Prometheus Trust education in 2023 - zoom courses
The Prometheus Trust’s educational activities are aimed at encouraging contemporary seekers of wisdom to explore the deep roots of the Platonic tradition - a tradition which in ancient times was explicitly regarded by its best proponents as the most direct means to the recovery of our own divine nature. Although Plato is widely read and studied today it is rare that he and his tradition are seen as offering a serious and transformative path of wisdom to modern men and women, as outlined in Plato’s Seventh Letter:
“It is requisite to show that philosophy is a thing of the greatest consequence, and that it is only to be obtained by great study and mighty labour. For he who hears that this is the case, if he is truly a lover of wisdom, and is adapted to and worthy of its acquisition, being a divine person, will think that he hears of an admirable way, that he ought immediately to betake himself to this path, and make it the great business of his life.”
For more than a thousand years men and women were drawn to the Platonic centres in order to cultivate the life of philosophy within a continuous tradition and it is this tradition that the Prometheus Trust seeks to bring to the fore, insofar as our resources and our understanding allows.
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At present we run four different levels of on-line activity:
Open Sessions - open to all, and run on a monthly basis.
Introductory course - The Essentials of the Philosophy of Plato and his Tradition
Intermediate studies - two modules per year, each module exploring a dialogue or theme over 8 fortnightly zoom sessions.
Advanced studies - two modules per year, each module exploring a dialogue or theme over 7 fortnightly zoom sessions.
(All timings are in London time)
Open sessions - one Tuesday evening every month - these are informal sessions where a particular passage from the Platonic text or a particular theme is explored. Each subject is introduced by a brief talk (about 15 minutes or so) and then opened up for discussion among participants. No previous study of Platonic philosophy (or, indeed, any other kind) is required - although such is the nature of Platonic writings that even those who are well established in Platonic philosophy should find challenging elements emerging during these sessions. Details can be found here.
The Essentials of the Philosophy of Plato and his Tradition - a course designed to give a broad view of Platonism and to bring to light some of the more neglected aspects of the tradition. Our particular aim is to lay before participants the possibilities of Platonic philosophy as a spiritual path, exploring the insights of the ancient tradition while avoiding a dogmatic approach. The course is run over ten study/discussion sessions which are underpinned by 10 study papers and 10 background papers: we plan to run this on Tuesday evenings - Feb 21; Mar 1, 15, 22 and 29; Apr 12, 19 and 26; May 10, 17. We will also run it again on Sunday evenings starting on May 22. If there is sufficient demand it may also be repeated in the Autumn.
The following two courses are aimed at those who are, in varying degrees, committed to the exploration of the Platonic tradition as both a guide for the outer life and as an inner discipline of soul culture. We have divided the studies into “intermediate” and “advanced”, not to refer to the participants but simply to indicate some differences in the content of each set of studies: the intermediate studies are designed to ensure that foundational concepts are explored and questioned in a relatively systematic way; the advanced studies are designed to allow participants to go deeper into the mysteries and subtleties of the Platonic tradition.
The three levels - the Essentials, Intermediate and Advanced - are there not only to allow a gradual progress of understanding but also to facilitate a deepening of commitment to the tradition.
There are two modules per year of these studies: each comprising 7 sessions every other Sunday evening. Our winter/spring module will explore one of Plato’s dialogues, while the autumn module will take a theme and draw on various Platonic writings: the dialogues and themes will be selected with a view to covering foundational concepts of Platonic philosophy.
The intermediate autumn module in 2023 will be a study of
“The Soul and her virtues“
Teachings concerning the soul are central to Plato and his tradition - indeed we might call Platonic philosophy the art of caring for the soul. But what is the soul, and how do we go about bringing her to her best condition?
One of our problems is that there is no one dialogue or Platonic text which deals in a comprehensive way with the subject. This module will, therefore, attempt to bring to bear on the central issues of the soul a number of relevant extracts from the dialogues of Plato, together with several passages from the writings of the Platonists of late antiquity. We will look at parts of the Timaeus, the First Alcibiades, the Phaedo, the Phaedrus and the Republic, as well as some of the insights of Porphyry, Plotinus, Proclus and Damascius in order to arrive, we hope, at a clear and balanced view of soul, her journeyings, and her cultivation of arete (virtue, or excellence). We expect to have a PDF of the extracts to be used as the basis for our session prepared by the beginning of August, in order to enable participants to explore some of the issues before we start.
The seven sessions are timed to run between 6-7.45pm London time on the following dates:
October 1st, 15th and 29th
November 12th and 26th
** The winter’s intermediate course will be a study of the Phaedo of Plato on the following dates: Jan 21st, Feb 4th and 18th, March 3rd and 17th, April 7th and 21st**
These are run on a modular basis, one in the winter/spring, the other in the autumn: each comprising 8 sessions every other Sunday evening. Our usual approach to the advanced studies will be somewhat altered over the coming year: we are attempting to explore the Timaeus over both the autumn and the winter, so that this profound dialogue can be studied over 16 sessions. We will draw heavily on Proclus Commentary, and we will have a revised edition of this Commentary available from around the beginning of July.
The Timaeus of Plato, in the company of Proclus
The Timaeus was regarded by the Platonists of late antiquity as one of the two culminating dialgues of their cycle of Platonic dialogues: it explores the “living animal” which is the manifested cosmos, itself modeled the single eternal autozoon or ‘Animal Itself.” The main speaker, Timaeus, puts forward a mythic presentation of the causal beginnings of the great cosmos through the Demiurge’s contemplation of that eternal paradigm showing how the body and soul of the Cosmos are bound together. He then proceeds to explain the creation of other souls - including that of the human being - and the place of the junior Gods in the weaving of our immortal soul with our mortal parts.
Included in the dialogue are teachings concerning the soul’s subtle bodies, and the outline of the earthly body as seen from the point of view purpose and form, together with questions of fate and our relation to the world of intellect.
The Prometheus Trust has revised it publication of Proclus’ Commentary on the Timaeus - it now includes the full Diehl page and line numbering (as given in the recent Cambridge UP edition) in order to facilitate the use of both versions as we work throug the dialogue. The year’s study promises to be a demanding but deeply rewarding one: in order to get as much out of it as possible, we hope that our students can put in time between sessions for private study. We will also be relying on our Slack Forum for on-going discussions around questions brought up by our Zoom session.
The 16 sessions over the autumn and winter are timed to run between 7 - 8.45pm, London time.
September 10th and 24th
October 8th and 22nd
November 5th and 19th
December 3rd and 17th
January 14th and 30th
February 11th and 25th
March 10th and 24th
April 14th and 28th
These studies are offered to those who are looking to move deeper into the Platonic tradition, as a living teaching. What does this mean? It does not imply an exclusivity which rejects the insights of other traditions, nor does it demand that particular teachings usually denominated Platonic are accepted simply because of their apparent establishment within the tradition. At all times the endeavour is to respect the self-motive and self-sufficient nature of the enquiring soul. But the Trust works within the tradition because it holds that it is comprehensive and profound, offering the wisdom-fruits of men and women who have formed a golden chain over many centuries and millennia: while the ultimate movement is “a flight of the alone to the alone”, the assistance that each of us can receive from those who have contributed to our tradition is beyond measure.
To enter whole-heartedly into the tradition is not to become passive to it - in truth, it will not yield its best treasures until the individual seeks to contribute to it him- or herself. Platonism is a timeless conversation across the generations: our explorations are our attempt to listen more closely and to respond more generously to that conversation.
The advanced studies are especially aimed at those who feel themselves to be reasonably well established in the Platonic tradition, and who are committed to that tradition as their primary vehicle of philosophic endeavour. According to the sages of this path philosophy not only engages the best of our gnostic and life-giving powers, but also embraces a conscious communion with the higher powers through appropriate devotional practices (as Plato affirms in his Laws at 716d).
The Trust is not in the business of judging individuals and so we leave it to you to decide whether or not you are likely to benefit by joining this level of exploration: if you would like to talk over the kind of level we are likely to be pitching the studies at please contact the education co-ordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org who would be happy to email or set up a private zoom session to talk it through.
We do need to emphasize that if you are looking simply to place Platonism in the context of what one might call the universal tradition of humankind, this is not what the explorations are aimed at - as honourable and as useful as such endeavours are. Our view is that one should drink deeply of a single coherent tradition and that an appreciation of the universal will spontaneously arise if, as it should be, the spirit of tolerance and openness is cultivated as part of that tradition. This ongoing course is our best attempt at assisting those whose focus is upon the Platonic path.
Our study of the foundational dialogues of Plato will be aided by the profound insights of the Platonists of late antiquity, as we endeavour to gain sight of, as Thomas Taylor puts it, “those great truths in the philosophy and theology of Plato, which though they have been concealed for ages in oblivion, have a subsistence coeval with the universe, and will again be restored, and flourish, for very extended periods, through all the infinite revolutions of time.”
Our modular format should allow new participants to join our on-going studies at the beginning of the modules in September or January: each module will be relatively self-contained but, of course, continued attendance should enable the student to build upon previous studies.
The sessions will run on alternating Sundays, from 7.00 to 8.45pm (London time) for the advanced studies, and from 6.00 to 7.45pm for the intermediate studies - see above for dates. We do ask that participants make their best efforts to attend every session because we expect much of the value of any module to arise from the experience of the exchanges between ourselves as we build up our understanding of the text or theme that we are focussing upon.
There are no fees involved - the Trust runs all its teaching activities at cost as we consider the cultivation of wisdom to be not only priceless, but also the rightful inheritance of every soul and, as Socrates himself says in the Gorgias (at 420d), not something which should be subject to payments. Should participants feel so moved, the Prometheus Trust (a registered UK charity) welcomes donations, in order to further our work.
Where Prometheus Trust books form the basis of any module, we will be offering an extra “students’ discount” on our prices via our own website (unless you are in the US or Canada, in which case our distibutors Kindred Star Books will also be able to offer a discount).
Links to the zoom sessions and to the Slack forum will be provided by the education co-ordinator in good time.
Booking forms here: xxxxxxx