Origins of the "double-truth"

Bjarte Kaldhol bjartekal at AH.TELIA.NO
Sun Dec 24 18:14:22 EST 2000


Dear listmembers,

Greece, like Cyprus, was part of the ancient Near East. We should not draw
an artificial border line between Greece and the Orient, nor was there any
such border line between India and the Near East. Migrant craftsmen,
healers, purification priests, diviners, etc. from the East were common in
Greece from the early archaic age. Themistocles, who died at Magnesia in
459 BC, learned Persian many decades before Plato wrote his dialogues, and
he would not have been the first or only Greek to do so. Greek poetry and
intellectual traditions owe much to the Near East, and Herodotus attributed
all kinds of inventions to Egypt (which comprised the Levant). Walter
Burkert wrote in THE ORIENTALIZING REVOLUTION: "Culture is not a plant
sprouting from its seed in isolation; it is a continuous process of
learning guided by curiosity along with practical needs and interests. It
grows especially through a willingness to learn from what is 'other', what
is strange and foreign."

Given the 'otherness' of India, even before Buddhism, I would say it is
very likely that Greek philosophers would have heard about and been
interested in early Indian thinking. Plato's forerunners Parmenides and
Pythagoras "smell of" mother India. I do not understand why Plato (fourth
century BC) could not have heard of Buddhist philosophy? What is wrong with
my dates?

Best wishes,
Bjarte Kaldhol

----------
> From: John Richards <jhr at UNIVERSALIST.SCREAMING.NET>
> To: INDOLOGY at LISTSERV.LIV.AC.UK
> Subject: Origins of the "double-truth"
> Date: 24. desember 2000 15:51
>
> There is one unquestionable Greek use of the idea of a higher and lower
> truth, well before the influence of Buddhism is possible, and the source,
of
> course, of most of the western usage of this theme - including later
Greek
> thought, Philo and Sufism.
>
> Plato distinguishes consistently between the Truth of Being ("that which
> always is and never becomes") and the only apparent reality of becoming
> ("that which is always becoming but never is"). It is moreover the
> distinction between Mind (Nous itself) and the objects of the mind. Any
> attempt to juggle the "apparent" pieces into a logical system can be at
best
> a symbolic approximation to the Truth. Nonetheless "popular" religion is
> forced to do just that. People demand a "system", and above a "saving of
the
> appearances" on which morality itself rests.
>
> It would seem that every religion that expresses itself in analytic (as
> opposed to symbolic) terms makes this same distinction, at least in its
> mystical tradition - perhaps because it is the truth which they have
seen.
>
> As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect (Nous) to opinion - Plato,
> Republic
> 534
>
> We must in my opinion begin by distinguishing between that which always
is
> and never becomes, from that which is always becoming but never is -
Plato,
> Timaeus 27
>
> What is at issue is the turning round of the mind from the twilight of
error
> to the truth, the climb up into the real world which we shall call true
> philosophy - Plato, Republic 7.521
>
> What others call true reality, they (the wise) call, not real being, but
a
> sort of moving process of becoming - Plato, Sophist
>
> "The One remains, the many change and pass.
> Heaven's Light forever shines; earth's shadows fly."
>
> is but the popular expression of this tradition.
>
> It has been suggested that Plato may have got the basis of this idea from
> Orphism, but so little is known about Orphism and its origins that even
if
> this is true it hardly gets us any further. It does not rule out an
ultimate
> "eastern" origin though. One thing is certain though, from the dates
> involved, that Plato could not have got this distinction directly from
> Buddhism.
>
> To suggest that it is merely a clever device to reconcile conflicting
> "commentarial" discrepancies is itself very clever, but hardly does the
> subject justice, even if there are cases when this is true.
>
> John Richards



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