It is one of the underlying theses of the book on which I am working that there is an occult shamanistic and theurgic tradition buried in Plato’s dialogues on love, the Phaedrus and the Symposium. I have also written here on how we got our contemporary depictions of the devil as a satyr.
Well, these two streams converge in the Phaedrus when Socrates offers a prayer to Pan, a satyr god of Arcadia.
Socrates prays, “Dear Pan, and all you other gods who live here, grant that I may become beautiful within, and that whatever outward things I have may be in harmony with the spirit inside me. May I understand that it is only the wise who are rich, and may I have only as much money as a temperate person needs.”
Let’s take a look at this prayer. The second part of the prayer is a pretty straightforward Leo Strauss, “Great Books” Platonism: wisdom is better than riches; it is better to live a good life than the life of pleasure, etc.
It is the first part of prayer that is so interesting. In it, Socrates asks to become beautiful or clean within and to live according to the spirit inside of him.
Socrates also earlier in the dialogue had strangely performed an invocation to the muses. Why all this invocation to spirits and prayers asking for interior transformation? It sounds a lot like shamanism and theurgy–even if we admit that Socrates may simply be being ironic.
Also, why is the dialogue set in a pastoral and Arcadian locale, and why does Socrates pray to Pan?
Is it possible that Pan, the satyr god, who, like satyrs, steals young women and nymphs, is an image of the serpent who seduced Eve?
Remember, Platonism is the metaphysical engine of gnosticism, theurgy, and the occult tradition all the way through theosophy to the present day.
What did all of these occultists find in Plato and his later followers that made his thinking amenable to them?
As a final note, I am not suggesting that Platonism is essentially diabolical. Obviously the first 1000 years of Christian theology was Platonic in as much as it was Augustinian, but there clearly is an esoteric teaching in Plato that later occultists picked up.
St. Augustine, pray for us!