CONTINUING from last time:
We were still sipping and munching when the familiar trumpet ringtone hit again.
I walked to the smart eye button (which, as usual, was watching protectively in guardian angel mode), and clicked. It popped up to large size and informed me that Alcibiades would be ready in a moment. Click the initiate trumpet.
The window popped up to a teleconference view of what looked like the visit area of a prison.
I guessed, this must be the vision conferencing system.
There was an angel in view, the other one of Gabriel's wingmen. And soon enough, a handsome but somewhat dejected looking Greek man came into view, escorted by the other wingman of Michael. The scorched wing seemed to be okay. (These angelic wingmen do seem to get around, and I guess the use of such obviously senior angels suggests that this is a priority matter.)
The angels discreetly withdrew off screen, but obviously remained in close reach.
Alcibiades sat down, and said, okay, I guess we can begin.
He said, first, I apologise for coming to you from here, but I could not bear the thought of going back to earth, and doing so like a prisoner on close guard escort.
So, since I could use conferencing, I opted for that.
Plato and Socrates, who had set aside cups and munchies, nodded.
Alcibiades said, maybe the hardest thing for me to face, was how much I ended up as a failure, after such promise and opportunity.
My pride and ambition betrayed me to arrogance, insulting the public, flight instead of facing trial for my irresponsibility, then betrayal of Athens by defecting to Sparta, then I had the bright idea to seduce and impregnate the wife of a Spartan king, then I abandoned woman and love child, going over to the enemy of all Greeks, Persia. And so on as the histories drearily recount, starting with Plutarch.
I even managed to return to Athens, but in the end, they would rather lose a battle on their own than trust my advice.
So, my behaviour led to ruin both for my city and myself.
I have had a long time to reflect on all of that, here in the torments of shame. Shame forever.
I want to at least apologise to history and ask forgiveness.
I also think that the apostle James had a very sobering word that would be helpful for all who imagine themselves to be the bright, clever ones who should hold power and want to do what they will with it and with others around them:
James 3: 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. [ESV]
It is too late for me.
Maybe, however, I can at least help others avoid my mistakes.
The other day, Marx reminded me that he said that history repeats itself twice, once as tragedy, the next time as farce. He also sends his apologies to history and wants to assure the world that he had no intent or inkling of what would be done in his name.
Machiavelli was sitting by, and he added that the notion that the end can justify the means was one of his biggest mistakes.
He also begged to remind the world of this passage from The Prince, ch 3, which he said in the end, was one of his most important thoughts.
One, that would help our common civilisation to avert disaster in our day:
. . . the Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; but if you wait until they approach, the medicine is no longer in time because the malady has become incurable; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that in the beginning of the malady it is easy to cure but difficult to detect, but in the course of time, not having been either detected or treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to detect but difficult to cure. Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that every one can see them. there is no longer a remedy.He also warned that too often, the public today seems to have forgotten what he went on to say right after this: ". . . they knew that war is not to be avoided, but is only put off to the advantage of others." His comment was, it is wiser to fight far away before the danger builds up and is close to home.
He then paused.
Your time is an age in which you have undreamed of, nightmarish weapons: poison gases of appalling power; invisible life forms, germs you call them, that can inflict horrible, spreading diseases; bombs that can blow up whole cities. You have democracies. That means that your publics and those who shape opinions and trends need to realise that in such an age, you cannot play games with those who have a track record of deceit, selfish ambition, ideologically motivated or conscience-benumbed ruthlessness and destructive aggression or the promotion of terrorism. For instance, the only time to stop nuclear weapons getting into irresponsible or demented hands, is before they are developed.
(And by the way, a delegation of suicide bombers has asked me to tell all would-be bombers that making yourself a suicidal murderer is not going to get you into paradise. Just the opposite. So, ignore the lies being told to you in the name of religion by those who should know better.)
My concern also applies to many other things, as the saying about nipping dangers in the bud, speaks of.
And, Socrates, I must publicly apologise that I did not heed your attempts to nip the seeds and sprouts of tragedy in my life while they were in the bud. They did much harm to our city, and in the end cost both of us our lives.
Maybe, you could tell the story of how you tried to warn me.
Socrates said, I intended to do that, and this is as good a time as any to present it in the form of that dialogue, Alcibiades I, that is spuriously attributed to you, Plato, but it does capture the essence of the matter.
Plato chuckled, and said, go right ahead.
Socrates said, we don't need to go through it all, but Alcibiades, could you join me in voicing excerpts?
Alcibiades nodded over the vision conferencing link.
Socrates walked up to the screen and clicked the continue projects trumpet. (It seems the eye-button recognised him by sight! There must be a serious facial recognition module in there somewhere.)
Up popped a small window, and Socrates clicked a tab.
The window vanished and the following appeared at the foot of the screen -- and evidently on Alcibiades' end too, as he nodded at once.
Socrates went back to his seat, and the two began to voice:
[ . . . ]
SOCRATES: You do, then, mean, as I was saying, to come forward in a little while in the character of an adviser of the Athenians? And suppose that when you are ascending the bema, I pull you by the sleeve and say, Alcibiades, you are getting up to advise the Athenians-do you know the matter about which they are going to deliberate, better than they?--How would you answer?
ALCIBIADES: I should reply, that I was going to advise them about a matter which I do know better than they.
SOCRATES: Then you are a good adviser about the things which you know?
SOCRATES: And do you know anything but what you have learned of others, or found out yourself?
ALCIBIADES: That is all.
SOCRATES: And would you have ever learned or discovered anything, if you had not been willing either to learn of others or to examine yourself?
ALCIBIADES: I should not.
SOCRATES: And would you have been willing to learn or to examine what you supposed that you knew?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Then there was a time when you thought that you did not know what you are now supposed to know?
SOCRATES: I think that I know tolerably well the extent of your acquirements; and you must tell me if I forget any of them: according to my recollection, you learned the arts of writing, of playing on the lyre, and of wrestling; the flute you never would learn; this is the sum of your accomplishments, unless there were some which you acquired in secret; and I think that secrecy was hardly possible, as you could not have come out of your door, either by day or night, without my seeing you.
ALCIBIADES: Yes, that was the whole of my schooling.
SOCRATES: And are you going to get up in the Athenian assembly, and give them advice about writing?
ALCIBIADES: No, indeed.
SOCRATES: Or about the touch of the lyre?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And they are not in the habit of deliberating about wrestling, in the assembly?
SOCRATES: Then what are the deliberations in which you propose to advise them? Surely not about building?
SOCRATES: For the builder will advise better than you will about that?
ALCIBIADES: He will.
SOCRATES: Nor about divination?
SOCRATES: About that again the diviner will advise better than you will?
SOCRATES: Whether he be little or great, good or ill-looking, noble or ignoble-makes no difference.
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: A man is a good adviser about anything, not because he has riches, but because he has knowledge?
SOCRATES: Whether their counsellor is rich or poor, is not a matter which will make any difference to the Athenians when they are deliberating about the health of the citizens; they only require that he should be a physician.
ALCIBIADES: Of course.
SOCRATES: Then what will be the subject of deliberation about which you will be justified in getting up and advising them?
ALCIBIADES: About their own concerns, Socrates.
SOCRATES: You mean about shipbuilding, for example, when the question is what sort of ships they ought to build?
ALCIBIADES: No, I should not advise them about that.
SOCRATES: I suppose, because you do not understand shipbuilding:--is that the reason?
ALCIBIADES: It is.
SOCRATES: Then about what concerns of theirs will you advise them?
ALCIBIADES: About war, Socrates, or about peace, or about any other concerns of the state.
SOCRATES: You mean, when they deliberate with whom they ought to make peace, and with whom they ought to go to war, and in what manner?
SOCRATES: And they ought to go to war with those against whom it is better to go to war?
SOCRATES: And when it is better?
SOCRATES: And for as long a time as is better?
SOCRATES: But suppose the Athenians to deliberate with whom they ought to close in wrestling, and whom they should grasp by the hand, would you, or the master of gymnastics, be a better adviser of them?
ALCIBIADES: Clearly, the master of gymnastics.
SOCRATES: And can you tell me on what grounds the master of gymnastics would decide, with whom they ought or ought not to close, and when and how? To take an instance: Would he not say that they should wrestle with those against whom it is best to wrestle?
SOCRATES: And as much as is best?
SOCRATES: And at such times as are best?
ALCIBIADES: Yes . . . .
SOCRATES: Then let me put the matter in another way: what do you call the Goddesses who are the patronesses of art?
ALCIBIADES: The Muses do you mean, Socrates?
SOCRATES: Yes, I do; and what is the name of the art which is called after them?
ALCIBIADES: I suppose that you mean music.
SOCRATES: Yes, that is my meaning; and what is the excellence of the art of music, as I told you truly that the excellence of wrestling was gymnastic-what is the excellence of music-to be what?
ALCIBIADES: To be musical, I suppose.
SOCRATES: Very good; and now please to tell me what is the excellence of war and peace; as the more musical was the more excellent, or the more gymnastical was the more excellent, tell me, what name do you give to the more excellent in war and peace?
ALCIBIADES: But I really cannot tell you.
SOCRATES: But if you were offering advice to another and said to him-This food is better than that, at this time and in this quantity, and he said to you-What do you mean, Alcibiades, by the word ‘better’? you would have no difficulty in replying that you meant ‘more wholesome,’ although you do not profess to be a physician: and when the subject is one of which you profess to have knowledge, and about which you are ready to get up and advise as if you knew, are you not ashamed, when you are asked, not to be able to answer the question? Is it not disgraceful?
SOCRATES: Well, then, consider and try to explain what is the meaning of ‘better,’ in the matter of making peace and going to war with those against whom you ought to go to war? To what does the word refer?
ALCIBIADES: I am thinking, and I cannot tell.
SOCRATES: But you surely know what are the charges which we bring against one another, when we arrive at the point of making war, and what name we give them?
ALCIBIADES: Yes, certainly; we say that deceit or violence has been employed, or that we have been defrauded.
SOCRATES: And how does this happen? Will you tell me how? For there may be a difference in the manner.
ALCIBIADES: Do you mean by ‘how,’ Socrates, whether we suffered these things justly or unjustly?
ALCIBIADES: There can be no greater difference than between just and unjust.
SOCRATES: And would you advise the Athenians to go to war with the just or with the unjust?
ALCIBIADES: That is an awkward question; for certainly, even if a person did intend to go to war with the just, he would not admit that they were just.
SOCRATES: He would not go to war, because it would be unlawful?
ALCIBIADES: Neither lawful nor honourable.
SOCRATES: Then you, too, would address them on principles of justice?
SOCRATES: What, then, is justice but that better, of which I spoke, in going to war or not going to war with those against whom we ought or ought not, and when we ought or ought not to go to war?
SOCRATES: But how is this, friend Alcibiades? Have you forgotten that you do not know this, or have you been to the schoolmaster without my knowledge, and has he taught you to discern the just from the unjust? Who is he? I wish you would tell me, that I may go and learn of him-you shall introduce me.
ALCIBIADES: You are mocking, Socrates.
SOCRATES: No, indeed; I most solemnly declare to you by Zeus, who is the God of our common friendship, and whom I never will forswear, that I am not; tell me, then, who this instructor is, if he exists.
ALCIBIADES: But, perhaps, he does not exist; may I not have acquired the knowledge of just and unjust in some other way?
SOCRATES: Yes; if you have discovered them.
ALCIBIADES: But do you not think that I could discover them?
SOCRATES: I am sure that you might, if you enquired about them.
ALCIBIADES: And do you not think that I would enquire?
SOCRATES: Yes; if you thought that you did not know them.
ALCIBIADES: And was there not a time when I did so think?
SOCRATES: Very good; and can you tell me how long it is since you thought that you did not know the nature of the just and the unjust? What do you say to a year ago? Were you then in a state of conscious ignorance and enquiry? Or did you think that you knew? And please to answer truly, that our discussion may not be in vain.
ALCIBIADES: Well, I thought that I knew.
SOCRATES: And two years ago, and three years ago, and four years ago, you knew all the same?
ALCIBIADES: I did.
SOCRATES: And more than four years ago you were a child-were you not?
SOCRATES: And then I am quite sure that you thought you knew.
ALCIBIADES: Why are you so sure?
SOCRATES: Because I often heard you when a child, in your teacher’s house, or elsewhere, playing at dice or some other game with the boys, not hesitating at all about the nature of the just and unjust; but very confident-crying and shouting that one of the boys was a rogue and a cheat, and had been cheating. Is it not true?
ALCIBIADES: But what was I to do, Socrates, when anybody cheated me?
SOCRATES: And how can you say, ‘What was I to do’? if at the time you did not know whether you were wronged or not?
ALCIBIADES: To be sure I knew; I was quite aware that I was being cheated.
SOCRATES: Then you suppose yourself even when a child to have known the nature of just and unjust?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly; and I did know then.
SOCRATES: And when did you discover them-not, surely, at the time when you thought that you knew them?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And when did you think that you were ignorant-if you consider, you will find that there never was such a time?
ALCIBIADES: Really, Socrates, I cannot say.
SOCRATES: Then you did not learn them by discovering them?
ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.
SOCRATES: But just before you said that you did not know them by learning; now, if you have neither discovered nor learned them, how and whence do you come to know them?
ALCIBIADES: I suppose that I was mistaken in saying that I knew them through my own discovery of them; whereas, in truth, I learned them in the same way that other people learn.
SOCRATES: So you said before, and I must again ask, of whom? Do tell me.
ALCIBIADES: Of the many. [--> Note, the cultural relativism that can enter here.]
SOCRATES: Do you take refuge in them? I cannot say much for your teachers.
ALCIBIADES: Why, are they not able to teach?
SOCRATES: They could not teach you how to play at draughts, which you would acknowledge (would you not) to be a much smaller matter than justice?
SOCRATES: And can they teach the better who are unable to teach the worse?
ALCIBIADES: I think that they can; at any rate, they can teach many far better things than to play at draughts.
SOCRATES: What things?
ALCIBIADES: Why, for example, I learned to speak Greek of them, and I cannot say who was my teacher, or to whom I am to attribute my knowledge of Greek, if not to those good-for-nothing teachers, as you call them.
SOCRATES: Why, yes, my friend; and the many are good enough teachers of Greek, and some of their instructions in that line may be justly praised.
ALCIBIADES: Why is that?
SOCRATES: Why, because they have the qualities which good teachers ought to have.
ALCIBIADES: What qualities?
SOCRATES: Why, you know that knowledge is the first qualification of any teacher?
SOCRATES: And if they know, they must agree together and not differ?
SOCRATES: And would you say that they knew the things about which they differ?
SOCRATES: Then how can they teach them?
ALCIBIADES: They cannot.
SOCRATES: Well, but do you imagine that the many would differ about the nature of wood and stone? are they not agreed if you ask them what they are? and do they not run to fetch the same thing, when they want a piece of wood or a stone? And so in similar cases, which I suspect to be pretty nearly all that you mean by speaking Greek.
SOCRATES: These, as we were saying, are matters about which they are agreed with one another and with themselves; both individuals and states use the same words about them; they do not use some one word and some another.
ALCIBIADES: They do not.
SOCRATES: Then they may be expected to be good teachers of these things?
SOCRATES: And if we want to instruct any one in them, we shall be right in sending him to be taught by our friends the many?
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: But if we wanted further to know not only which are men and which are horses, but which men or horses have powers of running, would the many still be able to inform us?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And you have a sufficient proof that they do not know these things and are not the best teachers of them, inasmuch as they are never agreed about them?
SOCRATES: And suppose that we wanted to know not only what men are like, but what healthy or diseased men are like-would the many be able to teach us?
ALCIBIADES: They would not.
SOCRATES: And you would have a proof that they were bad teachers of these matters, if you saw them at variance?
ALCIBIADES: I should.
SOCRATES: Well, but are the many agreed with themselves, or with one another, about the justice or injustice of men and things?
ALCIBIADES: Assuredly not, Socrates.
SOCRATES: There is no subject about which they are more at variance?
SOCRATES: I do not suppose that you ever saw or heard of men quarrelling over the principles of health and disease to such an extent as to go to war and kill one another for the sake of them?
ALCIBIADES: No indeed.
SOCRATES: But of the quarrels about justice and injustice, even if you have never seen them, you have certainly heard from many people, including Homer; for you have heard of the Iliad and Odyssey?
ALCIBIADES: To be sure, Socrates.
SOCRATES: A difference of just and unjust is the argument of those poems?
SOCRATES: Which difference caused all the wars and deaths of Trojans and Achaeans, and the deaths of the suitors of Penelope in their quarrel with Odysseus.
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: And when the Athenians and Lacedaemonians and Boeotians fell at Tanagra, and afterwards in the battle of Coronea, at which your father Cleinias met his end, the question was one of justice-this was the sole cause of the battles, and of their deaths.
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: But can they be said to understand that about which they are quarrelling to the death?
ALCIBIADES: Clearly not.
SOCRATES: And yet those whom you thus allow to be ignorant are the teachers to whom you are appealing.
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: But how are you ever likely to know the nature of justice and injustice, about which you are so perplexed, if you have neither learned them of others nor discovered them yourself?
ALCIBIADES: From what you say, I suppose not . . . . [Socrates then corrected, it was not Socrates the questioner but Alcibiades the speaker who drew out his own ignorance and the ignorance of those he appealed to as his teachers.] . . .
SOCRATES: Then, Alcibiades, the result may be expressed in the language of Euripides. I think that you have heard all this ‘from yourself, and not from me’; nor did I say this, which you erroneously attribute to me, but you yourself, and what you said was very true. For indeed, my dear fellow, the design which you meditate of teaching what you do not know, and have not taken any pains to learn, is downright insanity.
ALCIBIADES: But, Socrates, I think that the Athenians and the rest of the Hellenes do not often advise as to the more just or unjust; for they see no difficulty in them, and therefore they leave them, and consider which course of action will be most expedient; for there is a difference between justice and expediency. Many persons have done great wrong and profited by their injustice; others have done rightly and come to no good.
SOCRATES: Well, but granting that the just and the expedient are ever so much opposed, you surely do not imagine that you know what is expedient for mankind, or why a thing is expedient?
ALCIBIADES: Why not, Socrates?--But I am not going to be asked again from whom I learned, or when I made the discovery.
SOCRATES: What a way you have! When you make a mistake which might be refuted by a previous argument, you insist on having a new and different refutation; the old argument is a worn-our garment which you will no longer put on, but some one must produce another which is clean and new. Now I shall disregard this move of yours, and shall ask over again,--Where did you learn and how do you know the nature of the expedient, and who is your teacher? All this I comprehend in a single question, and now you will manifestly be in the old difficulty, and will not be able to show that you know the expedient, either because you learned or because you discovered it yourself. But, as I perceive that you are dainty, and dislike the taste of a stale argument, I will enquire no further into your knowledge of what is expedient or what is not expedient for the Athenian people, and simply request you to say why you do not explain whether justice and expediency are the same or different? And if you like you may examine me as I have examined you, or, if you would rather, you may carry on the discussion by yourself.
ALCIBIADES: But I am not certain, Socrates, whether I shall be able to discuss the matter with you.
SOCRATES: Then imagine, my dear fellow, that I am the demus and the ecclesia; for in the ecclesia, too, you will have to persuade men individually . . . .
ALCIBIADES: I solemnly declare, Socrates, that I do not know what I am saying. Verily, I am in a strange state, for when you put questions to me I am of different minds in successive instants.
SOCRATES: And are you not aware of the nature of this perplexity, my friend?
ALCIBIADES: Indeed I am not.
SOCRATES: Do you suppose that if some one were to ask you whether you have two eyes or three, or two hands or four, or anything of that sort, you would then be of different minds in successive instants?
ALCIBIADES: I begin to distrust myself, but still I do not suppose that I should.
SOCRATES: You would feel no doubt; and for this reason-because you would know?
ALCIBIADES: I suppose so.
SOCRATES: And the reason why you involuntarily contradict yourself is clearly that you are ignorant?
ALCIBIADES: Very likely.
SOCRATES: And if you are perplexed in answering about just and unjust, honourable and dishonourable, good and evil, expedient and inexpedient, the reason is that you are ignorant of them, and therefore in perplexity. Is not that clear?
ALCIBIADES: I agree.
SOCRATES: But is this always the case, and is a man necessarily perplexed about that of which he has no knowledge?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly he is.
SOCRATES: And do you know how to ascend into heaven?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: And in this case, too, is your judgment perplexed?
SOCRATES: Do you see the reason why, or shall I tell you?
ALCIBIADES: Tell me.
SOCRATES: The reason is, that you not only do not know, my friend, but you do not think that you know.
ALCIBIADES: There again; what do you mean?
SOCRATES: Ask yourself; are you in any perplexity about things of which you are ignorant? You know, for example, that you know nothing about the preparation of food.
ALCIBIADES: Very true.
SOCRATES: And do you think and perplex yourself about the preparation of food: or do you leave that to some one who understands the art?
ALCIBIADES: The latter.
SOCRATES: Or if you were on a voyage, would you bewilder yourself by considering whether the rudder is to be drawn inwards or outwards, or do you leave that to the pilot, and do nothing?
ALCIBIADES: It would be the concern of the pilot.
SOCRATES: Then you are not perplexed about what you do not know, if you know that you do not know it?
ALCIBIADES: I imagine not.
SOCRATES: Do you not see, then, that mistakes in life and practice are likewise to be attributed to the ignorance which has conceit of knowledge?
ALCIBIADES: Once more, what do you mean?
SOCRATES: I suppose that we begin to act when we think that we know what we are doing?
SOCRATES: But when people think that they do not know, they entrust their business to others?
SOCRATES: And so there is a class of ignorant persons who do not make mistakes in life, because they trust others about things of which they are ignorant?
SOCRATES: Who, then, are the persons who make mistakes? They cannot, of course, be those who know?
ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: But if neither those who know, nor those who know that they do not know, make mistakes, there remain those only who do not know and think that they know.
ALCIBIADES: Yes, only those.
SOCRATES: Then this is ignorance of the disgraceful sort which is mischievous?
SOCRATES: And most mischievous and most disgraceful when having to do with the greatest matters?
ALCIBIADES: By far.
SOCRATES: And can there be any matters greater than the just, the honourable, the good, and the expedient?
ALCIBIADES: There cannot be.
SOCRATES: And these, as you were saying, are what perplex you?
SOCRATES: But if you are perplexed, then, as the previous argument has shown, you are not only ignorant of the greatest matters, but being ignorant you fancy that you know them?
ALCIBIADES: I fear that you are right.
SOCRATES: And now see what has happened to you, Alcibiades! I hardly like to speak of your evil case, but as we are alone I will: My good friend, you are wedded to ignorance of the most disgraceful kind, and of this you are convicted, not by me, but out of your own mouth and by your own argument; wherefore also you rush into politics before you are educated. Neither is your case to be deemed singular. For I might say the same of almost all our statesmen, with the exception, perhaps of your guardian, Pericles . . .
Socrates then paused. We could go on, but there is enough to chew on here.
Alcibiades added, yes, it is one thing to be ignorant, and another entirely to be aware of the fact and willing to face it. It is a third to be able to persuade the public, and a fourth to be able to properly instruct while winning the respect of the public.
And yet, there is one thing that I would like to point out, now that I know better.
And, what is that, Plato asked.
Alcibiades then pointed out, that there is One we can and do learn from regarding justice and before the major themes of justice and delicately balanced debates on issues, conscience. The One John Locke pointed to when he said:
Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 - 21, Eph 4:17 - 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 - 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 - 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.And, Plato added, Paul before him, put much the same this way:
Rom 2: 13 . . . it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [ESV]Indeed, this was the point that Locke quoted Richard Hooker on from his Ecclesiastical Polity, which in turn was alluding to my pupil Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics:
So, Plato continued, in a sense, all men have access to knowledge of the true and the good, if they will listen to conscience guided reason and the evidence of their senses and experiences, rightly thought about. Unfortunately, it is easy for men to resort to living in a cave of misleading or outright deceptive shadow-shows.
H'mm' could we call up the heaven end on this browser and see if Paul could pass on a few thoughts again?
Hardly had he said this, when the eye-button popped up and the initiation trumpet called for attention. I walked up, clicked and it said, pause a moment, then Paul will join you.
Just then, a sub- window popped up with Paul sitting on what looked like a rather nice park bench, in a park surrounded by a very beautiful crystalline city. He was with Dr Luke, and it looked likethey had been enjoying themselves with some pigeons who were surrounding them and eating seed from their hands.
Paul said, Plato, what did you need me for?
Plato said, could you -- and Dr Luke since he is with you, kindly review the speech you gave in Athens at the Areopagus Council?
Paul glanced at Dr Luke, who then quoted:
Acts 17: 16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.Plato said, thank you, Dr Luke.
18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”-because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”
21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription,
‘To the unknown god.’What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,2 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;3
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.
30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. [ESV]
Now, Paul, could you explain a bit about the concept of nationhood under God, and then on just government under God?
Paul smiled. All of us derive from one man, Adam. We are all brothers and sisters, cousins and relatives, no matter how different we may look in our races.
However, as there was a problem of coming together under the ambitious Nimrod in defiance of Deity, God intervened and scattered the families of man across the world, dividing languages.
So, we come to how nations were created by God as a restraint on the potential for unity in defiance of God.
At the same time, we are all children of God, and see a witness in the world around and in our own hearts and minds, that points to God, and calls us to live by the truth and the right in love. hence the voice of conscience, if we will but not stifle it.
Since in any community there will be men who refuse to heed that voice, and since in other communities such men may seize enough power to become pirates and invaders, God has created as well the civil authority as his servant to do good, bearing the sword of justice. But that is no excuse to turn tyrant and pirate. Likewise, there is no excuse to let the power of law making go to one's head and lead to defiance of the goodness of God. If a civil authority oversteps his bounds and demands under false colours of his authority or perverted law, we must obey God rather than men. Caesar is God's servant, and has no just power to usurp that which belongs to God.
Indeed, a ruler governs best, who understands that he is God's steward and servant, given a high calling of justice, and beneficence for the people. Where also, he is to remember that other nations are also his fellow children of God.
A ruler who defies such, is turning wicked, and maybe even tyrant.
The blessing of modern democracy is that it allows us to peacefully remove such rulers, through scheduled, regular elections.
And it is then the duty of the people in such a community, to seek out cometent, decent and if at all possible godly men to hold office.
But that did not mean that Nero was not a legitimate authority, to be respected, even though he was perverse, and became in the end a sad example and byword. I will say that in the early years of his rule, when he took the tutelage of Burrus and Seneca, his rule was wise and brought prosperity and benefits to the Roman world. Unfortunately, he then decided to kick over the traces, and got worse and worse.
Plato said, thank you very much.
I thought it important to give a bit of balance on the subject of sound government and the wider context of nationhood under God.
Socrates turned to Alcibiades, and asked: do you have anything further to add, as time is now all but spent?
Alcibiades, said, only this, thank you for the opportunity to at least make some amends for my faults.
And with that the conference terminated.
Then, Plato and Socrates said, the night is far spent, and we have covered much ground.
Perhaps, we too should be going. Thank you.
And they headed for the portal, and stepped through. From this angle, I could now see a shining city on a hill, beyond the wonderful field.
The angels at the door nodded greetings, and closed the door.
The portal vanished, and in a moment so did the window and the eye too.
Quite a discussion, I thought.
And so, I rushed over and put this post together, to keep us in touch with the lessons the ghosts from our past have for us at a pivotal moment. I also had the feeling that this was just the beginning . . . END
PS: Did I mention before, I discovered the HB interface on my personal laptop too? (But, it sure did not act like search.us!)