰκέτης,»
(And then he will understand that he has already reached very high levels of unction, a deeper understanding of the divine beauty, which if compared to the search for the beauty of a body, he/she must consider this previous search as a begging.)
«ἀγαπῶν παιδαρίου κάλλος ἢ ἀνθρώπου τινός ἢ ἐπιτηδεύματος ἑνός,»
(That means: he would appear as a beggar if he limited his love to the beautiful looks of a young human or to the psychic beauty of a human or even to the artistic value of a great piece of art.)
«δουλεύων φαῦλος ᾖ καὶ σμικρολόγος,»
(And in this way it would be proved that he behaves with foolishness and pettiness.)
«ἀλλ᾽ ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ πέλαγος τετραμμένος τοῦ καλοῦ καὶ θεωρῶν πολλοὺς καὶ καλοὺς λόγους καὶ μεγαλοπρεπεῖς τίκτῃ καὶ διανοήματα ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ ἀφθόνῳ,»
(But because he has already exerted a great deal of appreciation of beauty, and because he is now able to express himself about beauty in many and worthy and magnificent ways, and to proceed with abundant philosophical considerations,)
«ἕως ἂν ἐνταῦθα ῥωσθεὶς καὶ αὐξηθεὶς κατίδῃ τινὰ ἐπιστήμην μίαν τοιαύτην, ἥ ἐστι καλοῦ τοιοῦδε.»
(to the point whereby he can acquire great spiritual powers and increase his spiritual clarity to the point of understanding that only one is the science which has to do with absolute beauty and that is, of course, philosophy.)
(We are now entering the 7 erotic elevation).
«πειρῶ δέ μοι, ἔφη, τὸν νοῦν προσέχειν ὡς οἷόν τε μάλιστα.»
(And Diotima also added that, in her opinion, we must attach great importance to these spiritual processes related to philosophy.)
The validity of the above passage is substantiated by Plato himself at the Symposium, referring to the dialogue between Socrates and Diotima.
Diotima: «Do you have the idea, that you could ever become experienced in the issues of love, if you do not understand these things?»
Socrates: «But I told you, Diotima, even a while ago; that’s exactly why I came close to you because I realized I needed teaching. So, tell me about the explaining of this phenomenon and about the other things related to love. «
Diotima: «Well,» she said, «as long as your belief is that the natural object of love is that one which we have often discovered, you must not be surprised. For in this case too, as in other cases, for the same reason, as long as possible, mortal nature seeks to be eternal and immortal. The only possible way, through reproduction, is always to leave a new similar in the place of the old one.
«Moreover, what we call the unity of an individual life and an existence of a living being – eg. a man from his childhood until he becomes old, he is considered to be himself; not that he, though he never has the same ingredients in his body, though we say he is the same, while he’s constantly renewing and eliminating some, the hair, the flesh, the bones, the whole blood in the body. And not only in the body, but also in the soul, the ways, the morals, the perceptions, the desires, the pleasures, the sorrows, the fears, none of them remain unchanged in every person: such others are born, such others are lost. »
And she goes on: «There’s something much more paradoxical: parts of knowledge coming to us, others leaving us, and as ourselves are never the same, every knowledge has a similar fate. Because what we call study is made on the assumption that knowledge disappears; forgetfulness is the disappearance of knowledge, while on the other hand the study, introducing a new representation instead of a previous one, keeps the knowledge to appear as being the same. In fact, only this medium preserves every mortal existence, not by remaining eternally unaltered in all things, such as the divine, but by letting everything that goes away and aging, bringing a new one in its place, a similar one. With this trick, «she said,» Socrates, the mortal being has part in immortality, both in the body and in all other things; the immortal one has another way. It must not seem strange to you, that every existence imposes its importance on its breed; for the sake of immortality, all this zeal and all this loving quest accompany the beings. »
Here is the ancient text of the dialogue between Socrates and Diotima, from Plato’s «Symposium»
Ταῦτά τε οὖν πάντα ἐδίδασκέ με, ὁπότε περὶ τῶν ἐρωτικῶν λόγους ποιοῖτο, καί ποτε ἤρετο Τί οἴει, ὦ Σώκρατες, αἴτιον εἶναι τούτου τοῦ ἔρωτος καὶ τῆς ἐπιθυμίας; ἢ οὐκ αἰσθάνῃ ὡς δεινῶς διατίθεται πάντα τὰ θηρία ἐπειδὰν γεννᾶν ἐπιθυμήσῃ, καὶ τὰ πεζὰ καὶ τὰ πτηνά, νοσοῦντά τε πάντα καὶ ἐρωτικῶς διατιθέμενα, πρῶτον μὲν περὶ τὸ συμμιγῆναι ἀλλήλοις, ἔπειτα περὶ τὴν τροφὴν τοῦ γενομένου, καὶ ἕτοιμά ἐστιν ὑπὲρ τούτων καὶ διαμάχεσθαι τὰ ἀσθενέστατα τοῖς ἰσχυροτάτοις καὶ ὑπεραποθνῄσκειν, καὶ αὐτὰ τῷ λιμῷ παρατεινόμενα ὥστ’ ἐκεῖνα ἐκτρέφειν, καὶ ἄλλο πᾶνποιοῦντα. τοὺς μὲν γὰρ ἀνθρώπους, ἔφη, οἴοιτ’ ἄν τις ἐκλογισμοῦ ταῦτα ποιεῖν· τὰ δὲ θηρία τίς αἰτία οὕτως ἐρωτικῶς διατίθεσθαι; ἔχεις λέγειν;
Καὶ ἐγὼ αὖ ἔλεγον ὅτι οὐκ εἰδείην·
ἣ δ’ εἶπεν, Διανοῇ οὖν δεινός ποτε γενήσεσθαι τὰ ἐρωτικά, ἐὰν ταῦτα μὴ ἐννοῇς;
Ἀλλὰ διὰ ταῦτά τοι, ὦ Διοτίμα, ὅπερ νυνδὴ εἶπον, παρὰ σὲ ἥκω, γνοὺς ὅτι διδασκάλων δέομαι. ἀλλά μοι λέγε καὶ τούτων τὴν αἰτίαν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν περὶ τὰ ἐρωτικά.
Εἰ τοίνυν, ἔφη, πιστεύεις ἐκείνου εἶναι φύσει τὸν ἔρωτα, οὗ πολλάκις ὡμολογήκαμεν, μὴ θαύμαζε. ἐνταῦθα γὰρ τὸν αὐτὸν ἐκείνῳ λόγον ἡ θνητὴ φύσις ζητεῖ κατὰ τὸ δυνατὸν ἀεί τε εἶναι καὶ ἀθάνατος. δύναται δὲ ταύτῃ μόνον, τῇ γενέσει, ὅτι ἀεὶ καταλείπει ἕτερον νέον ἀντὶ τοῦ παλαιοῦ, ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν ᾧ ἓν ἕκαστον τῶν ζῴων ζῆν καλεῖται καὶ εἶναι τὸ αὐτό ―οἷον ἐκ παιδαρίου ὁ αὐτὸς λέγεται ἕως ἂν πρεσβύτης γένηται· οὗτος μέντοι οὐδέποτε τὰ αὐτὰ ἔχων ἐν αὑτῷ ὅμως ὁ αὐτὸς καλεῖται, ἀλλὰ νέος ἀεὶ γιγνόμενος, τὰ δὲ ἀπολλύς, καὶ κατὰ τὰς τρίχας καὶ σάρκα καὶ ὀστᾶ καὶ αἷμα καὶ σύμπαν τὸ σῶμα. καὶ μὴ ὅτι κατὰ τὸ σῶμα, ἀλλὰ καὶ κατὰ τὴν ψυχὴν οἱ τρόποι, τὰ ἤθη, δόξαι, ἐπιθυμίαι, ἡδοναί, λῦπαι, φόβοι, τούτων ἕκαστα οὐδέποτε τὰ αὐτὰ πάρεστιν ἑκάστῳ, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν γίγνεται, τὰ δὲ ἀπόλλυται.
πολὺ δὲ τούτων ἀτοπώτερον ἔτι, ὅτι καὶ αἱ ἐπιστῆμαι μὴ ὅτι αἱ μὲν γίγνονται, αἱ δὲ ἀπόλλυνται ἡμῖν, καὶ οὐδέποτε οἱ αὐτοί ἐσμεν οὐδὲ κατὰ τὰς ἐπιστήμας, ἀλλὰ καὶ μία ἑκάστη τῶν ἐπιστημῶν ταὐτὸν πάσχει. ὃ γὰρ καλεῖται μελετᾶν, ὡς ἐξιούσης ἐστὶ τῆς ἐπιστήμης· λήθη γὰρ ἐπιστήμης ἔξοδος, μελέτη δὲ πάλιν καινὴν ἐμποιοῦσα ἀντὶ τῆς ἀπιούσης μνήμην σῴζει τὴν ἐπιστήμην, ὥστε τὴν αὐτὴν δοκεῖν εἶναι. τούτῳ γὰρ τῷ τρόπῳ πᾶν τὸ θνητὸν σῴζεται, οὐ τῷ παντάπασιν τὸ αὐτὸ ἀεὶ εἶναι ὥσπερ τὸ θεῖον, ἀλλὰ τῷ τὸ ἀπιὸν καὶ παλαιούμενον ἕτερον νέον ἐγκαταλείπειν οἷον αὐτὸ ἦν. ταύτῃ τῇ μηχανῇ, ὦ Σώκρατες, ἔφη, θνητὸν ἀθανασίας μετέχει, καὶ σῶμα καὶ τἆλλα πάντα· ἀθάνατον δὲ ἄλλῃ. μὴ οὖν θαύμαζε εἰ τὸ αὑτοῦ ἀποβλάστημα φύσει πᾶν τιμᾷ· ἀθανασίας γὰρ χάριν παντὶ αὕτη ἡ σπουδὴ καὶ ὁ ἔρως ἕπεται.
Among the many opinions of the Platonic Symposium, we undoubtedly hold the opinion of Diotima (and of Socrates) that love is the coherent universal unifying power that unites everything to the Primitive Unity.
The philosopher of the “movement” (Aristotle) moved in those steps, and he expressly accepted the logical move towards the voluntary conscious power of virtue against every persistent passion. The Platonian (or ‘Platonic’) lover, the former God of Olympus, who is now a man of Mind, is the bearer of this love which, as an intellectual purpose, has the Union with the Perfect. The love receiver, Achilles who prays for help and Thetis visits him, is the mortal who now wants to combine the union for the love of All and he resorts to the lover.
Words are words of the times, the way we read those words today do not have that ontological significance, with the known incomplete results (as we try translating them).
The Greeks have begun the words through the innards of the ‘On’, the ‘Being’, in order to describe (in a language-stic performance) the highest functions within the universe. The universe is a lover and the world is a love receiver, Gods are a lover and humans are a love receiver, a wise person is a lover and a student is a love receiver.
Reading the words of Diotima and Plato’s Symposium, there is no reason to disagree that the lover, through the magic of the Ontological spiritual union beyond the human body, wants to enlighten others, the rich Greek language offers the passive participle “ερώμενος”- ‘the love receiver’. Sykutris paid these truths with his life. Let us not forget that Eros to the Greek was a god, so: ‘God’ is the ‘lover’ -or the potential god- and on the other end is the“ερώμενος”, ‘the love receiver’. Thus, whoever drinks from the source, the ‘fountain’ of the god Eros, (lover or love receiver), is divine.
All mentioned above, prove that the Greeks have begotten their words through the innards of Being.
«Diotima»: Sinai, St. Catherine Monastery Library
«Symposion Platon»: Text, translation and interpretation by Ioannis Sikoutris