Reflections on Dream-Midwifery in Terms of Diotima’s Speech in Plato’s Symposium (Part 3 of 3)

By Nobuya Teraoka

The role of Love as the middle term between the mortal and the divine is an interesting contrast to the midwife’s role between the dreamer and the Dream Master. If the midwife is like Love, then she somehow “elucidates and communicates… from humans their requests and sacrifices to the gods, and from the gods their commands and compensation for sacrifices to humans.”

A dreamer, of course, may make a personal request to the Dream Master, but the midwife communicates the dreamer’s requests and sacrifices to the gods through the very act of dream exploration.

I have experienced dream explorations with Pierre in which I am blocked from exploring a particularly significant point, but during the following night I receive a new dream that, after exploration with Pierre, elucidates the very problem which had blocked me. Thus, since the Dream Master is aware of our midwifery progress, being blocked during a dream exploration often functions as a request to the Dream Master for another dream.

Furthermore, since the midwife assists the dreamer to put words on the false belief that blocks her seeing, the dream exploration functions as a kind of sacrifice, a giving up of some of the beliefs that make the dreamer loyal to a centrally significant and destructive false belief about the nature of Reality, which Pierre calls the pathologos.

In compensation for such sacrifice, the Dream Master sends more dreams. But the dreamer has no direct control over the kind of dream she will receive. Though the dreamer may think there are several issues in her life that could benefit from the Dream Master’s attention, the dreams function as commands, forcefully turning the dreamer’s soul toward an examination of what the Dream Master deems worthy to see.

To force a dream to fit the dreamer’s desires and fears is to miss excellence in midwifery and become what is abhorred by every true philosopher, an interpreter. Yet a midwife’s function is, for souls, more helpful than that of Love’s. For without the midwife, she who yearns for the Beautiful and the Good could not rise beyond her pathologos.

The contrast may become clearer through the myth of Love’s birth: Poverty, who is excluded from the gods’ celebration of the birth of Aphrodite, or Beauty itself, approaches and begs at the doors of the divine feast. There is no indication that she shares in the feast. When Poverty spies Plenty drunk on divine drink entering Zeus’ garden and falling deeply asleep, she, in her poverty, plans to have a child from Plenty. Laying down by his side, she conceives Love immediately without any doings of Plenty. But Poverty’s plan does not benefit herself, for Love becomes the follower and servant of Aphrodite and does not relate to Poverty.

Love shares his mother’s nature, being always poor, and is neither tender nor beautiful. But he also shares in his father’s nature, always weaving devices and being a philosopher all his days, seeking the good and beautiful. Love therefore gets new life from Plenty, but he always loses whatever he has due to Poverty.

Suppose that I am like Poverty and the Dream Master is like Plenty. I live my days always of poor understanding and am neither beautiful nor able to enter into and celebrate the vision of divine beauty. I approach the threshold of Mind. The Dream Master, full of the celebration of the birth of Beauty, enters into the garden of Mind, and I, traveling through Mind’s realm, approach the Dream Master. Without effort and as if by myself, I conceive a dream, whose double nature is like Love’s.

For the dream is both incomprehensible and unhelpful to me who am blocked from understanding, yet is full of a certain charm and attraction which persists in my memory for a long time and draws me to want to understand it. The dream is specifically appropriate to my state of ignorance, yet is an anagogic doorway to wisdom.

Yet while the dream, with the help of the midwife, becomes a way to greater self-understanding for the dreamer, in the myth Love provides nothing beneficial to Poverty. The myth lacks an element that functions like a midwife to Poverty, bringing her the understanding to escape ignorance and share in the divine feast. But this is because the function of the myth in the dialogue is to help the reader understand Socrates’ particular path from ignorance to wisdom, which needed no midwifery because he had no blocks. Love shows the way and Socrates follows, straight out of ignorance to wisdom. In contrast, Agathon begins from a similar state of ignorance, but he cannot follow Love like Socrates. He is more like one of us, blocked from pursuing the love of Beauty, because of a pathologos. Therefore, it is not in the scope of the myth nor the dialogue to deal with the dialectic of midwifery.

Thus, for the pathologos-ridden, the midwife is more beneficial than Love. The midwife functions as a middle term between the dreamer and the Dream Master, but unlike Love, when the dreamer is stuck, the midwife can draw the dreamer’s attention to the difference between the dream text and her interpretation that blocks her from going farther in philosophy. Clearly, the dream is a priceless gift. The dream is not by you, but it tells you about you better than you. You may hide your beauty, but it will reflect it back like a flawless mirror. You may deny it, but the midwife will point to it in the dream text.

Is the dream-midwife a midwife? If so, who is pregnant and with what is she pregnant? Diotima discusses a range of pregnancies in her speech. Among them is the individual who is pregnant from youth and seeks in his adulthood to beget and procreate in someone whose soul and body is beautiful. With such a person he “has plenty of talks about excellence and what the good person ought to be and to practice and he tries to educate him. For by attaching himself to a person of beauty […] and keeping company with him he begets and procreates what he has long been pregnant with; present and absent he remembers him, and with him fosters what is begotten, so that as a result these people retain a much closer communion together and a firmer friendship than parents of children, because they have shared between them children more beautiful and more immortal” (trans. Rouse).

What immortal children does the individual, the philosopher, who is pregnant from youth and begets and procreates in a beautiful soul beget? What children could rival the works of Homer and the laws of Lycurgos and Solon? It is in respect to this question that the remainder of Diotima’s speech is directed. For in describing the higher revelations for the initiate who enters the mysteries of Love, which culminates in seeing Beauty itself with Mind itself, giving birth to true excellence, nurturing and bringing such  excellence up, and finally becoming a friend to god and as immortal as may be granted to any person, she describes the children of such a relationship.

With some alteration the passage about the philosophical lover can be adapted to the midwife: “with a dreamer like that, the midwife has plenty of talks about the excellence and good that the

Dream Master wove into her dream and about how it functions in the dream and she tries to educate the dreamer by reflecting on and appreciating the meaning of the dream in itself and in terms of her waking world.” The midwife, like the lover, is pregnant through the love of wisdom and seeks explorations with dreamers who desire to understand their dreams. Through that dialogue the midwife communes with the Mind of the Dream Master. She must not add anything mortal nor foreign to the dream text, nor fail to appreciate its richness. The dreamer, on her part, drops her interpretation and returns to a purer experience of the dream. Their pure state of openness as they receive the divine communication of the Dream Master is the child of their dialogue. Excellence in understanding and reflection through analogy is nurtured into maturity.

In turn, they become friends of the Dream Master’s Mind and in that friendship taste of the immortality of the gods.

Post-Script: This study calls for a subsequent study regarding Pierre’s dream explorations of higher level dreams: it is important to share dreams that are purely positive, which take the dreamer into states of mind that are astonishingly simple, blissful, and one. Or dreams that function as an anagogic allegory. Or dreams about Providence. There are also those dreams that are full of humor, that playfully play on language, on ideas from Hellenic thought, or Zen koans, or the mystical experiences of Muktananda. Finally, this study needs a comparison of dream-midwifery to Parmenides’ midwifery of Socrates through the Forms, as discussed in Proclus’ Commentary on the Parmenides of Plato.

Note: For a copy of the complete transcriptions of each dream, or the complete PDF of this paper, please email: donations(at)

Proclus Elements of Theology – Translated by Juan Balboa


Introduction to Juan’s Translation

by Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.

Philosophy has few friends, but those who have come to know her always are aware of the gift she has bestowed on them. Those who reject her are part of an opposition that is as ancient as philosophy itself.

For to present oneself as a knower of what most deny has any existence often makes one an object of derision and ridicule. Yet, even those who reject her insist that everyone has their own philosophy and they often retort that who is to say what philosophy is anyway since everyone has the right to name it whatever they want?

When it is pointed out to them that the name philosophy can be defined in terms of itself, then they deny its literal meaning. However, her name does define her uniqueness because, as we know, philosophy means the love of wisdom.

The name perfectly mirrors her nature because there is always a love for her simply because the experience of wisdom is beauty itself.

When she is seen in all her perfection it is impossible not to have an intense love for her. For love is the love of the beautiful and it awakens in the soul of those who have perceived her a sense of the wondrous nature of beauty.


In the astonishment of that vision is the awareness that whatever it is that has been called the self that here in this vision one is present before what truly is and in that recognition one can name the seeing and the object of seeing as truly mind alone.

Continue reading Proclus Elements of Theology – Translated by Juan Balboa

Proclus Elements of Theology: Proposition 1-10

Translated by Juan Balboa

Editor’s note: the original translation by the great Juan Balboa includes the original Greek version of Proclus Elements of Theology alongside Juan’s translation. It also includes illustrations by Juan as well as discussions regarding Greek/English words.  For ease of reading online, I’ve omitted the Greek. 

If you’d like a PDF copy of Juan’s translation, which includes the missing material, please email

The-Academy-of-AthensTo better understand the vocabulary of this translation, please read Pierre Grimes’ Introduction.

Proposition 1

All Multitude Participates, in a certain way, of The One.

For if It Participates, in no way (of The One), neither would The Whole be One, nor each of the many of which the multitude consists; but from each of these multitudes, even more multitudes would arise, and this will be the case into infinity, and each of these infinities, would in turn be, an infinite multitude.

For by participating in no way at all of The One; neither according to The Whole Itself, nor according to each of the multitude contained in Itself, thus it will be infinite, according to every particular, and according to all.

For each of the many, which you may take up, would be either One, or Not-one, and if Not-one, then either many or nothing.

But if, on the one hand, each is nothing, that also which consists of these would be nothing; And if, on the other hand, each is many, each will consist of an infinite number of infinities: but this, is impossible.

For neither are any of The Real-Beings composed of an infinite number of infinities (for there could not be more than that which is infinite; but That which consists of All, is more than each.) Nor is it possible for anything to be composed from that which in no way exists.

Accordingly then, All Multitude, Participates in a certain way of The One.


Proposition 2

All that Participate of The One, are both One and Not-one.

For if It is not The One-Itself (for It Partakes of The One, by Being something else besides The One), It has undergone that Participation according to The One, and sustains having-become One.

If then, on the one hand, It is nothing besides The One, It “is” Simply One: and does not Participate of The One, but It “would be” The One-Itself.

But if, on the other hand, It is something besides That which is Not-one, (but That which Participates of The One, It is both, Not-one and One, not The Very One-Itself, but One-Being, by Participating of The One).

Accordingly then, by this, It is Not-one, nor The Very One: But One-Being, and at the same time, Participates of The One, and because of this, It is Not-one, According to Its Own Hyparxis, Being both One and Not-one, by Being something else besides The One; on the one hand, insofar as, It Abounds, It is Not-one; but on the other hand, insofar as, It has received (The One) from without, It is One.

Accordingly then, All that Participates of The One, is both One and Not-one.


Proposition 3

All that becomes One, becomes One by Participating of The One.

For if, on the one hand, It is Itself Not-one, then on the other hand, It is One, insofar as It has received from without Its Participation of The One, for if Those which are not In-Themselves One, were to become One, then surely They would Unite and Commune with each other in order to become One, and Abide in The Presence of The One, but not be The Very One Itself.

Accordingly then, this One Participates of The One insofar as, this One undergoes becoming One; For if on the one hand It “is” already One, then It will not become One: For by “being” That OneIt cannot become That which It “is” already.

But if They become One, from that which was formerly Not-one, then that certain One that has been generated in Them has come forth as One.


Proposition 4

All that is United is Other than The One Itself.

For if It is United, This should in a certain way Participate of The One, insofar as It is also said to be United. 

However, That which Participates of The One, is One and Not-one. But The One Itself is not both One and Not-one.

For if This were also One and Not-one, then The One in Itself would also have both of These, and this would proceed to infinity, if there were no One-Itself which would enable it to stop, but All would be One and Not-one.

Accordingly then, there is Something that Is United which is Other than The One.

For if The One were The Same with The United, then an infinite multitude would result, and so also for Each of Those Beings of which The United consists.

Continue reading Proclus Elements of Theology: Proposition 1-10

Proclus’ Elements of Theology Propositions 13-25

Proposition 13

All that is Good is The Unifying Principle of Its Participants, and All Union is Good, and The Good is The Same with The One.

For if The Good is The Preserving Principle of All Beings, (for which reason It is also The Object of Desire for All) but That which is Preservative and Connective of The Essential-Being of every being is The One (for All are Preserved by The One and dispersion removes every being from its Essential-Being).

For The Good Completes and Contains those, in which It is present, according to One Union.

And if The One is Collective and Connective of Beings, then It will Perfect every-being by Its Own Presence.

Accordingly then, it is also Good for All these to be United.

If then, The Union is according to The Good Itself, and Good is The Unifying Principle, then The Simply Good, and The Simply One are The Same, Unifying, and at the same time, Benefiting Beings.

Hence it is certainly the case that, those who, in a certain way, fall away, from The Good, are at the same time, also deprived of The Participation of The One.

And those which become destitute of The One, are “filled” with separation, and are also, in the same way, deprived of The Good.

Accordingly then, Goodness is Union, and Union is Goodness, and The Good is One and The One is Primarily Good.

Proposition 14

All Being is either Immovable or moved. And if moved, it is either moved By-Itself or by-another. And if indeed it is moved By-Itself, it is Self-motive; but if by-another, it is alter-motive.

Accordingly then, All is either Immovable or Self-motive or alter-motive. For it is necessary that since there are beings that are alter-motive, there should also be That which is Immovable, and that between these, there must be That which is Self-motive.

For if all that is alter-motive is moved in consequence of being moved by-another, then the motions will either move in a circle, or they will proceed towards infinity.

But they will neither be moved in a circle, nor will they proceed to infinity, if indeed all Beings are Limited/Defined by Their Source/Principle (P11) and if indeed The Mover is Superior than that which is moved.

(P7) Accordingly then, there will be something Immovable which is The Prime Mover.
But if this be the case, it is also necessary that The Self-motive exist.

For if everything should stop, what would be Primarily Moved at that time?For neither can it be The Immovable (for it is not naturally adapted to be moved), nor the alter-motive (for that is moved by another).

Accordingly then, it remains, that The Self-motive Nature is that which is Primarily Moved.

Since it is This which also Conjoins alter-motive natures to that which is Immovable, by being in a certain way, in the middle, moving, and at the same time, being moved.

For of these, The Immovable, on the one hand, Causes others to move, only, but on the other hand, the alter-motive is moved, only.

Therefore All Being, is either immovable, or self-motive, or alter-motive.


From these considerations likewise, it is clearly manifest, that on the one hand, of those which are moved, The Self-motive is The First; but on the other hand, of those which move, The Immovable is The First.

Continue reading Proclus’ Elements of Theology Propositions 13-25

Proclus’ Elements of Theology Propositions 26-50

Proposition 26

Every Cause that is Productive of others, while Abiding Itself of Itself, Produces Those Natures Subsequent to Itself, and those that are successive.

For if It imitates The One, but That, Immovably Provides The Underlying-Reality to Those that are subsequent to Itself, so also in a similar way, Every Productive Cause will possess The Causeof Production.

For if through motion, the motion will be in It, and by being moved, It will no longer still be The One, in consequence of being changed from The One.

But if motion subsists together with It, it will also be from The One, and either The One is an unlimited progression, or, The One will Produce Immovably.

Thus, All That Produces will imitate The One and The Producing Cause of Wholes.
For everywhere, out of That which is Primary, originates that which is not Primary:and hence, That which is Productive of certain subsequent naturesoriginates from That which is Productive of All.

And The Whole of Productive Natures, Abide in Themselves, while subsequent natures are produced from Them.

Accordingly then, The Productive Causes Abide Undiminished, while those that are secondary are produced from Them:For that which is in any respect diminished, is unable to Abide, such as It Is.

Proposition 27

Every Productive Cause, Pan to paragonon account of Its Perfection and Superabundance of Power, is Productive of Those that are Secondary.

For if it were not productive, through Its Perfection, but instead through a lessening of its power, then it would not be able to keep its own order, in an immovable way.

For that which imparts existence to another through loss and by weakening, does so, through its own mutation and change of quality.

But on the other hand, every Productive Cause, Remains such as It Is:and by Remaining/Abiding in this way, that which is subsequent to It proceeds into existence.

Accordingly then, by Being Full and Perfect, It Provides Underlying Reality to Those that are Secondary In an Immoveable Way and without being diminished, by Being The Very One That It Is, and by neither being changed into them, nor diminished.

For that which is produced, is not a distribution into parts of The Producing Cause; since this is neither appropriate to The Generating Energy, nor to Generating Causes.

Nor is it a transition:For It does not become the matter of that which proceeds; since It Remains/Abides such as It Is, Therefore, That which Generates, is Firmly Established and Undiminished, through Prolific Power, It multiplies Itself, and from Itself, It Imparts a Secondary Underlying Reality.

Proposition 28

Every Productive Cause Provides Underlying Reality to Those that are Like Itself, Prior to those that are unlike Itself.

For seeing that The Producing Cause is necessarily Superior than Those that are produced, thus on the one hand, They can never Simply Be and Be Equal in Power with Each other.

But on the other hand, if They are not The Same and Equal, but different and unequal, Then They are either entirely separate from each other, or they are both United and separated.

But if on the one hand, They are entirely separate, They will not accord with each other, and in no way, will that effect which proceeds from The Cause, sympathize with It.

Hence neither will the one Participate of The Other, by being entirely different from It:But it is certainly necessary that That which is caused, must Participate of Its Cause, by possessing Its Essential-Being from That Source.

But if, that which is produced, is in one way separated from, but in another way united toits Productive Cause, then on the one hand, if it undergoes/experiences each of these equally, Essential-being, in the same way, from The Productive Cause.

But, if it is more distinct/separate, than Akin with The Productive Cause, that which is generated will be more foreign to That by which it is generated, and will be more un-harmonic rather than being Harmonically Adapted with It, and it will be more unsympathetic, instead of being Sympathetic with It.

And therefore, if those who proceed from their Causes are Akin to Them, according to Their Very Being, and sympathize with Them, then They also naturally depend upon Them, and Aspire to Conjoin with Them, by aspiring after The Good, and by hitting The Mark of their Aspirationthrough The Cause of Their Very Being.

Then surely it is evident, that Those that are produced, are United in a greater degreeto their Productive Cause, than they are separated from Them.

But Those that are more United, are more Like than unlike to Those to which they are especially United.

Therefore Every Productive Cause Provides Underlying-Reality to Those Like Itself, Prior to those that are unlike Itself.

Continue reading Proclus’ Elements of Theology Propositions 26-50

Philosophical Midwifery and the Struggle for Excellence in Homer

This paper was first presented at The First World Olympic Congress of Philosophy in Athens-Spetses, from June 27th to July 4th, 2004.


By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D. 
Revised for the web by Sean P. Orfila

The shadows on the wall in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and the Upper World are the man-made icons of man that we have been led to believe are our ideals, but they are merely shadows of justice flickering on the wall of the cave.

The mystery we will explore is why we accepted images for our reality and why they have the power to transform our lives. The craft that fashions and supports these images are the work of sophistry.

The issue before us is to discover how we were persuaded to believe as true what is manifestly false and how we can learn to be free of such sophistry.

Challenging such sophistry is the time-honored goal of Platonic philosophy and it is this that makes Philosophical Midwifery a major part of a philosophy whose goals are at once spiritual and rational.

The good life is open to all through the participation in mind for this is what illumines our struggle to achieve our highest and most profound excellence, arete.

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