Excerpt About Socratic Method

Modern Developments of the Socratic Method

These lines of thought all explore the nature of the human being as self or subject and its relation to existence, to the divine or ultimate reality, or Being. In the West, a particularly potent thread of this exploration began with the Platonic inquiry as developed by Socrates. We will see in the course of our investigation how pursuing deeply Socrates’s admonition, “Know thyself,” is a powerful path of liberation from the “cave of illusion,” and how, in our own times, we have knowledge and techniques available to help us engage in this inquiry with more precision and ease. The development of depth psychology has enabled us to take Socrates’s query to a new level. Freud’s discovery of unconscious aspects of the self was a pivotal development in the understanding of human consciousness. The current focus on narcissism in psychoanalytic and psychological research adds further important knowledge about the self. However, in the current context of psychology this development of our potential for self-understanding has not really penetrated the question of the nature of the self in a way that would satisfy either the philosopher or the mystic’s quest. Existential psychology and some aspects of transpersonal psychology have explored this territory, and its explorations have led to a certain degree of integration of philosophical and spiritual understanding with psychology. In general, however, psychological theory is limited by its conceptions of the self, which we will examine in detail in this book. In the philosophic and spiritual realms the pursuit of truth is often limited by ignorance of the unconscious factors that keep our limited conventional view of ourselves and the world trapped in egoic veils, and thus often render spiritual experience as exasperatingly short-lived or unintegratable into our everyday sense of ourselves.

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