The Human Soul in the Myths of Plato

The Judgement of the Soul

At the very root of all systems of religion and philosophy, as means of aiding man to attain to freedom and perfection, lies the idea of individual responsibility. If the soul is self-motive, it must possess free-will, and if it possesses free-will and the power to choose between various alternatives, then the responsibility for the choice rests with the soul itself and with it alone.

The symbolical account of the creation of the human soul by the Demiurgus, which is contained in the Timaeus, relates how the Father of Souls "showed them the nature of the universe and announced to them the Laws of Fate, and that their first birth should be alike for all." He also bestowed on them sense-perception, desire and "fear and anger" or the irascible nature; three faculties necessary to physical life which they were to control and use as servants. "For He said that if they should subdue these they should live justly, but if they were subdued by them, unjustly. He instructed the souls in these matters that He might not be the cause of the future wickedness of each, and thereafter sent them to their appointed habitations."

The mundane realm, in which the soul lives while in a physical body, is for the soul the world of trial and opportunity. The soul while with the body is in a certain sense undergoing a test. When it chose its life on the earth, it chose, as the Myth of Er in the Republic sets forth, with its eyes open and when it was in a position to see things as they are. But in its descent it drinks of the waters of Amelete and on waking up on earth it is at first bewildered by its new surroundings and may for a long while remain oblivious of its real nature.


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The Shrine of Wisdom 1936, Second Edition 1968, Reprinted 1984