Philosophical Midwifery and The Master

Art by Alex Grey, visionary artist, borrowed courtesy of
Art by Alex Grey, visionary artist, borrowed courtesy of

By: Nobuya Tareoka

Joseph Grimes observed that if all that is said about the Dream Master in “Pierric Dream-Midwifery” is correct, then I failed to appreciate the greater mystery of the Dream Master. For if the dream exploration benefits not only the dreamer but a similar kind of benefit is also conferred upon the midwife or other observer, then the natural question to ask is: To what degree, if any, is the Dream Master the intelligible cause of benefits to secondary and tertiary participants?

In principle, is there reason to conclude that the Dream Master’s art crafts each dream narrowly for the benefit of the dreamer alone? In “Pierric Dream-Midwifery,” the analysis of the dream exploration transcripts focused on the function of the dream-midwife and in so doing it also explored the precision with which the Dream Master’s dreams benefit each particular dreamer.

Here the focus is on the Dream Master itself: What is the scope of its power and of what is it the cause? And above all, what is it?

The condition for me to learn from Dreamer D’s¬†exploration was my belief in the intelligibility of dreams and dream-midwifery, which was grounded in years of midwifery explorations with Pierre. The repeated presence of the caring and intelligible mind of the Dream Master in midwife talk after midwife talk, the consistently rational dialogue between Pierre and the dreamer, or pregnant party, all profoundly changes the understanding of both participants and observers.

Just as there is an expectation for sunlight to shine upon us on a sunny day, so also there develops a sense of trust that the intelligibility we witnessed in past explorations will continue to shine upon ourselves because the cause of the kosmos is truly good. Like Earth circling round this transformational power, so clearly manifested by Pierric dream-midwifery, forms a rational community dedicated to self-understanding by participating of the logos. It is only within this kind of community that one can even entertain the puzzling possibility that the exploration of dreams by Pierric dream-midwifery benefits individuals beyond the dreamer herself.

Actually, even the scope of the Dream Master’s power upon the dreamer herself is difficult to fathom. In my case, through exploration of my dream (Dream N), I gained valuable insight into a unstated belief which I had been believing was true and which robbed me of seeing the goodness in myself and others. Pierre’s exploration revealed how that belief was negatively functioning in the dream and I recognized the belief as one that I experienced in an early childhood scene with my father and through which as an adult I function in my waking world toward my son and others. Then in a recursive fashion, my dream exploration turned back upon me trying to understand Pierre’s exploration of D’s dream, and I realized that the same negative state of mind blocked me from fully participating in dream-midwifery itself. Does the power of the Dream Master end there, or was it by Its art that I explored further into Pierre’s art, which resulted in my writing about dream-midwifery? And when Joseph responded to my paper and provided me further ideas to reflect on, is this extension also within the scope of the Dream Master’s power? And where else will these steppingstones lead? Reflections based on a dream is a mysterious path into the unknown. The same may be said of journeys that germinate from daydreams or even so-called “random” thoughts. Since our interaction with the world is through and in Mind, every interaction, every thought, is full of meaning and is a pathway toward self-understanding. Our lives are interconnecting paths of questions originating from the entire range of communications from the Dream Master. These paths playfully unfold again and again and as long as the mind seeks truth the path of questions may not cease until the One itself. The interconnectiveness of these communications towards the same goal, wisdom, leads me to conclude that there is but one cause of mind activity. Therefore, since this cause is a master bestowing benefits to all souls and functioning over the entire playing field of mind, it is more apt simply to call this cause the Master.

There is much that is Providence-like in the Master. Just as Providence functions over all that exists, the Master functions over all souls, exercising unlimited power and bringing goodness perfectly to their respective domains. If on the one hand the Master participates of Providence, but is not Providence itself, and on the other hand, Soul participates of the Master, then might not it belong to the class of Intellects? Perhaps Soul is turned about toward Intellect itself through its wisdom. Then in order to understand the Master it would be helpful to position it hierarchically between Intellect itself and Soul. Proclus does not dialectically examine the existence and non-existence of Intellect, so I will use his dialectical analysis of Providence and Soul as a guide in order to dialectically examine the Master.

Propositions [1] through [12] examine four relations: (a) that which is assumed to exist in relation to itself; (b) that which is assumed to exist in relation to others; (c) others in relation to themselves; and, (d) others in relation to that which is assumed to exist. Each relation is examined in three ways: What is true, what is not true and what is both true and not true.

Propositions [13] through [24] examine the same four relations, with the only difference that the object which was assumed to exist is now assumed to not exist. Proclus explains why the dialectic is complete only if one explores the propositions about both the existence and non-existence of the object under study: “…If we only postulate that something is the case, and then find out what is the consequence of that, we will not in all cases discover what it is of which the thing postulated is the essential cause. If, however, we also demonstrate that, if it is not the case, the same result does not follow as would have followed if it had been the case, then” the dialectic has uncovered that of which the object of study is the essential cause (Proclus’ Commentary on the Parmenides, pg. 348).

The Dialectical Explorations of Providence, the Master, and Soul. Texts about Providence and Soul are directly quoted from Morrow and Dillon’s translation of Proclus’ Commentary on Plato’s Parmenides, pages 354 to 356, and 365 to 366.

Some language about Intellect itself and Intellects as a class is taken from E.R. Dodd’s translation of Proclus’ Elements of Theology, principally from Propositions 166 to 183.


Supposing its existence, what can be said of it in relation to itself? Providence (P1): There will be true of it, in relation to itself, being of the nature of [goodness], being infinite in power, having effective capability. Master (M1): There will be true of the Master, in relation to itself, being providential, being eternal in power [prop.169], having a productive activity that is perpetual and unchanging [prop. 172]. Soul (S1): There is true of it, in relation to itself, self-motion, essential life, and self-substantiation.


(P2): There will not be true of it, its being turned aside from its purpose, its being bereft of will.

(M2): There will not be true of it, its being random, its forgetting Providence, its being bereft of logos and charm.

(S2): Not true of itself are self-destruction, total ignorance of itself and non-recognition of its own attributes.


(P3): True and not true will be its being one and not one.

(M3): True and not true will be its having special knowledge and its not having special knowledge (for the Master knows all in one special aspect–i.e. the particular needs of each soul, but as it is of the nature of Providence, it also knows the whole of which the particulars are parts) [prop.170].

(S3): True and not true of it are divisibility and indivisibility (for in a way it is divisible, in a way indivisible) and eternal existence and non-eternal existence (for in a way it is eternal, in a way subject to change), and everything that pertains to it as a property of its median status is of this sort.


Supposing its existence, what can be said about its relation to others? (P4): In relation to other things, there will be true of it ruling over them, preserving each one of them, containing the beginnings and the ends of all things, bringing everything perfectly to its conclusion.

(M4): In relation to others, there is true of it that it is the proximate cause of some souls [prop. 193], it guides them to self-understanding, preserving their past, shining light on their present, awakening them to their destiny, elevating them to itself.

(S4): There is true of it in relation to bodies that it is productive of life, that it initiates motion, that it holds together bodies as long as it is present to bodies, that it lords and rules over them by nature.


(P5): There will not be true its being injurious to the things it watches over, its producing the unexpected, its being the cause of disorder. (M5): There will not be true its being injurious to the souls it watches over, its producing anything meaningless, its being the cause of ignorance. (S5): Not true of it are: being moved externally (for it is a property of ensouled bodies that they are moved from within), and being the cause for bodies of rest and changelessness.


(P6): True and not true is its being present to all things and transcending them, knowing them and not knowing them (for it knows them in a different way, and not through powers coordinate with the things known).

(M6): True and not true is its being the same and not the same as souls, (for it is noetically the same with souls, but it does not contain souls but the causes of souls [prop.173]).

(S6): True and not true is its being present in them and apart from them (for it is present in them through its providence, but separate from them in its essence).


Supposing its existence, what can be said of the others in relation to themselves?

(P7): In relation to themselves, there is true not suffering anything at each other’s hands randomly, suffering no injustice from any quarter.

(M7): In relation to themselves, there is sincere cooperation among souls to understand themselves and their kosmos as being ordered and intelligible, recognition that justice and providence is functioning in every experience, in every thought, daydream and dream.

(S7): In relation to themselves, sympathetic affection (for it is by reason of the life-giving causal principle that these have a mutual sympathy).

[8] (P8): Not true is that there is some element of chance in their existence, their being unrelated to each other.

(M8): Not true is that they are foreign to each other, that they cannot understand each other.

(S8): Not true is lack of sensation (for it is necessary that with the presence of soul everything should have sensation–somethings as individuals, others as parts of a whole).

(P9): True and not true is that they are all good (for this pertains to them in one way and in another way not).

(M9): True and not true is that they are all wise (for the Master continuously communicates its logos to each, but each soul must continuously strive to understand its communications).

(S9): True and not true is that bodies move themselves; for in a way bodies move themselves, through being ensouled, and in another way not; (there are many modes, after all, of self-motion).

[10] Supposing its existence, what can be said about the others in relation to it?

(P10): In relation to it there is true being dependent upon it, and in every way being guarded and benefited by it.

(M10): In relation to it there is true that by knowing the Master the soul knows itself, its being dependent upon it for its perfection and ousia [prop.193].

(S10): There is true for bodies in relation to it being moved from within by it, being vivified by it, and being preserved and held together through it, and in general being dependent upon it.


(P11): Not true is that they oppose it or that they escape it (for nothing is either too small as to escape it nor so lofty as not to be beaten down by it.

(M11): Not true is that all souls participate the Master in the same manner (for participation varies with the distinctive character and power of each participant [prop.173]), that they escape its communications or are separated from its care (for every thought, no matter how random or insignificant it may seem, is a meaningful communication that may be explored for the soul’s benefit).

(S11): Not true are being dispersed by it and being filled with lifelessness by it (for it is from that source that it partakes in life and cohesiveness).


(P12): True and not true is that each thing partakes of providence (for in a way each takes a share in it, but in a way it is not it that it takes a share of it, but rather the good things that are apportioned from it to each thing).

(M12): True and not true is that each soul partakes of the Master (for in a way each takes a share in it, but in a way it is not the Master that it takes a share of, but rather the communications that are bestowed from it to each soul).

(S12): True and not true are participation and non-participation in it (for both are true, both that in a way bodies partake of it, and that in a way they do not). Let us postulate, on the other hand, that neither Providence, the Master, nor the Soul exist. In that case:

[13] Supposing its non-existence, what can be said about it in relation to itself?

(P13): For itself in relation to itself there will be true incompleteness, non-productivity, ineffectiveness, existing for itself alone.

(M13): For itself in relation to itself there will be randomness, silence, existing for itself alone.

(S13): There is true of itself, in relation to itself, lifelessness, non-being and mindlessness (for if it does not exist it will not possess either being or life or mind).


(P14): Not true will be overflowing abundance, superfluity, sufficiency, self-extension.

(M14): Not true will be providential knowledge, inexhaustible artfulness, unbounded care.

(S14): Not true will be the powers of self-preservation, self-creation, self-motion, and all such attributes.


(P15): True and not true will be not being busy and not being bothered (for in a way this will be true of that which does not exercise providence, and in a way not, since things secondary to it will not be controlled by it).

(M15): True and not true will be being indifferent (for in a way this will be true of that which stands apart and does not function as Master to souls, and in a way not, since the gods will be angry at that which does not function as Master since souls will no longer recognize continuity nor intelligibility in their lives and as a result give little effort to return to the gods).

(S15): True and not true will be not being an object of knowledge and reasoning to itself (for if it does not exist it will in a way be unknowable and irrational, inasmuch as it will not know or

reason about itself at all, whereas in a way it will be neither irrational nor unknowable, if these attributes imply having some nature which is not rational nor participant in knowledge).

[16] Supposing its non-existence, what can be said about its relation to others?

(P16): In relation to other things, it is plainly true that it is unmixed, has no communication with anything, and knows nothing.

(M16): In relation to souls, it is not the cause of souls [prop.193–proximate cause of some souls], has no communication with them, knows nothing of them.

(S16): There are true of it, in relation to bodies, being incapable of generating them, being unmingled with them, having no care of them.


(P17): Not true is that it assimilates everything to itself, that it dispenses to all things their appropriate good.

(M17): Not true is that it elevates all souls to itself, shares knowledge about the past, present and future, that it communicates to souls what it knows to be beneficial.

(S17): Not true of it are the powers of moving them, of giving them life, and of giving them coherence.


(P18): True and not true that it is an object of striving for them (for this is in a way possible and in a way not possible; for if it is through its transcendent superiority that it is said not to exercise providence, as being superior to all relationship and activity, then there is nothing preventing it from being an object of striving to all things secondary to it; but if it is said not to do so through being deprived of this power, then it would not even be an object of striving).

(M18): True and not true that it is an object of wonder for them (for its absence will result in a puzzling and unconnected array of thoughts, dreams and daydreams that some may wonder about, but on the other hand, without its presence soul will not be aware of experiences that reach the level of the intellect and their mind will remain at the level of relativism and empiricism).

(S18): True and not are its being other than bodies and having no relation to them (for this is in a way true and in a way not true, if one takes otherness as implying existence, but total difference–in this way it would be other; not other, on the other hand, as not existing at all, but other in this respect, as being non-existent).

[19] Supposing its non-existence, what can be said about the others in relation to themselves?

(P19): There is true in relation to themselves, being unordered, random in their activity, indefinite in their receptivity, receiving many uncoordinated impulses into their own natures, being subject to random and unorganized movement.

(M19): There is true in relation to themselves, being ignorant of the anagogic path, relating to each other through unsuspected false beliefs, unaware of the divine in themselves, receiving meaningless impulses, dreams and daydreams, lack of interest in each other as souls who together explore the mystery of their being.

(S19): There are true of bodies in relation to themselves immobility, non-differentiation in respect of life, lack of feeling of each other.


(P20): Not true is convergence upon one goal, apportionment according to value, arrangement according to rational disposition.

(M20): Not true is seeking together for Intellect, living and thinking according to the logos discoverable through philosophical midwifery.

(S20): Not true are being sense-perceptible by one another.


(P21): True and not true is their being good (for by virtue of existing at all they must be good, and yet if providence does not exist, one would be unable to say whence they derive their good).

(M21): True and not true is their experiencing cognitive states (for souls will live their lives in the cognitive states of Plato’s allegory of the Cave, but without the Master as leader no soul will be able to ascend from the cave to the true cognitive states of the Upper World).

(S21): True and not true is being able to affect one another (for in a way they will experience influences, and in a way not; they will experience them only as material bodies, not as living things).

[22] Supposing its non-existence, what can be said about the others relation to it?

(P22): In relation to providence, true of them will be being unaffected by it, not being coordinated with it.

(M22): In relation to the Master, true of them will be that they will not find a unified source for their thoughts, dreams, and daydreams nor is there any intelligibility in soul’s experiences to invite such a search.

(S22): There is true for other things, in relation to it, not being watched over or being moved by it.


(P23): Not true will be being measured and defined by it.

(M23): Not true will be having one’s beliefs challenged by its communications nor will there be any learning from it.

(S23): Not true is being vivified or being held together by it.


(P24): True and not true, being ignorant of it (for all things which have come to birth must know this much about it, that it does not exist if it does not exist, and yet not know it, for they will have nothing in common with it).

(M24): True and not true is having a desire for it (for people will desire something which gives meaning to their existence, but on the other since there is no evidence of such intelligibility, they will remain in relativistic thinking).

(S24): True and not true is being like and unlike it (for in so far as, if it does not exist, they would not exist either, they would be like it–for they would be in the same state as it–but in so far as it is not possible for something which does not exist to be like anything, in this respect likeness of them to it will not be true).

It’s now time to reflect on the dialectical process and the conclusions that can be drawn from it.

It is quite curious that propositions [16] through [21] proved to be the most meaningful to explore and brought about the most vivid vision of the Master. For while answering these propositions I found that the best way to proceed was to imagine what would happen to the philosophical community I belong to had the Master ceased to exist, and in the same light I also realized that people I know who dismiss philosophical midwifery (PM) are in fact in that very condition of being Masterless. The degree of difference between those who do PM and those who do not is both striking and in need of an explanation. Why is PM so important? Even those who study Plato and other spiritual systems but who reject or are unaware of PM are missing the most significant part of what it is to be a philosophical or spiritual person.

For the negative side of our dialectic reveals that an individual is like an island in an ocean of random mind-activity unless there exists a cause whose existence explains why we think what we think at the particular time we think it. When we examine ourselves through PM, we come to discover that the random thought is not random but opens up a past which clarifies our present problems; the fantasy is not fanciful but is holding up a familiar state of mind that must be examined before we can reach our personally meaningful goals. For other spiritual disciplines who lack PM, the universe is quite different: The Master does not exist; the universe is a realm of illusion and the primary goal is to become enlightened, to escape the world of becoming, to get off the wheel of existence and end one’s suffering. They strive to nirvana, because everything else is empty of meaning. Others who are not so spiritual might give up on knowledge and truth altogether and take a different road down relativism or empiricism. But for those of us who experience the intelligibility revealed by PM the very process of meditating, reading, reflecting and discussing, the thoughts and daydreams that occur, the blocks and

problems we face, the dreams that we have at night all invite self-reflection and together all this reveals the existence of a cause that is unerringly and continuously benefitting each one of us.

When we grasp the reality of the Master then we finally come face to face with the kosmos that knows us and cares for us. The life of an individual who can fully appreciate that and remember it at all times is full of profound joy and wonder at such perfection.

The dialectic of the Master may also be expressed through the ideas in Proposition 131 of the Elements of Theology. Here Proclus argues that “the quality which marks [the god’s] presence secondary beings is displayed first in himself, and it is indeed for this reason that he ¬†communicates himself to others, in virtue of the superabundance of his own nature.”

In [1] through [6] of the dialectic we investigate the qualities displayed in the Master himself. In the negative half of the dialectic, as we negate the existence of the Master, we simultaneously see the disappearance of certain qualities which the Master bestows among subsequent beings. As the Master is deprived of its nature, so too are we of its benefits, and as its superabundance is restored, so too do we enjoy its overflowing communications. Other propositions provide underlying ideas necessary to understand the Master, such as Prop. 7 “Every productive cause is superior to that which it produces,” and Prop. 18 “Everything which by its existence bestows a character on others itself primitively possesses that character which it communicates to the recipients.”

In contrast to [16] to [21], [1] was the most difficult proposition to work through, followed in difficulty by [2] and [13]. Here I was searching for the vocabulary that would express the essential character of the Master in terms of itself, not in relation to anything else. I revised it many times as I progressed further into the dialectic, especially as I entered the negative half where I gained much insight. Because of my difficulty, I followed Proclus’ model on Providence as closely as I could: (1) With respect to its being, of all the natures which the Master participates, which is primary? (2) Examining the Master’s many powers, what description would best capture them all as a totality? (3) Similarly, I asked the same question in regard to its activity. Since the Master provides such purifying benefit to humankind, I concluded that it must primarily be of the nature of Providence (pro-noia), which is to say, its cause is Providence. And since it functioned over every soul throughout all time, its power must transcend time–therefore, with respect to itself its power is eternal. And as that eternal power functioned for all souls, with its gaze fixed on Providence, its activity will be consistent with its power and being, and therefore its communications–its productive activity–will be perpetual and unchanging.

These ideas are found with respect to the class of Intellects, Propositions 166 to 183. If [1] is stated correctly, then curious consequences follow. First, though the Master’s communications are particularly suited to a specific time for a particular individual, they are nevertheless the products of a perpetual and unchanging activity and originate from a mind which participates of Providence.

These products or communications are therefore real and true, since they are not of becoming but of Being. Therefore when midwife and pregnant party artfully explore the Master’s communications through PM, the pregnant mind is seeing Reality as expressed through the communication.

Another curious conclusion is that the Master, if indeed it is an Intellect and Intellects function as Proclus argues, is the proximate cause of us (as stated in [M4]; for Proclus’ statements see ET, Prop. 193). If that is so, then we as souls desire to revert (Prop. 186) to the Master in order to attain the proximate source of our perfection. When the argument is still further expanded by Prop. 34 “Everything whose nature it is to revert reverts upon that from which it derived the procession of its own substance” and its corollary “Intellect is an object of appetition to all things, so all things proceed from the Intellect and the whole world-order, though eternal, has its ousia therefrom,” then we see that soul is reverting to the cause of its substance, Intellect itself, through the Master. The Master’s presence is available to us through its communications. PM, as the art that understands those communications, serves as a kind of steppingstone to reversion, to ousia.

Lastly, Prop. 11 “All that exists proceeds from a single first cause” and Prop. 12 “All that exists has the Good as its principium and first cause,” indicates that PM returns the soul to the Good itself.

We humans recognize that we are intelligible to each other and we share a common bond through the practice of understanding the communications of the Master. For regardless of species, gender, race or class, all of our images, thoughts and dreams, from experiences of divine illumination down to the seemingly random and fragmentary, because of their consistently intelligible and interconnected nature, are shared with us from some one intelligible source, which we call the Master. Since the same proximate source is the cause of all of our images and thoughts, we participate of the same logos and are intelligible to each other.

All it takes is philosophical midwifery.

What prevents our understanding ourselves and each other is the lack of philosophical midwifery. When we explore our problems through PM and dream-midwifery, the issues raised are uniquely and personally meaningful to the pregnant party, as one would expect. But often, through midwifery, the particular nature of the problem is expressed in words which observers can understand as well, and among these observers some also see to some degree that they themselves function with that class of false belief.

We begin to recognize classes of false belief (or pathologoi) and on that basis see kinships between individuals. The importance of that recognition should not be under-appreciated. We learn to see that there is intelligibility underlying our problems and that the power which appears to dominate our problem is powerfully convincing but not real. Nor do we succumb to the belief that humans are dominated by nature with roots in the irrational, which inherently separates one from understanding another. To be sure the pathologos transmission scenes and the pathologos itself are unique and particular to each person, but though the terms and circumstances of the relations are unique, the way we relate to ourselves and one another, the way we function towards appearances of beauty, is the same.

For what we learn to see is that each of us has had a desire for beauty, truth and goodness that was systematically compromised. When as children we faced irreconcilable visions of what is true and good, without reflection and without knowing we compromised our own vision and believed in the appearance of beauty which shined from our parents or guardians. When we see time and again that not only as children but also as adults we unknowingly play out the same old patterns of compromise that block us from our most meaningful goals, then recognition awakens further recognition that behind our problems all souls are truly beautiful and rational. PM is a dialectic on ourselves. Our unexamined life is the negative half, the life for which the Master is assumed not to exist. Through PM we enter into the positive half.

We learn that the Master exists, that it bestows communications that lead to the recognition of the individual’s true nature and in so doing creates a community of philosophers who play with and in its Logos.

Leave a Reply