Arvindus

Contemplationam

Generalities and Particularities in Plato's and Bailey's Philosophies

  • Title: Contemplationam, Generalities and Particularities in Plato's and Bailey's Philosophies.
  • Author: Arvindus.
  • Publisher: Arvindus.
  • Copyright: © 2021 Arvindus, all rights reserved.
  • Index: 202110301.
  • Edition: html, first edition.

Two beautiful white swans may be swimming in a pond. If this is so then a human can perceive these two particular swans with his senses. However these two particular swans also share with each other the same generalities: They are both white and they are both beautiful. And a human also has the ability to grasp these generalities of whiteness and of beauty with his mind. This consideration may give rise to the question of how particularities, generalities and humans relate to each other.

Answering this question Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) gave primacy to the particularities, on which generalities would depend for existence. The grasping of generalities by the human mind then took place through sense perception of similar particularities.1

This answer stood in contrast to the answer that his teacher Plato (427-347 B.C.) had given. For Plato had given primacy to the generalities, giving them independent existence in a metaphysical world of ideas or forms [Greek: 'idea' or 'eidos'].2 It was according to Plato only because physical particularities participated in that metaphysical world of generalities that they could be perceived by humans as similar.3 For the immortal soul [Greek: 'psuche']4, 5, 6 of man had its origin in that metaphysical world, and encountering the generalities in the particularities of the physical world would make the soul recall them from before its physical incarnation.7

Now Plato considers that at the root of all these generalities stands the idea or form of the good. This is the highest idea to be grasped.8 This thought he illustrates with his famous allegory of the cave.9 Prisoners in a cave only see the shadows on a wall that are cast by artifacts that are moving between their backs and light casting fires. However when they would be able to break loose and move into the light of the day they would see the real forms, lit by the sun. Now the physical particularities are like the shadows on the wall, made visible by the physical sun, represented by the fires in the cave. The real objects on the earth's surface then are the generalities that are made visible by the idea of the good, being represented by the sun. Prisoners staring at the particular shadows however will not understand the descriptions of the freed prisoner (the philosopher) who beheld the general forms.10

Now the above academic philosophy of Plato can very well be compared with, or placed within, the esoteric philosophy of Alice Bailey (1880-1949). In that philosophy humans are posited as consisting of spirit, soul and personality, corresponding with the threefold of spirit, consciousness and matter.11 The personality thereby is on its turn considered as consisting of a (dense and subtle) physical body, emotion and concrete thought, and the soul as consisting of abstract thought, intuition and spiritual will.12

Considering this we can see that Plato's philosophy fits in well. The particularities of Plato's philosophy correspond with the world of matter and on a human level with the personality of Bailey's philosophy. It is through physical sense perception and the concrete mind that particularities are grasped by humans. The generalities, the world of ideas, of Plato's philosophy then correspond with consciousness and on a human level with the soul of Bailey's philosophy. It is the lowest constituent of the immortal soul, the abstract mind, that captures the generalities, which after all regard abstracts. This conception of the soul by Bailey is, in general, also in line with Plato's conception of the soul. For both Bailey and Plato consider the soul to be immortal, and as mentioned before does Plato consider that generalities are grasped by a human on a soul level (through recalling of his pre-bodily existence). The idea of the good of Plato then corresponds to the intuition and the spiritual will in Bailey's thought. It is through the spiritual will and the intuition that man grasps a sense of what is good, that man grasps the idea of the good.

Tabulated we get an overview as in the figure below.

Plato Bailey
The idea of the good Spiritual will
Intuition
Generalities Abstract mind
Particularities Concrete mind
Emotion
Body

Figure 1.

In a later contemplation perhaps a comparison of the human constitution within Plato's academic philosophy and Bailey's esoteric philosophy can be supplemented. For now the above comparison suffices. The idea of the good of Plato corresponds with the spiritual will and intuition of Bailey, his generalities with her abstract mind and his particularities with her concrete mind, emotion and physical body.

Notes
  1. Aristotle, 'De Anima', J.A. Smith (translator), in: W.D. Ross (editor), The Works of Aristotle, Volume III, Oxford University Press, London / et alibi, 1931, Book III, Ch. 8, sec. 432a, 1. "Since according to common agreement there is nothing outside and separate in existence from sensible spatial magnitudes, the objects of thought are in the sensible forms, viz. both the abstract objects and all the states and affections of sensible things."
  2. R.M. Dancy, Plato's Introduction of Forms, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge / et alibi, 2004, p. 14.
  3. Socrates, cited by Phaedo, in: Plato, 'Phaedo', G.M.A. Grube (translator), in: John M. Cooper / D.S. Hutchinson (editors), Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis / Cambridge, 1997, 100e / p. 86. "This is the safe answer for me or anyone else to give, namely, that it is through Beauty that beautiful things are made beautiful."
  4. Plato, 'Meno', in: W.R.M. Lamb (translator), Plato, With an English Translation, IV, Laches, Protagoras, Meno, Euthydemus, Harvard University Press / William Heinemann Ltd., Cambridge / Massachusetts / London, 1952, p. 302, 303.
  5. 'Contemplationam, Psi', Index: 202103171.
  6. 'Contemplationam, Ψ', Index: 202104131.
  7. Socrates, in: Plato, 'Meno', G.M.A. Grube (translator), in: John M. Cooper / D.S. Hutchinson (editors), Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis / Cambridge, 1997, 81c-d / p. 880. "As the soul is immortal, has been born often and has seen all things here and in the underworld, there is nothing which it has not learned; so it is in no way surprising that it can recollect the things it knew before, both about virtue and other things."
  8. Socrates, in: Plato, 'Republic', G.M.A. Grube (translator), C.D.C. Reeve (revisor), in: John M. Cooper / D.S. Hutchinson (editors), Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis / Cambridge, 1997, 504e-505a / p. 1125. "And I suspect the latter, for you've often heard it said that the form of the good is the most important thing to learn about and that it's by their relation to it that just things and the others become useful and beneficial."
  9. Ibidem, p. 1132 ff. / sec. 514 ff.
  10. 'Contemplationam, A Small Sketch of the History of Western Spiritualistic and Materialistic Orientations', Index: 201103091, Christian Period, Plato.
  11. 'Ageless Wisdom, Triplicities in Man', Index: 201308292.
  12. Ibidem.
Bibliography
  • 'Ageless Wisdom, Triplicities in Man', Index: 201308292.
  • 'Contemplationam, A Small Sketch of the History of Western Spiritualistic and Materialistic Orientations', Index: 201103091.
  • 'Contemplationam, Psi', Index: 202103171.
  • 'Contemplationam, Ψ', Index: 202104131.
  • Aristotle, 'De Anima', J.A. Smith (translator), in: W.D. Ross (editor), The Works of Aristotle, Volume III, Oxford University Press, London / et alibi, 1931.
  • R.M. Dancy, Plato's Introduction of Forms, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge / et alibi, 2004.
  • Plato, 'Meno', G.M.A. Grube (translator), in: John M. Cooper / D.S. Hutchinson (editors), Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis / Cambridge, 1997.
  • Plato, 'Meno', in: W.R.M. Lamb (translator), Plato, With an English Translation, IV, Laches, Protagoras, Meno, Euthydemus, Harvard University Press / William Heinemann Ltd., Cambridge / Massachusetts / London, 1952.
  • Plato, 'Phaedo', G.M.A. Grube (translator), in: John M. Cooper / D.S. Hutchinson (editors), Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis / Cambridge, 1997.
  • Plato, 'Republic', G.M.A. Grube (translator), C.D.C. Reeve (revisor), in: John M. Cooper / D.S. Hutchinson (editors), Complete Works, Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis / Cambridge, 1997.