Exploring a living tradition with the Prometheus Trust
The Prometheus Trust runs a number of remote courses (via Zoom) for both newcomers to Platonism (click here) and those who are more well established (here). But we also run open sessions (dates below) on a less structured basis, taking particular topics or passages from Plato and other writers in the tradition - these are open to anyone interested, and they attract a wide range of participants. We usually begin with a short 5 or 10 minute introduction to the subject in hand and (when appropriate) a reading of a short text: this leaves a good hour or so to discuss the ideas which arise.
Where a short text is to be discussed you will find it available for downloading a few days before the date of the session.
If you are interested do write to firstname.lastname@example.org in order to register and get access. There are no fees payable.
The Trust sees the Platonic tradition as a spiritual one: not only a guide for the outer life, but especially to be treasured for its assistance in the cultivation of the inner self - the soul - for, says Plato in the Timeaus, “we are not terrestrial plants, but blossoms of heaven.” We understand the tradition to be profound and cohesive, and one that repays the long-term effort required to truly embed oneself in it. Our approach is not exclusive - we value other traditions for their insights - nor is it dogmatic or an attempt to proselytise: however we are serious in our attempts to fathom the depths of the tradition, to identify its foundations, and where its teachings seem to run counter to accepted thinking to investigate them thoroughly rather than rejecting them prematurely. Thus our point of focus is on the teachings of the tradition and most especially our own inner response to them.
By joining our studies you are making no commitment beyond that of co-operating with us in our exploration of those truths which have inspired a company of men and women most luminous in their understanding, and unsparingly generous in their teaching.
Upcoming dates and subjects of open sessions
All dates are Tuesdays, running from 7.45pm to 9.15 (London time) - with our
apologies to those in time zones which make these awkward!
2th February: The world as magical organism: Apuleius’ Metamorphoses
From the environmentalist point of view one of the most disturbing things about Greek philosophy is its tame acceptance of the view that we humans differ enormously from all so-called ‘non-rational’ animals. Other barriers exit between us and the gods, and between animals, plants and their inanimate environment. Yet something is saved by philosophic systems that see the world overall as animated whether by world-soul or cosmos pneuma, and hence see the universe as an organic whole. Though Apuleius can at times look rather like an ordinary Platonist, allowing for a world-soul but perhaps not allowing it to make so much difference, his 42-line summary of the Timaeus (Expos. 32) describes the world itself as animal … rationale, sapiens, unum, leaving little room for unintelligent life, while the De Platone affirms connections between the physical elements and living things including stars and plants as well as animals, and fills the metaphysical space between humans and gods with daemones (203-206; cf. de Deo Socratis). Furthermore, the world soul is itself the fons animarum omnium, and a subsidiary demiurgic force (199), thus perhaps given quite a lot more work than the Timaean world-soul.
Against this background we can see why the boundaries between gods, humans, animals, plants and inanimate objects dissolve in the Metamorphoses. This is most obvious in the Cupid and Psyche episode where Psyche is given help in her worst moments by a Zephyr (inanimate, 4.35); a river (inanimate, 5.25); Pan (a god, in words, 5.25); an ant (animal, 6.10); a green reed (plant, speaking, 6.12); an eagle (animal, speaking, 6.15); a tower (inanimate, speaking, 6.17-20: note sic turris illa prospicua vaticinationis munus explicuit), not to mention a revived Cupid (6.22) and even Zeus himself (6.23).
At one point during the story (6.14) the fearful Psyche is turned to senseless stone. Lucius, too, had been turned into a pillar of stone on seeing the corpses that he had ‘slain’ (3.10). But stones do not always seem so senseless, for Lucius had detected the souls of transformed humans in the rocks, statues, and walls of Hypata. Here in the external ass-story the barriers between human and inanimate are broken down in much the same way as those between human and animal, if rather less often. When in book XI the playful tones are in retreat we perhaps learn why: the full moon brings consciousness of a supreme goddess governing human affairs by her providence, as were domestic and wild animals: verum inanima etiam divino eius lumines numinisque nutu vegetari. Bodies of various kinds in land, sea and sky grew with her waxing and contracted with her waning. As the author’s own vision finally begins to ring out the boundaries between everything within the world dissolve, and that ultra-powerful world-soul of the Apuleian Timaeus is finally revealed as Isis.
The evening will be presented by Harold Tarrant
Paper: Apulieus - Harold Tarrant Handout
Register here for this session: Register for Feb 20th
Future dates for our open sessions in 2024: Mar 19th, Apr 16th, May 14th and 18th June.