Diotima

diotima-bust-uni-of-western-australia.jpg

Status: Archetypal Wisdom Counsellor

Age: 2,400 years old

Location: Mantinea, sometimes Athens

Can you remember the first time you suspected there was a bigger truth to life, and that this was something….sorry, it seems inappropriate to be asking you the usual questions.

Of course, I lived in a culture that fundamentally understood there was a bigger truth to life that we could participate in, so some of your questions would seem a little on the nose. 

Certainly, but it’s much more than that: the usual questions seem inappropriate because not only are you the archetypal wisdom counsellor, but you pretty much present everything I talk about in The Missing Piece - the nature of the psyche and its relationship to reality, the Beloved analogy, the nature of transmission, amongst other things - in the astonishing allegory of Plato’s Symposium. Everything I’ve written seems silly in comparison.

It is.

Well, hang on a minute! At least I honour your tradition by pointing out it’s possible to make sense of wisdom without using all the spiritual buzzwords of our time.

It’s true we never needed spiritual buzzwords, because wisdom concerns herself not just with profound spiritual experience, but with a way of sharing together in an understanding of why things are the way they are too. 

For instance, why is reality such that it is ‘nondual’ as so many teachers claim? If there is no way for us to share in an understanding of why this is the case right now, then we have yet to reach knowledge or wisdom, regardless of the experience in question. And we know we have reached wisdom not just when we can give an answer, but when the answer is beautiful too.

I told Socrates this. I thought my words were studied in your universities?

I’m afraid they’re no longer your words. If only we had a tradition like yours still around today, we might not be in the state we are in. Do you think the absence of spiritual buzzwords is why no one recognises Plato’s dialogues as profound allegories and expositions on wisdom and how to know her?

When it comes to the tradition I transmitted to Socrates, there is nothing comparable in scope and beauty. Is it a coincidence women were inherently involved too? This is a mystery little understood, of which I will speak more later.

Compare the Symposium (Balboa has done a marvellous job by the way of translating what I told Socrates) to any other classical or modern text on the subject of wisdom. If someone can find anything that comes close to the Symposium’s beauty and profundity, I think you should offer them free retreats for life.

Whoa - I know you liked to challenge Socrates, but that’s going to ruffle some feathers! But who am I to refuse Diotima? If someone is game for the challenge, I’d be happy to offer such a prize.

Tell me Alan, I’m not speaking to you just to set a challenge, am I? What is your real agenda in speaking with me? Not just flattery I hope.

Could it have something to do with your stories page

Damn, I was hoping no one would notice...

If this were Ancient Athens, this state of affairs would be much celebrated, as we discuss the love of boys in the Symposium

Let me come clean: I’m interviewing you, Diotima, the greatest teacher of the ancient world, because not only are you little known (and awesome), but there is an embarrassing absence of female wisdom icons across the board.

Yes, like the absence of female wisdom icons on your stories page.

Ouch! It’s true, I have more male than female students at the moment, and as most of my students won’t write a story (many find being ‘front and centre’ terrifying, as do many who actually wrote a story), it’s unlikely I’m going to get as many stories from women!

I see; it will look like you only love boys, thereby attracting more boys because it looks like a boy thing, until the feedback loop has a negative effect on the gender mix. Which is weird. 

Yes it is. 

So you thought interviewing an obscure dead historical woman would remedy this? You’re dumber than my student Socrates ever was.

Well at least people know the archetypal wisdom counsellor was a woman (through an introduction to Balboa’s Symposium), and therefore the entirety of western philosophy comes from the transmission of a female teacher.

No thanks to your western academics; most of them reduce me to a mere plot device, should they acknowledge me at all.

Institutional sexism!

Ok! There’s no need to shout. Can you tell me why there is institutional sexism?

Let’s see…Because they’re ignorant? Or because of unconscious cultural signals and beliefs? Are universities ‘structurally’ sexist?

Have you noticed that for all of this apparent understanding, the various problems liberalism sets out to tackle remain unresolved?

Come now, remember what I said about the nature of wisdom?

If you cannot make sense of why these liberal explanations are true or not, how can we ever reach wisdom or justice and a resolution of the problem?

You see, with nowhere to go beyond belief, liberalism must content itself with contracting further and further into failure and paralysis, until it consumes itself, as it currently is.

This is how it is with all cultures of belief.

It seems I’m definitely using you as a plot device of my own now. Am I sexist?

Enough with the irony! Pay attention, if you can! 

I’m about to present another challenge that speaks to the heart of this dialogue, to which I have already given the answer numerous times should you have been keen enough to see it. 

Now, we can talk about how I have been reduced to a literary invention because of institutional sexism, or because it would only be possible to do so if wisdom - the topic of the Symposium - is inherently misunderstood or actively denied.

But is it possible the two are actually related?

Both Wisdom, whose name is Sophia, and myself - Diotima, the Archetypal Philosopher - are women, and yet the love of Sophia has been reduced to a parody so that Sophia is no longer recognised - let alone known or loved - in her own tradition, and everyone would rather talk about Plato’s idiot student Aristotle, than me - Diotima, the teacher of the most famous philosopher of all time!

Wisdom and women. Have you noticed how all cultures of belief subjugate both?

What does it say about our culture that both are still marginalised?

What is it that women and wisdom share that would cause both to be treated unjustly, and what would be required for us to correct this?

Remember: you know you have the answer, when the answer is beautiful!

What a challenge! Thanks for dropping by Diotima. Maybe we will see some female wisdom icons of the future here soon.

Yes, and don't forget, everyone should read what I taught Socrates in the Symposium for themselves, because just reading this dialogue is not the same thing. Good luck!