Episode 35: Mystery and Immortality: Plato’s Phædo

Plato’s Phædo is one of the great works of the western tradition. It has convinced many a great mind through history that their true nature is that of a soul, distinct from their body, immaterial, immortal, and destined for existence after death. But it is more the way in which Plato delivers his message than the message itself which interests us as students of western esotericism.

Socrates’ discourses on immortality consist in a fascinating fusion of rigorous dialectic and appeals to the authority of unnamed mystic rituals and teachings. Logos and mythos interweave in the dialogue. The Pythagorean and Orphic traditions furnish many of the stage settings for an exploration, not only of immortality, but of initiation, transformed philosophically.

Recommended Reading

  • Dorter, K. (1972). ‘Equality, Recollection, and Purification’, Phronesis 17 : 198-218.
  • McMinn, J. (1960). ‘Plato as a Philosophical Theologian’, Phronesis 5 : 23-31.
  • McPherran, M. L., 1996. The Religion of Socrates. Penn State Press, University Park, PA.
  • Morgan, K. A. (2010). ‘The Voice of Authority: Divination and Plato’s “Phædo”‘, The Classical Quarterly 60 : 63-81.
  • Morgan, M., 1990. Platonic Piety: Philosophy and Ritual in Fourth-Century Athens. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT. esp. pp. 64, 75
  • Parker, R., 1983. Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion. Clarendon Press, Oxford.


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